The Writer’s Journey

Writers & The First Moment of Truth

In our previous posts on Writers and Micro Moments and the Writers & the Zero Moment of Truth we looked at the importance of understanding a reader’s “journey” and the “micro moments” within that journey.

The journey motif is a strong one in the Customer Relation Management and Cloud Marketing communities. Salesforce, for example, has a “journey builder,” a customer interaction mapping tool. And Google has a treasure trove of excellent articles on those moments when a person wants to know, go, do, or buy.

Writers who are looking to market and sell their books do well to understand what is needed in each moment of their potential reader’s journey of discovery and determine what kind of content the reader might need to help them move down the path, or “funnel,” to a transaction. In short, to quote Mike Grehan of Acronym Media, writers need to map their reader’s “intent with the right content response.”

Which brings us to the First Moment of Truth (FMOT). FMOT is a concept first advanced by Proctor & Gamble. It is the 3-7 seconds after a shopper first encounters a product on a store shelf. It is in these precious few seconds, P&G contends, that marketers have the best chance of converting a browser into a buyer.

So, what is the First Moment of Truth for a writer who is marketing their book? Undoubtedly it happens when a potential reader looks at the book cover. It is at this point that the individual makes an emotional, gut-level decision about the work — to find out more about it, or to move on. Usability guru Donald Norman refers to this as the visceral level of experience. At the visceral level, writes Norman, “people will be strongly biased toward appearance.” 

There have been numerous posts (and studies) on the importance of having a good book cover. This is particularly the case with self-published writers. Darren Beyer’s post on this topic demonstrates ably that a book is, indeed, judged by its cover. And this is why many book covers look similar (I know of four that look almost exactly like Anthony Doerr’s All the Light We Cannot See).

There are two takeaways for the book marketer:

  • First, it’s important to think of your customer as taking a journey to your book. Mapping that journey and identifying the micro moments within it will help you understand the content you will need to generate.
  • Second, we cannot overemphasize the importance of making an emotional connection with a reader through a well-designed cover. As Maya Angelou said, “People will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel.”

— Mark Schroeder

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Writers & The Zero Moment Of Truth

 

In our last post we discussed the importance of Micro Moments for writers. Micro moments present opportunities for writers to build their communities and/or market their books, assuming the timing is right. Micro moments comprise the first step in what we are calling the Audience Location Journey.

Here’s an example: assume that you have written a phenomenal work about a woman who is stranded on a distant planet without food or water. She will need to use all the ingenuity she possesses to survive until her crew can make it back to rescue her. Sound familiar? Of course it does. Your book could be the kissing cousin of the best-selling The Martian. And that’s not a bad thing, for if you can identify positive tweets and posts about The Martian, and connect with the authors of those sentiments, you may also find your own audience. Marketing experts call this an “affinity audience.”

Let’s further assume that your affinity audience has finished The Martian and is looking for a similar book to read. They are full of “intent to buy” but aren’t sure which book they will be buying. So they whip out the phone, pad, or computer and start researching. Google calls this The Zero Moment of Truth, which is “the precise moment when they [your potential readers] have a need, intent or question they want answered online.” This is the second step of the Audience Location Journey.

And journey it is, for in this phase your potential reader moves back and forth between devices (phone to computer and back again) and channels (Twitter, Facebook, et. al), checking prices, reviews, and in the case of books, asking for recommendations or simply taking a look, for example, at friends’ Bookshelves on GoodReads.

The marketing task, then, is this: to “shape” your potential reader’s journey — and anticipate the questions s/he might ask along the way.

This requires that you understand your reader’s intent. Indeed, one of the truisms of marketing today is that intent and immediacy of messaging are more important, as Lisa Gevelber of Google notes, than “reach and frequency.”

Zero_IMG_02_

So, where should you start? We suggest you first answer a number of questions, such as:

* What questions will the user want answered? And what are the answers?

* What kind of cover images or art will hook the user?

* What blurb works best to compel the reader to continue reading?

* Which books are similar to your book?

Keep in mind that your marketing efforts at this stage are not so much about “your” work but rather about addressing what your potential reader wants — what they feel comfortable with. To be sure, in the “morphology” of reader taste similarity takes pride of place. As a result, especially if you are a self-published author, you might want to engage in a species of resemblance marketing.

Another way of looking at this is that the answer to every potential reader question is this: “It’s like the book you just read (but with a slight twist).”

Let’s make this more concrete. Take a look at the following three book covers.

Notice the family resemblances? Now is not the time and place to talk in depth about our desire, or lack thereof, for originality in what we read (and see). Notwithstanding, it is important to take into account the degree to which the publishing industry shapes your readers’ tastes. Tim Parks in a recent NYRB article describes the situation as thus:

The difficulties of the writer who is not yet well established have been compounded in recent years by the decision on the part of most large publishers to allow their sales staff a say in which novels get published and which don’t. At a recent conference in Oxford–entitled Literary Activism–editor Philip Langeskov described how on hearing his pitch of a new novel, sales teams would invariably ask, “But what other book is it like?” Only when a novel could be presented as having a reassuring resemblance to something already commercially successful was it likely to overcome the sales staff veto. 

In closing, we should point out that your “public face” (cover art, web site, etc.) needs to be professional and enticing — in short, it needs to pass the “gut test.” If it does pass that test, and many don’t, then you have a chance to further influence the reader’s Zero Moment of Truth. In our next post, we will discuss the different ways you can do that.

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