Philosophy and dandruff - Bill Kirton

Reluctantly, I am back to the marketing theme. Recently, my publisher had to close down (much to her regret) and so, with lots of help from her during the transition, I’m now a fully fledged Indie. And one of the first things I noticed when I saw all my books listed in the KDP sales charts was that one of them has regularly been selling over three times more copies than its nearest rival in the list. This could, of course, mean that it’s so brilliant that the rest are dross in comparison. But, until its nomination for the Booker proves me wrong, I know objectively that it’s no better or worse than they are. I should quickly add that I’m not talking of sales levels that would enable me to buy Mustique. But I do like the idea that some hundreds of people are actually reading my stuff. So I need to find out why that particular title is getting the attention and try to deflect some of it onto the others. And to do that I need to understand marketing strategies.

But I don’t. Understand them, I mean.

I’m not thick, I’m intellectually curious about many different disciplines. I'm no economist, but I know George Osborne is being pigheaded in the face of advice from the majority of experts, even erstwhile supporters, and adversely affecting the lives of people who don’t have his access to a fortune. I know that some politicians and  policemen have attitudes to rape that would appal a Neanderthal, I know scientists are now storing data in DNA because it holds helluva lot more than conventional storage systems. I keep trying to understand quantum physics but can never retain the occasional eureka moments I get about it. And yet it still excites and fascinates me.

But marketing? Zero.

And yet it’s said to be simple. For example, I know that, if research revealed that there was a hunger for stories about … well, let’s say a woman who loved the idea of being subjugated and even humiliated by a guy with sadistic and domineering tendencies again and again and again, then the wise move would be to write one (or even three and call them a trilogy). Most of us can write parodies of most genres and, up to a point, get away with it. We may even, because such and such a genre doesn’t come naturally to us, create an original form of it and thus stand out from the crowd.

But the realities of marketing are more subtle, not to say impenetrable. Another example. Most people loved last month's Olympics. I watched them having constantly to suppress tears and swallow the lump in my throat. And now, I’m still seeing many of those wonderful athletes and sportspersons on my screen in the commercial breaks. But does anyone believe Michael Phelps or Mark Cavendish's claims that a particular shampoo makes all the difference to their performance? What sort of idiot rushes out to buy something to get rid of their dandruff thinking that it’ll also make them swim faster or burn  up the road on their bike? And does seeing Usain Bolt and Mo Farah wearing fake Richard Branson beards cause viewers to cancel their Sky subscription and switch to Virgin? (I’ll resist the temptation to point out how much that demeans the two of them and sort of tarnishes their achievements because they’re both terrific, admirable people – and I’m happy to see some of the profits going to them.)

It defies logic and yet the companies involved must have paid millions to get their endorsements, so it must work. So, what I obviously need to do is get Jessica Ennis, Victoria Pendleton, Sir Chris Hoy, Ben Ainslie and the rest to tell every interviewer how much they enjoy reading Bill Kirton’s wonderful novels. I bet if I did that I could write any old crap and make a fortune.


CallyPhillips said…
Ah yes, your final paragraph suggests that you COMPLETELY understand marketing! The simplicity is that you just have to con people into believing the hype. And people are very very gullible. And money talks. And all of this is explained in a nice fictional way in my novel Brand Loyalty (does it sell well? Of course not... telling people to wake up and smell the coffee rarely has an appeal) I suggest that honesty is the first casualty in marketing! (Feel free to borrow this catchphrase, I haven't patented it YET)
Anonymous said…
Bill, I feel exactly the same way. The thing is, at the level of the individual, 99% of people you meet are perfectly sane, decent, nice human beings. But the minute you lump millions of people together and call them a market sector, they start doing the most ludicrous things. They buy The Sun, they vote Conservative, they read illiterate porn. It defies belief, I've never understood it.
Jan Needle said…
a good start, bill, might be to put your name on what you write! or is that a marketing ploy? did i read to the bottom just to find out whose words of wisdom these were? no. same for cally's yesterday. maybe that's why i'm a multimillionaire and you two have to live in scotland.
Chris Longmuir said…
Great post, Bill, I enjoyed reading it, and can I have your olympian promoters after you've finished with them. I was a bit curious though as to which of your books is the one that has hit the mark!
CallyPhillips said…
Ah but Jan, I was moonlighting yesterday in my IEBR hat - which was clearly marked at the top. I put me name at the top of me own piece on 4th. And Bill's away on holiday en France en vacance right now (while we enjoy a heatwave in the NE of Scotlsnd so he's not going to respond to you. Still, good to know Millionaire Jan can keep us all straight in the ways of the cyberworld huh? (what is the emoticon for falls on the floor laughing?!!)
Susan Price said…
Can I add my voice to Jan's and say, DON'T FORGET TO PUT YOUR NAME AFTER THE TITLE! Please. Thank you.

And the mistake you all make is thinking marketing is rational. It isn't. People don't buy X because Bolt mentioned it. They buy it because they remember it better than the oppositiion, and they remember it because, being visually stimulated creatures above all, we remember the image of Bolt and Product X together. The positive feelings attached to Bolt are, to a degree, passed to Product X.
I would hazard that Bill's best seller has the most compelling cover. Anybody fancy taking a look at his covers and taking a guess?
Of the ones to be found on our website -
I'd say, 'Rough Justice.'
Jan Needle said…
cally, i'd need proof about good weather in scotland. but on the other hand, i'll be there tomorrow, so i can check. woe betide you if i don't get a better tan...
Bill Kirton said…
I'm still in France, where temperatures have been in the high 30s every day and I've acquired an excellent tan (on face, neck and forearms, which only serves to emphasise the peely-wally quality of the rest of me), but at last I have limited online access. So mea culpa about the name omission - no wonder no one remembers me.

In fact, the anomalous book is the first in my detective series - 'Material Evidence'. My theory is that news of my brilliance has spread and that readers eager to reap the full aesthetic benefits of acquainting themselves with my work are starting at the beginning and will, in due course, make me a millionaire by gobbling up the whole series as well as the occasional shopping list or note to the milkman.

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