According to marketing experts, in order to make money, you have to solve someone’s problem. This is easy for a plumber, but hard for a writer. In my life I’ve written a great deal without thinking about who it’s for, and that’s made it difficult to sell.
The better I have gotten at learning to do business, the more unhappy I’ve become about this truth of marketing. I’ve written, published and marketed book after book. They are on sale at Teachers Pay Teachers, Amazon, Selz and just about anywhere else you can think of, and yet I’m not seeing the kind of response I want.
Frequently it’s because I haven’t solved anyone’s problem. I wrote a wonderful book about how to teach research skills to elementary school kids. I used the method myself and it worked great.
Unfortunately, almost no elementary school teacher wants to teach music history to their classes. They have so little time and so much to do. I haven’t solved their problem, just mine.
The situation for fiction is even more confusing. How do you solve someone’s problem with a fictional work? That got me really depressed for a while.
I thought it through again and again. The more I thought about it, the sadder I got. “I am not the solution to anyone’s problem.”
Then I took another look.
I thought about Harry Potter. What problem is Rowling solving? Obviously she’s providing an escape to people who need it, but that’s every fiction book.
She’s offering a chance to pretend, to belong to a group of other people who share the same fantasy, being wizards, playing Quidditch. But that’s the opportunity. What problem is she solving?
Finally I got it. Right now people are very disillusioned with the world. And everyone knows that, really, this is the only world we’ve got.
They want to believe in another world. But not just pretend. They want it to be real.
They need something to believe in that fits their desire for justice, fairness, wonder. They need to escape the misery of their daily life, to find friends, to have a reason to get up in the morning. If you can create a world they wish was real, they’ll go there.
I created a world that is believable, magical, compelling. It has human, wonderful characters in it, and a few of my readers have expressed their love for those characters. I solved a problem.
So why don’t I have more readers yet? Because I haven’t shown most people how I’ve solved their problem. Most people with the problem don’t realize my books are the solution.
I decided: “What if I created guides for the books?” The guides could have a list of all the characters, a description of the world, a summary of the plot. In short, it could make them quick experts on the place.
Then they’d feel it was “real” the way I do, and they’d go in to spend time there.
This week I published a guide for The Girl With the Bow, another for the sequel, The Blue Woman and the High Wood, and a third for all the books in the series so far. My stats indicate people are checking them out. I can’t wait to see how they react.
Solving this problem for myself has given me a new sense of purpose as a writer. I want to give people something wonderful to believe in. I want to offer them somewhere to go when they need to get away, a place where things make sense, where the characters are going to behave honorably (usually) and where things are going to turn out all right.
I already believe in this place that I’ve written. It’s as real for me as this kitchen I’m typing in. I have to make it real for them, for you.
For those of you who comment on my blog, you make it real for me. You give me reason to believe in what I’m saying. Thank you.
Adam Cole is a Jazz Musician Who Writes Books. Fantasy author, music educator and performer, Adam chats weekly on the subject of listening, creativity and living your best life. To get a free book on marketing tips for passing out fliers, getting on your own radio show, and writing a blog people will read, please go to www.mymusicfriend.net and subscribe.