Wednesday, September 26, 2012

The "Autopsy" Series- Pt 2

The second in my Autopsy Without Blame series to find out what has happened to the effort to ensure that there are more brown books available to readers. A brown book is simply a book that features a Main Character of color.
The second issue, I believe contributed to the struggle of this effort:

Schizophrenic Marketing Efforts

So it's a book featuring a Black or Latino you market it only to readers of the same racial make-up or do you market wider? Don't know? Neither did most people in the industry.

Using my own series as an example, I wrote the book with an African American protag and an ensemble cast of varying racial backgrounds. The whole point was that the themes within the book - friendship, popularity and pressure to find your place in high school - touched nearly any kid in or about to enter high school. The original marketing strategy was to primarily focus on those themes and play up the fact that the MC was African American so African American teen readers knew they were playing a featured role. It's a savvy strategy because it doesn't exclude anyone.

My library visits and book signings attracted a diverse pool of readers, proving the strategy worked. But by my third book, the strategy was altered to reach a primarily Black readership. Problem there was, by that time my series was competing with teen street-lit. So some African American teens picked up the book and were turned off because it wasn't street enough. We confused the readership by changing strategy. And quite a few other books, like mine, experienced a similar switcheroo.

Marketing is dynamic. It has to change. But readers look to marketing to help them understand if a book will please their palate. Changing the strategy for a series is a delicate matter because pick the wrong plan - you risk losing the original reader and turning off the potential new reader. Sound the death bells.

Proposed Solution: A book is a book is a book. No matter the race or ethnic background of a character, 99.9% of books are about the journey of the character. The marketing needs to revolve around that journey, period. Extract the themes, promote them and the readers will find their way to the book. Race is too tiny a tether to keep a consumer doing anything - reading a book, watching a TV show or movie or listening to a certain song. Marketing 101.

Next in the series: Placement uncertainty


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