I don't make claim to being a marketing expert, but I do feel like I have some good ideas and insights that don't seem to be coming to everyone. Well, that's OK because I'm willing to share my thoughts and it gives me the chance to tell stories. Fortunately, these are good things for writers.
Something else that I recently realized wasn't obvious to everyone was this: have confidence in your product. This applies to writers and whatever they're writing, car makers, toy makers, etc. Sales and marketing is not the venue for humility. If you're a politician, I would expect you to vote for yourself. It's as simple as this: if you don't believe in your own product, why should anyone else?
It's your book (I'm a writer, so we're going with "book". If you're not a writer, you can replace "book" with some more appropriate noun of your choosing. Go ahead.) so you know it better than anyone else. If you don't think it's something worthy of everyone else to come running to experience, then why subject the market to it? Is it something you want to sing from the rooftops about or not?
What sparked all this was an encounter I had during one of my recent excursions out of the Fortress of Solitude. I met a guy who was wearing a t-shirt for an Italian restaurant specializing in New York pizza. I quickly realized that the restaurant was his. So...
"Where's your restaurant?" I asked him.
We proceeded to do the near-this-south-of-this-on-this-road verbal tango followed by him telling me, "You should come check it out."
"Yeah, cool," I said. "I'm from New York so I'm always on the lookout for good pizza."
"Well, you should like it," he replied, suddenly sounding a little shaken. "A lot of people say it's...close."
Wow. Really? In that moment, I lost all interest in seeking out this pizzeria. This man who should've been the restaurant's greatest advocate had become almost apologetic before I'd even gotten to his eatery. For those of you who don't see this as an issue, let me elaborate: I have found amazing Chinese food in New York and found it matched in San Francisco's Chinatown. I have found pizzas of varying style and quality all around the country and in Italian restaurants in Europe that have unfailingly fallen short of being comparable to New York pizza. When I was a toddler, I would scavenge pizza from the plates of my parents' friends so fast that they questioned whether or not I was actually being fed. I've had two-day-old New York pizza that was better than most other place's fresh. You can't tout your pizza in one breath and then go weak on me in the next. It simply isn't done.
It certainly isn't done if you want to sell me a pizza. It's either New York pizza or it isn't. There is no close. Carob ain't Chocolate no matter how many times you rub the lamp and make a wish. Close means that it isn't. To me, "isn't" isn't worth the trip. I can stay home and not eat New York pizza. So that evening, I did.
What's the lesson, class? Don't undersell your pizza.
That also means that you don't undersell your book or whatever else you're working to move. It's yours and it's unique. Believe in it. Be the proud parent with the silly bumper sticker. Be the grandparent with the endless pictures. Be Hugo, the exuberant-and-never-disappointing owner of the Italian restaurant that was next door to my family's business. Be willing to make every person you meet aware of your glorious creation. Help it to thrive. Give it all it needs to be great and shine so everyone else has every opportunity to love your work as much as you do.
Don't undersell your pizza.