The Fiction Writer’s 3-Step Process to Creating a Compelling Marketing Offer

POSTED ON Feb 4, 2015

Jason Kong

Written by Jason Kong

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By Jason Kong

There’s a misconception among some authors that marketing is mostly about building awareness. That if your fiction manages to stand out from the crowd, then you can finally rest easy because you’ll be rewarded with what you deserve.

What’s missing from this storybook scenario is that becoming known is just one part of the process, because a prospect still has to act. Maybe that means purchasing your published fiction. But that can also be writing a review or supporting an upcoming book launch. Each marketing effort will have its own ideal outcome.

You can improve your results in many different ways. But if you’re looking for dramatic impact, you’ll want to start by analyzing your offer.

Whenever you run an ad, design a landing page, or engage anyone with your marketing, you’re really saying:

“If you’re interested in x, then please do y.”

How you construct and present this proposal makes a tremendous difference whether you end up with someone saying yes or no.

What follows is a three step process to help you create a more compelling marketing offer:

  1. Know the target of your message

    I’m not just talking about in a general sense. Anyone willing to read the type of books you write, while technically true, is not very useful. We need to get more specific.

    Why? Because offers are made within a particular context. Understanding who you’re addressing will improve the odds that your message will resonate with that audience.

    Consider the About page of your website. Making an offer at the end of your bio is a great idea, because lots of visitors end up reading up to that point. If you have a choice of asking for a signup to your email newsletter or the chance to download your free eBook of short stories, which do you pick?

    If we’re assuming most people arriving your About page are unfamiliar with you, then it’s likely these newcomers are curious about what kind of writer you are. The free eBook gives them a demonstration of exactly that. On the other hand, if your newsletter contains mostly updates about your latest projects then that’s more appealing for someone who’s already a loyal reader.

    Take some time to assess the recipients of each marketing message before you decide on an offer. You’ll find that you’ll do a much better job when it comes to what you say and how you say it.

    Ask yourself:

    • Where online is your offer being shared? What do you know about the people that show up here?
    • What is the background of your target audience? How does that affect the way you present your offer?
    • Based on who you’re talking to, what details do you need to include in your offer? What can you leave out?
  2. Amplify the trust you’ve earned

    As a fiction writer, you’re not solving a problem in the traditional sense. You’re not going to persuade someone to give you a shot by listing all the benefits of your product offering.

    That’s why testimonials are so valuable. Reviews –both high in quantity and quality– validate your storytelling skills. When you can cite these forms of social proof leading up to your ultimate offer, your proposal appears a lot more attractive. Interestingly, that tends to be true even if your target audience doesn’t personally know the people providing the positive feedback.

    For that reason, I’ve seen authors include Facebook comments on sales pages, allowing vocal supporters to speak up. I’ve read positive comments that were quoted from webinars and other public venues. There are many creative ways to highlight the trust you’ve built.

    And let’s not forget we believe ourselves most of all. Our experiences shape our outlook, both good and bad. That’s why you don’t have to spend time persuading your loyal readers much of anything. They’ve already bought in, by telling themselves your books are worth it.

    Of course, if you haven’t earned much (or any) trust yet then you have an additional challenge. But there’s a reason why money-back guarantees, free sample book chapters, and no spam/easy opt-out assurances for email lists are popular tactics. They lower the perceived risk of your offer.

    Trust is valuable in all business, but that’s especially true in your case. Don’t hesitate to proudly share what you’ve achieved.

    Ask yourself:

    • Who has said something nice about your work? Can you trace back to the exact words and source?
    • Are you able to include some direct and relevant quote in your marketing materials?
    • Numbers can be persuasive. Can you cite how many units sold, ranking on a bestseller’s list, or quantity of perfect reviews to demonstrate strong social proof?
  3. Ask for your desired action

    Imagine this: you managed to share a marketing message that did an awesome job communicating the value of your work. You accomplished the difficult task of getting a prospect’s attention and trust, and she’s ready to move forward.

    But nothing happens. Not because she didn’t want to proceed, but because she didn’t know what to do next.

    You have to make it easy for someone to take you up on your offer, by being clear on your desired action. Click on this link. Write a review. Spread the word. These are specific actions that you can articulate very succinctly. In fact, that’s exactly what you should do in your offer. In marketing circles this is dubbed the “call to action.”

    You may feel uncomfortable about this step, because it feels too salesy and aggressive. But if you were diligent in steps 1 and 2, then you’re not being pushy at all. If anything, you’re being helpful. Because if someone were interested in your offer, she would want to know how to accept.

    It’s worth noting that laying out too many to-dos can be confusing or overwhelming, which may decrease the chances that any of them are actually taken. You may be better off identifying the single and critical action you want executed and go with that.

    Remember, this is no time to be subtle. People tend to be distracted and in a hurry while online. Ask for what you want, and make it simple to comply.

    Ask yourself:

    • Can you describe your desired action in a single sentence? If not, you’re not clear enough.
    • How can you make your call-to-action stand out? There’s a reason why marketers like to display purchase links graphically as a “Buy Now” button.
    • Does your copy run long? Consider repeating your desired action several times during the marketing message, and not just the end.

Try, learn, and try again

You’re not going to perfect your offer the first time around. In fact, it may not even be that good at all.

That’s okay. Studying how the market responds to your different offers is part of the process. The learning and improving never stops, unless you stop trying.

Do you have any questions about designing a compelling marketing offer? Let’s talk about that in the comments section below.

Jason KongJason Kong is a Contributing Writer for The Book Designer. He also runs Storyrally, an email-based subscription that helps fiction writers with their online marketing.

You can learn more about Jason here.


Jason Kong

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Jason Kong

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