Monday, July 16, 2007

What's the Story?

New Yorkers of a certain age will recall the local TV ads for short-lived electronics store JGE, starring a pudgy guy with a heavy Brooklyn accent, which began, "Hey Jerry, what's the story?" I must have watched a lot of TV, because after nearly 35 years I can still recite most of Jerry's spiel verbatim.

Thing is, every product needs a "story." This includes books. (They're a product too; get over it.) It's not enough to tell the world that you've written a good book and people should read it. You have to have a story, beyond the one told in your book, that will reel people in.

Seth Godin recently wrote on his blog:
The art of marketing is not finding more money to do more marketing. It's figuring out how to tell a story that spreads with the resources you've got.
Jeffrey Goldsmith, advertising veteran and publisher of Caffeine Society, told attendees at one of my workshops to do something he said is common in the ad world, but which blew us all away:
Write the newspaper headline you'd like to see, then create an event to generate that headline.
Say you've written a novel about a woman whose life changes via tango lessons and you have a reading scheduled at your local bookstore. There's nothing very newsworthy or interesting to anyone beyond your nearest and dearest in the headline, "Mary C. Green, author of TWO TO TANGO, to read at The Book Nook."

But how about this headline: "Roll back the carpet! Tango passion sweeps The Book Nook." Same author, same bookstore. But instead of a plain vanilla reading and Q&A, Mary gives a brief talk about tango and how it swept her--and her heroine--away, followed by a demonstration by local tanguistas, and perhaps even a quick lesson for the audience. All with background tango music, of course; and maybe some tango CDs for sale too.

Setting up the tango event won't cost much money (tanguistas are always happy to show off), though of course it will take a lot more preparation than a regular reading. But it probably will attract a much bigger audience, as well as get the word out that Mary and her book are fun. And because Mary is smart, she will have gotten the local tango society to announce the event in their newsletter and/or on their website, and she will have sent out a postcard mailing to everyone on their list. So all the tanguistas will be there along with Mary's crowd, plus people lured in by headline #2. With any luck, the local paper--and maybe even the TV "happy news" team--will cover the event too. And of course Mary will send pix and a write-up of the event to GalleyCat and other literary and tango blogs--plus her editor and publicist--and post same on her website.

Quoting Jerry, "That's the STAW-REE!"

3 comments:

Anonymous said...

Great advice.

And boy do I remember those ads!

Ray said...

"If you're a civil soivant, or a member of any union at all, I can get it for ya wholesale, or slightly above the JGE Appliance and TV wholesale."

But Jerry, what's the story?

Say you need a refrigerator, a washer or a dishwasher. Maybe a nice air conditioner to keep cool? I can get it for ya wholesale.

But Jerry, what's the story?

THE STORY IS... YA COME TO JGE WITH THE EXACT MAKE AND MODEL NUMBA OF THE UNIT YOU WANNA BUY! YA SHOW YA CIVIL SOIVICE OR UNION CARD AT THE DOOH AND YER IN! BECAUSE JGE IS NOT OPEN TO DA GENERAL PUBLIC, ONLY TO UNION MEMBAS AND DERE FAMILIES.

So that's the story, Jerry?

THAT'S THE STORRRRRREEEEEE!

(35 years later, my brain still boins of this. Plus, I used to know Seth's fatha poisonally. So that, too, is the STORRRRRREEEEEE!

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