I wish I knew this story better. I think if I had the specifics down, it would probably have more punch, but sadly, I’m going to have to resort to a lot of generalities. So here goes:
Bill Murray was on one of the many late night talk shows that have been on over the past ten or so years, promoting one of the many movies he’s made over the past forty years. One of the many people who’ve had a late night talk show in the time that I’ve been alive commented on the movie’s marketing campaign, which was apparently very creative and market-y.
Before the host could even finish talking, Bill Murray interrupted him and said, “Well, we made a great movie, and that’s the best marketing plan.”
Or something like that. Seriously, I remember none of this. It was a late night talk show. I probably fell asleep in the middle of the interview. Maybe I dreamed it happened.
Whatever. Real or dreamed, Bill Murray makes a great point.
The best marketing plan is a good product.
It’s so easy for me to forget this. Usually, when I’m burning through the last chapter of the rough draft or getting to the end of edits, my brain starts to shift into marketing mode: Should I do a blog tour? How should I answer interview questions? What should I write about for my guest posts? What hashtags should I use when I tweet about the book?
And these are all mostly good questions to ask. The problem comes when they’re asked at the expense of questions about the book itself: Are the characters compelling enough? Does the plot move fast enough? Is the writing as tight as it can be?
Because here’s the deal: that second set of questions is way, way more important. I feel like I see so many people talking about the best way to use social media, the best way to beat Amazon’s algorithms, the best way to launch a book. Again, these are good things to think about, but they shouldn’t be the primary concern. The primary concern, as always, should be to write a compelling story.
People have a way of gravitating towards good content. It’s never as fast as we’d hope, but it happens. I guarantee, if you make something awesome and tell people about it, you’ll get a handful of fans. Then if you make another awesome thing and tell more people about it, you’ll get more fans. If you keep on making awesome stuff and keep on telling people about it, you’ll find you’ve developed a nice little following. It’s not fast or easy, but what worthwhile thing is?
Strategic marketing is good and important, but without something worth marketing, even the best plan only succeeds in convincing tons of people to consume crappy content.