I have a few more questions to ask Jeff Gerke. For context on this, read the last few days of posts on this blog. In brief, Jeff is launching a new publishing house, Marcher Lord Press, aimed at marketing the unmarketable — Christian speculative fiction of all types.
Here are two questions I asked Jeff recently, along with his answers:
Q: How do you plan to market the books that MLP publishes? Of course, there will be a big launch when you release the books. But what about after that?
A: Marcher Lord Press is an experiment in tiger marketing (a term with which your loyal readers should be familiar, Randy). In traditional marketing, you figure out where your target market is and then you go to that place and wave your arms, shouting, “Hey, come try this new thing we think you’ll like.”
Tiger marketing, in contrast, consists of creating a go-to spot that will attract your target market in large numbers. In other words, if you build it, they will come. You create something of interest and long-term value to your ideal customer. And then, when you have attracted a sufficient number of them, you roll out your product at that go-to location. Instead of waving your arms and chasing people down, they’re already there. They’ve gathered right in front of you. And you’re offering something you know they’ll like because it’s closely related to the thing that drew them to the location in the first place.
My go-to place is my popular Web page, www.WhereTheMapEnds.com. It’s a site dedicated to Christian speculative fiction. It has a massive (400+ title) booklist of Christian science fiction and fantasy, monthly interviews with the greats in the genre (Dekker, Peretti, etc.), and scads of other fun–like a random speculative story creator and tons of information on world-building tools like mapmaking software and world builders. I’ve made the site extremely writer-friendly, too, offering my experience as a former acquisitions editor and a writer’s conference speaker. The Fiction Writing Tip of the Week column is especially popular among writers. If you love Christian speculative fiction as a reader or a writer or both, WhereTheMapEnds is the place for you.
The site has attracted a large group of that very kind of person: people who love Christian SF and fantasy and other weird fiction. They, as it happens, are the ideal readers for Marcher Lord Press novels. And now they’re hearing a lot about Marcher Lord Press, and they’re buzzing with anticipation, I can tell you.
So to answer the question, a large part of the marketing for these books was done before I even announced I was launching a publishing company. It’s a long-term strategy that I’m hoping will work out very well for Marcher Lord Press.
But the specific question was how am I going to market specific MLP novels once they’re released. The answer is…not terribly much beyond occasional promotional messages to my registered subscribers. Here’s a quote from the page on the Marcher Lord Press site in which I explain my publishing model:
“Marcher Lord Press will do very little in terms of marketing the novels we publish. There will be no multi-city book tours or TV appearances or advertisements in Publisher’s Weekly. (Authors may line up some of these independently, however, and MLP will certainly support those efforts.)”
To a large extent I’m relying on word-of-mouth from folks like you. I’ll also be relying on the good relations and alliances I’ve built over the years with the many wonderful Web sites, forums, and blogs dedicated to Christian speculative fiction. It’s a vocal, enthusiastic, and brilliantly loyal audience. If you’re familiar with the fan base surrounding the TV show “Firefly,” then you know the type I’m talking about. I’d rather have these folks on my side than just about any other group I can think of.
Christians who love Firefly. Christians who watch Battlestar Galactica. Christians who would go to ComicCON if given half a chance. Those guys.
For the first season or two of Marcher Lord Press releases, I’ll be operating on a pretty thin budget. I won’t be buying advertising space in magazines or even on Web pages. Now, if this thing takes off like I’m hoping it will, I might have money for that kind of thing in the future. But remember, we’re kind of reinventing publishing here. I’m not going to do things the traditional way.
Randy sez: I followed this question with a second one:
Q: What can you tell us, if anything, about the books you’re already lined up to publish in October?
A: Top secret, baby. I will say that I had two books and authors in mind before I ever decided to actually launch Marcher Lord Press. I’ve known these authors and their writing for years, and I’m thrilled to be bringing their incredible fiction to an eager audience.
And I have just this week decided on the third novel I’m going to launch with. This one came through the acquisitions form on my site, so take heart all ye aspiring authors out there–I really am reading what you submit through the site. This third novel is every bit as exciting as the first two. You guys are not going to believe the Major Talent I’ve discovered. His novel is going to blow you away–when it isn’t bowling you over laughing.
I’ll be announcing these novels in the weeks and months ahead, but you can take pride in knowing that you are the first people to get even a glimpse into what I’ll be publishing in October 2008. It’s a RandyCON special.
I launched my own publishing company to publish the books *I* wanted to read. I just didn’t know I’d be having so much fun along the way.
Randy sez: Good luck, Jeff! We’ll wrap up tomorrow with some final questions.