Marcia Yudkin, Marketing Wizard

It's Wednesday, so it's Marketing Minute day! Here's what arrived in today's email from Marcia Yudkin, who is a marketing consultant:

Robert Mankoff, cartoon editor of The New Yorker, which he understandably calls "the best job in the world," once set out to find a cartoon that nearly everyone who had any sense of humor would find funny.

He sent what he thought was his own very best cartoon to 2,000 men and women, asking them to rate it from 1 (completely unfunny) to 10 (extremely funny). About 80% rated Mankoff's cartoon 7 or above, which delighted him. Yet some respondents gave it a 1.

Mankoff threw up his hands, calling this item "the most highly rated cartoon for funniness that I ever did, or (sob) will probably ever do."

His survey has implications for your marketing efforts.

Whatever target market you're aiming at, its members differ from one another, having diverse personalities, varying educational and cultural backgrounds, diverging tastes or lifestyles and disparate values. Therefore, they won't all interpret what you present to them in the same way.

It's foolhardy to aim at universal praise or acceptance. So long as you have enthusiastic advocates, ignore those who think you're incredibly off the mark.

The same goes for novels of course.

Marcia Yudkin offers a free weekly marketing tip. You can subscribe here

She writes well and she's got good ideas; check it out.


BertGrrrl said...

Thanks to both Miss Snark & Marcia Yudkin (whose website & publications are very valuable) for this post, which is *so* on the mark!

Trying to produce creative work that will be universally loved is a pointless quest, destined for frustration. I work as both a painter and writer, and--trust me--the path that has universal appeal as it's goal will result in--at best--banality.

I have a ficion ms that I sent to 6 beta readers. The first 2 to respond despised it. One was hoping for a more chirpy, upbeat, you-go-girl, women's fiction-type book. The other found the explicit sexual content distasteful.

Were this a published book and these two women were to pick it off the shelf at Borders, neither would buy it, for very different reasons. Does that mean my book sucks or that no-one would buy it? I think not (nor do my other beta readers).

Creative people should never give up on their vision just because it isn't loved by all.

In a culture in love with sequels, remakes, derivitive wannabes and the easy-sell hook ("It's just like DaVinci Code, but with wizards and *pirates*!) that's difficult at times to do.

jude calvert-toulmin said...

Great post bertgrrrl :)

> It's foolhardy to aim at universal praise or acceptance. So long as you have enthusiastic advocates, ignore those who think you're incredibly off the mark.

I agree. Once you've got some experience behind you as a writer, you know in your heart whether you're writing crap or not.

As for wanting universal praise, let's face it, loads of people cannot abide Harry Potter books but what a publishing phenomenon that has brought joy to so many! (not least JK herself!)I know people who think Salvador Dali sucks and the guy in my books was a legend whose genius cannot even be questioned.

Horses for courses. You can't please all the people all the time. I was on another Miss Snark thread the other day quoting a line from Sartre that made me fairly wet my pants at its brilliance, and another poster said "Ack".

To me that is wonderful, because it reflects the uniqueness of us as human beings, and *that* is what makes life interesting; how different we all are.

Susan said...

Excellent advice. The contest scores I've received for my unpubbed romances range from "Absolutely love it" to "Why bother killing trees for this?" (for the same book).

As long as there are some who love what I write, I don't have to worry about those who don't. I just have to keep querying widely.

Anonymous said...

Very interesting, Miss Snark. I'll be back to read more.

I agree that aiming for universal acceptance is unwise. That would tend to produce work which is neither challenging nor surprising.

Anonymous said...

In the advertising biz, we have a saying: "If you try to be all things to all people you end up being nothing to anyone..."

pj said...

It's amazed me to see this in action on Evil Editors New Beginnings. Two people will love and hate the same 150 words--even praise and critize the very same elements. It's certainly illuminating.

Anonymous said...

When a piece of writing generates strong disagreement, offending some and delighting others, it's often a sign that it's good.

December Quinn said...

Advice we should all keep in mind. So many people seem to be aiming for that universal acceptance...which seems to be a good way to drive yourself to drink IMO.

Susan, I've had exactly the same types of contest scores. Confusing as heck, isn't it? :-)

Anonymous said...

How timely. Check Evil Editor's blog and have a look at the Face Lift for The Yearbook. Wildly different reactions to the premise of the book, which deals with a child with cancer, among other things.

Anonymous said...

Wow...I had some slightly disappointing news this morning, but this made me feel so much better.

It's a little eerie how you knew exactly what I needed to hear today.


Ellen said...

Am I the only one who's dying to see this cartoon?

Miss Snark, do you have a link?

Paula said...

Miss Snark, thanks for this post. Although I'm not the shy, timid type, speaking on behalf of writers who may be - your advice helps to take the mystique out of marketing and promotion.

As my release date draws near, I'm preparing myself for public opinion. And no matter how often I'm told to take the bad in stride - I'm sure I'll still angst over it. Just not as much after reading Marcia Yudkin's advice.

M. G. Tarquini said...

Humor. It is a difficult concept.
-- Mr. Saavik

(or is is Savik?)

proxymoron said...

the point should be made that technique is still the basis of this art... best learn what the rules are before you set out to break them.

that's not to say i don't love notions of unappreciated genius. i do. almost as much as i love the slush that gets dragged onto the web for public flogging.

bad can be a lot more objective than you think. take it up with my POD if you disagree.

BuffySquirrel said...

What I found interesting yesterday was listening to the tv natter on about how people pick a brand of shaving cream and stick to it. Yes, guys, this is because shaving cream is fungible. All the creams are pretty much the same, and there is no perceptible benefit to be gained from chopping and changing. People prefer not to have to make the same decision more than once, so they just grab what's familiar, often based on the shape and/or colour of the packaging alone.

I'm sure I had a point to make when I started this post...

Oh, yes. While every can of shaving cream will always be the same, until it's 'new and improved', books are variable. Like fruit. While attempting to make all fruit the same, by grading it for size and encouraging spraying it for blemishes, the EU has succeeded, it seems to me, in destroying the whole point of fruit: it should taste nice and have a few vitamins and antioxidants. What we get on the shelves now may be a consistent size and very smooth-skinned, but it's usually either unripe or over-watered, or both. Then they wonder why nobody wants to eat it.

Books are fruit!

Chumplet said...

Variety is the spice of life. I'm not into curry, but I love salsa.

BertGrrrl said...

One further thought on this interesting thread:

Imagine that you and your best friend walk into a big bookstore together. You divide up, meeting 30 minutes later at the check-out line. You each have 3 books (no, this isn't a math word problem).

What are the chances that even you and *your best friend* will have choosen the same book?

This is why Borders has thousands of titles. People like different stuff. And crap *is* subjective, ditto brillance.

Except for *my* brilliance, of course, which is universal . . .