The Stephen King Guide to Marketing

Stephen King

Today’s guest post is by Jason Kong. You may remember him from an earlier guest post here at JaneFriedman.com: Are You Making This Marketing Mistake?


How does a writer become successful?

Here’s one simple formula:

  1. Write something someone values.
  2. Get that something in front of that someone.

Put another way, you need both good writing and good marketing.

Many writers see this as two steps. Write first, then worry about marketing once the words are published. The belief is that the writing and marketing processes are distinct.

But is that really true?

If you think marketing equates to advertising or pitching, then perhaps. Yet if we dissect what makes a piece of writing more likely to reach its intended target, we see a different picture.

To explore this further, let’s turn to a writer who is very familiar with success: best-selling author Stephen King.

3 writing insights that produce better marketing

King is mostly known for weaving tales of horror and suspense, but in the late 1990s he wrote a book outside the realm of fiction. On Writing is an autobiography that also shares his approach to his craft.

While it’s clear that hard work, talent, and luck all factored into his career, King’s perspectives on writing were also instrumental to his accomplishments.

Particularly striking is how many of his principles of good writing align with the principles of good marketing.

Need proof? Here are three short excerpts from the book that highlight useful insights:

1. “You can’t please all of the readers all of the time; you can’t please even some of the readers all of the time, but you really ought to try to please at least some of the readers some of the time.”

As a writer, you already know that appealing to everyone will result in appealing to no one. The same reasoning applies to marketing, which is sometimes known as a niche approach. Targeting narrowly provides a more remarkable experience for the people that matter, which makes it more likely they’ll recommend your writing to someone else.

One technique is to visualize a single ideal reader, which for King is his wife Tabitha. Your archetype may be a friend, a teenager who like vampires, or women dealing with breast cancer. Whether the person actually exists or not is less important than the clarity of what the individual is like.

Picture an ideal reader in your mind, and write just to that person.

2. “Not a week goes by that I don’t receive at least one pissed-off letter (most weeks there are more) accusing me of being foulmouthed, bigoted, homophobic, murderous, frivolous, or downright psychopathic.”

King knows that as more people love his work, more will also despise it.

If you’re a writer that stands for something, you’ll also elicit passion from both sides of the fence. It’s a package deal that you should gladly accept.

Don’t let the critics stop you. Instead, focus on your fans and your writing will reach and delight the right people.

3. “Writing isn’t about making money, getting famous, getting dates, getting laid, or making friends. In the end, it’s about enriching the lives of those who will read your work, and enriching your own life, as well.”

Do you understand why you write?

It’s not selfish to want results from what you do—you have to earn a living after all. But ego-driven rewards can overshadow some of the more fulfilling aspects of your work.

Marketing, like writing, works really well when you create value for others. When you make someone’s life significantly better, that’s an experience that ends up getting shared with others.

There’s no better marketing than that.

How to make your marketing work better

Good marketing isn’t something that’s slapped on once the writing is done. It’s not something that should simply be delegated to publishers, advertisers, or PR specialists.

That’s because your best marketing comes from the writing itself. You have to create something others love in the first place.

Stephen King built a successful career on this concept. Will you?

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Posted in Guest Post, Marketing & Promotion and tagged .

Jason Kong (@storyrally) helps fiction writers build better platforms. Sign up for his free newsletter here.

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