Positioning, Polarising and Publishing
Positioning is all about creating an identity for what you’re offering people. It ties in with branding, and also combines lots of other aspects of the marketing mix that I’ve been covering over the last few blogs. Covers and pricing, for example, are central to positioning.
Since I wrote my last blog entry, there have been some major challenges for me regarding the positioning of The Syndrome Diaries.
I read out an extract at my writing group, expecting the usual suggestions of developing some dialogue, making a character’s motives a little clearer, and so on. But half an hour after I’d finished reading, the room was still engaged in a heated debate regarding the behaviour of one of my main characters. This is perfectly justified: what he’s doing is very polarising and different people are bound to respond to it in different ways. But I wasn’t expecting such a strong reaction, and I was worried that I’d upset people by what I’d written (which is something I have to learn to deal with, as a lot of my writing involves controversial subjects).
Although going to writing groups has improved my writing, the difficulty is that I’m only reading out relatively short extracts, so the way that the whole plot hangs together can’t be immediately clear. Some of the feedback was quite tough to deal with because if I were to implement it, the whole novel would fall apart. I was left wondering whether I’d written something that, ultimately, wasn’t worth putting out there without a complete rewrite.
But after a chat with a couple of the group’s members, the issue is more to do with positioning. While another group had labelled the novel as women’s fiction, it isn’t. It’s too edgy. Much as I love Maeve Binchy’s wonderful story-telling, I’m not writing Maeve Binchy feel-good, happy-ending fiction. The character causing the problem is entitled to do just that (and I don’t think there’s any stopping him), but the book cannot be put in a pink, fluffy category. And I don’t think it ever really was; I was quite surprised that the first group thought that was where it fitted, and so much feedback since then has suggested that it doesn’t.
My parents have now read the completed beta version of the novel: this is the version which is as polished as I can make it without other people reading the entire manuscript. They came up with some ideas for improvements which I agree with, but I was quite surprised at how much they thought should stay as it is – including the ending, which I was considering changing. Although they’re my parents and one might expect a bit of daughter-directed bias, my Dad in particular can be very critical although he’s constructive with it. The beta version is going to another two readers who are acquaintances rather than close friends/family; I trust them to come back with quality feedback, and it’ll be interesting to see whether they think the ending is convincing.
The blogs I’ll be writing over the next couple of months will be about the beta feedback and revisions, and then it’s time to self-publish. I’ll also be documenting the steps to get the book on Amazon, as it’ll be the first time I’ve gone through the process. And then I’ll be covering what happens next (i.e. real sales figures, not those headline-generating, exception-to-the-rule numbers).
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