“…with the economics of publishing changing, it’s incredibly important for authors to be able to promote and market themselves.”
I interview John Adcox and receive some of the most-detailed answers to date. We explore John’s varied background, relate his marketing background to writing, and ask him to predict the future.
The first impression I have of you is that you are a man who wears many hats – publisher, author, and screenwriter for starters. You also boast a solid background in marketing and communications, and have helped some notable companies develop their brand. As a writerly person how important is it to be flexible in the age of the internet?
Well, with the economics of publishing changing, it’s incredibly important for authors to be able to promote and market themselves. The publishers, even the larger ones, really don’t do that anymore … at all. Even when they did, they never did it well. By and large, publishers have always marketed directly to booksellers, not book readers. That means, out of all the people in the world who might fall in love with your story, publishers are, at best, marketing to the few who happen to wander into bookstores.
In marketing, we call that “white hart” marketing. That’s a term that comes from mythology — the white hart is the object of the quest, a sort of walking Holy Grail. It grants wishes. The point is, they are (at best!) few, and they’re really, really hard to find.
The better way is to concentrate on all the other harts, the plain old brown ones. There’s lots of those, and no one is after them.
In this case, think of white harts as the people who frequent bookstores, and buy two or three books a week … pretty much every week. That sounds like the ideal audience, right?
The thing is, there are hundreds of new books published every week, and this white hart is buying three.
Books like, say, The Da Vinci Code and the Harry Potter series reach way, way beyond the audiences that usually buy books. Those people are hungry for stories, too. They are the brown harts. Go after them. Of course, the publishers will never do that.
So it’s pretty much up to writers. That’s not something we’re necessarily comfortable with, but I think it’s easier if you think in terms of building genuine relationships with audiences, or potential audiences, rather than selling.
Technology gives you amazing tools for communicating, and participating in the kind of communities that develop around stories. When you write, you’re writing for an audience. As much as we all like to think of ourselves as writing for the entire world, we’re actually writing for a smaller, specific audience — at least to start with. You might every well grow beyond that base, but you have to start someone.
The people in this audience share things in common … interests, passions, hobbies. There’s something in most of us, I think, that yearns to meet people “like us,” people who understand. C.S. Lewis put it like this in The Four Loves: “Friendship … is born at the moment when one man says to another “What! You too? I thought that no one but myself . . .” So those people tend to congregate somewhere.
For example, my agent is shopping a book of mine that’s set at a Renaissance fair. At least five million people go to a fair somewhere in the US every year … twice. Now then. Count the ones who go once a year, or every other year, and you have a fairly significant audience. You can use, say, Facebook to find people who love Renaissance fairs and, again for example, fantasy and/or paranormal romance, and you start to have a group that you can start interacting with.
You’ll find that most of them will say, “wow, here’s someone like me!” And they’re eager to help. Treat them with genuine respect and gratitude, and pretty soon you’ll have an audience. Just be sure to give back.
Your bio mentions that you are now focusing on storytelling, how do you bring everything together and streamline your efforts?
Mostly, that was a case of eliminating all the things that weren’t focused on storytelling. Sounds simple, right?
My company, Gramarye Media was lucky enough to be accepted into a business accelerator, Georgia Tech’s Flashpoint program. That program is designed to eliminate years of startup mistakes (and literally millions of dollars of wasted money). As a result, we were able to attract the attention of major investors.
Now, my job is to make books and movies – we’re the world’s first cross-media story incubator (basically taking the Silicon Valley business incubator model and applying it to storytelling and franchise development). So I am always in that creative space. As a result, it’s easier for me to switch gears when it’s time to concentrate on my own stories.
Plus, I’m constantly surrounded by extraordinary individuals who raise the creative bar so high that I can’t help being awed and inspired. I can’t say enough about the idea of creatives working in community.
Which one of your works best represents you? Why?
That’s way hard to answer, because I think on some level, they all do. At the very least, there’s something in all of them that I am passionate about, or even that I love dearly. Otherwise, why on earth would I devote so much time and energy to them? I think writing has to come from passion. It’s the difference between art and artifice.
You are an avid reader with an interest in Arthurian lore. Tell me, what is your favorite Arthurian work to read and way?
That’s just as hard to answer! I borrowed from so many (and I tried to acknowledge as many as I could) in The Widening Gyre. If I had to pick, I’d go with the first ones I fell in love with as a child, the ones that have never quite left me. One was (I think) The Boy’s King Arthur by Sidney Lanier (I was in the second grade at the time, so it might have been Howard Pyle’s.) The other was The Once and Future King. I adored that, and it changed me as the best books do. It’s where I learned philosophy, lovely writing, irony, and the ache of loss.
Tell me, what does the future hold?
Okay. Let’s see.
Sloths will one day rule the world. Seriously. Sloths. Don’t let the apes fool you. This will happen not when mankind dies out, but when we finally perfect the holodeck from Star Trek, because seriously, when we have those, why would anyone ever come out?
Aliens will make contact within the next century, mark my words. However, they will turn out to be the equivalent of intergalactic Amway salesmen, and everyone will be just all kinds of disappointed.
We will be able to buy self-cleaning clothes, but we’ll still find it too much trouble, and they’ll still wind up in piles in the corner.
The flying car will (soon!) become a reality. Alas, the invisible car will become real at about the same time, and it won’t go well. I blame the sloths in their secret, slow-moving labs.
Student essays and government bills will both be limited to 140 characters. They still won’t be read.
Walt Disney, who really IS frozen under Disneyland, will be thawed out to save the dystopian future with the magic of imagination. All of the news channels will use the tagline “Disney on Ice.”
Smart homes will become real. Unfortunately, that means most people will have to live elsewhere.
McDonald’s will exit fast food and go gourmet. The McQuick-seared Salmon with McMint-lime Cream Sauce will be to die for. The kid-sized portion, only available well done, alas, will still come with a Happy Meal toy, but they will all be sloths dressed as Marvel or Disney characters. No one will question this. It is all a part of the plan.
Star Wars Episode XXIII: The New Shadow will have an all-female cast. They still won’t release female action figures.
A frustrated electorate will demand that a third option, “Let’s Just Do Without a President for the Next Four Years” be added to the ballot. It will be a landslide.
The porn industry will collapse and die out when technology makes nurses, flight attendants, and pizza delivery boys obsolete. I mean, without the stories, why would anyone want to watch?
Lost will be remade, and it will still piss people off. [Editor’s note, I still haven’t finished the last season of Lost.]
Jesus will return in glory, and the Westboro Baptist Church will be there to protest.
Shortly after all this has come to pass, Patrick Rothfuss will finish book three.
If you’d like to find out more about Mr. Adcox please visit his website www.johnadcox.com