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5 Things I Learned About Marketing from Writing a Novel, Part 2

· Fenway Stevenson,B2B

Last week on May 22, 2018, I officially published my debut novel. Writing and publishing The Reluctant Coroner was a frenetic, messy, wonderful process, and I learned a whole lot—especially the way writing and publishing a book correlates to B2B marketing. This is the second of five lessons about what I learned during the writing of The Reluctant Coroner.

Lesson 2: Be your authentic self.


This doesn’t have anything to do with “building your personal brand” or anything like that. This is about your mindset and how you present yourself—and the products you’re trying to market—to your audience.


When I finished my first draft, I started to look into how to market my book. After all, I had seen the disastrous consequences in my professional life of throwing a product over the wall and having it land with a splat—unclear audiences, salespeople who weren’t sure how to talk about it, a market that wasn’t sure where it fit. Much like the cover of a book must align to reader expectations—a romance must look like a romance, a thriller must look like a thriller—I wondered if I had to conform to reader expectations as well.


Unless you live in France, or Canada, or Louisiana, chances are, you don’t know the correct pronunciation of my name. I don’t even pronounce it correctly when I’m introducing myself to other people—I say “Arr-dwawn”—it rhymes with “Hey kid, get off our lawn”). In French, you roll the R, you don’t pronounce the N, and you tell American fighter jets they can’t use your airspace. (It’s very complicated.)


I figured that NO ONE would be able to spell or pronounce my name, that I’ll get killed with SEO and Amazon searches and my book would die, lost and alone, stealing bread for survival like Jean Valjean.

Not only that, but unbelievably, there was already an author named “Paul Ardoin”—a literature professor at the University of Texas at San Antonio who co-authored seven textbooks on French postmodernism. (He pronounces it “Are-Doe-In,” which makes me want to rip my ears off.)

So I started looking at pen names. I wanted something strong and dark, as I was writing a mystery that was a lot more gritty than innocent. (Mystery writers call those “hardboiled” and “cozy.”) So I went to one of those name generators, and found a few good ideas, and landed on “Aidan Marsh.” Strong, masculine first name (I think of the actor Aidan Quinn), and a last name that mirrors one of the “Queens of Crime” (Ngaio Marsh—Agatha Christie, Dorothy L. Sayers, and Margery Allingham are the others).


Soon, however, the challenges of presenting Aidan Marsh to the public became apparent. Creating a website where I’d need to write under a pen name all the time, where I’d have to explain everything to friends and family—who, in the early days of release, would for sure be my biggest supporters—it all just seemed too much. I tried a couple of blog posts as Aidan Marsh and I just couldn’t tell “Aidan Marsh’s story.”


I know a lot of writers who write under pen names—especially common when female writers write in “traditionally male” genres, or vice versa, or when writers established in one genre try their hand at another. (Examples include J.K. Rowling/Robert Galbraith, and Nora Roberts/J.D. Robb.) But this wasn’t me trying to break out of something—it was me trying to break in. I wasn’t Aidan Marsh, and my friends and family kept hammering that I needed to write this authentically, and that I needed to be my authentic self.


If you’ve seen my book, you know that I added my middle name to differentiate myself from Paul Are-Doe-In (shudder!). I feel like I can truly be myself on my Facebook page and Twitter account (and hey, LinkedIn too!), in my newsletter, and hopefully I’ll feel the same way at live events.


For B2B marketing, it’s important to tell your company’s story—one that's true and authentic. Telling a story that doesn’t fit with what people know about your company or about your brand just won’t work. This is well known in B2C marketing—it’s why Volkswagen couldn’t sell their $75,000 Phaeton luxury car—but it holds true in B2B marketing too. When businesspeople tie your story to particular product categories, it’s very difficult to break out. For every company who has shifted customer expectations successfully, the path is littered with a dozen more who had to rebrand (Websense to Forcepoint—and yes, I realize Raytheon and a division of Imperva are involved too) or who simply fell by the wayside (Smith Corona trying to transition from typewriters to PCs).


Next week, I’ll share the third B2B marketing lesson I learned. And if you’re interested in my debut novel, you can find it on Amazon.