How fascinating are you? by Randy Ingermanson

4) Marketing: How Fascinating Are You?

If you want to stand out in a crowded market, then you
should be thinking about how fascinating you are. You
need fans who love your fiction. Who talk about your
fiction. Who talk about you.

Fascination explains why Apple's new products create
lines around the block every time Apple releases its
latest gizmo.

Fascination made Marilyn Monroe a cult icon.

Fascination helped bring Adolf Hitler to power.

I've been reading a book lately, FASCINATE, by Sally
Hogshead, a well known brand consultant and speaker.

There are seven ways to trigger fascination, according
to Ms. Hogshead. She summarizes each of these by a
single word:

* Lust
* Mystique
* Alarm
* Prestige
* Power
* Vice
* Trust

Any surprises there? Not yet, I hope. Each of these
sounds reasonable.

The surprises come when you unpack each of these words
to figure out what makes them work. None of them are as
simple as they seem.

Let's look at each of these in turn.

* Lust is anticipation of pleasure. No, it's not just
about sex. It can be the anticipation of anything you
like. Food. Beauty. Skiing. Dancing. Wine. Laughter.
Any sort of pleasure, whether naughty or nice, is fair
game for the Lust trigger.

Lust partly explains the intrigue of Marilyn Monroe,
who was definitely a pleasure to look at. Marilyn's
fans couldn't wait to see her in action.

Lust is part of the appeal of Apple Computer. Every
device Apple makes is both a work of art and a pleasure
to use. Apple fans can't wait for the next cool thing
that they never knew they needed.

Lust, oddly enough, explains part of the success of the
late comedian George Carlin. If you liked his kind of
humor, then you simply couldn't wait to hear his next

But Lust isn't the only trigger for fascination. As
we'll see, each of the above fired multiple triggers.

* Mystique is about raising questions and NOT answering
them. Those unanswered questions, if they're
interesting enough, will get inside your mind and gnaw
at you forever.

Mystique explains the popular fascination with UFOs.
What aren't "they" telling us about the crash in
Roswell? What are "they" hiding at Area 51? Why won't
"they" come clean about the anti-gravity drive machine?

Mystique is one of the triggers Apple Computer relies
on heavily. What kind of camera will the next iPhone
have? What killer app will it unleash next? Will Apple
fix that one pesky flaw that current iPhone owners love
to hate? Numerous rumor web sites thrive on these kind
of questions. How many rumor web sites deal with
similar questions about HP, Microsoft, or Google?

Mystique is the reason that the Kennedy assassination
still fascinates conspiracy theorists. When Lee Harvey
Oswald was murdered two days after the assassination,
he left behind a zillion questions. Those questions can
never be answered, and that creates mystique.

* Alarm is the fear of something horrible happening. If
it's bad enough, likely enough, and imminent enough,
it's going to fascinate a lot of people.

Alarm about "the Russians" made them endlessly
fascinating in Cold War novels by John LeCarre, Robert
Ludlum, and Tom Clancy. When the Soviet Union broke
wide open, that fear dissipated and Cold War novels lost
most of their fizz.

Alarm about "radical Islam" now fills very much the
same role, which is why you now see more novels
featuring Islamic terrorists than Russian spies. Alarm
only works if people believe it (whether or not that
belief is justified).

Alarm about an impending apocalypse drives the current
fascination with the alleged end of the Mayan calendar
this year, for pretty much the same reasons that alarm
over the second coming of Jesus has driven apocalyptic
fever numerous times over the centuries.

* Prestige is the respect we give to those who have

Prestige is part of the reason that every US President
becomes instantly fascinating the moment he gets

Prestige is one reason for the popularity of the
British TV series DOWNTON ABBEY. (Excellent writing and
acting are the other reasons.) The series centers on an
aristocratic British family and its cast of servants,
beginning in 1912 and continuing through World War I.

Prestige is part of the driver for the popularity of
Apple's products. Rightly or wrongly, owning an iPhone
gives you more prestige than owning an Android or

* Power is the ability to control.

Power is another part of the reason that US Presidents
become fascinating when they take office. The President
is commander in chief of the world's most powerful
military. The President can press "the button."

Power makes the schoolyard bully fascinating. When a
nerdy kid stands up to the bully, fights him, and wins,
the bully loses his power. Suddenly, the nerd is the
fascinating guy and the bully's a bore.

Power makes Google fascinating, because it plays a
major role in deciding the winners and the losers in
the great global marketing game known as search engine

* Vice is anything that you "aren't supposed to do."

Vice is coloring outside the lines. It's the Pandora's
Box you aren't supposed to open. It's the forbidden
fruit you aren't supposed to eat. When there's no
reason given to you for a restriction, vice creates in
you a fascination that grows and grows until you feel
compelled to break the rule.

Vice made comedian George Carlin famous in 1972, when
he developed a comedy routine named "Seven Words You
Can Never Say on Television." By saying the words that
must not be spoken, he made himself instantly
fascinating. Forty years later, people still remember
that routine.

Vice was part of the fascination of Marilyn Monroe. The
breathy voice she used in singing Happy Birthday to
John Kennedy came across as delightfully sinful.

* Trust is your loyalty to the familiar or the reliable.

Trust is the reason you choose the unhealthful fast
food in the airport Food Court, rather than the
healthful-looking option from the no-name joint. In
unfamiliar territory, you want to know exactly what
you're going to get and  exactly how long it's going to
take to get it.

Trust is a part of the reason Adolf Hitler could
convince a nation to believe the unbelievable. He
repeated the same simple message over and over with no
variation. He eliminated the voice of the opposition.
The same lie, repeated every day, became familiar and
eventually built trust.

Trust is a major part of brand loyalty. FedEx built its
brand on the slogan, "When it absolutely, positively
has to be there overnight." If FedEx failed to deliver
overnight, you'd feel betrayed. If the post office
failed, you wouldn't, because the post office offers
you much lower expectations.

In marketing your fiction, you want to build
fascination in the minds of your fans. How do you do

You choose which of the seven fascination triggers you
intend to pull, and then you focus on those.

Typically, you can focus on three or four triggers.

Your cover art, your web site, your blog, your Facebook
page, your Twitter page -- every part of your public
face -- should present the same message and pull the
same fascination triggers.

Your marketing success will depend on how hard you pull
those triggers and how consistently you pull them.

Want to know more about those fascination triggers?
Want to know how to choose the ones that are right for
you? Want to know how to pull them?

Check out Sally Hogshead's book FASCINATE. Part 3 is
designed to help you figure out how to make your own
marketing more fascinating.

You can visit Ms. Hogshead's web site here and take her
"F-test" to learn your "F-score":


This article is reprinted by permission of the author.

Award-winning novelist Randy Ingermanson, "the
Snowflake Guy," publishes the Advanced Fiction Writing
E-zine, with more than 29,000 readers, every month. If
you want to learn the craft and marketing of fiction,
AND make your writing more valuable to editors, AND
have FUN doing it, visit

Download your free Special Report on Tiger Marketing
and get a free 5-Day Course in How To Publish a Novel.

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