The idea behind product lifecycle management is that each product – in our case, we can look at it as either a book, a series or a genre – has distinct phases. 

The Product Life Cycle

Basically, there’s 3 assumptions made when we look at a product lifecycle :

  • Products have a limited lifespan (i.e. declining interest after a certain period)
  • Product sales pass through distinct stages, each posing different challenges, opportunities, and problems to the seller.
  • Products require different marketing, financing and time requirements at each stage.

The idea is that how you handle the product life cycle varies, so knowing where you are at, you can play with it.

The Stages of a Product Life Cycle

Introduction – when a book launches or is first introduced (via cover reveals, mentions on a blog, etc). The goal of the introduction stage is to build product awareness, start people on the sales funnel and get them excited. 

At this point, the cost of producing your book (fixed cost) is very high (your time cost, your editing cost, covers, etc.). Your returns are thus in the negative for the most part.

Growth – in this stage, the product has been introduced and has some customers. The goal here is to increase the customer base, by expanding promotions to get the product into more hands.

This is when most people throw their marketing dollars, buying ads and newsletter promotions, excitedly telling everyone about the new release.

If you think of the Amazon cycles, this is often within the first 14 days when Amazon is really pushing and might / might not drop you.

Maturity – in the mature stage of a product, it’s been out in the market for a while. A while can vary for each book and genre, from a few weeks to a few years. For us indie publishers, this could literally be between 14-28 days after you released the book. Amazon isn’t pushing your book anymore, you need to get in there and push.

At this point, the early & late majority of adopters should be the ones you are targetting. You are looking at people who have heard about your product but are still on the fence. Or they might not have heard about you at all, but know you’re – the author – is around.

At this point, one thing you could possibly do is market to other audiences, starting the cycle again to bring in new entrants. This could be view other newsletters, FB ads, AMS ads, newsletter swaps, etc.

At this point, hopefully, you’ve earned back your initial outlay and returns are better Your upfront cost as a publisher is gone, so it’s just the variable cost of marketing.

Many publishers / authors start lagging at this stage, forgetting about their ‘backlist’.

Saturation & decline – this is where your book has reached the vast majority of readers in the market. No one is buying book 1 again because either they’ve discounted it or they’ve bought it. This is the 1/4 of the product adoption chart, where you’re getting laggards in.

Your market in the genre is ‘filled’ and for the book itself, additional marketing to the current audience is wasting good money.  

There are things to consider here:

1) This is assuming you have not expanded your initial audience; which means, in many cases, expanding your marketing to new areas. Expanding promotion to new audiences is a way to gain new readers, which is why – at times – writing in multiple genres with multiple series can lead to sale increases in old series. And why having MORE books out is good.

It can also just be targeting new people with your FB ads or other promotional tactics (see above).

2) This assumes you haven’t or don’t intend to release your next book in series yet. Realise that you can look at the stages of the lifecycle for individual products and a SERIES too. 

At that point, the marketing for book 1 might be best achieved to catch up the laggards by releasing book 2. Or 3. Or whatever it is.

Production Adoption Cycle

I mentioned lagards, etc. This is a chart depicting technological adoption that has some relevance to this discussion – basically, how people pick up new innovations (or books, etc.)

Yellow line is % of the market saturation, blue line is the groups adopting.

Something to think about if you’re looking at were you are when you’re marketing your product. 

Other Reading

For when you have multiple series, go poke at my Growth Share Matrix of Writing. It raises the concept of different points your portfolio of books might be at and how you want to view them and how you want to adjust your time and financial spend across multiple genres.

Looking at the Publishing Industry

The biggest question to ask is – does this model work with the publishing industry / individual books or series.

The answer, in my mind is sort of? It can be arguable, certain works transcend basic prudct lifecycle management (especially public domain work). 

It’s also arguable about whether the ‘market’ ever saturates per se, because new readers are always growing up / entering the market. I’ve read before that many markets cycle in around 5- 7 years for reading, where new readers come in and old readers fall out. And so, ‘old’ books which were saturated in the old market might be able to come back, restarting the life cycle in a few years.

 Furthemore, as an indie publisher, if you are writing in a ‘broad’ genre like space opera, it’s very, very unlikely that your initial book will ever reach the ‘mature’ stage or saturation. There are SOOO many readers and your marketing budget is so tiny in comparison….

Look at the sales between Patterson for a Thriller and even the highest selling indie publisher. There’s a difference of millions, but… if you can catch even 10%….

As with most models; take it with a grain of salt and realise it’s trying to describe something complex in a few words.

What’s the Use of This? Major Takeaways

– products shift and ‘grow old’ for individuals

– you can saturate a market (think of a market as a marketing channel like say a Facebook group); so remember to not overstay your welcome and spread it out

– you can, often, compress the product adoption cycle using certain tactics, but there will always be early adopters and laggards. Affecting the early adopters can speed up your adoption speed. 

However, you will face diminishing returns on your marketing spend as you saturate a market

– plan your timeline around the stages and how fast you want each stage to hit. Consider how introduction of your product (& series!) works, how you’ll hit the growth stage and what marketing you’ll use and then, how to push the product into early and late adopters (the bulk of your market) and in what timeframe.

As usual, feel free to ask questions.

I wrote this post so that I could tackle the ‘Product’ side of the 4P’s a little easier. So that’s the next major Marketing Strategy post.

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