The details are not the details, they make the product” Charles Eames
Not too long ago, I was at one of those giant book marketing events and a string of speakers included some variation of the message…
“Your book is the medium, not the message.”
They recommended spending less energy on crafting your message, keeping it simple or “good enough,” then focusing the bulk of your energy on repurposing that message into as many “distribution” vehicles as possible.
“Don’t focus so much on crafting the language or making a gorgeous book,” they’d say, “just make it good enough to distribute a million different ways.” Thing is…I completely disagree with this philosophy.
The medium IS the message…or, at least it plays a pivotal role.
And this applies as much to books as it does to blogs, videos, movies, audio and any other format designed to help convey the message. Let’s take a simple example.
One of my fundamental messages is, “achievement requires action.”
But you’ll rarely hear me say it like that. Because, I care deeply about language. I am obsessed with it. I break every rule of grammar, but I do it with deliberation and purpose.
So, my medium, on a fundamental level, isn’t dance, art, video, music, or something else, it’s writing and speaking. And I know the words I choose to convey my message will have a dramatic effect on its meaning, it’s impact and its reach.
The way I craft the words I choose make the message what it is.
They aren’t just the medium. So, instead, I might say something like, “if you wan’t something in life, stop bitching about it, get off your ass and DO something to get what you want. Thinking, dreaming and talking simply aren’t enough.”
Same general message, but the words, phrasing, patterns create a different sensory, and emotional experience. They alter the way the message is experienced and, in doing so, they are a critical element of the message.
But, let’s take this out to more of a macro-scale.
I blog and I just finished a book. Beyond the words I choose, are these just vehicles of distribution for my message? No friggin’ way!
Every element of my book and blog’s look and feel deliver a strong subliminal context for the words on the page or screen.
Which is why I worked so hard to create a design for my blog, when so many other bloggers told me to just put up any old design and start writing.
And, I have been very involved in every aspect of the design of the book, because I know how critical it is to the way a reader experiences the fundamental message within (okay, that, and the fact that I have a bit of an issue with control).
These design has a direct effect on the message, it sets the tone and energy for the content.
A poorly designed book with an uninspired cover tells the reader the author either doesn’t care or they don’t get human nature. This perception becomes a subtext for the entire book, subliminal as it may be, and has a profound effect on both the message and the author’s credibility.
In fact, subtle design elements can have such profound impact on he way someone experiences the message, multinational corporations spend millions to tweak packaging in an effort to make people experience the identical product differently.
Design and packaging can even affect your physiology.
In Malcom Gladwell’s Blink, he revealed how subtle changes to the design and color on a beverage can actually caused the people who drank the beverage to believe they were tasting a different drink. They developed a preference they though was based on taste, but the only difference was design. You heard that right. The packaging, the medium, actually altered the perception of taste.
Let’s take it even one step broader, because my very choice of medium affects my message.
I can take the identical message and choose a wide variety of media to distribute that message. Which media I choose will actually speak to who I am and, again, create a subliminal subtext that will influence the way people perceive and experience that message.
So, if I choose a blog, that says to people I have a certain amount of tech-savvy and I am in the blogging-know and people will then experience my message in the context of this knowledge. If I choose video, that again sends a message. And, if I choose vimeo or viddler over youtube, we add to the subtext.
All these choices about the medium influence how the message is experienced and understood.
If I choose to publish my message in magazine versus a book or an e-book, each choice of media conveys information about who I am and subtly alters the experience of the message.
The affect of each of these choices of medium might be very subtle, but added together, they can profoundly change the way people experience your message.
Final story about how publishers feel about this issue, at least how mine felt.
When I first met by book editor, we were having a lovely lunch and talking about what mattered to each of us. I then shared my strong rejection of the notion that the book is just the medium, not the message.
Her response…”My God, I am sooooo happy you feel that way!”
So, what do you think? Agree? Disagree? Somewhere in the middle? What am I missing?
Bring it on…
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