- By: Jessica Faust | Date: Mar 19 2007
We talk a lot at BookEnds about buzz marketing and how important it is to create a buzz surrounding your book. This is probably the easiest and cheapest form of publicity you can get, but strangely the one authors seem to neglect the most. Why? Because buzz marketing means you have to brag. It means you have to tell every single person—family, friends, and strangers—who you are and what you write, but it’s because of buzz marketing, more than anything else, that books sell.
Buzz marketing is when someone tells you about the last amazing book they read and you run out to buy it. It’s why I read the last three books I read and it’s probably why you read at least one of the last three books you read.
Well, recently we saw buzz marketing at work in the most amazing way. On Sunday, February 11, a feature article appeared in a Dover, New Hampshire, newspaper covering a local woman who was one of 30 finalists for the Staples Invention Quest. During the course of the interview the woman referenced (and is photographed with) the book she credits for helping her find her way in the world of inventions, The Mom Inventors Handbook by Tamara Monosoff. Because of this great mention Tamara was also called and interviewed for the article, and because of a woman who is proud of a book that has clearly helped her reach her dreams, thousands of people will not only know of the book’s existence but know exactly what it looks like.
Amy Sanderson, the inventor interviewed, had never met Tamara, and Tamara had never officially pitched her book to this newspaper, but because of one woman’s success, and the credit she gives to a book, buzz was created.
Now obviously we can’t all get someone else to brag about our books in a newspaper, but it’s pretty cool how things can happen if you whisper in the ears of enough people.
So what sort of whispering have you done to create a buzz?
I am so GLAD you posted this. I just had this discussion with a pubbed author friend of mine — and I told her she had to do this.
She said, “I can’t, it’s bragging. I can’t do that.”
I’m sending her a link of this!
Question. (Not being facetious, either.) How much of this type of marketing do agents for their clients? Or, is an agent these days simply one who pitches to publishers? Does the promo end when the contract is signed?
The whole agent thing is just kinda like Jupiter to me … big & mysterious & far away.
Several years ago, a friend who was returning to publishing with a cute, little mystery series after a ten-year hiatus was shocked, dismayed and distressed that the publisher would do little, if anything, to promote her book(s).
The hiatus was due to the fact she hated publishing politics, and felt her last series had run its course (even though the publisher disagreed).
After her time away, her advance was cut to a third of what it had been for her last book (keep in mind, it was ten years and advances have gone down), and the whole distribution system had changed. No more friendly, local distributors who love an author’s work pushing them.
Author was adamant that it was her job to write the book, and the publisher’s job to sell it.
After the third critically acclaimed(NYT & others) book languished, she tried another tack and got involved. She got a website, participated in online activities as well as signings (which she had done, but not quite so many)and readings, conferences, etc.
I honestly don’t know if this had any impact, despite demonstrating to the publisher that she was willing to stomp. There are now seven books. The books have a set print run, with a number that allows the publisher to make their money. They don’t *care* whether the author is successful, i.e., selling more books. They cover their costs and have a well-reviewed author attached to their house.
Because these books come out in hardcover, it’s hard to grow the series. New readers can’t find the original books, booksellers don’t really want to promote a series that can’t be collected and there is no paperback, just because the house doens’t want to.
Buzz marketing is wonderful, but if you have a print run under five figures, it’s really a waste of time. Books are so much of an impulse buy, that if they’re not there in front of your face it’s hard to sell large numbers.
What would you suggest she do in this case?
My usual refrain, every agent is different, but I love buzzing about my authors. I send books to family members and friends, and obviously we have the blog and Web site. All a form of buzz marketing. When meeting with editors I will hand off a recently published book I think they’ll like and when talking with authors I will often recommend clients that I think they should review. Any agent proud of her job will do a great deal of buzz marketing.
Traditionally though, an agent’s job is not publicity and marketing. It’s to sell books, negotiate contracts, and manage careers–which can definitely include publicity and marketing. More often than not I’m talking with publishers about publicity and marketing opportunities and helping my clients ensure that what they are doing works with what the publisher is planning.
I’m a bumblebee! I love to share the excitement of a really good book. I do this on blog through Tuesday Speed-Reads (except not this week) and Cyber-Launch Book Parties (did one 3/15). Here are two useful things for authors I have learned:
1) Be personable. Regular advertisement lets us know about a book, but making an emotional connection with a reader helps her make the leap of faith into spending money on it.
2) Be genuine. No one likes a liar, or someone who’s only nice to make money, or being mislead into buying something we won’t really like.
I also think you have to be careful trying to create your own buzz. I’ve seen a number of authors “buzz” about their books so much my gag reflex kicks in. 😉 I think this can have the opposite effect from what you want. It’s kind of like your mother telling you that “really” that dress doesn’t make you look fat–it’s just hard to buy completely.
That said, you can try the sending to reviewers, being visible, etc. I just don’t think constantly picking up your book and telling the world how wonderful it is, is always productive.
But I do have this book… (BG)
Buzz is something I love–I am SUCH a promo-ho! Just yesterday I was shopping for shoes and chatting with a couple of other ladies in the store. I told them I was buying “grown up” shoes for a trip to NY to meet my agent and editor–definite buzz words. They, of course, asked me what I wrote and I told them. Obviously, when Gramma says she writes erotic romance, there’s immediate interest. I ended up handing out my postcards with all my bookcovers on the front to half a dozen customers in the store–including the clerk. He looked about twelve…I’m hoping he’s over eighteen! Point being, I imagine I bore people to death talking about my writing, but there are six women in that store who probably went home and mentioned talking to an author while shopping, and I bet those six postcards generate at least one or two sales. I have no shame when it comes to promotion. Of course, my spouse says I have no shame, period, but in this case, I think it’s a good thing.
Thanks for your reply! Much appreciated. Maybe someday I’ll visit Jupiter.
I have put bookmarks into everything I mail — including bills, etc., as books come out.
This is a really timely post for me. I just returned from taping a quiz show for a national Canadian TV network. Originally I wasn’t sure I could go—since it meant leaving the kids, but I’m so glad I did. It’s been great buzz to chat on loops to say I was chosen for a TV show. During the taping, I was one of four authors chosen for a quick interview—because I write erotic romance. That meant I was also photographed for the publicity shots. While I was there, I carried a tote bag with my book’s name on it, and met a lot of people that way. One author wore a t-shirt with a catchy tagline on the back, and she said that got more attention than just a book cover.
I arrived back home to find out I was on the front page of my city’s newspaper, along with a big article inside. And I got that by keeping in touch with the writer over a few months, and sending him a promo package that coincidentally arrived just as he was planning an article on romance. I certainly never expected exposure on the front page. In fact, while they were taking the photos for the story at a local bookstore, the manager came over and delightedly said she’d loved my books—I’d previously given her ARCs and promo items. I think buzz is many little things all adding up.
Personally I find it tough to “talk myself up”, but I like to have interesting stories or connections to use that catch attention. For example, I have a good friend who does concert promotions. Through his company, I had books given away at special events parties on U2’s Vertigo tour. It’s a tidbit that helps to catch attention, as opposed to saying, “I’ve written a great book.” In my newspaper interview I was able to explain the “high concept” for my book Sin as an erotic romance and “a country house party mystery where the country house party is an orgy”. This gave me a chance to explain what makes the book interesting and show how it crosses genres in a catchy way. Also, I do a lot of advertising in magazines etc., and I’ve found that being a “client” helps to open doors.
Sorry for the long email, but this a great topic!
I had a hard time with this at first. But with EBooks, there’s no other way to build sales than with buzz. I got on every Yahoo loop I could find and shamelessly self-promoted. I also carry bookmarks with me wherever I go. I hand them out at the grocery store and the gym and anywhere else. I even volunteered to teach several writing workshops at local libraries to get my name out there. I post my reviews to my RWA chapter loop. I’m sure I annoy some people, but others buy my books.
I know it’s a cliche, but my mother really is my best buzz person. She forwards all my reviews to all her friends and the entire family. I’ve gotten emails from people I don’t even know saying, “Your mother is so proud and I can see why after reading your books.” It’s a kick!
For those of us somewhat newly published (a few years) and still at a day job, I think there’s a point at which you can really take advantage of “coming out” as a writer, if you haven’t already. When you embrace your own writing, your identity as “good enough” to brag about, you start your own buzz. Friends tell friends, coworkers tell five other friends, and since we’re so well connected electronically, you can branch out of your geographic area easily. I took a huge leap recently by asking a large group of folks at work to visit my site and buy one of my books, tell me what they think, etc. The response has been great, and if they were rolling their eyes, at least it was behind my back ;o)
Okay, my buzz – my short story was picked as the January contest winner on Echelon Press’s site. Since it is ebook published and my first ever real published story, I hadn’t gotten into self-promoting too much since everything happened so quickly.
I met the publisher at the SC Book Festival (the end of February – I’d been published roughly one month at the time). This book festival occurs in a town about 2 hours from where I live and this was my third year volunteering – I love it because I get to meet authors, publishers, and others in the book business. So Sunday, I went to one of my favorite restaurants for breakfast and had my name tag on for being a volunteer and a group of people at the table next to me invited me to their table to hear a fish story (okay you really have to read the whole story on my blog to get the idea of why this was such a great opportunity) – I denied at first because I was being nosy by listening to this man’s story as it was and I wasn’t trying to be nosy really.
Anyway, the topic came around to my name tag (unusual spelling of Elizabeth – being that I am Elysabeth) and what the book festival was about and somehow got around to the publisher of my story and these folks bought me breakfast because I was a published author. – So he gave me his business card and told me to let him know when I had other things published. And I did. I got a contract on the March contest story for Echelon Press, not the winner so wasn’t published last week, but still story was contracted – will be published in May is what I was told.
I had printed off a few copies of the story for some friends to sign them and had one copy left in my car and gave to the man, autographed for buying my breakfast – it was worth it – E 🙂
Sharon, I have a magnet with your book cover for SIN on my refrigerator! I went to the Calgary RWA conference last November and received some of your promo material in my goody pack. And guess what the result of that was? Your books are in my to be read pile! Buzz buzz buzz……