Every author hopes for “buzz.” That means people talking about their book. After all, word-of-mouth sells books. It doesn’t matter how great marketing is, marketing alone can’t sell a debut author.
And so in light of the buzz that The Beggar’s Opera is now getting, (it moved from #4,382 in Amazon.ca’s ranking of books last week to # 195 today, and is currently sitting at #9 for mystery/thrillers), I thought I’d talk a little about what we’ve been doing to build buzz.
First of all, I’ve been on social media like crazy. I started long before The Beggar’s Opera was published by setting up this blog.
Getting Published has had over 32,000 hits, and while my Canadian agent, Anne McDermid, commented that she thought that those were mostly from other writers, I was fine with that. Authors read books; authors promote books, and authors promote other writers.
I made a point early on of inviting other authors to guest blog here and accepted opportunities to do the same when they came along.
I am very active (almost too active) on Facebook and Twitter. While my FB circle of friends has been kept deliberately small (about 80-100), they are all people I can count on.
I also made a point of engaging those friends in the book when I was writing it. I posted on FB whenever I was stuck on plot, or needed words translated, and asked for suggestions. (I once asked for ideas on how to present a ghost in the Ramirez series in a way that hinted at what country he was from. I had dozens of responses — and all of them appear in the third book.) All my external readers came via FB, too.
When it was time to work on the cover for TBO, I took copies of the various options to the office with me and asked my colleagues for their input– then I used it.
Nothing engages people more, I’ve found, than involving them in the creative process. It makes them feel like it’s their book, too.
And when I did, I made sure to thank people for their help– in this blog, with note cards, with small gifts etc. (I also named all my external readers in the acknowledgements.)
It’s a bit like the Pantene shampoo commercial: “I told two friends, and they told two friends, and they told two friends…” but by the time that TBO was headed for publication, my friends had made sure that their friends knew about it.
Then came the launch in Ottawa. Once again, I was determined to build buzz.
I invited local media and politicians, found a venue that was out of the ordinary and threw a giant party. And by asking people to help, I was able to have an amazing event that people talked about for days. (Once again, instead of doing an author reading, I named the forty or so people who had helped out, and thanked each of them individually. I also sent thank you cards to all the attendees, with the cover of TBO on the front of the card.)
And I was lucky enough, thanks to an introduction by another author, Cathy Astolfo, to be invited to guest edit on the National Post’s Afterword for a full week.
The last thing that has helped promote TBO is completely out of my hands; it’s the book reviews.
A book that gets reviewed in the major papers develops buzz.
My friend, author Hayden Trenholm, says there’s a study that says it doesn’t matter whether the reviews are good or bad; the mere fact that a book has been reviewed in the press adds to its credibility in the minds of readers.
So far, The Beggar’s Opera has been reviewed in Quill and Quire, The National Post, The Ottawa Citizen, The Vancouver Sun, The Vancouver Province, The Montreal Gazette, the Edmonton Journal, The Sherbrooke Record, and The Winnipeg Free Press. Luckily, I don’t have to test out Hayden’s thesis — all the reviews have been terrific.
Probably the only thing I haven’t done is go on Twitter and ask people to buy the book. Instead, I’ve posted the link to the book trailer because I think it’s so awesome, and I’ve posted up links to the reviews whenever they came up, as well as to a blog tour that Penguin arranged (another terrific way of building word-of-mouth).
But most of my Twitter traffic has been about other things — politics, real estate, stories I’ve seen that I think are interesting, and most important, retweeting other people’s tweets and promoting other authors.
It only takes a second, but I think the best single investment an author can make in their own work is to promote someone else’s. After all, that’s how I got started, thanks to Ian Rankin’s generosity, and I think it all comes around again.
Writers often complain how isolating writing is. I haven’t found it that way at all. I think that bringing other people into what you’re doing is how you build stakeholders. As author Sue Pike said in a blog about TBO, “it wasn’t just Peggy’s book anymore. It was ours, too.”
Btw, you can view the Amazon ratings for any book by going on the Amazon website and finding the book. The rankings are listed under Product Details in the lower left.