Wednesday, July 19, 2006
Wall Street Journal on Novel Marketing
Last week an article appeared in the Wall Street Journal about the new ways novelists are marketing their books. It caught my attention because it talks about using the Internet and people to spread the word about a book, much like I am doing with the Kanner Lake series. “Drat,” I said aloud when I read the article, “this was written too soon.” The Wall Street Journal is a publication I’ve promised myself to target for a future article about Kanner Lake and the Scenes and Beans blog. Hope to still get that article in there at some point, but in the meantime, this article spoke to just the kind of thing I’m trying to do.
The point of the article is that mass-marketing techniques are not the only adequate ways to promote novels anymore, with so many being published each year. “Getting even one of them noticed,” the article said, “is a challenge and a clear call to revise the marketing playbook.”
Publishers and authors are using the Internet in “more sophisticated ways, though email blasts, interactive games and viral marketing aimed at small segments of the public.” Other publishers are promoting their novelists as experts on the narrow topics their novels concern, much like nonfiction authors have done for a long time. It doesn’t matter if the segment of people concerned with the topic is a small one. According to this theory, when members of a target book embrace a novel, they will tell their friends and family. Although the article doesn’t use the terms, this is the “buzz-marketing” idea of Mark Hughes, Stielstra’s “pyro-marketing” idea and the theories discussed talked in Gladwell’s The Tipping Point. The article used numerous examples, including a novel featuring an autistic protagonist. The author hooked up with groups involved in autism research and counseling, and through his work there, word about his novel was spread.
The article cites numerous other examples of novels whose promotion was targeted to a specific group. Most of these promotions seemed to help book sales. Of course, some promotions are more successful than others.
The bottom line thought here is getting a core group of people interested in your novel for a reason that benefits those people. This is the idea behind Kanner Lake’s Scenes and Beans blog. The blog is only two weeks old at this point, and the first book in the series, Violet Dawn, isn’t even out yet. But already the writers involved in the blog are seeing beginning results for themselves. They are reporting such things as higher visits on their own blogs and lowering of their Technorati ranks (the lower, the better). A couple weeks ago I sent each SBG (Scenes and Beans blogger) a press release that they could submit to local papers. The press release featured the SBG and how he/she won a part in this blog, the character he/she is writing, his/her own URL, and a quote from me and from Zondervan about this writer’s talent. SBG Chris Mikesell snagged an interview with a local reporter after sending out the press release, and SBG Sherry Ramsey saw her press release run in the Priest River Times (a northern Idaho paper in the general vicinity of Kanner Lake). SBG Pamela James said her release is set to run in their church newsletter. Others have run the release on their own blogs. More reports of results are trickling in.
I have to admit Scenes and Beans is a huge project and has taken much time to set up, although I think it will start being easier now that it’s rolling. And you might remember that after Violet Dawn releases, any reader can submit a post for possible use on the blog. These posts will begin running next January, which means the original SBGs only need fulfill their commitment through December. Although as word about Scenes and Beans continues to spread, the SBGs should continue to benefit.
I am jazzed to hear that my Kanner Lake series is being talked about and covered by media already. But frankly, I’m even more jazzed to hear that the bloggers involved are benefiting from the publicity. This is the way I intended this project to be from the beginning—all involved benefiting.
For all of us writing novels and looking for innovative ways to help market them—the Wall Street Journal had it right: “Getting [a novel] noticed is a challenge and a clear call to revise the marketing playbook.”