Writing Professionally: Six Ways to Generate Buzz

The truth is that print publishing has been taken a beating. In 2010, eBook sales at Barnes & Noble and Amazon exceeded sales of any other kind of book (though admittedly not sales of all other kinds put together). It may not be long before the model of being a published author promoted by your book company is a thing of the past.

In the mean while, the best way to attract the attention of a publisher or an agent — aside from excellent writing — is to come to the negotiation table with an aura of buzz already surrounding your book. Celebrities and the new wave of “ce-web-rities” can still ink good deals because they bring fans with them when they sign a contract.

The rest of us have to generate buzz the hard way. Fortunately, the same factors that are killing the traditional book deal also make it easy for us to generate that buzz with inexpensive and convenient tools.

1. Set up and maintain a social media account such as Facebook or Twitter. Post frequently with the juiciest morsels from your book. “&%$# My Dad Says” started as a Twitter game and now it’s a book with a TV show.

2. Blog about it. For fiction, trickle out a few early chapters or especially beautiful scenes. For nonfiction, write a set of actionable advice posts that establish you as an expert and keep people coming back. Track the statistics to use as evidence when you go to sell your book.

3. Start a Webcast. Video and audio podcasts are growing in popularity every day. If you make it interesting or funny, it may go viral at any moment. Although you can cast about anything you want, you should always end the show by telling your fans about the book that’s coming up.

4. Employ your loyal army of ninja warriors. Okay. Since I came to this from a career as a martial arts teacher, I may be the only one with a loyal army of actual  ninja warriors. But you have your own loyal army of friends, family and acquaintances. If half of them get three friends to check you out, and half of them get three more friends…well, you can see where that leads.

5. Publish excerpts. This is sort of like the blog idea, but with more generally respected sources. Maybe you can take a chapter of your novel and sell it to Escape Pod as a short story. Or you can write about essential aspects of your nonfiction book in an article for a trade magazine. Not only will this increase your audience, you might even get paid.

6. Self-publish an ebook or limited print run. Nothing succeeds like success. If you can sell 2,000 to 5,000 copies of a first printing of your book all by yourself, you will get the attention of publishers as you look for a second run. Even if you don’t want to print more of that particular book, having a successful personal run will give you more credibility with agents and publishers.

There are dozens, hundreds, an infinitude of other possibilities out there. The main point is to use your imagination and beat the “new media” at its own game.

Thanks for listening.

More Podcasts

Between the popularity of my last podcast post among readers, and the popularity of podcasts among…well…me, I’ve decided to list a few of my other favorite pieces of ear candy. The folks behind these ‘casts shouldn’t take it personally that you didn’t make the “varsity squad.” I left a few off simply because of space considerations, and two of them are new since that original post.

Freakonomics Radio is the work of Steven Levitt and Stephen Dubner, who wrote a book by the same name. The theme of this ‘cast is applying an economist’s analysis of data to interesting and/or important social goings-on. What I like most about these guys is that they appear to be interested mostly in the numbers themselves, which means they paint a picture as free from bias as any I see these days.

Police on the Scene – officer J.D. Dhein spends a few minutes each ‘cast discussing actionable, often counterintuitive, aspects of crime prevention and personal safety. His scripts aren’t the most refined, but the information matches what I’ve learned over the years enough that I trust what he says when he goes beyond my personal knowledge.  The intro/outro music is also fun.

Quick and Dirty Tips isn’t just one podcast, but an allied group of podcasters on subjects from grammar to nutrition to personal effectiveness. Their gimmick is that each ‘cast lasts only three to five minutes, with simple and actionable advice on a narrow focus. Great for running errands in the car, where your agenda might interrupt the flow of a longer program.

Escape Pod and Pseudopod are the premier fiction podcasts online today. Escape Pod focuses on science fiction, while Pseudopod is a horror fiction cast. Different authors, including many industry greats, contribute some of the best genre stories out there today. Now, if only I could find a crime fiction cast. Maybe I’ll have to build one.

That’s it for today.  Thanks for listening.