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.


Writing Professionally: Blogging Advice

Alert readers may correctly suspect that I’m new to blogging. From what I’ve read, it’s a good way to get the word out about yourself – provided you can keep coming up with interesting things to say. For me, it also provides potential clients with a sort of “living portfolio” of my skills as a writer.

So far, I’ve learned one important thing:

Talk about podcasts.

I’ve done nothing to promote my blog yet – I’m waiting until I’ve got three months of material up – but as soon as I posted that podcast review last weekend, my visits have literally tripled.

I guess people really like podcasts. I wonder what other subjects will get things moving like that.

Thanks for listening.

Podcasts Worth Listening To (Part One)

I’m a stay-at-home dad. I write full time from home, care for two children and see to the house, budget and cooking. I help my wife as much as possible to help her career grow in the direction she wants. This leaves me little time to sit on my butt and read.

This is a shame, since I really enjoy reading. Enter podcasts. It’s rare to find me working out, walking the dog, cleaning or cooking without a podcast – or audiobook – running in my ear or on the nearest computer. Here then, in no particular order, are a few of the podcasts I listen to most.

  • Fear the Boot – A podcast about “tabletop role playing games and a little bit more.” This is a round-table discussion featuring a core of hosts plus a rotating stable of regular guests. Besides its high production value, what I love most about this cast is the wealth of different opinions. Most gaming podcasts out there are either one guy spouting off, or a shameless shill for some gaming company. These guys offer amusing opinion and actionable advice. Generally runs about an hour.
  • Writing Excuses – Three successful science fiction writers talk about the craft and business of writing. Years ago, Lawrence Block published several collections of his columns for Writers Digest Magazine. This is the 21st century version of that invaluable set of tools – complete with Monty Python jokes and Firefly references, because these guys are the best kind of geeks. Run time is fifteen minutes “because you’re in a hurry and we’re not that smart.”
  • Stuff You Missed in History Class – A product of HowStuffWorks.com, this two-host history show gives a 20 minute rundown of fun facts and bizarre events from this history of our world. Topics run from Vlad Tepes to presidential debates to the Tower of London’s menagerie. Great for history buffs, and for stirring up creative juices for your fiction projects. As a bonus, co-host Sarah Dowdey has the sexiest voice in podcasting today. Run time is about 20 minutes, with earlier episodes coming in around seven.
  • Taking Control – Two professional organizers share bits of actionable advice on organizing your time, space and money. Two things set this cast apart from the other organizing podcasts out there. Their production quality is significantly better, and their discussions stay focused on the central topic for the episode. The advice ranges from broad concepts to naming specific products they’ve found useful. The only down side is they don’t cast as often as I’d like to listen. Run time is typically ten minutes.
  • The Dave Ramsey Show – I admit it. I’m a Dave Ramsey fan. His “Total Money Makeover” got my family out of our financial doghouse when my first business bit the dust in the middle of the recession. This hour-long program is the only radio show turned podcast I listen to. The advice sometimes feels recycled if you’ve followed him for a while, but it serves as a strong reminder to keep me on track.

There are thousands of podcasts out there, and hundreds worth giving a try. The five above fill up most of my iPod space that’s not taken up with audiobooks or music.

Thanks for listening