Friday, July 16, 2010

Social Network Marketing

Ariel Lawhon started us off this week talking about Word of Mouth as a valuable means of promoting our work. She and Marybeth Whalen know a thing or two about word of mouth when it comes to promoting the work of Christian authors. They developed She Reads (our sister blog) for just that purpose. In less than a year's time they have 10,000 visitors a month, and more than 120 bookclubs under their umbrella. We here at Novel Matters appreciate the great work they're doing on behalf of Christian fiction.

Bonnie concluded her post on Wednesday by saying, "... and while aspects of Word of Mouth will likely remain a mystery, there are foundational beginnings -- the rock first thrown into still waters -- that set things in motion ..." The social network is like concentric circles on the pond. Often you make an initial splash, but then one by one the outer circles disappear until there's not even a ripple left where the rock went in. That's not at all what you want. You want your circles to ripple out and cause more circles that ripple out and cause more circles that ripple out, until the whole pond is affected. That's what you want, what you hope for.
Mostly, that doesn't happen.
But when it does, it's quite a thing to behold. Two examples: The Shack and the Twilight series. Both are phenomenally popular ... and both are overwhelming evidence that a book doesn't have to be well written to create a tsunami effect on the pond. I read The Shack after my brother told me about it, just as the buzz was getting started. I wasn't far into it when I stopped and turned back a few pages to see who had published it. I would have staked my life that it was a self-published, non-edited book ... and would have lived to see my next birthday. Unfortunately, The Shack is making news again because the author and, ahem, editors -- I use the term lightly -- are suing each other for authorship and royalties. Nice. And I finally caved and read Twilight after people I love and respect (who shall remain nameless) went on and on about it. I attempted to read it, that is. Halfway through the first book I literally threw it across my rather large living room. "How could something so poorly written Sell So Many Books?!" I asked my envious self. While there's some comfort in the fact that The Shack and the Twilight series will not be remembered by anyone as literary classics, I'd love to have their sales numbers -- all created by reader buzz. (I'll resist the urge to say, "Shame on you, readers!")
Okay, I'll take my tongue out of my cheek (and send a book to the first person who can give me the etymology of that ridiculous phrase -- and I don't just mean the Wikipedia definition. Really, tell me how the phrase originated, because I mean, how do you do that? It's not so easy. Go ahead, put your tongue in your cheek and try saying your full name. Now try it on the other side. Even harder, right?) and get back to the subject at hand. So what are some of the ways to increase book sales by word of mouth through social networking? And does the time spent really pay off? Because anyone who's logged in to Twitter or Facebook knows an entire evening can be gobbled up before you know it. I conducted an informal poll with some of the author loops I participate in and most everyone who responded cited Facebook as their most productive social network site, followed by Twitter and Good Reads. But remember, those are just the results of my very informal, poorly-participated-in poll. "Social networking has been invaluable," says one author who responded. "It is the gift that keeps on giving." And for some, that's the absolute truth.
Janet Grant, of Books & Such agency, who represents three of the authors here on Novel Matters, recently sent an email to the Books & Such loop, reprinted from an article in "The Book Marketing Expert newsletter" on the benefits of Internet marketing, which made a number of good points. Here's an important one:

"Don't get too myopic on doing just one thing for your marketing. The truth is, you need to do a lot of different things, balanced out over a week or a month for your marketing to really make sense."

After the release of Every Good & Perfect Gift and Lying on Sunday in 2008, my own social network buzz-creating efforts barely caused a ripple on our hypothetical pond. Of course, I know more about social networking now than I did then. But still, barely a ripple. So there are things I will do in the future that I didn't do the first time around, and things I did that I won't next time. For example, I won't pay someone to do a blog tour for me when my next book releases. I have enough contacts on my own to work on that myself. I will continue to increase my Facebook friends, and hopefully reach the readers among them each time I have a new release. I will try to reach as many book clubs as I possibly can, and offer to "participate" in their group discussions via Skype or telephone, unless they're close enough to personally attend. Of all the personal appearance things I do, visiting with book clubs is my favorite, probably because it's one of the more intimate ways to interact with readers. And of course, I will do my utmost to put out a novel that my readers won't be tempted to hurl across their living rooms.

So, what have you read lately that caused you to participate in word-of-mouth promotion? Let's add to each other's TBR pile. I'll start. Where the River Ends (and anything else) by Charles Martin. It's not a new book, but it gets an A++ rating from me.


Julia M. Reffner said...

Without a doubt anything by Mary DeMuth and almost everything by Lisa Samson.

Wendy Paine Miller said...

Could there be any more references to weather in Twilight (and what's with falling for a creepy old vampire)?

On another note, I bet one of Latayne's characters from Latter-Day Cipher could get the tongue out of someone's cheek. (I won't say who and spoil it for any of your readers who haven't read it.)

Okay, where was I? Ah, social networking. The beast. The tempting beast. Actually, I've become quite fond of him. I just have learned when to lock him in his cage.

I love the connections I've made online. One example...I tell my mom about this blog all the time. ;)

As far as books...just started one w/ very rough language (but it's well written) Someone Else's Daughter. We'll see how it turns out. Water for Elephants is phenomenal, but you all know that I'm sure. And Mennonite in a Little Black Dress made me laugh every page. (Memoir, not a novel, but oh so funny.)

I'll be on and offline next week.
Have a great weekend,
~ Wendy

Latayne C Scott said...

Ohh... Wendy... I never thought of one of my characters getting someone's tongue out of his/her cheek.... hmmm.....

I want to read Stieg Larsson's books, just to see what the fuss is about.

Nicole said...

Lately, as in within the last month or so, the only books I've read that I'll recommend are Vince Flynn's because they're real. Not awesome writing--as in literary gems--but real, gut-level, impeccably researched, poignant works.
J. Mark Bertrand's debut solo novel Back on Murder is well done for those who love mystery/police procedurals with a strong anti-hero.

Sarah Forgrave said...

My brain is a little too fried to think of an answer to your questions...I blame the middle-of-the-night feedings with my new little one. BUT, your tongue in cheek comments made me laugh out loud. Just what I needed today. :-)

Carla Gade said...

What you said about in person, word of mouth connections being more intimate is so true. I am glad we live in an age to communicate through the internet as well. I'm doing a workshop on new media connections at a writers conference (Maine), and definitely want to emphasize the personal touch. I love sharing about the great books I've read, most recently Courting Morrow Little by Laura Frantz. I loved it so much I tell everyone who'll listen.

Anonymous said...

Julie, you have impeccable taste. Thanks for sharing.

Wendy, you're so right about Latayne. And about the "tempting beast." The internet, social networking, etc., are amazing resources, but can be such time robbers. Balance is so important.

Sarah, glad I could bring a little humor into your day.

Nicole, Latayne and Carla, thank you for the book recommendations. Believe me, I write every one of them on a list and it's what I draw from when I order books online or visit my library.

Anonymous said...

Another recommendation I'd like to make is The Hunger Games series by Suzanne Collins. Hunger Games, Catching Fire, and Mockingjay (which comes out in August). She's a secular author, but the books are excellent -- no profanity or illicit sex. Just an amazing and beautifully written story.

Nikole Hahn said...

I'm not a vampire fan to begin with so the novel (which I thought was well written--the first one--in the first couple of sample chapters) didn't appeal to me. Plus, I saw so many problems with an old vampire falling for a young human. Legally, don't they call that rape?

Anyway, I'm still heavily into Terri Blackstock.

I participate in blog tours and do book reviews for Thomas-Nelson's Booksneeze. That, in itself, has jumped my blogging numbers. Plus, it's fun. Facebook is my private space for a few networks, but not for everyone. That's what I have twitter and my blog network.

Anonymous said...

Nikole, thank you for sharing about Booksneeze. I've never heard of it. Can you give us any more info? You can't go wrong with Terri Blackstock.

Diane Marie Shaw said...

Tongue in Cheek - English humorist, Richard Barham - The Ingoldsby Legends (1845) in the story of the "Black Mousequetaire," he has a frenchman saying, "'Superbe!--Magnifique!'(with his tongue in his cheek.)"
Matthew Arnold used it in Culture and Anarchy (1869), saying, "He unquestionably knows that he is talking claptrap, and so to say, puts his tongue in his cheek."
The above information is from Heavens to Betsy! & Other Curious Sayings. Charles Earle Funk
Diane Shaw

Anonymous said...

Diane! Good for you! Email me your address and I'll send your choice of Every Good & Perfect Gift or Lying on Sunday. Thanks for joining us.

Melinda Evaul said...

A new favorite author is Ronie Kendig. Nightshade, the first novel in her Discarded Heroes series, focuses on military personnel and post traumatic stress disorder. Ronie's book opens a door for restoration and dialogue when returning to "normal life" after a tour of duty. Not an easy task when the horrors of war haunt many.