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Getting people to do things in the 21st Century, especially getting them to read a novel in short episodes over a 72 day period, is just short of miraculous…unless you have a budget of millions of dollars, celebrity endorsements, friends in global media and your picture in the living rooms of every household in the world…just for the sake of having your picture.
I did not have, never have had and never will have any of these. My only claim to fame is having the world’s most boring entry on Wikipedia. Apparently, doctors recommend it for patients with insomnia.
And remember, this is something I was giving away free.
But, years ago, I wrote a book called eMarketing Tools for Writers and it was a bestseller in the business section at Fictionwise (at that time, the world’s largest distributer of ebooks) for over a year.
I wasn’t a complete stranger to marketing, and marketing was what I needed to get my picture in the living rooms of…
…sorry…phased out for a moment. What I had to do was market the project starting well before the first episode saw the glorious questionability of the internet.
I re-read my marketing book and was kind of pleased at how well it was written even though just about everything was out of date and most of the links didn’t work, victims of tenuous web life.
The single most maddening problem was that the novel was free, available in episodes online and nobody had ever heard of Biff Mitchell. (OK…so that’s two things.) Almost everywhere you can market books they want a link to where you can buy them, generally this is Amazon. I thought: Jeez, I’m screwed.
All I had was an ISBN.
Friends and co-workers implored me to turn it into a podcast. Like I needed a whole new technology learning curve. I was loosing hair that I didn’t have anymore just working with the technologies I was already using.
I’ll keep the marketing part simple because it really deserves an entire book documenting all the things I did wrong in sprite of re-reading my best-selling book on marketing.
I wrote a media release. This is pretty much a waste of time unless you want to spend a fortune trying to penetrate an audience that, for the most part, doesn’t really exist in the realm of free online book announcements. Also, most of the free and low cost media release sites I mentioned in the marketing book were no longer free and no longer low cost.
I created a Facebook page for the novel and invited all two of my FB friends to like it. Astonishingly, over a hundred strangers liked it. I also joined a few writers FB groups.
Which brings to an aside on sites for writers…they’re mostly a waste of time for marketing your books unless the book is specifically for writers. Almost all the other writers are there to sell their own books and they don’t give a damn about your book. Check it out. Do a search for writers’ sites and take a look. What you’re going to see are splashy covers and links to where you can buy their books. Some will invite you to read chapters or short stories and get back to them, but they’re not the least bit interested in your book. Now, this isn’t a criticism of online writers’ groups. Some of them are actually great resources for writers. But don’t waste your time marketing your books on them. Save those efforts for READERS’ websites…those places where people who’re looking for books and, if they’re interested in your book, might actually buy it.
Of course, in my case, I was giving something away free but that doesn’t make a difference. They’re not there to read anyone else’s books. You’re better off blogging about your book or about topics related to your book (with links to your books, of course) on places like Goodreads.
OK, so I had a Facebook page, my already existing writer’s page, plus the novel’s blog site and a website page where the novel was actually published.
Months before the release date, I started posting announcements…really pushing the “nothing is as it seems” theme. Because the novel relies on the reader not knowing exactly what’s happening until almost halfway through, I couldn’t say much about the actual story. For this, I had to rely on a PDF that people could download with brief descriptions of the characters written in such a way as to generate interest in the character as apposed to the story. I’m not sure if this worked, but I’m not sure if it didn’t work. But that’s what I was stuck with.
I posted announcements on Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, Tumblr, Pinterest and Reddit. The first announcement on Reddit brought nearly 200 hits on the blog and requests to send notices to individuals once the serialization started.
Things were looking good. But I had a feeling that I needed something more. I pondered this. And pondered. I pondered until I almost pondered my mind to death and, just as my head was about to die, the pondering paid off.
I needed to give people incentives other than the novel (which I couldn’t talk too much about) to get them to go to the blog. This initiated a brief spell of further pondering which didn’t hurt my head much because I was pondering a new topic.
It came to me in a brilliant flash of realization…something I hadn’t experienced since the first time I turned 29. I had already created a bunch of those incentives. They were part of a writing workshop I taught through the University of New Brunswick for just over a decade and from my writing over the last 150 years (while still maintaining my age of 29).
I had resources for writers and readers. All I had to do was turn them into downloadable PDFs. For writers and aspiring writers I had mini workshops (complete with exercises) on revising a novel, writing a novel, finding a publisher, writing difficult subjects like sex, violence and humor. For readers, I had short stories. The most popular was the one on writing a novel. I guessing those were readers who had dreams of someday writing a novel and I hope that some of them are doing that as I write this.
Everything was ready to go. I was ready to go. I was optimistic and looking forward to publishing the world’s first free daily serialized coffee break novel.
Little did I know.
To be continued…