By Darin L. Hammond
Writing is painful in so many ways. The thought and emotion that penetrated my recent article "Social media and the Individual--Humans Design the Universe" fatigued and sickened me (below, 6/20/12). Writing comes at the cost of pain.Gene Fowler described this vividly: "Writing is easy: All you do is sit staring at a blank sheet of paper until drops of blood form on your forehead." I felt the blood drip as I wrote about my most painful moments with my dying mother.
I discussed giving writing away free on 6/23/12 (also below), I felt your pain--you authors who have worked so hard that simply giving your words away might seem unbearable. And, I am aware of the complex issues about giving work away.
I found some great advice recently that helped me come to peace. In "The One Tip That Took My Blog To New Levels. Stop Caring," Sean R. Nicholson refers to the numbers, not the writing. Stop caring about the numbers, and they work themselves out. However, I don't intend that you write for yourself alone because you can publicize, promote, and pimp your product using blogs, free resources for the most part. Free does not equal an absence of gain, as noted by Cory Doctorow.
And, posting your writing for free is not the only way to use blogs as publicity tools. It's just one of the best. Here are some powerful ideas to help you generate buzz:
1. Give away your writing online, in its entirety. For a first novel or collection of short stories, this is not a bad idea. I currently have a couple of short stories in addition to loads of academic writing posted free here. Most will never be published and probably don't deserve to be. But the learning I experienced in the writing process is incalculable--and my name is out there in the marketplace.
2. Parcel out sections for free. If I read half of your book and am taken in by the characters and plot, I'm going to buy it in order to finish. I can't put a great book down, and I can't stop reading, even up to the last chapter.
3. Participate in blogs where you can subtly publicize your writing. Participation means something more than reading blogs. If you just read, you are not marketing your writing. You need to comment, question, praise, dialogue, and then slip in a link to your work.
This is even more powerful when combined with the first idea. Link your comments to free content or to your website rather than just the ebook Amazon version. Sell me on it first, then I will buy. Next, link your free content to your real gem, the one that makes money. Bookmark the blog sites and enter the community of writers. Feigned interest in the blog will only generate fake appeal for your own work.
4. Search for and jump in on blogs that draw followers in your market. If you write SciFi, there are a billion (my estimate) blogs on the genre. Tap into those resources, and jump into the communities.
5. Talk privately to the bloggers you engage with, and they will most likely allow you to advertise for little. Most bloggers are not rich people and will take your small amounts of change eagerly. Don't exploit, but take advantage.
6. Engage in blogging sites whose subjects are oriented towards towards authors and fans. Some examples of these powerful tools include: Jeff Goins Writer, The Write Practice, Jane Friedman. Also, some terrific sites allow you to post your work in portfolios, for free, in writing communities. A couple of examples are Writers.com, Booksie, and BookTalk (for more of these, click here). The value is that your name and works are in the marketplace, promoted, and commented on. There is also tremendous psychological value to being part of a writing community.
7. Blog your story. I've seen a lot of writers starting to do this. Write a section or chapter for your blog entries. You must be patient though, as blog readers don't want the whole story dumped on them at once. We like things in small chunks. So, this means that if you've got the whole awesome novel already written, you still must post in relatively tiny chunks. I recommend WordPress, TypePad, or Blogger, based upon numerous sources.
8. Tweet your book. Take small chunks to the extreme and try something experimental. A caution--to my knowledge no one has pulled this off in the U.S. in a financially equitable way. But our focus is generating buzz, and a daunting task can accomplish it. If you tweet it for free, but gain 50,000 readers, it would certainly be worth the cost.
If you choose to do so, you also have to have a blog with the whole story. If not, you won't be able to add new readers because they will be lost, and you won't be able to maintain readers because they will drop out when they miss tweets. In Japan, Twitter books represent a significant portion of the top 10 bestsellers. Someone in the U.S. needs to figure out the formula to make it work here. Surely it's possible. There's a challenge for you.
9. Start a blog about your genre or a related topic (don't stray to far)--free advertising and ad space. Plus you gain the more exposure for your name. Make it a real blog by posting regularly and responding to comments, which will get you involved in a community
10. Next, fully exploit and embellish your social media connections to promote the blog. Blogs are not self-promoting and will not advertise themselves. Take special care to get the most out of Google +, Twitter, and Facebook, but don't stop there. I draw in a lot of readers from StumbleUpon, Digg, and Delicious, for example. Extend the boundaries of your social media circles, but don't neglect the big three.
11. Cling to the blogs that mention, promote, and advertise your book and reciprocate. Everyone likes to be thanked, and all the people you commune with will probably thirst for publicity too. Thanking them, tweeting their links, and including them across your network are great gestures and establish a positive reputation.
Those in the know, specifically Technorati, in the "State of the Blogosphere," state that blogs are here to stay and only increasing in popularity. Maximize your marketing potential!
Writing takes time and effort, so what ideas do you have for budgeting time to publicize in this way and still write that book?