Creating Some Buzz For Your Book

bee-24638_1280If you go looking on Google for advice on creating “buzz,” you’ll find mountains of material to peruse (speaking of which, can we even say “mountains of material” anymore for digital content? It doesn’t pile up on your desk. It doesn’t overstuff your briefcase. What’s the alternative? A “bounty of bytes”? I digress).

Buzz, of course, is that low but continuous sound that a bunch of bees make. In business, that translates to excitement or anticipation for a product.

Buzz can happen spontaneously, or a company might do things to try to create it. In either case, the more people talk about something (assuming it’s not negative buzz), the better the sales forecast.

A recent example of buzz in the book world was the swirl of publicity surrounding the publication of Harper Lee’s novel Go Set A Watchman. There was a combination of buzz both positive (Harper Lee is finally releasing a new novel!) and negative (Harper Lee is being manipulated!). The whole mix inured to the benefit of HarperCollins, which sold over a million copies the first week.

For an author, then, it helps to be famous.

Absent that, what can a writer do before a launch to create some buzz? There are many options available, some of them for a price. I tend to avoid paying for PR, so today let me suggest a three-step plan that is simple to implement and costs nothing:

  1. Share content
  1. Invite email signups
  1. Use a light touch on social media

Share content

It’s one thing to say you’ve got a book coming. It’s another to give readers a taste of it. So make the first chapter of the book available for free. Amazon already does that for you with its “Look Inside” feature. If the book is not yet published, put the content on your website.

The best buzz is content related. That’s what a great movie trailer does (or book trailer, for that matter). So make sure your opening page is the best it can be, which you should be doing anyway, right?

Invite email signups

Associate that free content with an invitation for people to sign up for your email list. Tell them they will be the first to know when the book is available for purchase or pre-order. The proper care and feeding of an email list is a subject all its own. For buzz purposes, you want folks clamoring to find out what happens after your opening chapter.

Use a Light Touch on Social Media

Inform your social media platform of the free content, but don’t overstay your welcome. Keep to a 90/10 ratio of actual social interaction to marketing messages. Buzz is not created with a pounding hammer, but with drops of honey.

If you have a blog, create a buzz post.

As I am doing now.

Because I have a book coming out. The start of a new thriller series, in fact.

I have put first chapter on my website. (UPDATE: This page now has the sales copy. You can read the first chapter via the free LOOK INSIDE feature at Amazon.)

I invite you to read it and, if it intrigues you, sign up for my email list so you’ll be the first to know when it’s available.

I have not yet revealed the title, nor the cover.

Why not?

Because I’m trying to create some mystery, too, and thus more buzz! (I must be channeling my inner Flo Ziegfeld).

The first line of the book is: I was talking to a woman about flowers when John the Baptist blew up.

You can read the rest of the excerpt HERE (same link as above).

And now, having completed my post, I’m going to buzz off.

Please feel free to share any buzz ideas of your own.

34 thoughts on “Creating Some Buzz For Your Book

  1. Okay, you got me. Off to read your excerpt. I stumbled across another idea under “sharing your content” recently. The author shared the first chapter and then in each subsequent blog post, one line from each of the subsequent chapters. Continual teasers without revealing too much of the plot.

    • Jim, after I read your excerpt (love your voice), I signed up and got a message that I was already on the list. Problem is, I’ve never been to your site before. Will you discuss the release here too? I want to add to Goodreads.

      • I will absolutely do a blog when it’s read. My normal practice with a release is to first notify my list, then do a blog post, then FB and some tweets. Then hope word of mouth picks it up from there.

  2. Thanks for the link, Jim.

    I’m already on your email list, so I read the first chapter (the buzz chapter) of your new book a couple days ago. Very interesting. I look forward to the reading the book.

    By the way, I’m currently reading GLIMPSES OF PARADISE. The plot keeps getting better and better. And I’m reading late into the night. I need to finish the book so I can start getting enough sleep again.

    Thanks for the tips on buzz.

  3. Please feel free to share any buzz ideas of your own.

    I was stuck on a suitable ending for my flash story Cameron Obscura, which was about an autistic savant’s quest to fulfill a promise he’d made to his dying father. A newspaper column by a local professor of astronomy inspired an ending, which my editor loved.

    It occurred to me the astronomer would like to hear about his role in my story, so I emailed him. He tweeted his followers about it, and that tweet was re-tweeted by other astronomers who followed him. That ran up my hits (and royalties!).

  4. Stung, Sir… 🙂

    Read the “trailer”…

    Signed up (and confirmed) for more…

    Music has worked this way, sort of, with “singles” released to radio (and now the net), before full albums…

    Most, though, need a lesson or two on having the light touch…

    • Right, G. When I first got on Twitter I noticed a LOT of authors doing the “buy my book” type tweets over and over and over. It was understandable. They thought they were reaching tens of thousands of people with every tweet, and if .005 bought the book and the kept this up, they’d be rolling in dough.


  5. Good luck with your new release. I’ve used Goodreads Giveaways to get notice on that site. For Peril by Ponytail, I’ve done two giveaways and requests for reviewers. Now over 600 people have it on their TBR list and the book has 9 reviews there so far–and it hasn’t yet been released.

  6. The trouble is, Jim is absolutely right.

    Of course he is. Too many writers live to tell this story of the path of success.

    I’ve tried all this stuff… and the challenging part is, social media is basically unmeasurable. Which means you have to trust the process, rather than measure the process. Not easy, it’s like dating someone who won’t look at you. Sure, there are “likes” on Facebook, but for me that doesn’t work – I have nearly 3000 FB followers, 98 percent of whom are writers, and when I “softly” mention a new Storyfix post of Kill Zone post that is pure applicable content for all those writers, I usually get two or three “likes.” Sometimes none.

    So it’s hard to stay engaged with these strategies. But we must. Because Jim is right. It’s all we have, and it works for some… maybe someday it’ll work for me.

    • And sometimes, when we least expect it, something really goes BUMP. But it can’t be forced. It’s like the gold panning scene in Treasure of Sierra Madre, where Walter Huston tells Bogart not to be so heavy handed. “You got to tickle it so she comes out laughing.”

  7. 4. The personal touch always helps.

    To some degree, I have to like the author — or at least the idea the author projects of himself via his bio and pictures and personal writing and social-media persona — to want to buy the author’s book. I think the era in which an author could hide behind his work and hope the work sells itself is long gone, and the author needs to accept that by personally engaging with potential readers as much as possible.

    Some ideas along those lines:

    a. Respond by name to people who engage with you on social media, if only to say “thank you.” Bonus points for asking the other person something about himself. The savviest authors I know, know how to do this without creating potential Annie Wilkeses among their readers.

    b. Be a good local literary citizen. Have a profile in your community. Speak to local civic groups and book clubs. Throw launch parties. Hang out regularly in your local bookstore. Support the events of other local authors, and get to know them and their friends and fans. Don’t be so consumed with finding readers you’ll never meet two thousand miles away that you neglect the ones in your back yard.

    c. Be open to the idea of letting a fellow writer, or a reader, buy you a cup of coffee or even lunch once in a while to pick your brain about writing and publishing. You’ll usually deal with pleasant people. You might even make a new friend. And you’ll generate immeasurable goodwill that pays itself forward in perpetuity.

    • Good thoughts, Jim. A pay it forward kind of thing. And civility is welcome in this age, is it not? And it doesn’t take much to lose confidence. Good will grows up; bad will shoots up.

  8. All excellent tips but I especially appreciate the caution to use a light touch with social media. One of the unfortunate trends I’ve noticed is that email (or FB) loops for writers which formerly were a haven for writerly discussion have become nothing but self-advertising forums. This is unfortunate not only for the writer who is self-advertising but for the group of writers collectively. I have almost completely ceased to participate in such forums because it’s like having to take those annoying newspaper circulars out of your apartment mailbox every week and throw them in the trash. That’s definitely not the sign of a light touch.

    With the example you’ve provided, I can see why sharing content is so important. I have not yet visited the link you provided but I can tell you that your first line grabbed me already and I’ve been awaiting (mostly patiently) your new thriller series so I will be sure and get on the email list for notification.

    Thanks to you and all the TKZ contributors for always working so hard to bring us good writing tips. I don’t mind self promotion when the main content delivers value. It’s refreshing and gives an always avid learner something to look forward to.

  9. Very helpful post. I will put this to immediate (more or less) use. Congratulations and good luck with the release. The first line was a real grabber. The follow through lived up to the line. Thank you for your help and inspiration.

  10. Thanks for the great advice, as always. I am on your mailing list, and I didn’t have the time to read the excerpt as I was running out the door. I’m glad you reminded me. That first line is a great hook! I just finished your Write From the Middle, and loved it! It makes so much sense and it may have just given me the push I need right now.

  11. I definitely want a copy of that book when it’s released. I was hooked from the first line.

  12. Hi James,

    I read that first chapter last week and signed up again 🙂 I’m not fond of the first person PoV, but I can live with it 😉

    And I immediately loved the idea of giving away a chapter for free and inviting people to sign up to get a chance to get the book for free. Excellent. Going to do that myself from now on.

    This quote is awesome: “Buzz is not created with a pounding hammer, but with drops of honey.”

    PS When is somebody allowed to call you Jim instead of James? (Jumping up and down, shaking the crust of the Earth.)

      • That is a good question I’ve never pondered over.

        I’ve come up with the following reasons why I don’t like the first person PoV:

        – Sometimes it’s confusing, because I read about this “me” and “I” for a while, and discovers that it’s a man. (This can be used as a twist, of course, which is smart, but I still don’t like it.)

        – Or the “I” is a black woman, or and young/old woman/man. Not me.

        – Reading the 1st person PoV is like reading a letter or a diary, and I know it’s not me. So it creates a distance rather than making me feel inside that person’s head.

        – I feel pushed, forced into getting to know that person instead of me approaching myself and getting to know the person at my pace.

        I think that’s it, but before you asked, I’d never wondered why I didn’t like it. I just got annoyed when I got a book that was written in that PoV.

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