Wednesday, August 16, 2006

Bees Do It

Okay, get your mind out of the gutter. I’m not talking about IT. I’m talking about buzz. And I mean the kind of buzz that seems to surround certain authors and certain websites and certain books.

So how do you start being like a bee?

First I’ll start by saying there are two kinds of buzz. There’s ordinary buzz and then there’s BUZZ. I didn’t realize the delineation until I started talking with a friend of mine and she asked how you create BUZZ, the kind where a reader asks a friend, the other mom in the carpool line, her sister or her favorite bookseller about what’s the latest new hot book.

I was only thinking in terms of regular buzz and that’s not a bad thing. Bees spread pollen while they buzz and writers spread the word about their websites and new releases when they buzz.

For example, Debra Webb said “A couple of things I do are workshops for writers and visits with reading groups. Talking to people about what interests them is a great way to introduce something that interests you--your book/s. Reviews are important as well. Send your book out to as many reviewers as possible as far in advance as possible. A good review, even a bad one, will generate lots of buzz!”

Kelley St. John wrote, “Any time you can mention your book in a fun, unique and different way, people will listen. Also, having a supportive family member (in my case, a cute Cajun hubby) to talk up your book really helps. Here are three ways he has promoted my books:

1) He told the CEO of his company about my book. The man then surprised my hubby (and me) by purchasing a copy for everyone in the company and including it with their Christmas gifts last year! All I had to do was autograph them, which was really a lot of fun.

2) When I attended BEA in Washington, D.C., I had dinner at the Olive Garden. The town was filled with people attending BEA, and that night, an entire Borders Book Group from one of the local stores also went to Olive Garden. The group came in while I was in the restroom. When I came out, they all mobbed me, squealing, "You're THAT author! You're Kelley St. John! Sign my shirt!" Then they proceeded to hand me Sharpies and asked me to sign their work shirts! I did, and I asked my hubby if he had anything to do with this bizarre scene. At the time, he shook his head as though he didn't, but later on, he confessed that when he saw them come in, he told them his wife was an author and that her books were probably in their store. They then waited on me, and then mobbed me, while the entire place gawked. It was a wild, freaky and incredibly fun moment. (PS -- My agent was there and thought this whole scene was terrific.)

3) Any time we go out and have dinner in one of those restaurants where they let you write on the table (rather, the white paper covering on the table), my hubby writes "Read Books By Kelley St. John." And then he includes my newest title and my web address. Too funny. Gotta love that Cajun ;)”

I think that man’s a keeper!

“I think the best way to generate buzz is cultivating good relationships with readers, booksellers and maintaining an active Web presence. The blog phenomenon is a particularly useful tool with minimum time investment for authors as well.” This came from Rhonda Nelson and reiterates what I’ve heard before about befriending your local librarians and booksellers.

Of course another factor is publisher support. Where are you marketed? How many of your books do they print and how aggressively do they sell? Homer Hickam spoke at our RWA chapter meeting last Saturday and said he was amazed that his book ROCKET BOYS wasn’t sold in airport book stores given it’s a perennial favorite in-flight movie.

Then we get back to BUZZ, the kind that surrounds oh… say… Nora Roberts. Why is her name a household word, discussed in supermarket aisles, known to almost everybody on Planet Earth? Aggressive marketing? Her publisher prints lots of each title? Longevity? Productivity on her part? All of the above?

And let’s not forget negative BUZZ. Getting plastered at the local bar and grill, dancing naked on the bar and then stumbling down the front steps and shouting at the top of your lungs “I’m Wilma Flintstone and I wrote “Bedrock Bedrooms” will definitely put you on the radar.

Barbara McCauley told me, “being one of the first to try something new and different” probably helps create buzz.

We always hear that editors are looking for “something new and different” but it’s not easy to figure out what that is. If you do, that breakout book will stand out from the crowd because of its content or packaging or both. The writer will most likely have taken risks and the editor will create such a furor over the book that the BUZZ becomes a BUZZ and isn’t that what every author dreams of?

So… if you’re a writer, how to you promote yourself? How do you get your name and website in the public eye?

And if you’re a reader, how do you find out about new authors? And when you find a really good one, do you tell everyone? Or keep a great new book to yourself?


Problem Child said...

Hm, gossip and scandal seem to create good buzz as well. Okay, maybe not "good," but BIG.

Smarty Pants said...

I think I'd rather stick to word of mouth than big, scandalous promo. I don't know that the "any press is good press" necessarily applies, especially not to me. Good word of mouth is why I read books - someone tells me they're great or I see a write up on it. That or a great cover that catches my eye as I walk down the aisle.


Instigator said...

Word of mouth is priceless! I've picked up many books because someone I trust recommended them.

I think I'd prefer to stay away from the buzz of inappropriate behavior - even if it does seem to fit my name.