We’re looking at the three ‘V’s that underlie a marketing campaign that starts from scratch: Vicinity (getting family, friends and a small community of people on board), Variety (getting that community of people to share your name and book) and Vias (getting complete strangers to pay attention because of the ‘third party effect’ — hearing about you repeatedly from different sources).
None of this is going to work, though, unless you do one thing first: write engaging stories. You’ll know the feeling yourself — you’ve just read a good piece of fiction and you want to tell people about it.The more your family, friends and local community enjoy your work, the more they will naturally want to share it with their friends, if only so that they have somebody to talk to about what they’ve just read. It takes much less effort to persuade readers to rave about your latest novel if your latest novel is actually rave-worthy. When those readers are then given the chance to feel included and valued, by being welcomed into a Facebook group of your own or thanked on social media they’ll become even more excited about sharing your writing with others.
How have you encouraged your family, friends and local community to get involved and share your work with others? What’s your best experience of connecting with some of your readers and helping them to feel accepted?
The Three Vs are the way to begin a campaign from scratch without falling for the delusion of conventional ‘mass marketing’. Yes, there something like three billion users of the internet out there; no, that number has absolutely nothing to do with an audience for your books. However, as you have probably been tempted to try to find your audience on line, it’s worth giving a few practical tips to help make the most of your efforts.
Finding readers online is not challenging because there’s a lack of a potential audience — the problem is finding YOUR readers. Internet users who like the same types of stories fortunately tend to gravitate towards each other, especially in Facebook groups. There are other social media companies, though.
Reddit is a huge online community that exists, like other social media firms, for its members to share interesting things with each other. Members post links to other websites, pictures and topics for discussion. What makes Reddit a really useful tool for finding your particular readers is that the site breaks down into categorised ‘subreddits’. For example, there’s a subreddit specifically for books, one for writing, even one for self-published authors. In 2013, Alexis Ohanian, one of the founders of Reddit, used the service to promote his own book, and included an excerpt from the book. He invited feedback from the community and he received mostly positive but occasionally negative feedback. With witticisms or bits of trivia about his writing experience, Ohanian responded to many of these remarks. His book went on to become a Wall Street Journal Bestseller.
There are thousands of other online communities like Reddit that exist throughout the internet. While you may be most familiar with Facebook pages, there are many, many web forums and other social media communities to be found across cyberspace, some with broad appeal, others catering for niche interests. By getting involved in at least some of these communities, you can help more readers discover your writing.
Remember the Snowball Effect: every tiny like, comment, review, conversation in which you are your books are mentioned, creates a bigger and bigger library of references to you and your work which the algorithms that sweep around the internet tap into.
‘OK, ‘ you might be thinking, ‘let’s go online right now and find the largest group to do with my genre.’ Wrong. In all likelihood, you’ll get drowned out by the sheer size of the group and the amount of activity which is occurring there. Worse still — in some large writing groups, there are individuals who have nothing better to do than troll around looking for places to make snide comments or attach their own links, and they often single out newcomers.
What you want instead are two things:
Look for Facebook groups that are built around the very specific genre of your writing – romance or crime groups, or Victorian detective fiction, or dystopian science fiction or whatever. Narrow the band down as far as you can.
You’re a multi-genre writer? Great! So pick a genre you write in and apply this process, then do another genre and so on.
Groups already exist, full of eager potential fans actively looking for stories just like yours.
Relevance beats size. Smaller online groups are usually eager for new members, particularly ones who bring new and exciting material for the group to read.
Though relevance beats size, you want to hit a certain level of membership. Joining a group with only four members probably isn’t going to be worth your efforts; joining one with 150 members, that’s highly focused on exactly what you write about, will probably bring some return.
Joining a group with 90,000 members? Don't fall for it: bigger numbers don't equal bigger results.
Do you write legal thrillers? Look for John Grisham groups. Do you write Victorian Gothic horror? Look for Bram Stoker groups. But don’t just arrive and start dropping links — there is a certain protocol to follow. It is after all, social media, not a shop.
If your particular narrow genre is something that you are passionate about, it won’t be hard to engage with the group. Before long, you’ll have made friends and maybe discovered other people’s stuff about which you knew nothing. If your stuff is any good — per the earlier point about writing engaging stories — then you have a chance to establish another Vicinity point: another smallish, ‘localish’ (in terms of interest) group who will, perhaps naturally, begin to produce Variety and act as Vias for you and your work.
More practical tips soon.