Wednesday, October 17, 2012

The Buzz Business: A guest post by David Farland

I am so excited to have Dave Farland here guest posting today! Dave is one smart man. He does a Daily Kick in the Pants advice email that I've learned a lot from, and today he's here to talk about creating buzz for your book. Take it away, Dave!

A few years ago, a marketing study was done on songs to see how they gained popularity. The researchers chose a few songs—I believe it was about fifteen—that were of equal merit, and small groups of people were asked to select their favorites. It was soon discovered that different groups came up with wildly varying favorites.

The study wasn’t really about songs, of course. It was about buzz. As certain leaders in a group voiced their opinions, others followed. Those who voiced their favorites eloquently, those who were most attractive and persuasive, swayed the crowd. The songs that were most liked and got the highest initial ratings soon soared in popularity.

What does that have to do with the book business? Quite a bit.

For a book to succeed, it needs to sell a lot of copies, and it needs to sell them quickly. The higher the volume of sales and the faster they sell, the more people in the industry talk about the book. In fact, a book that is selling well becomes “newsworthy.” Recently, one book hit sales of a million dollars per week online.

Of course, that generated more interest and more sales. It was talked about on national news channels. The author got a movie deal and went on television, and the book continued to gain momentum until sales became wildly disproportionate to its objective quality.

It happens once or twice every year. I liked the Goosebumps books, for example, but were they really so good that they should have taken up 45 percent of the middle-grade market?

So it’s important to create a good impression. Cover art, for example, is tremendously important. Two books with wildly different covers—one beautiful, one bland—will experience a huge difference in sales. How much is that difference? Some authors who have recently been experimenting found a boost in initial sales of over 150 to 1.

Why such a huge difference? Because the beautiful cover creates an overall impression of quality.

Given this, even though my novel Nightingale has been doing well, winning awards and getting great word of mouth, I recently decided to give it a new cover:

Was the old cover bad? No, it was fine. But this one tested out better with booksellers and audiences, and that was important.

There are a dozen other ways to help boost your buzz. For example, you as an author need to pay close attention to the back copy on your book. Does it excite the reader? Does it make them want to open the book?

What about the blurbs on your cover—quotes from other authors? If you get great quotes, you need to display them proudly (even if you’re the kind of shy person who shuns the limelight).

Elements outside of the book are important, too. I recently had an author preparing to release a book, and he asked, “Should I put up an author page online?” Of course you should! Your author page should also add to your image.

In past articles in my Daily Kicks, my advice column, I’ve talked about marketing to the masses, the use of resonance in marketing, how to compose a first chapter, and so on.

All of these tips are designed to create buzz for your book, to get people talking. Each element reinforces the impression that “This is the total package.” Everything that you do needs to reinforce an image of quality.

You as an author are part of a sales package. Even the way that you dress is important.

Have you ever noticed that if you look at the back of novels by New York Times Bestselling Authors, the authors appear as if they’ve stepped off the covers of a magazine? I’ve known authors who have had hundreds of photos taken just so that they can get the right stance to shave off a few pounds or make that chin look smaller. I’m sure that some of those authors get hair transplants and plastic surgery and wear colored contact lenses in order to get just the right picture. Others retouch their photos. Why am I sure? Because when you see them in person, they often don’t bear much resemblance to their pictures.

Just as important as looks is your demeanor in public. Do you come off as snooty, overbearing, foolish, a sex addict, a drunkard, or unkempt? I’ve known authors who could easily bear such labels.

You can write a wonderful novel, yet kill your career through bad behavior. A few years ago, one mainstream author, a literature professor, as I recall, had a novel that was shortlisted for a number of awards. His publishers sent him on a book tour and set up national publicity on television, but after twenty-four hours of touring, they sent him home. It turned out that he was a complete ass. His awards interest fell through, as did his next book contract.

In most cases, we don’t sabotage our careers through epic fails. Instead, we do it through a succession of minor errors. We dress down for a book signing. We allow an editor to saddle a book with a weak title. We don’t demand a great cover, and so on.
As you create your book package, consider carefully how well each element of the book—from the first page to the last—might help or hinder buzz. Don’t let any element of your package fail.

Then take a look at yourself and consider what things you might want to do to create a strong public image. After all, you don’t want to be a buzz-kill.

~David Farland

David Farland says, “I’m no GQ model, I’m afraid. I was quite handsome for about 15 minutes back
when I was 16, and it has been all downhill since then.”
Grand Prize Winner of the Hollywood Book Festival, placed first in all genres, all categories.

Winner of the 2012 International Book Award for Best Young Adult Novel of the Year!

Finalist in the Global Ebook Awards


Some people sing at night to drive back the darkness.  Others sing to summon it. . . .

Bron Jones was abandoned at birth. Thrown into foster care, he was rejected by one family after another, until he met Olivia, a gifted and devoted high-school teacher who recognized him for what he really was--what her people call a "nightingale."

But Bron isn't ready to learn the truth. There are secrets that have been hidden from mankind for hundreds of thousands of years, secrets that should remain hidden. Some things are too dangerous to know.  Bron's secret may be the most dangerous of all.

From Peggy: One of the coolest things about NIGHTINGALE is that the ebook is more than your average ebook! It has "Ground-breaking enhancements for eBooks in HD, including hundreds of original illustrations and animations, author interviews and an original soundtrack by James Guymon." Isn't that incredible?! Click here to go to the listing and sample of the enhanced iPad version of Nightingale.

To learn more about Dave Farland or his book NIGHTINGALE:
Twitter handle @DavidFarland


Libby said...

I learned about the book cover the hard way. I released a book of short stories and chose a bland book cover. My reviews were good, but the cover got knocked. Did not make the same mistake with my first novel. :)

Angela Cothran said...

There is so much awesomeness here I don't know what to comment on first. I agree that covers can make or break a book, I know they influence me to buy.

David P. King said...

Dave is the man. I've always enjoyed listening to him speak to us fans during LTUE. Much can be learned, and yes, it doesn't pay to be rude, ever, either in person of even when commenting on blog posts. Period. Thank you for your excellent post, Dave, and thanks for hosting, Peggy! :)

Natalie Aguirre said...

Great advice David. I love your cover.

Author blurbs are important. I just agreed to interview an author on my blog whose book I hadn't heard of in part because of the author blurbs by authors I really like.

J. A. Bennett said...

Nightingale is a fantastic book and this is a fantastic post! Thanks for the advice David!

Donna K. Weaver said...

So much good info here. Love the new cover, Dave. As you said, the other one was fine--but this one is unique with that bird. Awesome.

And Nightingale is great read. Hubby and I were glued to the pages.

Richard said...

A lot of good advice, things many of us never think about.

Gabriel C. Taylor said...

Dave, wonderful advice! I've met a few of my idol-authors and have had entire series' ruined by bad experiences with authors, and had others bolstered. Also, I love reading about authors and what inspired the stories that I've enjoyed so much. It always surprises me when an author offers nothing of that sort for his/her readers. It's like a DVD without any special features.

JeffO said...

Lots of great advice and an interesting looking book.

Kristine said...


Rachelle said...

Love these ideas! I enjoyed Nightingale. Dave is a superb teacher.

Angela Brown said...

Creating buzz is certainly something I'm in the trenches of right now. This was and is very helpful information, David, sir, and I have to say that the cover for Nightingale is very attractive and makes me want to go check it out.

Jessie Humphries said...

Buzz, eh? I got to get me some of that! I better stop being a B-word to everyone then! Seriously great advice and I had better start following it!

Kelly Polark said...

Thanks so much for the great tips and info, Peggy and David!

Tracy Campbell said...

Peggy and David,
This post was enlightning, encouraging and uplifting.
The cover looks wonderful.

Sylvia Ney said...

Looks like a great read!


Caitlin said...

Wonderful advice! As a reader I know which covers I'm pulled towards when in a bookstore or perusing through online sites.

Elizabeth Seckman said...

Such excellent advice! (I will immediately try to fix mistakes.)

Susanna Leonard Hill said...

Great post Peggy and David! Thanks so much for all the thought-provoking tips. And love your new cover David!