Some Thoughts on Building Book Buzz

TFAGPRFAs some of you may know by now, there are a handful of advance copies of The First Annual Grand Prairie Rabbit Festival floating around the U.S. And some of you may be asking yourself, “How do I get my hands on a copy before Dec. 29?”

The short answer is: “You can’t.”

The longer answer is: “You can’t unless you find someone who has one of those copies and steal it from them.” (The truth is, I’m all out of those precious, precious copies.)

But you shouldn’t go stealing books. Because the people who have these copies were given them for two very specific reasons:

1. They are family and deserved a copy for putting up with my shit over the long years.
2. They are positioned in society to talk about the book and, hopefully, drum up sales.

Further, there were conditions. Even if they weren’t aware of it at the time, all of those who received a free copy were agreeing to the following:

1. You still have to buy a book.
2. You have to contact all members of current, former and future book groups and insist this is the best book you’ve ever read.
3. The book is NOT to be read in the privacy of your own home. Ideally, you should be reading it on subways and buses or in parks and coffee houses. If no mass transit is available, standing on street corners is acceptable. Feel free to also read it on airplanes, at business conventions and in front of Oprah Winfrey.
4. While reading the book in public, please be sure to
a) Hold the book at an angle so that others can see the cover clearly
b) Laugh loudly
c) Cry softly
d) Slam the book on a table and exclaim, “Now that’s some motherfucking writing, right there. Shit!”

This talk about sales and money and publicity might all seem a bit crass to people who think of books as art and figure writers and artists just hang out talking about deep things and pretending to solve the world’s problems while getting drunk and womanizing.

But you know what else a lot of writers and artists talk about when they’re sitting around? About being broke and the best way of getting unbroke! Getting drunk and solving the world’s problems is a lot easier to do — and a lot more fun — when you’re not worried about the lights being shut off or avoiding calls from Citibank reminding you that your bill is six months past due.

I kid, I kid. But if a writer says he doesn’t care about money and he doesn’t keep track of his book sales or his Amazon rankings, he’s a liar. And not a good one! Or he knows how bad the book’s doing and doesn’t want to talk about it — which, in my opinion, is a perfectly valid excuse.

Getting published is a great achievement. An awesome feeling. But even the artsiest among us secretly harbor desires for a best-seller, critical acclaim or both. (And a movie deal!) And even the most stoic among us, even those of us who are little more than a fleshy exterior draped over a big pile of bastard — are stung when none of that develops.

Critical acclaim, you can’t do much about other than writing a very, very good book (or what a critic thinks is a very, very good book) and praying for the best. (Hell, even if you write a very, very good book, you’ll be lucky to even be noticed by the reviewers. There are, like, seven of them left and they all have to share a single page of paper.)

But it doesn’t necessarily take a great book to be a best-seller. By definition, you just have to sell a lot of books. And the author CAN do something about that — or at least try.

He can blog. He can schmooze. He can develop a Twitter addiction. He can market. He can even start (with the help of a friend) a Facebook group and send messages to it on a regular basis. Hell, he can go so far as to ask the members of that Facebook group to invite all THEIR Facebook friends to the group. (If you go to the page, four lines under the cover you’ll see “INVITE PEOPLE TO JOIN.” Go on. You want to touch it. I know you do!)

This might seem like just a handful of people doing next to nothing, but it all adds up. If you don’t believe me, look at comedian Dane Cook. Surely you’ve noticed that Dane Cook isn’t actually, you know, the funniest guy in the world. But he can be amusing. And, more importantly, he owned MySpace, back when MySpace still mattered. He spent a lot of time blogging, updating, friending people, writing back to people. Did it work? You tell me.

Anyway, just thought I’d give you a peak into the lizard-side (aka the marketing side) of a writer’s brain (or this writer’s brain).

Now, I should stop writing about all this money and marketing before the other writers get mad at me for talking out of school and get all stabby and such with their No. 2 pencils.

In the mean time, feel free to pre-order the book or invite all your friends to join the Facebook page.

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