Sunday, March 9, 2008

In Search of Buzz

It looks like the scheduled on sale date for Farworld is September 5th. Basically, that’s about six months until the first book hits store shelves, give or take a week. Between now and then, my publisher will be busy with things like finishing up the artwork, doing final edits, collecting the blurbs, printing ARCs (advance reader copies), and creating posters and bookmarks.

Shadow Mountain has done a great job of building up a name for themselves in the YA fantasy market with Leven Thumps, Fablehaven, and now The 13th Reality. Leven Thumps has sold hundreds of thousands, Fablehaven hit the NY Times bestseller list for children’s books, and even though The 13th Reality has just been released, it is selling well, and Borders has decided to feature it for the month of April in their “New Voices” section.

Onece Farworld comes out, Shadow Mountain will send me on a two week multi-city tour where I will visit lots of schools and do lots of book signings. In addition, Shadow Mountain will have ARCs of my book at BEA (Book Expo America, the largest book show in the US,) and several other shows. Clearly this is all a dream come true for me. Unless the Earth spins off its axis in the next six months, I should be selling a bunch of books in the fourth quarter of this year.

The question is, what do I do for the next six months? The book is written. Other than final edits of the galleys, I’m not changing the story at all. Of course as an author, you always think of things you’d like to do better. But based on getting a lot of feedback from a lot of readers, I think people will find this book exciting. I’ve spent a lot of time studying reviews of other YA fantasy novels, and the three biggest complaints I see are: “Not enough depth to the characters.” “Too slow.” And, “More suited to younger kids.”

I think I’ve avoided all of those pitfalls. Marcus and Kyja are not cardboard characters. They deal externally and internally with real issues. I’ve had many, many adults tell me they liked the book at least as much as their kids. I’m not going for silly with this series. And if there isn’t enough action in this book, you may need to read it while swimming with killer sharks or something. So the writing will either sink or swim.

But I don’t want to just sit back and wait. I’ve been racking my brain trying to think what I can do to help build up momentum until then. I think the bottom line is that word of mouth is what will sell the book. If I’m right, and my book is good, people will tell other people. Hopefully I’ll get good reviews for some of the biggies like Kirkus and Publisher’s Weekly. But what can I do to get the ball rolling until then? How do you create word of mouth before your book is out?

The first thing I did was to start this blog. If I keep the content fresh and helpful, people should start telling other people and the number of visitors will steadily increase. That seems to be happening. For me, the concept of the internet is fascinating. As I look at the map of who is visiting my site, I see people from all over the world and most of the regions in the US. Is there a way I can use that to start building up what industry people call buzz?

Here’s what I’m thinking, and I want you to brainstorm right along with me. The best way to get the word out is to approach the people who talk to the most people. If I were already a big name or had unlimited time and money, I’d start traveling across the country right now. I don’t have money, but I do have ARCs that will be available in May. Shadow Mountain prints a ton of these. I’m not sure they want me to say exactly how many they send out, but it is quite a few. They will send out copies to all the big book reviewers both on-line and in print.

Again, if my book is as good as I think it is, that should generate some talk. But what about a grass roots effort? What about all the people who have blogs, but aren’t huge reviewers? I think I’ll probably have 100-200 books that I can give out. Let’s say I gave out 200 books to people who have their own blogs. If each of those blogs averaged say thirty unique visitors (some will have many more, some will have less) I could reach 6,000 people before my book even comes out.

Honestly, if you sold 6,000 books your first week, you’d probably hit the NYT. Of course I’m not naïve enough to think all 6,000 people would rush out to buy my book. But it’s definitely better than just sitting back and waiting. So the next question is, how can I reach those people and what can we do to make the blog posts interesting enough to get some attention?

Here’s where I need your help. I’m still pretty new to this blogging stuff (at least on a national level), but I know many of you spend quite a bit of time with your own blogs and reading others. What if I did this?

Let’s say I offer a free ARC to anyone who agrees to read the book and do a review along with a Q&A on their blog between the first of July and the end of August? I think they call this a blog tour or a virtual tour. I send you the book and you send me questions, Whatever questions you want, writing questions, questions about the books, silly questions, serious questions, whatever. I’ll send you back my answers and you agree to post a review and the Q&A on your blog starting July first.

Obviously I expect you to say what you really think about the book. If you love it, great. If you don’t love it so much, then say what you didn’t like. In addition, what if I could get enough extra ARCs so you could give out one free copy to someone who comments on your post? Do a random drawing, best comment, whatever. I’d even have the book drop shipped for you to the person who won it.

It seems to me that if I did this, it would really help get the word out. I honestly don’t know if I’d get tons of bloggers interested or only a handful. What I’m thinking I would do is take a date like the middle of April and announce that I would send out books to the first two hundred people who sent me the name of their blog and their mailing address.

I’d definitely get some overlap on blogs, but maybe we could try to schedule dates so everyone didn’t blog at the same time. And by doing different questions and answers, it could make the blogs unique enough that readers might read more than one post.

Oh, and for those of you who don’t have blogs, I could do some kind of drawing here as well as the chance you’d have to win a book off someone else’s blog. In fact I could do a daily link of everyone who is taking part in the tour so people could go from my blog to their blogs to try and win a book there or just check out the other cool blogs.

So what do you think? Would this work? Why or why not? I’d love to hear your comments, and I’m going to put up a poll tied to the questions of how effective it might be. I’m really looking forward to hearing your thoughts.


Chris said...

I think that would absolutely work and it's something that's being seen more and more in the blogging world. I think that a lot of authors are starting to see how big this "book blogging" thing is getting to be and it's such a wonderful community! I can't tell you how many books I've bought based on the reviews of other bloggers.

I'd definitely be open for an ARC and a Q&A. In fact, I just did the same thing for Brandon Mull's new Fablehaven book.

Anna said...

I think it sounds like fun!

Suey said...

I think this is a great idea to create a buzz. I see it everywhere out there in the blog world. I'd love to participate, even though I still feel very new at the book blogging thing myself. But I'm nervous about being around in mid-April to get my name in! It's spring break for week then and we'll be gone....

Oh, and by the way, I'm LOVING all your writing hints and helps you've been posting lately. Great stuff!

Becky said...

Definitely count me in! I'd love to read your book and do an interview :)
As far as blog tours go, I think they're wonderful. As a blogger, it is fun to 'help' authors celebrate. As a reader, it's fun to follow along and see the different types of questions asked. To get to know the personality of the author. The more reviews I read of a book online, the more likely I am to bump it up on my very very long list of books to be read.

Karlene said...

Great idea. I'd love to participate.

Sean Ashby said...

Sounds like a great idea to me. I think it's worth trying whatever new ideas we can think of to take advantage of new technologies and new shifts in how the world communicates when it comes to promoting ourselves.
I'd love to help out!

Brian said...

I think that it's a great idea! I'm going to have to check back on your blog every day if I want to get a ARC. I can't wait. I'm going to definitely write a review and Q and A. I really hope I get one. Would it be OK if I didn't send in the review and Q&A until a little after July 5th, which is when my camp ends?

J Scott Savage said...

Thanks for all the positive feedback and everyone who has volunteered to take part. I'm really looking forward to this. I know I shouldn't wish for the ability to fast forward a couple of months (I mean, hey I saw "Click" right?) But still I feel like a kid waiting for Christmas.

I'll post more about this as soon as I know for sure when the ARCS will be out. But I'm thinking I'll start signing people up the middle of April. Send out the ARCs when they are ready in May. Then do the actual tour July and August.

I don't think I want to do the reviews and Q&A too early or people would forget the book was coming out. But it would be nice to build up to the release.

My understanding is that the first week of sales has a big impact, because chains look at how the book does that first week and base reorders off of that. So if I have a big first week, I get more books on shelves for the holiday shopping season.

J Scott Savage said...

Oh, and Suey. I'll make sure I count you in if you are out for spring break. As long as you bring me back sand, or Mickey ears, or whatever.

Jennifer Leffler said...

I would love to read your new book and review it on my LDS Readers Blog. I have loved all your other books and am looking forward to this one but an ARC would be even better.

Chris said...

That's the same thing that I've come to understand too: that the first week of sales has a HUGE impact on future releases. I have another author friend who writes historical fiction/vampire/romance novels (sounds like a strange combo, but really good!) and she really pushes people to buy the book the week it is actually released even if the bookstores put them out a little early. So I'd definitely do the blog tour and reviews closer to the release date of the book. This is aweseome! Can't imagine how exciting all this is for you!

Irish said...

Have you been over to We love authors over there. Especially in the Green Dragon Group (just as your friend James Dashner) long as you are obnoxious then you are free to self-promote and gain a following...heck you can be obnoxious too and people will still like you as long as you bring some cheese to the table. ;-) Seriously though, I highly recommend the group. And they really do like authors.

They even recently made a list of all their GD authors and you could be on it. You can also get a pretty yellow LT badge from Abby and the LT gang.

Also if you can get Shadow Mountain to send them more books for LTs Early Reviewer program then joined in on the talk then you'd gain a following that way too. That's how many of us became friendly with JD. We don't hold back any punches so you know the love is real when it did I mention that we love having authors on the boards?

Also...if you are still looking for people to read ARCs of your book then I have this to say "pick me! pick me!". I love books and am always looking for something fun to read. =) How would you say your book compares to the 13th Reality? better...worse...much more better? ;-)

Irish said...

me again...just a quick note to apologize for being so long winded. Guess I find it hard to stop when I'm talking about my addiction to LT and just how wonderful it is. ;-)


Suey said...

Hey thanks! :) .... and it will be sand I bring you back... Mexican sand!

Brian said...

Do you think you could have us suggest places to take your tour? It would be awesome if you could come and do a book signing in Seattle. I'd really love to meet you.

Lauren said...

That's an awesome idea! I wish I had a blog--I'd do it!

DesLily said...

Although I am old.. I discovered a number of YA authors last year that have surely made my list of authors I will continue to read. They aren't all from Shadow Mountain, but I do have all the Leven Thumps books and the Fablehaven books and I just ordered the 13th Reality! So I'd say Shadow Mountain has taken a bit of my money! And I'm sure I'll be trying your book when it comes out along with many others!

Your idea of ARCs going out to a number of bloggers along with interviews sure can't hurt! I know since I've started reading many "bookish blogs" I've read more books than I ever have and it's all because they keep giving reviews of what they are reading!! It's true these bloggers are not "paid reviewers" but there are so many bloggers and so many reviews that you get a real feel if the book would be something you would enjoy. And it's all the TRUTH, they don't get paid to say they like or dislike something!

By all means self promote as much as possible!!

I hope Shadow Mountain will make your books a web site such as they have for Fablehaven and Leven Thumps.. those are fantastic sites!!

Julie said...


I was coming to say how excited I was to read the next Fablehaven book since you commented that it would be better than the other two, but I didn't get past this post. I agree with whoever said try to go on librarything. I am an Early Reviewer there and would love to actually get my hands on something more YA. Also a lot of authors I read are on MySpace and they promote their books there as well. If the kids in my class would like your book as much as they like the Fablehaven books you will definitely be a huge hit. I will keep an eye out for you so I can tell them about it :) Good luck! Oh and this idea you've presented in your post is a great idea.

Ian said...

I came across your blog on cre8buzz a few weeks ago and have only just caught up on my rss feeds.
The book sounds great and this sounds a really good way to generate interest in it, would it be a worldwide blog tour?
Your book sounds just the sort of thing my son is into at the moment.
I'd be glad to take part if I can.

Jacob Martin said...

I am quite interested in supporting a fellow author. Plus it wouldn't hurt for me to have an ARC and Q&A.

Book blogs are on the rise, and as far as I know, my generation is starting to catch up with the blog world when they're not watching YouTube videos or using Facebook. Blogs aren't as popular as Facebook with some people I know because they don't really want to have a blog, but that doesn't mean in the future, when the intellectuals graduate from school/Uni, that they won't read/make blogs.

But no doubt about it, parents who look for new books read book blogs, so you could be on a winner here with your YA novel!