The #yalitchat topic on Twitter this week was all about buzz – how is it created, how do you build on it, etc etc etc. Now, I’m normally totally distracted at night so I always miss out on these chats, but the stars seemed to align this week, and I got to take part, and its really had me thinking.
Buzz, for those who may not know, is kind of a pulse for what people are hyped up to read. It’s “interest” and “fascination” and “demand” all in one. And there’s generally two agreed-upon ways to get buzz. The first is with money. When a book is being heavily pushed, marketed, and talked up by its publishing house (who spends a lot of money to promote the book as much as possible) this will obviously create buzz. People who don’t know about your book now will. And it may interest them.
The other way to create buzz, for the vast majority of authors is to build up a grassroots word-of-mouth buzz that starts to create a groundswell of support for your book. Just a couple days before the chat, Sarah Mlynowski had a fun idea that started spreading quickly all over Twitter. Her new book involves a cell phone that can communicate with the main character’s younger high school self. So she asked other authors who they’d say to their high school selves, and started the hashtag #gimmeacall. A simple, fun idea that caught a lot of interest not only among other authors, but also their friends, followers, etc. I hadn’t heard of her book before, but now I’m definitely going to pick it up.
I did a video a few weeks ago about hype, and how I didn’t like the idea of hype determining how well my book does (or doesn’t do). I still don’t, but after this week’s chat, its really started to make me think more about how buzz works, and how important it can be to your career. I’m not talking about it in terms of how many books you sell, but just in terms of being a part of the community. That was one of the points someone raised during the chat, that the YA author community becoming so close creates a lot of buzz all on its own.
Think about it for a second. If one of your favorite authors starts tweeting about how much she loves an ARC she’s reading, isn’t that going to pique your interest? Or if you find out one of your favorite authors has blurbed this new book. Or if someone starts a really fun Twitter game that has a perfect correlation to their upcoming book release, aren’t you more likely to check that book out?
Grassroots support is one of the few ways THE AUTHOR can control their own buzz. The marketing plans for the book, the booksellers opinions, these are things that are out of our control. But networking with other authors on Twitter, being an active blogger, vlogging on Youtube, being active on Facebook, and making an effort to COMMUNICATE with other authors and readers is one of the cheapest and easiest ways to help build buzz. Plus, you can make a lot of amazing friends in the process.
But the key isn’t to do so much that you’re overextended and not really making any headway. If you’re a great blogger, focus your attention on that. If you really enjoy vlogging and people are responding well, focus on that. Do whatever is going to give you the strongest base for when you’re ready to start really talking up your book. But also don’t base yourself too hard on someone else. Maureen Johnson is one of those people on Twitter who has such a fun and unique style that EVERYONE tries to mimic her, but no one comes close and the effect is lost. Just like no one on Youtube is going to be JUST like John Green.
So find a style that works for you, and get your feet wet. Start building up relationships with other authors – who knows, those fellow authors with debuts the same year as yours may be that year’s Holly Black, or John Green. Their book may be the next BEAUTIFUL CREATURES or 13 REASONS WHY. And then not only are those people fans of YOUR work, but they’re also some pretty cool friends to have when its conference season, or you need a buddy for BEA.