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Julie Barrett is a freelance writer and photographer based in Plano, TX.

Does Viral Marketing REALLY Work for Authors?

Fresh (almost) daily from Julie Barrett


I've been giving this topic some thought over the last week or so, and I've come to the conclusion that for most, the answer is no. Why?

Generally, the people who do well with viral marketing already have a solid reputation online. Look at Beyond Heaving Bosoms. Sarah Wendell and Candy Tan have run a popular site about the romance genre for some time. They have the leverage and the fan base to get the word out on the Internet. Plus, it helps that they have a publisher like Simon & Schuster behind them.

Of course, there are exceptions (please don't bitch in the comments that you're one, and I'm being so meeen to you), but in general, it's hard to create a buzz for your book on your own - especially if you didn't have a big online presence before publication.

And what happens if your book takes off? Can your publisher get copies into bookstores or at the Amazon warehouse? Probably not if your book is Print On Demand or if your publisher doesn't have a good distributor. As I've said before, Baker & Taylor and Ingram are NOT distributors in that sense. They fulfill orders, but don't hand sell your book to bookstores.

While you're at it, remember that social media isn't all about you or your book. There's a reason it's called "social." If you're at a social event, you tend to drift toward interesting conversations and away from boring ones. It's the same online.

Bottom line: I have yet to be convinced that online marketing works in a substantial way if you don't already have a good online reputation to begin with. That doesn't mean you should build up a good network and suddenly turn into a spam machine, either. Wendell and Tan seem to have a handle on doing it right. Even when they're Tweeting from readings and book signings they're funny and engaging. Some folks can learn a lot from them. I certainly have.

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Filed under: Writing   Publishing         
4/17/2009 3:25:54 PM
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