Six LDS Writers and A Frog

Monday, March 10, 2008

In Search of Buzz

I am posting this link similtaneously on my Find Your Magic blog and here, because I'd like to get feedback from as many bloggers and blog readers as possible. I plan on making the same offer from both sites, if I go forward with the plan.

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 really looking forward to hearing your thoughts.

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At 3/10/2008 11:31 AM, Blogger Xujun Eberlein said...

Your link to "Find Your Magic blog" did not work. I was interested in reading that blog, as I'm planning my own blog book tour as well.

At 3/10/2008 11:38 AM, Blogger Jeff Savage said...

Sorry, try it again now.

At 3/10/2008 12:27 PM, Anonymous Jennie Hansen said...

Jeff, I'm assuming I'll get a review copy of your book. Your publisher usually sends me one, but I'd appreciate it if you remind them. I also have an idea that might prove helpful, but I'll contact you offline with it.

At 3/10/2008 12:42 PM, Blogger Anne Bradshaw said...

Yes, I think it would work well, Jeff. Contests always draw people in, and if you have multiple blogs offering the book prize, then the publicity soon adds up.

Count me in on taking part--as long as you send a reminder--I'm swamped in writing at the moment.

At 3/10/2008 1:50 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Off-line contact with a marketing idea?

Jennie, that is so secret societyish. Isn't that how all those Mayan/Mulekitish low-land yucatan/eastern Guatemalan King men did business from settlement to settlment? I'll send my people to meet your people on the eastern sea city of Mulek behind the palm trees south of temple complex #14 when the moon is full and if your people flash my people the right signal we'll trade our onyx stones and jaguar skins for some of your quetzal bird feathers and we'll do it for half what you could get them on the street outside the temple walls in downtown Zarahemla.

Yours truly, a certified pure blood kin-folk decendant of Nephi without adopted Mayan covenant-maker ties and not a single pre-Lehi lnading ancestor from gentile-low land, coastal or highland Guatemalan convert gentile in the convert pedigree. You can bet your land of first inheritance real estate and your obsidian-blade weapons on that.

Jennie Gidgadonhi Hansen :)

(this letter was intercepted by David G. Woolley and posted here in the hopes that J.G.H. and her secret society can be stopped before it takes over the world. And if we can't stop her, we might as well join her and her amazing book reviews!)

At 3/10/2008 2:14 PM, Blogger Jeff Savage said...

And you thought "The Braclet" was just a book title. I know the secret signs.

At 3/10/2008 2:22 PM, Blogger Battraw family said...

I think it's a great idea and have two teen/ preteen sci fi fan boys here who would love to read it, ask questions, and post on our blog.

At 3/10/2008 4:37 PM, Blogger Keith Fisher said...

I always love your marketing ideas and this is a real good one. I would love to read your book and review it over at if one of my fellow bloggers haven't already signed up. We have some middle grade fiction writers over there who are going to love it.

by the way, what happened to Shaundra?

At 3/10/2008 4:40 PM, Blogger Jeff Savage said...

You're on, Keith. Shandra got a little sidetracked by Farworld, but she's coming. As soon as I have a date, I will let you all know.

At 3/10/2008 5:56 PM, Blogger Shanna Blythe said...

Oooh, pick me, pick me! If you'd like me to, I'd be happy to read it. I did one for James too and a review. I didn't even think of doing a Q and A, but that would be very cool.

And I think it is a good idea!

At 3/10/2008 10:48 PM, Blogger Stephanie Humphreys said...

I love the idea! Count me in. I have two kids who want to be writers and would love to ask a published author questions. It would make for an interesting blog.

At 3/10/2008 11:09 PM, Blogger Tristi Pinkston said...

Jeff, this will totally work. Virtual book tours are the thing to do these days. Put me down and I'll post on

At 3/10/2008 11:40 PM, Blogger Gamila said...

That's a cool idea. I'd love to review it on my blog. It is fairly new but I post at least one review a week. Sounds very interesting. All the different blogs would have different Q&A, which might lead psycho curious bloggers to go and read several reviews to see what quirky questions people come up with. Leading to only more positive (hopefully) reinforcement that people need to read your book. Am I the only psycho curious blogger that would do such a thing?

At 3/11/2008 11:16 AM, Blogger Sariah S. Wilson said...

I'm with David. Let's share the marketing secrets out loud and online so that I don't have to write emails begging for them! :)

At 3/11/2008 12:18 PM, Blogger Susan said...

As someone who reviews books on a blog, I can only encourage you to send out as many ARCs as possible. There are a lot of us reviewing books, and our recommendations always snowball. LOTS of people read these blogs, so you would have a huge audience. Contests and offers of author interviews will generate even more buzz.

I will graciously volunteer to review your book. Check out my blog for even more links to book blogs. Lots of them review only YA books, although some (like me) review anything. Of course, you can't guarantee that you will get good reviews, but even bad reviews drum up readers. Check out my review of Jason Wright's book (which I received from Shadow Mountain), for instance.

I can only encourage you to send ARCs to book bloggers like me. I can't tell you how many hundreds of books go on my To Be Read list because of reviews (both good and bad) that I read on blogs.

Good luck!

At 3/11/2008 5:59 PM, Blogger J Scott Savage said...

Thanks everyone for your enthusiasm and offers of help. I will definitely take you all up on your offers. I just wish I could make the next few months fly by.

At 3/12/2008 4:39 PM, Blogger that one girl said...

I have never reviewed a book before, but if you'd let me I'd like to give it a try.

At 3/12/2008 10:45 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Jeff, I think your ideas sound wonderful. I'm still new to the blogging thing and have yet to set up one of my own, but plan to soon as I have a book coming out this fall. I'll be asking you for advice as you get everything figured out! A million, gazillion congrats again on Farworld. I think it's incredible and couldn't happen to a nicer guy.

And David Woolley, you make me laugh out loud! You are very, very witty. :-)

Nancy Allen

At 3/13/2008 6:52 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Sounds like a great idea. Count me in, if you can spare one of those 200 ARCs for me.


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