YA and MG Authors Should Get Their Game On to Fire-up Book Sales.

With it being Super Bowl Sunday, it’s a great time to discuss the type of games that are relevant to writers.

“Gamification” simply means to make a product or marketing campaign interactive and engaging by adding game design elements to it.  The goal is to create customer engagement in a particular activity, like watching for clues in your book trailer, while winning their loyalty. *The use of games can, but does not have to, include contests and the awarding of prizes; but where you chose to do so, make sure you are not violating any state or federal laws. Generally, you cannot require a purchase to enter such a contest. *

YA or Young Adult is typically (and very loosely) defined as a book whose target market is 11-19 year olds. MG or Middle Grade is generally written for children between 9 and 13. In reality, and as seen by sales for blockbusters like The Hunger Games and the Harry Potter series, all age groups read books written for these markets.  For more on what makes a book YA or MG, read author Joanna Penn’s excellent blog article on the subject here:  http://www.thecreativepenn.com/2013/01/18/writing-marketing-ya/.

So why should writers for these markets focus their publicity strategies on gamification?

Games are the interaction method of choice for  members of these markets. It’s safe to say that virtually all teens and children in the intended YA and MG markets have been exposed to, own, and/or play video games, computer games, games on their phones or other hand held devices.  Playing interactive games is a huge part of their lives. If you want a sure fire way to attract their attention, you need to gamify your book marketing.

For a great example of the engagement possibilities using gamification to attract middle grade readership, check out Author Sarah Prineas’ best-selling, The Magic Thief series. On her publisher’s book page, you’ll find links that let you explore the book setting through an interactive map, read one of the main’s character’s lost journal entries; obtain a recipe for biscuits eaten in the book, play a game where you learn what animal you’d become by casting a spell from the book, learn about sword fighting, down-load images from the books as your computer wallpaper, and decode ruins for a chance to win an exclusive incentive. Take a look here:  http://www.harpercollinschildrens.com/kids/gamesandcontests/features/magicthief/.

Whew! While that seems like a lot, Sarah went even farther in her gamification odyssey, and The Magic Thief has been made into an inter-active online game by Adventure Quest. Find it here: http://sarah-prineas.com/2012/03/magic-thief-event-is-live-at-aq/.  For more on Sarah and her other books read here:  http://sarah-prineas.com/books/the-magic-thief/.

Erin Morgenstern’s best seller, The Night Circus, book launch was accompanied by a free on-line game developed by Failbetter Games. While there has been extensive on-line debate on whether the work should be classified as literary or YA, for our purposes we’re treating  it as YA because it has teen protagonists and is marketed to teenagers and adults. The game involves the books characters and story world. Here’s the link for the game: http://www.nightcircus.co.uk/Home/Auth, and for Erin’s home page, click here:   http://erinmorgenstern.com/about/ .

The game (along with great writing, strong publisher support and host of other factors) was instrumental in pushing The Night Circus to the top. It was a central component of an overall marketing strategy that won Erin’s publisher the “Best Marketing Campaign of the Year Award” from the Book Marketing Society.

If you want to keep abreast of book marketing trends, and gamification ideas, for your own marketing efforts, it pays to review the Book Marketing Society’s monthly awards as well. Start here: http://www.bookmarketingsociety.co.uk/2012/10/winners-announced-for-the/.

You may be thinking, “Hey, I’m not a big publisher. What can I do to bring to gamification into my book marketing?”

Well, formulating your own strategy to engage readers through games doesn’t have to be expensive, complicated or time consuming. You can add the interactivity of a game to your Twitter, Facebook and Google+ listings without spending a great deal of money or time.  Here are some examples of how:

–          Run a Tweeting Contest:  Popular Mechanics Magazine recently featured a DVD giveaway where prizes were awarded to the first ten twitter users who posted a particular tweet on a specific date and time.  You too can do this!

–          Add Word Game Challenges to Your Social Media Sites. Run a one week crossword puzzle challenge. Change your profile pic to a shot of a cross word puzzle with a couple of letters already filled in. Make sure the word or phrase is an important one from your book, but not necessarily one that anyone could just guess.  Start an Event Page or comment line where you state your rules for your game, clearly and distinctly, including the number of winners, date and time contest begins and ends. Give clues throughout the week from this page/comment line. Have people email you’re their guesses to your designated email account and award the first so many a prize (bookmarks, magnets, signed copy, etc.).  Be sure to post notices of your contest to your blogs, twitter accounts (using appropriate hash tags), and other social media sites frequented by your readership at least one week before you begin your contest. Also, for the week of your contest, make sure you change your access perimeters to allow the public access to your Facebook or Google+ page so everyone who is interested can enter.

–          Add Free Games to Your Blog and Web Pages. If you have a bit of blog/website administration know-how, you can also add word puzzle games right to your homepage.  Eclipsecrossword allows you to download their crossword puzzle app for inclusion in your website for free. Find it at http://www.eclipsecrossword.com/.  For WordPress users, simply search “puzzles” in the Search Plugins menu and you will find more than a baker’s dozen word games that you can upload to your blog. Find one you like, and with a little imagination you can figure out a way to use it to interact with your visitors.

Now… Three. Two. One!

Go!

Get your game on!

For more ideas using Gamification to fire up your book marketing, you can also buy our book!

100 Small Fires To Make Your Book Sales BLAZE!

Find 100 Small Fires To Make Your Book Sales BLAZE! here:  http://amzn.to/QPEmx7

 

 

Antic Advertising; You Know It When You See It

Antic Advertising; You Know It When You See It

By Kathleen Vrona

The dictionary definition of “antic” is:
-a playful trick or prank: caper
-a grotesque, fantastic, or ludicrous gesture, act or posture
-fantastic, odd, grotesque

Does this sound familiar to you?  Seen any advertising lately that fit the description above?

We coined the term “Antic Advertising” to describe an advertising campaign that is designed purely to attract the public’s attention and go viral. We were compelled to create a new term while researching “viral marketing” for our book, 100 Small Fires to Make Your Book Sales Blaze.  After weeks of researching viral marketing strategies, we concluded that it was time viral marketing underwent some stratification. These days, not everything labeled “viral marketing” really fits the bill.  In our opinion, viral marketing is a related but somewhat different strategy than Antic Advertising.  Viral marketing should be used to denote a marketing strategy that encourages people to pass along a marketing message or to share a product.  The campaign is still designed to go viral but involves a more thoughtful strategic approach with viral components seeded in the campaign.  A classic example of a viral marketing strategy is Hotmail.

Hotmail was one of the first free web based email services.   At the bottom of every free email message sent out was the tag line, “Get your private, free email at Hotmail.com.”  So, every time a user of Hotmail sent an email, the marketing message was spread.  Simple, but brilliant. And it wasn’t about getting attention or national media coverage with crazy stunts, it was about seeding the product with a viral component so it spread rapidly like a virus.  In our humble opinion, that’s the difference between viral marketing and Antic Advertising.

Another example of an effective viral marketing strategy is what companies like LeadsLeap, Simply Measured and even Google are doing; these companies offer free yet valuable interactive tools as a way to increase brand awareness and sales. The tools often include marketing messages and carry links to the companies web site.  Also, they may represent “lite” versions of a more robust tool so there is an opportunity to upsell the customer once they are hooked on the “free” version.

Interactive tools can be in the form of grading tools (see Hub Spots Web Site Grader), calculators, random word generators, surveys, assessments or tests.  The sky is truly the  limit. They can be the one thing that gets visitors to return to your web site again and again or refer their friends.  In other words, interactive tools are sometimes the best viral marketing opportunities because they are often shared.

So what is Antic Advertising?  Antic Advertising is about attracting attention–national media attention if you are really lucky–by doing or creating something incredibly random, hilarious, controversial, clever, interesting, dangerous, surreal, crazy, sexy, scary, cool (you get the idea).   In other words, doing anything it takes to get the public’s attention.  .

This type of advertising can be in the form of an event, video, text message, article or blog, or it can be a series or combination of these things.  Antic Advertising campaigns are typically not designed to sell products meaning there is no strong “call to action” during the ad; in some cases, the ads don’t even mention a product or service.  Many antic ads are actually one-off efforts and not part of a larger campaign or strategy.

Today, marketing antics have reached a new fever pitch.  The stakes keep getting higher, the bar keeps getting raised.  Take the recent Nike ads with NBA star Kobe Bryant as a perfect example; to advertise their new Hyperdunk shoes, the company launched a series of videos featuring Kobe jumping over a bunch of crazy things, including an Aston Martin and a pool of snakes.

The pace and overall feel of many antic ads is more maniacal, desperate and random than strategic.  And while many times these campaigns miss the mark–becoming so hilarious or ridiculous that no one is paying attention to the company or product–they can also be incredibly successful.  It can be the cheapest form of advertising if it works and writers are uniquely positioned to take advantage of this strategy because success can be enhanced by an innovative and creative approach.

An example of Antic Advertising done right– meaning less random or desperate and more strategic– is TNT’s “We Know Drama” campaign conducted on the streets of a small town in Belgium. The TV station put a red button on a pedestal in a quiet square with a sign above that read “Push to add drama”.  When someone pushes the button, an elaborate scene is played out in the square: an ambulance pulls up, sirens blare, the patient falls out of the back of the ambulance, two men start to fight each other, a bikini clad girl drives by on a motorcycle (ok, there is a little “random” in this one), more cars screech into the square, a gun battle ensues…you get the picture.  The subsequent video has become a viral success. Check it out for yourself here http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=316AzLYfAzw

Antic Advertising can be incredibly powerful because if done right (and it works) awareness for you or your brand can spread faster than any paid advertising campaign could hope to achieve. And the beauty is, the public is doing the spreading, not a high cost agency, so this type of advertising can be the most affordable form of advertising available today.

Can Antic Advertising work for promoting a book?  We think it can.  For the author struggling to get awareness for their book in a crowded market, it’s a potentially powerful opportunity, and one you should seriously consider.  Remember, however, that getting attention with a headline grabbing publicity stunt is only part of the battle, albeit arguably the hardest part.  After you have their attention, you need to know how to channel it into book sales. In marketing terms, you need to have a plan to engage the customer after you have their attention.

Now for the disclaimers. Will it work every time? No. Is it a gamble? Yes. There are no guarantees with this strategy; it can be hard to predict what will go viral.  Some Antic Advertising campaigns are wildly successful taking a company or product from relative obscurity to a household word overnight.  Others miss the mark entirely and sit in a dark corner of the web never seeing the light of day.  Is it worth a try?  We believe so. But be prepared to experiment, and if you can afford it, try a few different concepts.  Some will burn out but others may just start a blaze.

When thinking about creating an antic campaign, get creative.  Here are some ideas to spark “out of the box” thinking.

1. Create a mock interview: write a script for an interview and have a friend or journalism major interview you on video and put the interview on You Tube. Make it funny, random, outrageous and poke fun at what your book isn’t while at the same time, getting across what it is.

2. Create a mockumentary about reading as entertainment.  Compare it to other forms of entertainment (you could really go after reality television or the lack of narrative depth in other forms of entertainment) and make fun of the shortfalls while at the same time highlighting what’s great about reading as a past time.

3. Leverage or play off of famous campaigns that went viral like the “Will it Blend” Blendtec campaign. Blend your book on video and post to You Tube. Or play off the TNT campaign described above; hire drama students or members of your local community theatre to act out a scene from your book in a very public place. Make sure and create a video and distribute via your social media “outposts”.

4. Hold a contest for the best puppet skit of a scene from your book (ala the Potter Puppet Pals seen on You Tube), solicit input from the public and create a YouTube Channel just for these skits. Award a prize to the one that gets the most views.

5. Break a world record (if you are promoting a cookbook, bake the worlds’ largest pizza).

6. Organize a protest related to a theme in your book.  Or flip that idea on its head.  At a book signing event, pay people to stand in front of the book store and protest you.  Give them signs that say “Down with (your name).  His book made us think and it hurt our brains.”  You will probably get noticed. You may even get coverage from the local media.

When you get antic ad block, check out web sites like BuzzFeed, and Viral Video Chart to see what’s hot on the web and what’s going viral at any given time to get ideas.

If you are wondering if Antic Advertising is for you, keep in mind that writers have been pulling antics to get attention for centuries.  In the 2011 essay How Writers Build the Brand, author Tony Perrottet recounted several examples of how writers throughout history have conducted crazy stunts to promote their books including the following:

“Perhaps the most astonishing P.R. stunt — one that must inspire awe among authors today — was plotted in Paris in 1927 by Georges Simenon, the Belgian-born author of the Inspector Maigret novels. For 100,000 francs, the wildly prolific Simenon agreed to write an entire novel while suspended in a glass cage outside the Moulin Rouge nightclub for 72 hours. Members of the public would be invited to choose the novel’s characters, subject matter and title, while Simenon hammered out the pages on a typewriter. A newspaper advertisement promised the result would be “a record novel: record speed, record endurance and, dare we add, record talent!” It was a marketing coup. As Pierre Assouline notes in “Simenon: A Biography,” journalists in Paris “talked of nothing else.”

Our fore-authors were no different from us and wanted the same things that we do; to create something that gets the greatest amount of attention in the shortest period of time with the lowest cost.  Again, the key is to know what you are going to do once you have everyone’s attention.  How will you to turn that awareness into consideration for you and your book?

Find more book marketing and Antic Advertising ideas in 100 Small Fires To Make Your Book Sales BLAZE!.  Go here to order:

http://www.amazon.com/Marketing-Selling-Including-Time-Lines-ebook/dp/B00A9GHI6Y/ref=sr_1_1?s=digital-text&ie=UTF8&qid=1353947917&sr=1-1&keywords=100+SMALL+FIRES

We had a launch party. People came!

Every host or hostess has a few minutes of pre-party paranoia. You’ve hustled to lay out a great spread; what if no one shows up? Well, I’m happy to say our self doubts quickly faded thanks to all the great folks who “popped over” to visit with us.

Google Hang-out hosts a maximum of ten participates and at one time we had six on screen. I was pleasantly surprised at the quality of the sound and video, especially after the initial software snafoos. It took me three computers before I found the one that enabled a hangout without freezing up or crashing. All three were fairly late models too – not more than a year and half – not so old you’d expect problems.

Here’s a shot of my desk top, showing the hang-out set up on my end.

Afterwards, during our post-party debriefing, my sister and I agreed; we’re thoroughly enamoured with Google+ Hangout and can think of all sorts of ways to use it.  Think book club meetings, school visits, writing classes, auction give-aways, and even better, just chatting with your friends or kin (and in some cases your friends who are kin) on the weekend.

We haven’t tested it toe to toe with Skype yet, but that’s definitely going to be up and coming.  Look for more about that later.

Now, about getting 100 Small Fires To Make Your Book Sales BLAZE! into the Kindle Store, we have to sing some praises and throw out some cautionary words. Following the critique group mode for giving criticsm, I’ll start with the good stuff first.  I uploaded the book to KDP at approximately 3:15 am November 18, 2012 and during the Hang-out it went “live” at approximately 3:30 pm.  So, yes, KDP promised 12 hours from click to shelf, and at least from what I can see on the author’s bookshelf, they basically kept that promise.

Cautionary note? There are a couple. First, maybe you are wondering why I chose to publish it at 3:15 am? Maybe  you’re thinking that as a deliberate part of our publicity, I was trying to make the book go live during our party launch. Please be assured that I value my sleep way too much suffer deprivation for a blip on the computer screen.  I started formatting the book for Kindle at 5pm, November 17, 2012 and was still working on it the next day.

With naive optimism, I thought the process might take an hour or two, tops. After all, I’d down loaded Building Your Book for Kindle, the gospel by Amazon on proper formatting. With my Kindle next to my computer, I carefully followed every tenant as though it transversed from a saint’s text to my clacking finger tips. After convering to “web filtered HTM,” I reviewed the work in the web browser and made sure it read correctly before up-loading. It looked fine.  It continued to look just dandy even though it up-loaded wrong.

I revised, up-loaded, found errors, revised… over and over again until my eyes became so strained from looking for problems that did not exist at the Word level, but kept showing up on the test Kindle document, that I literally started seeing double.  That’s when I quit, hit “enter” and let that snaggle-toothed puppy escape to romp through Amazon’s shelves as is.

We had a deadline to meet after all. A pre-planned launch party – people waiting to get the book for reviews, lives to get back to after this crazy week of final edits, additions and revisions. That only barely topped the fact that I was frankly sick of the whole thing by 3:00 am.

Now, the good and bad. Yes, we can make post-publication edits to fix whatever problems still exist after my marathon session last night.  We’re also doubley thankful that although the book went “live” at 3:15 am yesterday, today it’s ranked so low that it’s really hard to find. For those of you who hire professionals for your formatting I’m sure this gap between publication and building rank so you surface in searches and swim to the top of categories is really frustrating. For those of us working on a budget who have to do our own coding, its a small blessing in an over-all frustrating process.

Verdict for us? We’ll hire the pros next time.

Now, back to the party! Since 100 Small Fires To Make Your Book Sales BLAZE! has two authors, we had two party-central locations. One in Atlanta, Georgia and one in Louisville, Kentucky. Here are pictures from both gatherings.

FROM LOUISVILLE’S PARTY WITH KATHLEEN VRONA:

PICS FROM THE ATLANTA LAUNCH PARTY FOR THE BOOK:

Our Book’s Birthday Is Sunday; Help Us Celebrate Our Launch By Entering Below For Our Free Give-aways!

Time has flown since we started working on 100 Small Fires, and it’s almost impossible to believe, but our book’s birthday is this Sunday! In celebration we’ll be giving away books, book swag and a Kindle Fire!  Sunday at 3pm EST at our launch party, we’ll draw two names every ten minutes for an hour, giving away 12 free copies of the book. Finally on  Saturday, March 2, 2013 we’ll have drawings for more free books, bookmarks, posters, and a Kindle Fire! To be eligible to win, you can register by leaving a comment here between now and March 1, 2013.

Now, for the fine print:

–  Only one entry per person;

–  Only one book win per person, but the same person can win both the book and the Kindle Fire!;

–  No purchase necessary to enter;

– Winners will be selected randomly from all entries at the time of selection.

That’s it! Cheers to us and cheers to you!

Now go light some fires under your book sales!

Making a YouTube Video on the Cheap.

As part of the marketing for our new Ebook, 100 Small Fires To Make Your Book Sales BLAZE (for sale November 18th on Amazon), I made a YouTube/Indiegogo video. In keeping with our promise to share the good, the bad and the ugly, below you’ll find exactly what I went through to create Arthur Author’s adventure with 100 Small Fires. Of course, what I’ve written will make a lot more sense if you watch the video first, which you can do here: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=jOBX3HAIfYM&feature=player_detailpage

A couple of things you should know. The marketing for 100 Small Fires To Make Your Book Sales BLAZE, and thus the budget I had to work with on the video, was constrained by my agreement with my sister, Kathleen Vrona, my co-author, to spend as little as possible without embarrasing ourselves.

I think the video achieves this. It is if nothing else, clever and perhaps unintentionally funny in places where it isn’t supposed to be and at a whopping cost of $3.00 undeniably cheap. In short, it’s good, bad and ugly!

Here are the materials (I’ve starred those purchased specifically for the video – the rest were pre-owned):

Lenovo Ideapad Z585 15.6 inch is my laptop. At $500.00 it is a deal and runs memory eating programs like Photoshop with ease;

Nikon D5100 camera with 18-55mm lens (about $600.00);

A black coat of smooth but non reflective material which I draped over a black leather chair to provide a makeship studio setting for taking pictures of Arthur and Reluctant Readers. I took the photos in a dark room at night with one spot light (of the clip on variety) and using the camera flash on portrait mode;

Photoshop for crisping and cropping the photos and changing Arthur’s face when I needed another emotion;

Microsoft Word 10 for writing the script;

Microsoft Power Point 10 for creating the video, using the file “save as video” feature;

*Voice Changer phone app which was downloaded for free and used on my Iphone for recording the script in the different voices;

*Skull Sugar Cookie from Dollar Store for The Ghost of Authors’ Past. Cost – $1.00;

*Skull tombstone to be tomb of authors’ past. Also from Dollar Store;

*Packet of spiderwebs with plastic spiders for ambience. See above for procurement details;

Stack of old books

That’s it. I purchased three things and spent less than $5.00 to make the video. Even if you apportion part of my Photoshop license, which I got on Ebay for $129.00 for the year, that only increases the cost by maybe another $5.00. Maybe.

That’s the good.

Now for the bad.  Since I had a steep learning curve, the entire production took me about 20 hours, including subbing out the turtle voice which I’d orginally used for Arthur’s because it was p-a-i-n-f-u-l-l-y slow, and dragged the whole thing into the death by boredom territory. So, #1 tip on using voice changers for video? Never be tempted by the turtle. Never.

Also, Connie Fleming, my wonderful friend and fellow www.writerandwannabe.com  author, donated the clothespin dolls. This saved me at least a few dollars in supplies and probably another couple of days in time. It also saved us from having a really horrible video, because my concept puppets were hand-drawn faces on popsickle sticks. Not the most appealing little guys.

But, I digress.  Here’s the order of what I did:

1)      Wrote script with help of my partner, my sister

2)      Obtained dolls from the fabulous Connie (did I mention I’m eternally grateful?)

3)      Set up corner of house as studio with coat, chair and light

4)      Took pictures of dolls

5)      Loaded them into computer

6)      Photoshopped

7)      Copied and pasted script into Power Point

8)      Uploaded photos into Power Point

9)      Recorded voices with phone and emailed to self

10)  Uploaded voices into Power Point

11)   Went through production and decided that with turtle voice dragging it down, most people would put it out of its misery rather than watch the whole thing

12)  Re-recorded, emailed and uploaded voices

13)  Re-watched and changed seconds per slide from 5 to 4 to speed it up even more

14)  Recorded as video and emailed to Kathleen

That’s it! Not as bad as it seems. If you’d like to see some of the stills from the video, take a look at page on the blog titled, “Stills From 100SmallFires and Arthur Author And His Book, My Masterpiece.”

Prior to this week the only experience I had in Photoshop was making our book cover. See our archives for more on that. However, that was easy peasy compared to changing Arthur’s face.  I actually had to watch some “how to” Photoshop videos to figure it out. So I Googled, and then picked my candidates based on the least amount of time each professed to take to teach me what I needed to know.

My experience in Power Point was ancient history, but I found that much easier to pick up as I went along.  No instructional videos required.

Now, about the sound quality. Yeah, it basically sucks. However, I did not previously own any recording equipment (not even a cheap computer microphone or an old recorder) and could not justify the expenditure when it would exceed everything spent to this point.  Instead of  buying recording equipment we added words to each screen and went with what I had. Was that a good call?

Maybe, maybe not.

I recorded each character’s lines to my Iphone on the Voice Changer app, then emailed the recordings to myself.  I then manually pieced together conversations by replaying, re-recording and re-emailing. Definitely not the best process.

The first thing I’ll buy for my next YouTube or Kickstarter venture? A Blue Snowball or Yeti microphone.

All in all, I think the video is cute, and maybe even a little clever; but no-one’s saying our “monstrously good tale about Arthur Author and his book, My Masterpiece” will win any production awards. Without a doubt, with a bigger budget, and maybe even without, you can make a better one.

So, skip Starbucks this week,roll up your sleeves, and get to work!