Tales from the Net

a work in progress

Saturday, September 27, 2008

Live from the Portland Kidlit conference: Promoting your book and yourself on Facebook, Myspace, and other social networking tools

UPDATE, 9/28: Greg’s handout is online at the new Book Promotion on the Web wiki.  Check it out!

Greg’s doing a presentation at the Kidlit ’08 conference in Portland … and since it’s a blogging conference, I figured I might as well try to live-blog it.  So here goes!

Greg posted about this last month here on Tales from the Net; there’s also a lot of information on the wiki from his Computers, Freedom, and Privacy presentation.  And check out his Web 2.0/social network poem on his blog Gottabook, I’m pretty well connected — part of last week’s Poetry Friday.

Photo credit: Hanging Books by TimTom.ch found via Creative Commons search

Laini Taylor‘s intro: from last year’s presentation by Greg on choosing good titles for posts, I got contacted by an editor from the UK.  Yes!  (applause).

Greg’s new slogan: “I’m geeky so you don’t have to be!”  Jon’s live-blogging … it’s all about the connections.  “It’s like twitter but real!”

There’s so many options available, and echoing Pam Coughlan’s point from this morning: you don’t have do any or all of these things: it’s okay.

I’m going to use some bad words — “marketing”, “promotion”, “brand” and “branding”.  What I’m not going to be able to tell you is “if you do this on Facebook, you’ll sell 23 copies.’  It’s not quantifiable that precisely.  What I’ll talk about is setting yourself up for the Happy Accident.

We can’t spend a million dollars on an ad campaign.  We’re talking about promotion in a different way: setting up for a happy accident.  Also, you want to give yourself an edge — and think about it long-term, not just short.

Why the web?  How many people on Facebook?  (1/3 hands go up).  Of 60 million total.  On MySpace?  [About the same numbers.]  Out of 100 million.  Big audiences.  And it’s all about connections …

I’ve experimented a lot — and read a lot too.  For example, Clay Shirky’s book Here Comes Everybody.  A good example: 3 people on Facebook got together, wanting to do something about FARC … soon, there were millions of people on the streets.  From this morning, the discussion about linked blog tours is another example: it gets you connected.  This is a lot more effective than yelling, screaming, and spamming online. Seth Godin calls it inverting the megaphone.  Instead of shouting “hey look at me”, you’re part of the circle of connections — people are pointing back to you.  It’s a different way of thinking. How can we capture that?

There’s a big difference between promoting yourself (blatantly, tactfully) and trying to sell a product.  Starting with some basics:

You need to have a web presence: a blog, a website, MySpace, Facebook, whatever.  It needs to look decent – my blog’s low-tech, but it works.  If you’re selling something, make sure that people can find it easily.  I’d recommend that you have a Feedburner account.  It lets you combine multiple RSS feeds, and do other things … like checking how many people are actually reading your RSS feeds.  Also, put in a stats tracker: Sitemeter, google analytics, etc.  It lets you know what’s working and what’s not working.  You might find a link to you that you don’t know about.

If you want a post to be found, give it a strong title — words people might search for.  I put a lot of poetry, and I get a lot of Google and Yahoo! traffic.  If you’re promoting a book, you want to make sure the title’s in the post so people can find it.  My soccer poem: “Goal: a soccer poem”.  I get 8,000 hits a year from Google on this, people searching soccer poem.  If I had just called it “Goal”, this wouldn’t happen.  Tags are good too … there are lots of other techniques; I haven’t dug that down too much, really just a matter of time.

Why do links matter?  They drive traffic, of course … also, search engines algorithms for determine which of the many soccer poems are at the top.  Google’s algorithm PageRank uses “who links to you”, and so when you get links from important sites, it helps a lot.  Something to remember: people are searching for everything … they might be looking for your name, your book, a topic … you want them to find you!

We’ll talk a lot about win/win.  Blog tours: publishers and authors get publicity, bloggers get friendship and access to publishers, communities get exposed to new voices.  And people are out there reading.  An editor said to me “when I’m looking for an illustrator, I’ll look at blogs to see who I can find — I hire lots of people that way.”

Back to branding.  I’m a brand.  I write as GregoryK.  When people see my blog (and picture), it builds my brand.  I want a long career, so this is something that builds over time.  It’s great ego gratification, too: it’s great to look at Site Meter and seeing searches for “GregoryK”.  Name recognition helps one all of us in the long run.  Don’t let people tell you there’s something wrong with it!

A mini case-study [passing out copies of a handout — available online here].  Last Friday, I did a little experiment … this is how I learn things.  My backstory: I got a poem to go viral on the web, wound up in the NY Times — and tracked all of that going on.

Last Friday, I posted “I’m pretty well connected”.  Look at the title: “I’m Pretty Well Connected — A Web 2.0 poem/an online poem/a social network poem “.  You see my name, my picture, the blog name.  And since Lee Wind encouraged me, I’m going to read it aloud … there’s a point to it.


They’re all social network sites, I linked to all of them.  There are bunches of reasons — including the time capsule, how many of these sites will be around a few years from now.

I posted on three listservs, “hey check out this poem”.  About 600 people.  I also emailed about 10 specific people from my address book who I thought would like it.  I posted an update on my status … “Greg is writing poetry”.  Jon posted the poem on Facebook.  I sent it to Slashdot and boingboing.  Slashdot’s a geek site, boingboing’s a pop culture site.  They have senses of humor, they might post it … when I got on Slashdot, I got 30,000 links … it only took a few minutes.  How much time?  15 emails, a little help from my brother.

Results from four days: 95 visitors who came directly from that link.  (not subscribers).  12 people from Poetry Friday.  I heard back from most of the people.  I got five hits from FB; I didn’t get picked up by Slashdot/boingboing (although did get two hist from Slashdot).  I also got five links to the poem.  And one of them came from rateitall.com … they saw themselves in the poem, and the guy who runs their blog linked.  There are 20 comments on the poem; on my blog, that’s a lot.  And this has lasting value — I’m not done promoting this poem!

And most important, I had fun — writing it, posting it, promoting it.

The specific email I sent is peole I want to stay in touch with.  For example, the Blog Squad.  I haven’t been in touch with them for over a year.  Great excuse to keep in touch.  One

Q: what’s the value of scooping, giving leads ot some specific people?
A: there’s sometines value; it’s dicey, you have to have something interesting enough, but it wasn’t that kind of thing

Seth Godin, he’s one of the founders of squidoo, he’s got a blog with huge readership.  Will he ever help me?  Who knows, can’t hurt — he might want a poem, he might link to me.

Joan Stewart, Publicity Hound.  She said she’d probalby use it at some point.  If she does … well, she featured the blog seminar I did with the blog squad 3 hours before we were on the air, and we got $1000 more business.

And the happy accident: Douglas Florian (!!!!) put in a comment.  Now, when my book comes out, I can ask him for a blurb.  He didn’t come from a targetted email … I don’t care!

Did everything I do work?  No.  Still it was a good experiment.

Lessons: there could have been better times to try it.  THe listservs are your built-in fanbase that you can mobilize if you’re an active participant.  I post a lot of stuff, almost never “look at my blog”; with this exception, I got 95 hits out of 600, a huge percentage.  (Corollary: reciprocate, do the same with them!)

It’s hard to reach people; but it’s much harder if you’re not actually trying.

And continuing value: I’m in the top 10 on Google results for “web 2.0 poem”, “social network poem”.  New readers over the next year!

There’s so much more available on the web.  I talked about this at CFP … here’s the wiki.  How many wiki?  (10 hands).  The key thing about this: anybody can contribute.  It’s incomplete … so please, contribute.

Going through the page: Tips.  Expanding on the Slashdot example: every community has high-traffic blogs.  Do you know Verla Kay’s Blue Books?  A million hits a month.  Cat Fancy … Knot tiers-community.  I’m big in the knitting community because of Fibonacci!

Clay Shirky’s point: there are latent communities out there.  We’re an example, and becaues of the web we could connect.  Fibonacci poetry, on my blog, was another example — it became a hub.  Can you think of communities your group would appeal to?  A recent example on the kidlit listserv: somebody who posted everytime he saw “Reluctant reader”.  Great idea — he had a Google Alert up — altho

Facebook: we tried to come up with 10 tips for CFP; we’re only up to 9.  Thus far, nobody’s come up with the definitive way.  Different things work for different people.  Some of the options: Pages and Groups.  Different pluses and minues … Groups top out at 5000 people — good problem to have!  Or use events for book readings and online tours, which are very viral: people see about the events in their friends’ feeds and explore.  It’s also a good resource with a list of your tour — some authors have told me they’ve gotten traffic this way.

Although you don’t usually want to say “buy my book”, the day your book comes out, it’s okay — it’s celebratory.  But you don’t want to be an interloper who shows up just to do this; get there early.

Posting videos or excerpts: you’re giving value-added content.

Make sure your blog (or Feedburner) feeds into your Facebook page.

Use the status update.  “Greg is going to the bathroom” isn’t as interesting as “Greg is going to be in Portland talking at a conference, say hi!”*

And don’t just use these to support themselves.

MySpace: Ellen Hopkins was featured by MySpace, and sold many many books.  Jay Asher uses his MySpace blogs as a Q&A mechanism: once a month, he posts.  It’s a great way to keep fresh content there.

Jay’s experience: there are teenagers out there who looove his book; there are teenagers who are promoting his book.  They come back and share their tips.  Do you think it works better when teenagers

If you’re writing music, create a profile (or blog) for your main character — or a band.  ???? started recording songs for their fictional band, and now gets downloads — and is selling books.

Comments from audience: the Sparrow blog, fictional candidate that’s the daughter of a presidential candidate.  She’s getting lots of Google hits.

Mark Blevis: We did a podcast on a play about a Canadian presidential election.  Now that there’s an election, we’ve created twitter accounts.

Check out some of the success stories.  e.g. Leinad Zeraus’ self-published novel Daemon

So please, go to the wiki — add your experiences, it’s a resource for what works and what doesn’t.

We’re writers.  We can create the stories for people to cover.  With Fibonacci poetry, what I said to the NY Times is “it’s national poetry month, and a new form of poetry’s going viral — don’t you want to cover it?”  I didn’t focus on myself, just the story (although of course, them writing the story focusing on me was a pretty natural way for them to to do it).

Always think about how you can add value to somebody else.  You won’t always get something in return — but you often will, and there’s no downside.

So, get out there … and set yourself up for the Happy Accident.

posted by Jon at 1:19 pm  


  1. OMG! This is amazing information. I was there and loved Greg’s Web 2.0 poem and all the information he shared and . . . so much more. Laina Taylor is wonderful and Jone MacCulloch and … everyone. I could go on and on for days – seriously.

    Comment by Kim Kasch — September 28, 2008 @ 11:25 am

  2. Thank you for the excellent recap of Greg’s presentation and the updated Wiki. I took notes, but this helped fill in the holes.

    Comment by Clare Bell — September 29, 2008 @ 10:56 am

  3. Thanks for the live blogging, bro! And for moving the wiki, too.

    Comment by Gregory K. — September 29, 2008 @ 7:36 pm

  4. This is great, Jon. Thanks for live blogging it. It was a pleasure meeting you at the conference.

    Comment by Jen Robinson — September 29, 2008 @ 8:32 pm

  5. […] and my brother Gregory K came up with a great idea for a cooperative blogging project at the recent Kid Lit ‘08 conference in Portland: people writing about why they personally think that voting matters.  Over fifty […]

    Pingback by Liminal states » Blog the vote! — November 3, 2008 @ 9:19 pm

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