Wednesday, November 02, 2005

Bird Flew Virus

I launched my blog on 11th October to the sound of deafening silence. During the first few days only an occasional spammer descended to pick over the bones of the barely breathing corpse I had created. Even they quickly flew off, never to return. I don't know what I expected but this was less. Looking back, I'm amazed at how naive I was. Technorati lists 20.5 million blogs out there. No one could hear me screaming in pain with all that background noise.

If I was going to raise the wounded bird Phoenix-like from the ashes I knew I had to launch a viral marketing campaign as a matter of urgency.

I set to work. First of all had to clarify what kind of people I was looking for and where I would find them. Surprisingly I hadn't given this much thought during the excitement of launching the blog. Obviously I wanted readers for "A Half Life Of One" but where would I find them? The primary source had to be Amazon. That's where most people buy books online. Then maybe some of the online book retailers.

But there's a big problem here. The chances of direct markeing to these retailing platforms using a newly-created blog are nil. Later maybe, when I had developed the blog, but not now.

Instead I decided to target literary blogs where I might come across people with similar interests. To ensure I targetted the right blogs I first had to screen them. They had to meet the following criteria:

1 They had to be successful with a wide readership of their own. There was little point selling to a blog that got fewer visitors than I did.

2 These blogs had to be run by people with a sense of humour. I'm a great believer in the overriding importance of differentiation in marketing. I was trying to make my blog stand out by employing a slightly off-the-wall brand of humour. Not everyone finds this amusing.

3 They had to be blogs I respected. My book might be a pile of crap but to me it's a minor masterpiece. I didn't want to devalue it by handing it over to people I didn't trust.

The next task was to find something decent to sell.

I took another look at my product. What I had was a book that had been turned down by some of the best agents and publishers in the country. Not exactly inspiring. What was my sales pitch going to be with a product like that? How about: "Hi there, Mr/Mrs Blogger, I realise that you run a highly regarded weblog and that you value your hard-won reputation but could you give a plug to my book. I know it is probably a pile of crap, is dark, difficult and aimed mainly at male readers but please, I'm desperate. And lonely too all on my own out here in cyberspace."

I don't think so.

I needed to repackage the product. At first I thought of my book was part of the Print On Demand phenomenon. Then I realised it was really quite different. There was no exchange of money and nothing got printed. The idea of Read On Demand popped into my head. Eureka! I had a wacky, almost-credible concept to sell. Forget about the book - I would sell the concept of Read On Demand as a simulacrum for the novel.

The next challenge was how to deliver the message. A common way to promote your blog is to leave comments on posts in the targetted blogs. I wasn't comfortable with this strategem. Barely one step removed from spamming, it was also duplicitous. I needed to retain my integrity too. In the end I decided to e-mail the blog owner directly. That way I wouldn't contaminate their blog and they had a sporting chance of seeing through my marketing wheeze.

Here's the 9 bloggers I targetted and why:

1 Robot Wisdom. Because it has a huge readership.
2 Grumpy Old Bookman. Because he's the first blog I read every day and I have huge respect for his views.
3 Bookangst 101. Great sense of humour but I think it's now defunct (poor market research on my part).
4 Agent 007. She knows her stuff and is hard-boiled. I like tough women.
5 Honest Critique. Might read my book into the bargain.
6 Miss Snark. Another tough cookie but I think she has a softer side. She might want to mother me.
7 Gaping Void. Huge readership but this guy is formidably intelligent and doesn't suffer fools gladly. I'm taking a risk here.
8 Blog of a Bookslut. A longshot. A big readership but I suspect the less-than-stellar nature of my blog won't even register on her radar. Still, you don't know if you don't try.
9 Maud Newton. The queen of bloggers. Huge readership but probably a bit too cerebral to take me on. All depends on whether she has a sense of humour or not and I manage to tickle it.

I sent them all an e-mail announcing the invention of Read On Demand and waited with baited breath. Here's the text of the e-mail:

"Hi there Ms X

I've just visited your blog "*************" again and I feel kind of guilty. Honest I do.

The thing is I've just created a whole new way of publishing. This will probably destroy the industry upon which you depend for your livelihood. It's called Read On Demand. Sorry.

To find out how long you've got why don't you visit:

Is this really the death knell for traditional publishing? Has Print On Demand had its day?

Actually, I dunno either. You decide.


Bill Liversidge"

Amazingly most people bothered to reply. No-one took exception. No one told me to fuck off. Disappointingly, my hero "Grumpy Old Bookman", ignored me completely.

Unfortunately, no-one subsequently mentioned my publishing revolution on their blog, and I got no more visitors as a result. A Half Life Of One remained unread. It was time to roll out the next phase of my marketing campaign. I sent the following e-mail to my targetted bloggers:

"Hi there Ms X

View From The Pundy House has a fascinating statistical analysis* of the effectiveness of using a blog to promote an online novel.


Bill Liversidge

*See one of my earlier posts "My Blog Marketing Demographics", a spoof but true analysis of my visitors up to that time.

I waited. And waited. The suddenly, miraculously, Bingo!!! Grumpy Old Bookman himself e-mailed to say he was publicising my "statistical analysis" on his blog. I think his intention was to show how impossible it was to break into online publishing. I didn't care. I could have kissed him.

The rest, as they say, is history. Visits to my site have rocketed. Someone has started to read A Half Life Of One. I think I might be on my way. My fledgling weblog is fluttering its baby wings.
Now, if only I could get someone to link their blog to mine...


  1. A. Nonny-Mouse3:49 pm

    This is most interesting. Well done you, for targeting the GOB. My must-read too, which is how I got on to you.

    Now I'm the reader you speak of. Yes, it's me who's missed out on the champagne, as I always do. In fact, my autobiography (never, for obscure postmodern reasons, to be written) may now be unentitled The Champagne Passed Me By instead of He Clears It Upfield, But Only As Far As an untitle, which, I have discovered, mystifies those unfamiliar with soccer terminology.

    I prefer to remain anonymous, because wouldn't it be awful if I decided in the end that A Half Life of One wasn't really very good, and you knew who I was, so I was embarrassed to say so and . . . well, and so on?

    I'm sure you don't need me to tell you that your rejection by the literary establishment tells you nothing whatever about the quality of your work. Protected by my anonymity, I'll tell you what I think.

  2. Hey Nonny

    you don't have to feel bad about the champagne - it was a lie anyway.

    don't be embarrassed about A Half Life Of One either. It probably is a pile of crap. So what? I had to write it. You don't have to read it. Tell you what though, if you get to the end of it, just lie. Tell me it's a work of genius and I'll send you the champagne. Then everyone's happy.

    Now, where's the harm in that?

    Incidentally, being a writer I am a trained observer. So. Is your name a pun?

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