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Book launches, red-lining it, and new ways to shake it, part 1

Let me tell you what I’m doing right now. It ain’t pretty, but it’s the truth — and we writers quest to be honest with ourselves, the worlds we create, and the words we use.

It’s butterfly-kissing midnight. I’ve lit my umpteenth cigarette of the day. I’m guzzling a bottle of Diet Coke. I’m working on four hours of sleep (as I have, each day, for the past month). I’m into my fourteenth hour of working non-stop. I could scrub pans with the stubble I’m sporting. My attention span has been reduced to that of a hummingbird’s.

And I stink. Man … do I stink.

As I write this, I am one week away from my book launch. I wrote a novel about seven human clones. It took me seven years to get here. And now, it’s seven days away. I’d ponder the lovely symmetry of that, had I the time.

But I don’t. I’m working it. Shakin’ it. Just as I believe I was put on this planet to tell tall tales, I believe I’m ethically obligated to do everything I can to make my book a success. I swung for the bleachers when I wrote the sonuvagun; I owe it the same level of dedication when it’s out in the wild. Your work does, too.

Revving yourself to the red line isn’t sustainable, but more important, it’s wrongheaded if the promotional campaign you have in place isn’t well-conceived. Your time, energy and money are precious commodities; how and where you spend them largely determines the fate of your work’s success.

If you’re fast approaching a book release of your own — in any format or distribution channel, be it mainstream release, indie press, POD, podcast, e-book, blog, etc. — it’s wise to spend some quality time watching what others have done, cataloging what was successful, shamelessly stealing the best of those ideas, and concocting a few of your own. Whenever possible, reach out to these colleagues and ask them what seemed to resonate, and what fell flat.

As I strategized on how to best promote my book launch, I forced myself out of cloud-gazing, romantic “writer mode” and into hard-nosed “business mode.” If you’re in this game to sell books, this is how you must think. This mode doesn’t truck with wishful thinking, or “But I can’t do that!” hand wringing. This mode requires brass-knuckled practicality, unapologetic self-analysis and brutal honesty. And in my case, Diet Cokes and smokes.

I’m an author with a peculiar story: I began releasing my fiction as free serialized audio podcasts back in 2006, and am blessed to have made a lot of podcaster (and podcast listener) friends along the way. I’m a known quantity within this enthusiastic, if small, subculture. I reckon I’m barely a blip on the wider blogosphere’s radar, and am unknown in the mainstream. In order for my book to succeed, I realized I had to study the promotional efforts of my peers, emulate when it was smart to do so, and innovate wherever I could.

I quickly faced a crossroads: I could dedicate all of my energy to blasting my message to the converted — my existing platform. That would be a fine, easy, comfortable, thing to do. I could rely solely on my incredible fans to spread the word. (These guys are stellar evangelizers.) I could be like a military general, and point my peeps to go … thataway.

Or I could, in addition to firing up my fans, use my shoestring budget (and nearly all of my free time) to get my book in front of as many newcomers as possible. New blood. A good thing. A *wise* thing.

I’ll share some of my outreach campaign with you here, if only to showcase that you can engage your existing fan base, *and* go beyond it, with some low/no budget beyond-the-box thinking.

I believe in the power of Free, and that giving away content not only helps build author platforms, but helps sell books. I also believe that, whenever possible, presenting *valuable* content or cross-promotional opportunities to friends and strangers resonates far better than flashing dewy “puppy-dog” eyes and asking for favors. With that in mind, I embarked on an aggressive content-fueled campaign designed to fire up my existing fans, and snag new ones wherever possible:

Prequel content
To kick-start my campaign, I wrote a prequel short story anthology. These seven stories were released via my site as audio podcasts, in early October, on a daily schedule. Longtime fans were thrilled by this new content; it renewed their enthusiasm in my book. Thanks to some savvy evangelism, newcomers also came to the prequel series. (You don’t need to record your stories; you could write and post them on your site.)

Intrigued? Come back tomorrow when JC reveals more innovative tips for promoting your book. Don’t miss it!

About J.C. Hutchins [1]

J.C. Hutchins crafts award-winning transmedia narratives, screenplays and novels for companies such as 20th Century Fox, A&E, Cinemax, Discovery, FOX Broadcasting, Infiniti and Macmillan Publishers. His latest creative endeavor is The 33, a monthly episodic ebook series.