So on Twitter, I was pointed to a game article where Satoru Iwata expressed hope that fans would improve word of mouth ads for Nintendo’s games over a few months old using DLC. His theory is that adding new levels and game upgrades will keep fans talking and making new coverts, because presently, even if gamers really like a game, once they’re done with it, they stop talking about it. This is a problem I can relate to.
I hope that using DLC works for Nintendo to rebuild fan loyalty, and my first thought was how on Twitter, I tweet what games I’m playing. Once I’m done with a game, there’s no reason to keep promoting it, so digital content adding to the original game is one way to get me to continuously promote old games. It’s a case out of sight and out of mind, so the DLC plan helps keep the names popping up n my Twitter stream. As an example, new DLC packs for Forza 4 keep me buying new cars, so I still have new reasons to play the game, and thus to tweet: “I’m playing Forza 4 again.” In this way the product stays fresh even after it should be considered stale.
I’m already in the habit of tweeting a list of my top 8 artists as compiled by Last.FM, and as my listening is all done on my phone, pretty much my whole music day is tracked. (Sometimes I shift to the Zune Player on my desktop, or I forget to activate the scrobbler while I’m listening.) So I’m promoting music both on Twitter and through my Last.FM profile every day. It may have been a long time since I reviewed Janelle Monae, but I still promote her albums every day thanks to these listing tweets.
Thinking about that got me thinking about how I promote books, which is not the same thing as WebLit. When a WebLit friend has a series, every chapter or episode is a promotion, and if I’m online and catch it, then sure, I’ll retweet that. So the serials have a built-in method of generating word of mouth, if the quality of the serial is good enough to warrant excitement. (Or if the writer has other writer friends willing to help them promote.)
But whether we’re talking print or ebooks, I don’t tend to bring up a book title after I finish it. This is true of good books and bad, and the only exceptions are the books that were SO GOOD, I had to keep promoting them even months later. There’s a few books that spring to memory that qualify for the distinction, and I’m happy to say there’s as many indie titles as there are pro titles from big name authors. But if a book is merely good instead of mind blowing, it gets relegated to the same status as the books I despised. Either way, I’m like, “Let us never speak of this again.”
So this gets me thinking, how do indie authors find a way to make their product “fresh” past, say, six months? Reviews dry up after the initial rush, and even people who liked a book forget to keep promoting the title after some time goes by. So what’s the DLC-like answer to interest people in talking up older titles? This is not so easy a question as “how do you promote a title?” This is more complex, how do you convince someone who read and liked the work to keep mentioning the book even after they’re done with the product?
One possible answer is the series, which is to say, each new book gives the old readers a chance to promote over again. But ideally, the idea would be that you’d want readers to be tweeting or posting a Facebook status like: “Man, I cannot wait for this guy’s next book to come out! More people should check out the first book.” This is easy right after they finish the book, but what would convince them to say the same thing a few months down the road, even though the next release is months away, just to help the writer out?
As a reader, I know I should do more to help the authors I read. I do tweet updates for their books throughout my slow reading periods. So they are getting more than one tweet, for sure. But aside from posting those tweets and my final reviews, I’m much like the next reader in forgetting to keep up the long term marketing efforts, even for my favorite authors. So there has to be some way developed for writers to occasionally remind fans to spread the word without doing regular begathons.
As a writer, I’ve never found a compelling incentive to get folks to promote my stuff, and as a reader I draw a blank on what method might help remind me to keep pimping a standalone fiction book after I’m done with it. I do not think better incentives or bribes are the answer. It’s my opinion that if I have to resort to bribing readers to get them to promote, the title is probably not very good.
This is not to say incentive programs with active fan bases cannot be successful. But this sort of thing works a lot better with a free online serial story than it does for a set of books bought at a vendor. And while I respect a lot of WebLit writers for the amount of work that goes into their free efforts, I find it sad that their readers often hold opinions like, “Even though you’re giving me the story free, I still expect you to pay me in some way before I will promote you.” The writers give so much, and yet the fans still want a better reason to promote besides helping the artist to find a larger audience. But then this isn’t about the artist or their welfare. An incentive program in exchange for promotions always puts the readers in the position of asking “what’s in it for me?”
You mean aside from the hours of free entertainment you’ve been getting? Do writers have to give much more to earn a brief show of support? Do they need to resort to regular bribes to keep your affections?
But again, this is a problem beyond just getting a promotion. This is a question for someone who has already promoted on their own out of the goodness of their own heart and without them knowing the author. That same person who loved the book is highly unlikely to still be talking up the book in six month’s time. This is normal. But how can we flip the script and make this abnormal, so that reading fans still promote older titles just to help keep the fan bases growing?
Or put another way, how the hell do book authors keep a fire lit under my ass to promote for them long-term without resorting to some ridiculous method of bribery? Is there a way to keep reminding me to say “I loved Frankie and Formaldehyde by M. Jones,” or “Rot by Michele Lee is still one of the best zombie novellas I’ve ever read, and it still made me cry on a third reading”? And if there is something that can be done, how do we take advantage of it without overusing it and burning out readers with promotion fatigue?