Thursday, September 07, 2006

Does blog buzz work?

For over a year now I have been part of an experiment. I've had the opportunity to hear about, read, and talk about books--books I might never have met any other way. Books sink or swim quickly in the publishing industry. It's hardly fair, really. It takes time for the news of a good book to filter down. Many bookstores, especially small, local ones, can't jump on every bandwagon that comes around. There are limited amounts of resources to go around and it is often hard to guess (okay, impossible) what is going to take off.

Have all the books I've talked about in the past year-and-a-bit taken off? Not to my knowledge. A few were written by folks with somewhat established niches, but most were written by new authors. Several of these authors have had second books out in the meanwhile, or will have soon. I don't know if there is honestly any way to know for sure how much impact *blog buzz* had on the sales of their initial books, but it can't have hurt. Many Christian publishers have chosen to support this radical marketing method by providing ARCs (advanced reader copies) or first run novels to members of this blogging group. Obviously they believe it is making a difference in getting the word out. (The link is in the sidebar if you're interested in signing on.)

Where possible, we are creating the buzz just before a book hits the marketplace, or in the first weeks. This means that the book gets a bit of bonus support right in that initial sink-or-swim time. But I think it makes a difference long term as well.

Several of the books I've mentioned weren't official Blog Buzz books, but may have been books I discovered through folks along the network. I first heard the name Sharon Hinck at another blog. Sharon's first book came out last spring, and it is entitled The Secret Life of Becky Miller. This amused my blogging friend Becky Miller, who has had great fun promoting this book that is not about her in any way. The novel is Christian mom-lit and so, while I was glad to hear about a great read for young mothers, I'm not exactly the target audience. Even though I saw the book on the bookstore shelf in June and glanced at the back cover, I passed it by.

But a month or two later (I don't remember exactly, so the timing of my tale might be off!) the grapevine buzzed a bit about Sharon Hinck again. This time it said that Sharon had been pitching a fantasy series as well as the mom-lit...and that she had just sold the fantasy series to another Christian publishing house.

Well, you know me well enough by now to know that my ears perked up about this. I love reading fantasy. It made me consider Sharon in a whole new light. Not that she wasn't an interesting person before this, but now she was starting to circle closer to my sphere. (Or I to hers, depending on your point of view.) I'd begun reading her blog Stories for the Hero in All of Us and linked it in my sidebar.

So the NEXT time I saw The Secret Life of Becky Miller on the shelf, I bought it. I finished reading it this evening. Even though I am (still) not the target audience, I thoroughly enjoyed this novel. Becky Miller dreams of doing Big Things for God, and in her daydreams, she accomplishes mighty deeds of valor. In her daydreams, she really IS SuperWoman. Real life, however, is falling apart at an alarming rate. I totally did not see all the twists and turns coming, and even though all the threads are not tied off (as they aren't in real life either, come to think of it) that only leaves Sharon Hinck a bit of room to maneuver in the next Becky Miller novel. Yes, she has more of those up her sleeve as well.

So being part of this blogging experiment has broadened my reading horizons yet again. I'd say it works. I bought only one copy, but now I'm telling more of you. Maybe some of you will go buy it. Maybe you won't. But like me, maybe the seed of purchase thought has been planted and if you see it on the shelf, you may pick it up, curious. And maybe you'll set it back. But at least it will have crossed your line of vision in a way that it may not have otherwise.

Is it important to talk about the books you read, especially the ones you liked? I think so. Many of us are writers. We need readers. We need readers who BUY BOOKS. I think it's a good thing to spread the word when we find books that are important to us in our own little worlds.

Hey, that reminds me. Who is on your Christmas list this year? Think about giving the gift of books to as many of them as possible. Find new releases that you believe your loved ones would enjoy. Broaden their horizons and spread the BUZZ on books.


Rebecca LuElla Miller said...

OK, I loved EVERYTHING you had to say. Nice job, Valerie!

Becky (the real one--not generally known for expansive praise ;-)

Valerie Comer said...

Thanks, lol.

Sharon Hinck said...

Hi, Valerie!
I just stumbled on your comments about THE SECRET LIFE OF BECKY MILLER (popping in to other CSFF Blog members) and was SO tickled. Even though my publisher labels the book as "mom-lit" I think lots of readers who aren't the demographic of the main character can still enjoy the story, because it deals with some universal struggles, desires, and hopes. I read books with a male protag, with a single protag, with a child protag...and love them all. So I'm hoping to convince people that you don't have to BE a mom to read THE SECRET LIFE OF BECKY MILLER that has a mom as a protag. :-)

Anyway, thanks for taking that risk, and I'm SO delighted you enjoyed it.
Hugs, SHaron