Blogger: Janet Kobobel Grant
Every once in awhile I come across a new idea or a permutation of an idea that reminds me that the ways authors can promote their books today have few boundaries. As a matter of fact, while social media can feel like a bane, it’s also a blessing in that the sky’s the limit. Today I want to tell you about a creative way a group of writers is using Facebook to make readers aware of the authors’ books. My hope is that you can use this idea to spin off in a new direction of your own.
I interviewed Titanic novelist Janice Thompson about the Facebook page, Queen of the Waves to gain some insight into how her creative publicity idea is working.
How did you come up with the idea?
Janice: I had just started writing QUEEN OF THE WAVES (a Titanic-themed novel for Summerside Press) when I got a note from a friend, asking if I would be interested in taking a Titanic anniversary cruise. My response? “No thanks! The only Titanic cruise I would consider taking would have to be a virtual one.” As I typed the words, the idea hit: Set up a Facebook group, title it Queen of the Waves, and invite people on a “virtual” Titanic cruise. Use the name of my POV character (Tessa Bowen) as cruise director.
Within ten minutes I’d established the group and posted to my primary Facebook page extending the invitation. By the end of the day more than seventy people had asked to join the cruise. We are now approaching 200! Most of my guests have chosen the names of real people who traveled on the Titanic. They’ve posted photos, comments, and much more. We’re utilizing networking sites like Pinterest to collect photos. What fun! And speaking of photos, you should see the dresses, shoes and hats my passengers plan to wear aboard the ship. We’re having a delightful time shopping for our time aboard the great luxury liner.
Over the past few days I’ve given passengers the background of the ship (all in first person, of course, from Tessa’s point of view). I’ve shared information about the staterooms, and I’ve tantalized folks with menus from the various dining rooms. I’ve also provided activities for the children. (Side note: I’ve opened this group to homeschool families, and many children have already boarded. With that in mind, I put together a full document of activities that families can use to teach their kiddos about the Titanic. I encouraged other participants to add to the activities list, so the document has grown a lot!)
We will officially “set sail” on the morning of April 10, the day the real Titanic cast off. I plan to post three times a day (at the bugle’s call), at which point I will usher the guests to their meals and offer a host of fun activities for the day. We will play together, eat together, and (*deep sigh*) ultimately sink together. Well, not all of us will sink, of course, but we will face the iceberg together.
Who are the other Titanic novelists involved?
Janice: I’m thrilled to include the following Titanic authors:
Cathy Gohlke (Promise Me This)
Tricia Goyer (By the Light of the Silvery Moon)
Kathy Kovach/Paula Moldenhauer (Titanic: Legacy of Betrayal)
Other Titanic authors are welcome to join us. For that matter, non-Titanic authors are welcome to join us. There’s much to be learned about American/British history inside this group.
How are you getting word out about the FB page?
Janice: I’m doing all of the usual things: twittering, posting to my main Facebook page, asking for help from my tribe (my dream team/readers). Beyond all of that, several key things have happened to draw attention to the group. My agent (Chip MacGregor) offered to run a promotional piece on his blog. That stirred up a lot of activity. Next, several of the passengers on the cruise spread the word to their friends. Before long, men, women and children joined in. Friend and fellow author Randy Ingermanson blogged about the event. I’m also excited to announce that Tricia Goyer has invited me to be her guest on the evening of April 10 as she hosts a Facebook party and live chat about the Titanic.
What is the plan to get readers from the page to actually buy the books?
Janice: Queen of the Waves won’t release until spring 2013, so I’ve spent most of my time promoting the other ladies’ books. And I’ll be honest—we’re not really promoting the books. We’re just having fun aboard the Titanic. The “experience” is the vehicle for sales. People are purchasing books because they’re enjoying themselves as they take on the various role(s) from history. And never underestimate the power of an excited reader. The 200 folks aboard this cruise are telling others, who are telling others. . .
Thanks, Janice, for giving us a peek behind the scenes. I’m on the virtual cruise and am feeling wistful as I read about life on board and about the people fated to face the iceberg.
Janice came up with a fun idea, didn’t she? I hope you check out Queen of the Waves to get a sense of the community that’s come together on this virtual cruise. I find it fascinating that Janice’s idea captured other people’s imaginations, and we’ve become her marketing mavens, telling others about this cool concept. To me that’s the magic of this Facebook group.
What are the elements that you see that make this a potentially great marketing idea? What pitfalls do you see? What out-of-the-box marketing idea have you tried or heard about that caught your attention?
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