Thursday, April 22, 2010

Finding 10,000 Fans or How to Drive Yourself Completely Insane



Dawn Metcalf is a fellow Elevensie and her debut YA novel, SKIN & BONES is due out in Spring 2011 by Dutton Books. She's also completely insane.

Well, maybe we should back up a little bit. Over the past year or so Dawn has been painstakingly creating a list of readers who would be interested in reading SKIN & BONES. So far she has 7,000 e-mail addresses and she's not stopping until she has 10,000.

Holy. Crap.

As you can imagine, little publicity whores that we are, as soon as we heard about Dawn's insane quest we had about a million (ok, five) questions.

LiLa: We can't believe you've got e-mail addresses for over 7,000 people who would want to read your book. We're green with envy and more than anything else we want to know HOW you've done it.

Dawn: You presume much, young Skywalkers -- I'm *hoping* that I've found 7000 people who will *most likely* want to buy my book. Who knows? But anything's better than nothing, right?  ;-)

Let's just say that this was Something To Do instead of biting my fingernails to the quick while waiting for the publishing Godot to ping me back.  ((shudder))

LiLa: That publishing Godot is a bitch. So, how did this all start?

Dawn: As a flippant remark. Now there's an auspicious start! The "marketing guru" from a previous agency was explaining to me what I could do as an author to promote myself and prove to the folks at my publishing house's acquisitions meeting that I was willing to do the work and had a book worth backing. Well, I was certainly willing to do that...but how? I was bouncing off ideas when she said with a chuckle, "Well, it's not like you could go in there with 10,000 emails of people willing to buy your book." I said, "Done."

Gauntlet issued. Gauntlet thrown. I wanted to see if I could.

LiLa: Wow. Where did you even begin and how the hell did you find all these e-mail addresses?

Dawn: Well, first I did the obvious thing: listed family and friends. You know, I honestly thought I was a lot more popular than that... Ah, well. So next I thought of places I had personal connections: work, school, my local library, my local bookseller, my religious community, my karate community -- places that knew me and had folks who might buy my book because it was mine. Then I looked to my writing communities: critique partners, organizations, blog groups and author hangouts and thought about the people who I knew best and who might read my book because they'd been with me for the ride.

This still left a long way to go.

Then I got a little more creative and a little more specific. My book is a paranormal fantasy with a latina protagonist whose powers were based loosely on the Mexican holiday, Dia de los Muertos, and prominently featured skulls. I started looking for latina youth readerships, genre readers who liked myths and ethnic cultures, fans of paranormal fantasy books that were similar to mine...there are A LOT of interest groups out there and that's where I found *a ton* of phenomenal people and enthusiastic readers, reviewers, bloggers and artists. Many went on my list, some became new online friends, a lot of research ended up nowhere. It's been a sort of hobby in-between the writing projects and I haven't grown tired of the scavenger hunt yet!

For example, my favorite find was from *years* ago when I stumbled across an art project, Skull-A-Day, [http://skulladay.blogspot.com] which featured a piece of inspired "skull art" every day for a year (then two, then three...). I remembered it, contacted Noah Scalin about my upcoming book, and he agreed to promote it on his site. I was thrilled! I love his stuff and can't wait to be a part of that magic! He has 1000+ fans listed on his site via Google Connect, 100+ on Twitter, 1000+ on Facebook; *someone* who loved Scalin's book, SKULLS, might enjoy my book, too. (BTW, I don't count any of these fans towards my 10,000 goal.)

LiLa: We have the biggest girl crush on you right now, you have no idea. What are you going to do once you've got 10,000?

Dawn: I'm gonna do my Happy Dance and then add the Excel spreadsheet to my promotional bag of tricks.

LiLa: Solid plan. Have you told your editor about all this insanity yet?

Dawn: Well, since she's admitted that she follows me online, I guess she knows about it now! (No, seriously, I told her about this a while ago. She said that I was crazy, but respected it.)

LiLa: What tips would you have for other authors who want to try to do this same thing?

Dawn: First, check with your doctor or Significant Other to see if you're certifiable. Oops! I forgot: you're a writer -- same thing, right? So: remember that query letter way back when? Remember your hook, your pitch, and that line about the "fans of X and Y" who would probably like your book? After writing down your family, friends and co-workers, go there. Think of who your book might appeal to and ferret them out. Ask yourself who are my characters or where is the setting or what is the genre audience that you are trying to reach? What makes your book stand out? What makes it similar to other great books out there? See who is following those authors or who has taken the time to review them on B&N, Borders, Amazon or Goodreads. Who lists these on Shelfari or JacketFlap? Know your book bloggers? There are great folks out there! Do a search for comments on Twitter, Livejournal or Blogger. Has anyone posted a contest? Has anyone created fan art? Written fanfic? Joined a fanlist? These are the people who were moved enough to tell *other* people about a book or be inspired by it. Those are the people I want to know about my book when it comes out.

Let me add that I did not buy any "lists" or hire someone overseas or program a spider bot to do this for me. I hand-picked each and every person on my list as someone who I thought might be open and willing to hear about, purchase and/or recommend my book. I clicked on their website, browsed their blog, read their bio or favorites list or really loved their art. I also did not take any emails from those who posted that they don't want "spam" or hid their emails or used a pseudonom or other obvious privacy settings; these folks don't want to be contacted and I respect that. BUT if a rabid fan wants to share their love of X, Y or Z with the world, then I'm right with them! They might like my stuff, too. When I contact them, I want to be sure that they know that this is from ME. They are my personal favorite 10,000 could-be fans and I want to treat them with the respect and good humor.

***

Ok, so how cool is that? What do you guys think? Are there 10,000 people out there who would be interested in buying your book? Think you can find 'em? Sound off in the comments and let us know if you have any follow-up questions for Dawn.

P.S. Don't forget to follow Dawn on Twitter and friend her on Facebook!

47 comments:

Matthew Rush said...

Okay, I'm not really sure what to say about this. It sure is impressive.

I love that you took that offhand remark and ran with it Dawn, what fun when you'll be able to prove that person wrong.

I would love to think that 10,000 people would buy my book but who knows.

How many books does a bestselling author sell? How many books does a goodselling author sell? I certainly don't know.

I'm guessing that 10,000 would be a lot.

Thanks for sharing Dawn (and of course Lisa and Laura too).

Today's guest blogger is Michelle McLean!

Sheri Larsenッ said...

Can you say I'm exhausted just thinking about it, but who could resist such tenacity?? Great Lila. Love this.

I'd like to say my brain is not actually contemplating this but....

Melissa said...

Dawn can add MY name and email address to her list! Skin & Bones sounds exactly like the type of book I would read. :-)

Candyland said...

WOWZA! *speechless*

That IS insane, but man, what a freakin' rockstar!

Cheree said...

*raises hand* oh, I'm in. That sounds like an interesting book. Wow 10,000, I would love to know that even a tenth of that would be interested in reading my novel. I hope she reaches that figure.

Weronika Janczuk said...

I am totally doing this too. Totally.

Summer said...

That's some admirable tenacity! I am uber-impressed. And I'll definitely be on the lookout for this release next year. :-)

Lisa said...

Holy freaking smokes! Dawn is my hero!!

Kristi Helvig said...

Wow - this highlights how much time authors have to spend on promotion as well as the actual writing. The writing part seems easy compared to this! Thanks for the interview. :)

Caroline Starr Rose said...

Let's just say that this was Something To Do instead of biting my fingernails to the quick while waiting for the publishing Godot to ping me back.

Excuse me, I've got some titles to Google while I wait for the ping.

Bethany Elizabeth said...

That's insane - what an incredible amount of perserverence and had work. I'm inspired! But as far as the amount of people I know (family/friends/community) who'd want to read my book... it's like... 5. Well, if you count my old english teachers, maybe 10. :)

Natalie said...

Wow, that is impressive.

Tess said...

I am amazed and overwhelmed all in the same moment. My glass is raised to you.

Stina Lindenblatt said...

I'm exhausted just from reading that. Do you think we could hire Dawn to do the same for us? The good news is it wouldn't all be at the same time. :D

Abby Stevens said...

Extremely impressive. The one question I'd have as a follow up is - did she ask permission from each and every person on the list if she could add them, or did she add people who didn't otherwise hide their email address/have privacy settings/etc.?

dawn-metcalf said...

*raises a glass* Thanks, all!You know you are only enabling me, right?

I'm hoping Sheri is right and that the pub folks see this as tenacity and willingness and not a good reason for a rubber room.

Abby Stevens asked if I asked people if I could contact them first: no. I have not contacted, bugged, inquired or otherwise alerted anyone because that's just spam from left field UNLESS they were an artist, fellow author, or some sort of person I wanted to contact for a website project or to ask advice, etc. The first time I contact these potential readers, I want it to be a message from me that my book is here and I thought they might like it, not "Hi! You don't know me, but I have this book coming out someday and would you like to be bugged about it later on in the foreseeable future..." I don't even have a cover image yet! Talk about cat sans bag. ;-) Marketing will most likely tell me what is usable & not. I figure if I can get 10% out of this list to read the book, that'll be something! This was about research, my own stubborn curiosity, and obsession to market my book. (And, okay, Matthew was right: it'd be nice to say "HA!" if only in my head.)

P.S. Melissa, you're on my list!

Dara said...

Just. Wow. o_O

That's definitely some dedication!

Heidi Willis said...

Wow. Yeah, I know everyone else said that too, but...

Wow.

Impressive.

I think I have ten people who will read my book. (Okay, a few more than that maybe) but still... what a great idea, and something to DO when otherwise you might just be worrying.

Tricia J. O'Brien said...

Wow, did this post get my attention! Although the process sounds like a lot of work, it also makes perfect sense. The internet is filled with fans of this and that, so why not look them up and say hi. Awed, impressed, stupified am I at the genius of this.

Marsha Sigman said...

This is insane. I like it.
And the book sounds great.

Lisa Green said...

Wow. That's all I can say. WOW!

Laura Marcella said...

I'm extremely impressed. I sure hope Dawn gets her 10,000 emails! (And I hope all those people buy her book, too!)

Talli Roland said...

Love the ambition, drive and passion behind this. I may start a list of my own someday!

JEM said...

Here's my question: What will be sent to the people whose email address you have, and how will you make sure it doesn't get deleted as junk (either by the mail program itself or the reader)?

Very cool dedication!

Jen said...

Wow I must say that this is not only ambitious but also RIDICULOUSLY AWESOME!!! She should have been on my "R" post the other day!!!

Congratulations to her and good luck on her 10,000. I thought it was crazy until I heard how many she had already gathered! YOU GO GIRL!

Not sure I have 10,000 but I'm sure that I'm ambitious enough to do as she has done!

Abby Stevens said...

Thanks for answering my question, Dawn. I was just curious about the logistics. Please feel free to add me to your list: thetabbycatt@gmail.com

dawn-metcalf said...

I'm glad to hear that this craziness inspires (and that people might like the book behind it)!

JEM: There are certainly no guarantees whatsoever that anything I send out wouldn't be logged as spam right away and never seen again. However, I hope that Marketing Dept. will give me help to give these hand-picked 10K something special like a code or giveaway or secret sumthin' to set them apart from the crowd. First Dibs! And my hope is that at least *some* of them get through, that the recipients read it and that perhaps some are intrigued enough to find out more. Sample chapters? Exclusive content? Downloadable goodies? I have plans, oh yes I do... *rubs hands together*

And, hey, between this interview and its link on my blog, I've added some 6 more names! WOO HOO! ;-)

Dawn

Lola Sharp said...

I love this kind of 'insanity'...well played!

K. M. Walton said...

It's genius and tenacity all rolled up into a 10,000-email-ball of YOWZA.

When I land my agent and when I get my book deal I can absolutely see myself doing this. 100%.

Actually, I've already made a copy of this post so I don't every lose the directions ; ) on how to make it happen.

Steena Holmes said...

Wow. That's all I can say. Oh ... wait ... no I have something else to say ... LOVE the idea ;)

Christina Lee said...

Well, WOWEE! I am rooting for you, girl!

Sara B. Larson said...

Holy Canoli, that is crazysauce awesomeness. Dang. I think I would be admitted if I tried to do that... ;-)!! But wow, kudos to her!

Bish Denham said...

Applause, applause, applause!

Katie said...

Wow. I am blown away! So will your email program implode when you attempt to send this email to 10000 peeps? That would suck.

But congrats! I am envious :)

jessjordan said...

Well ... what if my mom reads it 10,000 times instead? That counts, right??

*runs away wailing and screaming about being unloved*

Lindsay (a.k.a Isabella) said...

Wow, 10,000! (falls over in shock and awe)

Elana Johnson said...

Holy. Crap.

That is totally awesome! I love Dawn's advice about actually going back to that query letter where you said "Fans of this and that will like my book too."

Wow.

I guess I need to get on that!

And Dawn, I'm on your list right? Right?? RIGHT???

Jemi Fraser said...

That's awesome! I 'know' Dawn from Twitter, but hadn't heard about her campaign - love it :)

JEM said...

Hey Dawn, thanks for the reply! I'd throw in a vote for sample pages, maybe the first chapter or two. I've definitely gotten hooked on plenty of books that way.

dawn-metcalf said...

Elana: You're on my list now! I've even started a new subcategory for *willing* additions to the lunacy: "Q10K" or Quest for 10,000 -- thanks, Lisa & Laura!

Let me say, for the record, that it is MOST important to work on writing. Write a book. Type "The End." Do the requisite Happy Dance & then put it aside to marinate for a while and start on another project. Since I happened to have a lot of time on my hands being between writing projects, this happened. (And now we all know not to let Dawn sit idle for any length of time...)

Writers write. Period. You are also your best marketer/advocate/PR person. Period. Balancing these multiple hats along with mom/wife/daughter/co-worker/etc. is the BIGGEST challenge...aside from the epic patience in this biz.

Natalie Aguirre said...

That is so amazing. Even if we can't do it all, you've given us some new ways to market.

Kirsten Lesko said...

Wow. So many great suggestions in here. I have to bookmark this for when I need it. Thanks for such a helpful post!

Jackee said...

What an interesting idea, I'll have to think more about it, since I'm so far behind this stage in the pub journey. Thanks for sharing, ladies!

And to answer your question: Sure, I do! (That is if I can put MY MOM's email address on there 10k times...)

Kristin Jr. said...

You can add one more to your email address, Dawn, because I totally plan on buying SKIN & BONES. :D

Susan Quinn said...

Wow! Thanks for an inspiring and, well, somewhat intimidating post. :) Best of luck with your book! And thanks for sharing your tips on connecting writers and readers.

sanjeet said...

I would love to think that 10,000 people would buy my book but who knows.

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Kimberley Griffiths Little said...

Dawn, this is AWESOME-NESS to the 10,000th degree!!!!!! You ROCK, girl!

I have this crazy dream to get 10,000 hits on my book trailer - the one I've spent MONTHS AND MONTHS working on and think turned out truly fabulous - when I post it in June that is. Then I thought, why stop at 10,000 views, why not 100,000 views??? So that's my goal and I'm going to hold a huge contest to encourage everyone I know to forward it on to get those views.

Put me on your list! kglittle at msn.com