Sunday, January 3, 2010

Viral Excerpts - Make your first words a free gift

In getting this blog up and running, I've been doing some research on viral marketing. It's an interesting topic.

Viral marketing is marketing that spreads like a virus (a good one) via social networks and blogs. As webopedia states it, viral marketing is "positive word-of-mouth brand awareness."

Sounds, well, infectious, doesn't it? Wouldn't we all love to have Facebook's 300 million users reading our books?

What does this mean for writers?

There are a lot of ways to apply viral marketing to a writing career. One of the strategies that caught my eye is a free giveaway of a product.

The trick is not to give away something equivalent to the clothes you toss out when cleaning your closet, but to give away something of value. In marketing this idea is called WIIFM. (What's in it for me?) In other words, don't just focus on what your website will do for you. Focus on what it will do for your readers.

For example, we see giveaways on published author sites, especially on blogs in exchange for comments:

  • Margie Lawson often gives away her coveted lecture packets when she guest blogs to the winning commenter.

There is also information that's just plain free:

  • Here on Linsey's Diary, I've created a list of Cool Links of important information for the writer who wants to become or to stay published. I hope to add to this list as time goes by. If you have any suggestions, please leave a comment.

But I'd like to apply the idea to something else

Someone mentioned to me recently that more and more, editors and agents are looking for online excerpts of your writing. For the not-yet-published, this usually means the first 500 to 1,000 words of a manuscript.

We all know how important the first chapter, the first paragraph, even the first line of your manuscript is. If you haven't grabbed most editors by the first page, many of them stop reading.

So how can you make your excerpts worthy of an editor's or agent's attention?

Think of them as a free giveaway.

And now for the hard questions to ask yourself:
  • Is my excerpt something a reader would think valuable? Or is it the equivalent of a cheap party favor?

  • Is my excerpt something that could start a viral wave of fury? Would people be blogging about it? Twittering their friends about it?

  • If my excerpt were the last thing I ever wrote, would I want to be remembered for it?

Tough, huh?

Yes, but no tougher than the demands of editors, agents, and your future readers.

How do you make your excerpt that good? Hmm. Sounds like a topic for another post. Stay tuned...

I'm really preaching to myself in this article. I intend to greatly increase my submission rate in 2010 and over the years I've learned beginnings are my biggest weakness. This year, I'm going to work on that and make my openings shine. How about you?


  1. Hi Linsey! Great start for your blog. This viral marketing thing, indeed, sounds infectious. :)

    I'd love to be a better blogger. I have my own, but haven't updated it in a jillion years. PF&HT have been an absolute Godsend for this reason alone.

    For me, I think an online novella would probably be the approach I'd take. Something the reader would (I hope) enjoy, but not necessarily something I'm writing for submission. KWIM?

  2. Hi Linsey,
    Great Start...and great thoughts about giving away free words.

    I can only hope that an agent or editor is booking on my site since I've done that on my current WIP. I only put up the first little bit, but hopefully it will give everyone a lick, so-to-speak and they'll want a bite. (g)


  3. Thanks, Cinthia. An online novella sounds like a great idea. Let us know when you get that out there.

    Good luck with your current WIP, Sandy. From what I've heard, it's a good one.

    And for those of you who follow the Petit Fours and Hot Tamales, get ready for some fun excerpts from us this year, especially in February...


  4. Great topic for your blog. I know we publish our "Book on a Blog" at Petit Fours and Hot
    Tamales but publishing excerpts from our works in progress is a good idea. I plan to feature an excerpt from my latest manuscript in one of my blog posts this year on Petit Fours. Good luck with your blog.

    Marilyn Baron

  5. Thanks, Marilyn. Can't wait to read your excerpt.


  6. Hey Linsey! Great stuff here! Really.
    I will tell you that I read a blog post one time where an agent said she was at a conference and saw this really cool button/pin one of the attendees was wearing. It said “My mom can beat up your mom!”. She said she had to stop this lady and ask her where she got it. It turned out the lady had gotten it in the free goodie room. This agent was quick to run to the goodie room and get one for herself. She said it was so eye catching (and viral) that it really didn’t matter what it was advertising, she just knew she had to have it.

    Now, you are probably asking what it meant and why I consider it viral. Well, the button was advertising the book Carpe Demon: Adventures of a Demon-Hunting Soccer Mom by Kate Connor. Check out this link.

    This person raved about this pin and she said by the end of the conference, EVERYONE was wearing it.

    I think this idea really stands out and it is comparable to what you are saying here (but of course via cyberspace). Wouldn’t it be nice if we could do the same type of thing? Anyone have an idea I can borrow?...grin….
    Thanks for a great post!


  7. Great Concept! Very catchy in itself!! hummmm

  8. Hi Tami. Thanks for sharing that story. Yes! That's exactly the kind of thing I meant. What a cool button. Of course, a demon-hunting soccer mom is a terrific concept to start with.

  9. Hi Pam. Funny... I guess the idea has been around in another form for awhile. Now we're seeing just a new, www spin on it, LOL.