Employing The Long Tail

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by Barbara Florio Graham

Many of us have heard The Long Tail or Viral Marketing, but think these methods are only for large corporations or manufacturers.

But we can all use these ideas.

The Long Tail refers to selling things in very small quantities, instead of in large numbers. Many years ago, before this term was coined, I decided to employ what some self-publishers were calling a “slow roll-out” for my third book.

Instead of the usual model of blanketing the media with press releases, sending out hundreds of complimentary copies, and arranging a blitz of radio and TV interviews, a slow roll-out begins with a book launch in your local area, local interviews and book-signings, then moving further out to the region, state, or province, and eventually to national media and bookstores.The process can take as long as you wish. Since you’re in control, you can spread it out to cover holidays or special events that tie in to your book.

One man who consulted me for marketing advice had won an award for his book of short stories based on growing up in northern Ontario. Terry thought he had exploited every angle, but after I read the book I realized he could use a Christmas story to promote the book in the run-up to the holidays, and another with a religious component he could linked to a church anniversary in his former hometown.

That local paper had already done a feature on Terry when he won the award, but they were happy to consider doing another article linking the book to the anniversary celebrations, where Terry had offered to do a book-signing.

When I utilized this approach for Mewsings/Musings I realized I could take advantage of the fact that this humor book appeals not just to cat-lovers, but is an ideal gift for any age group because none of the humor is offensive or strictly “adult.”

I held a book launch in Ottawa, received some good local coverage, and scheduled a few interviews. But although I sent a full promotional package to reviewers and media, I sent the book only if someone actually requested a copy.

I decided that I’d use my printer’s over-run to send complimentary copies of Mewsings/Musings to family and friends across North America, along with a media release and a request that they show the book to their friends, urge their local bookstores to order copies, and distribute the bookmarks I had enclosed in the package.

Utilizing The Long Tail means I went back to local and regional media the following spring, when I presented a workshop on self-publishing, and again a couple of years later, when I gave a humor-writing workshop. Meanwhile, I combined all this with what has come to be called Viral Marketing. That term probably needs no definition, as it’s common now to rely on word-of-mouth to spread the “virus” about books or other products in order to create demand.

Getting a book on Oprah’s television show used to be the ultimate in viral marketing, because not only do viewers rush out to buy copies, but everyone who reads the book tells his or her friends, so the demand increases in geometric proportions.

But you don’t need Oprah to start a viral-marketing campaign. Social networking sites like Facebook, LinkedIn, and Instagram can generate interest, but even better than these, in my opinion, is contributing to newsletters that are distributed to your target audience.

Here’s a wonderful example that happened to me. In the summer of 2007 a columnist for Business Week wrote an article called “Using Fido To Clinch The Sale.” She interviewed publicity expert Joan Stewart, who mentioned me as an example of people she knew who used their pets in their marketing efforts. The column identified Simon Teakettle as the cat who owns the company, and to my astonishment, the article was picked up by many websites. To date it has appeared on NBC websites in Dallas, Chicago, Atlanta, Miami, New York City, Seattle, and Hartford (Connecticut).

Because Simon Teakettle is the name of both the cat and the company, every time I mention him on any networking site, I’m publicizing the company. When I appeared on Steve Dale‘s call-in program on WGN in Chicago a few years ago the focus of our conversation was feral cats, but I utilized viral-marketing techniques by making sure that I used my cat’s full name every time I talked about him. That drove many listeners to my website, generating book sales. Some of these visitors not only purchased Mewsings/Musings, but also Five Fast Steps to Better Writing or Five Fast Steps to Low-Cost Publicity.

An issue of Cat Fancy contained an article about “cat ladies” of all ages. When the author contacted me I was happy to comply with her request, and the result is a photo of me with Simon Teakettle III and several paragraphs that mention my books and my website!

It takes time to participate in forums, respond to questions or discussions that appear in newsletters, or contribute to lists run by writing organizations. Don’t waste your efforts. Instead of mindless ramblings on your Facebook page, discuss a current project you’re working on. Every time you send a message to any group, list, newsletter, or organization, make sure you include your website or other contact information.

And when you send out a press release to the media don’t forget to include all your family and friends. Remind them to tell their friends as well!

Spread the virus; extend the Long Tail.
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Barbara Florio Graham is an author and publishing consultant. The author of three books–Five Fast Steps to Better Writing (20th anniversary edition), Five Fast Steps to Low-Cost Publicity, and the award-winning Mewsings/Musings, she served as managing editor for Prose to Go: Tales from a Private List, which is now available as an e-book for just $4.99. Her website, http://SimonTeakettle.com, contains a great deal of free information, including resources for writers and publishers.

 

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