The Day the Numbers Got Their Revenge

This is the kind of guy I never wanted to be

Well, we did it. You did it. So thank you.

When it was accepted back in November 2012, Werekynd was my eighth published piece of writing. By that point I thought I knew a fair bit about the workings of small industry story telling. Oh how wrong I was.

Bar my first two short stories, the writing I did for Jukepop was the first time I had found myself handling the marketing aspect of the business myself. And boy have I learned a lot. If you’re writing for anything other than self-entertainment, you’re going to come up against marketing. It’s so crucial that it’s really the reason for the existence of publishing companies – what are the Big Six if not simply uber-marketers? This is the reason we place our stories in the hands of the publisher, to deal with its promotion and get it out there. When you have to do it yourself you realise it’s a lot of hard work, and a whole lot less fun than actually writing.

In brief, being with Jukepop for the past five months has taught me two things;

  • Social media is great.
  • Social media isn’t enough.

My first ever marketing push was when Werekynd first went live in November. At the time it seemed like a great success. I divided my target audience into three parts – family, friends, and social networking contacts. All were targeted individually, and all responded with moderate enthusiasm.

At the time, moderate was enough. By the time it got to March however it was clear that it most certainly wouldn’t be. In the three months between marketing drives Werekynd received paltry attention. At this point it all became a game of numbers.

No, I’m really no good at maths (can you guess why I took up writing?), but it was clear by March that numbers would be my biggest ally. More accurately, large numbers. I revamped by old November publicity scheme, except this time I contacted everyone. Uncles and aunts and cousins and grand nieces were all barraged with emails. I created a Facebook event for Werekynd and invited all 324 friends. My combined total of 600-ish followers on Twitter/Facebook/Tumblr/Wordpress were all reached at some point or another, often repeatedly. Some unfollowed – I don’t blame them.

Having shoved Werekynd in the faces of a little shy of 1,000 potential readers towards the final week of March, I realised rule number 2 – social media isn’t enough. I just couldn’t guarantee people would sit down and read my story unless I was physically there… so I decided I had to, well, be physically there!

That’s when the untapped vastness of the real world came into play. I study at Edinburgh University, just one of thirty thousand students. The central campus library will always have a minimum of 3,000 people inside it 24/7. There are likewise hundreds of societies, a number of them dedicated to writing and publishing, willing to support their members.  

With a small campaign team consisting of my girlfriend and a few connected amigos, I hit the road late last month. At this point simple bribery came into play – don’t underestimate it! Every student I knew who had read a chapter, and proved it by answering a question got a chunky kitkat bar. We went through 40 of those, a pack of Oreos and two jars of nutella in five days. A stall set up outside the library advertised free muffins for everyone who signed up to Jukepop there and then. PublishED, Edinburgh’s student publishing body, was lobbied for support. Lobbied hard.

All of this culminated on the night of March 31st. Dead-on-our-feet, we all-but broke into the University’s microlab, much to the surprise of its 200 occupants, and went from screen to screen with a mixture of pleas, explanations and food (the student’s second greatest temptation, after a sleep in).

The final say in marketing seems to be that you have to assume that people just don’t much care. The space between those you interact with, and those who actually back you up and support/read/vote/buy your products is vast. The potential reach of my final marketing drive was estimated by a friend doing a computing and finance course to be around 1,300 over the month of March. Of that we think less than 200, perhaps as low as 150 people actually read and voted for Werekynd’s 30 chapters. If those figures don’t prove how tough selling your work can be, nothing will. Yet at the same time, it should be a source of hope – just get out there with your work and a big grin/fistful of chocolate bars, and you’ll get support. How strange, that writing should be reduced to numbers after all.

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2 responses to “The Day the Numbers Got Their Revenge

  1. Pingback: Weekly Round Up, Mother’s Day edition – Jukepop and Kickstarter Updates | Online Novel Blog

  2. Pingback: Interview: Robbie MacNiven, author of “Werekynd–Beasts of the Tanglewild.” | www.seanmunger.com

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