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Viral Blogging: What the Experiment Tells Us So Far. ...

The winner of the Nalini Singh Viral Blogging Experiment is Barbara Samuel, chosen by the Random Number Generator at Random.Org. (can’t get more random than that, right?) We had a total of 152 posts and 144 unique posters. What I did was click on the Random Sequence link and entered the numbers 1 to 149 (taking out Deidre Knight, Nalini Singh, Nephele Tempest). The first number was the winner. Which was 82. The 82nd person listed was Barbara Samuel. Congratulations! An email will be sent to you shortly.

Let’s talk about the experiment. First, we made sure everyone knew it was an experiment. I didn’t want to mislead anyone unlike other successful but questionable viral marketing campaigns. I cribbed the idea from Anne Frasier (aka Theresa Weir) who is currently running her own viral blog marketing scheme.

Frasier blogged about her dwindling print runs and wanted to engage 100 bloggers to blog about her book. I then read Tess Gerritsen’s blog post about marketing. Gerritsen was stalking a reader at a bookstore and engaged the reader in conversation. The reader said that “three times” is her rule of thumb.

I was once in a bookstore where I saw a woman eyeing the paperback rack. My book, BODY DOUBLE, was there. When she picked it up and looked it over, I couldn’t help asking her, “have you heard of that author?”

“I’ve never read anything by her,” she said. “But you know, I’ve heard her name about three times in the past month. So I guess I should buy this.”

Then she told me that “three times” is her rule of thumb. That’s how many times she needs to hear about a product before she’ll try it out.

I then saw the post about Lauren Barnholdt’s Reality Chick Buzz on Karen S and Angie W’s blogs.

Cobbling together those ideas, we came up with the Dear Author viral blogging idea with the question of whether bloggers could have an effect in real world sales. Sylvia Day, at Alison Kent’s blog, commented one day that she thought online reviews had very little affect on real life sales. (I would link to this but I can’t remember which article it was by Kent). Nora Roberts commented Monday that there are millions of readers not online (which seems to dovetail with Day’s comments).

I remembered Alison Kent’s viral marketing blitz and thought it sounded too hard. I liked the idea of getting 100 bloggers to read a book and then blog about it but that sounded formidable. First, could I get Singh to give away 100 copies of her book? and Second, would 100 people actually read and blog about the same book within a 2 week time period? Essentially, I am a very lazy person and I assume that most people are lazy like me. I had to make the contest as easy as possible. I thought 100 blogs seemed ambitious and was surprised when we creeped up past 50. The Viral Factory touts its Ford ad that is on 200 websites.

I chose Singh because I really loved her book. I thought it would have mass appeal: paranormal, alpha hero, strong but damaged heroine, very sexy. Plus, Ms. Singh did not do any bus tour, bookstore signing or in person promotions. The majority of her promotional activity concentrated on things that could be done online, with a small amount of print advertising and other non-internet promotion.

This experiment did not affect everyone positively which was to be expected. Two posters at AAR thought that this was annoying:

Most of my favorite blogs have participated in this “experiment”, and what really bugs me about it is that none of the bloggers seem to have actually read the book. It’s one thing to rave communally about a book everyone loves, but a mass blog about a new, unread book is just an ad. It’s an interesting experiment, sure; but I hope it doesn’t become a trend.

I’ll also comment that seeing the same copy on every site I visit has actually soured me on wanted to read the darn thing…

Diana Peterfreund posted:

People want original content on blogs. They don’t mind if you are taking excerpts from other blog posts and riffing about them yourself, or pointing out blogs to them that they should read and providing your own commentary, or what. Just make it NOT be the exact same wording they see on a dozen other blogs. It’s the blogging equivalent of the AP wire, and it gets old pretty quickly.

May believes there is a saturation point at which viral blogging will be like spam.

On the other hand, Alyssa Goodnight said that it worked for her:

Now I’ve seen Nalini’s name in five or six different places and blogged about her myself. I know who she is, and I’m totally aware of her book. It worked for me.

Phyllis Towzey wrote:

And if I see it often enuf, I do get the impression that there’s a “buzz” on the book and would be more likely to pick it up next time I’m at B&N.


Jennie
said we got her hooked. She bought it, read it, loved it, and reviewed it. I suspect its post like Jennie’s which will provide legs to Singh’s book in the blogosphere as can be seen by the commenters, 2 of which are being swayed to pick up the book. So that’s three sales, in a viral sort of way, Singh may not have had before. We all know that word of mouth sells books like no one’s business and who is to say that those 3 readers won’t virally infect readers offline who affect more readers, etc.

Frasier’s campaign is having great success without the bribes offered by Dear Author and without being a reader led initiative (which was one of the comments I read as a plus for the experiment). Frasier has had four books released before and a wider readership than both Dear Author (for sure) and Singh (maybe) which may contribute to her viral blogging success. I also think that Frasier is very creative in her marketing with the video (though it runs a bit long imo) and the website. Content is king in the blogosphere.

So what does Nalini Singh think?

Singh’s expectations:

To be quite honest, I didn’t have any huge expectations about this. I thought it sounded fun and interesting and figured, why not? My hope was that enough people would pick up the viral blog that Slave to Sensation would become more widely known as an upcoming release.

Measuring success:

As far as I’m concerned, the experiment itself is already a success. We’ve had well over the 100 entries we set as our goal, and people are talking about it. More than that, Slave to Sensation has had considerably more exposure than it otherwise would have had given that this is my first single title.

Negatives:

I think if I’d already been a well-known author, there’s the risk of overexposure with something like this. But because this is my first ST, many of the entrants (and so maybe their readers too) had never heard of me before.

Positives:

The simple fact that more people now know about Slave to Sensation. Whether they buy it is up to them, but at least they’ve heard of it and can decide if it interests them. Another positive which I don’t think we should overlook is how incredibly upbeat everyone’s attitude was to this. People questioned it, had their doubts as to its efficacy, but the one thing that jumped out at me in all the posts I read was that everyone wanted it to succeed.

And that says great things about the community of readers and writers out there.

Repeat:

I don’t know at this stage. I think the success of this experiment was due greatly to the fact that it was initiated by Dear Author because Jane loved the book so much. That gave it a legitimacy an author’s promotional push might not have. But having said that, I do think it’s a great promotional tool if used in moderation. If viral blogs started appearing every day, everyone would get sick of them pretty fast. So I guess my answer is – I’ll wait and see.

Jane and Jayne thank everyone for participating. We love to hear comments, both postive and negative. Seriously, you won’t hurt our feelings if you think the idea sucked big hairy donkey balls. In October or November, we’ll revisit this blogging experiment with some generalized sales figures and see how Singh fared and whether the blogging experiment had any measurable effect.

Jane Litte is the founder of Dear Author, a lawyer, and a lover of pencil skirts. She spends her downtime reading romances and writing about them. Her TBR pile is much larger than the one shown in the picture and not as pretty. You can reach Jane by email at jane @ dearauthor dot com

12 Comments

  1. Kristie(J)
    Sep 06, 2006 @ 08:41:23

    Well for me it could be considered a success. I had read your review and kind of thought “interesting” and then moved on. But when I saw what you were planning and that it was a new author which I always love to support, I thought it a great idea (the prize – while it would have been nice to receive *sigh* but congrats to Barbara Samuel – and hey! is that Barbara Samuel the author? cause I love her books – wasn’t really much of a consideration for me as to why I participated). Now I’m pulling my hair wanting this book!! I’ve driven all over town trying to find it but no luck so far. If it doesn’t show up in a week, I’ll order it.
    So there is one success story. Of course overall I don’t know how effective it will be, but the title is certainly getting out there.
    And I agree – moderation is the key.

    ReplyReply

  2. Jayne
    Sep 06, 2006 @ 09:45:06

    I saw a copy yesterday in my local Waldenbooks.

    And yes, it’s Barbara Samuels the author who won. Congrats to her and thanks to everyone who participated. ;)

    ReplyReply

  3. Rosie
    Sep 06, 2006 @ 10:10:13

    While I probably would have given Ms. Singh a try because I had already read Rosario’s review and the review posted here, I think the experiment was a success. The contest did create buzz. For one thing, I went looking for Ms. Singh’s back list, most of which I had to purchase used, but I bought them.

    Whether or not people were jumping on the band wagon and participating here or with Anne Frasier’s promo, bloggers were talking about both authors. Even the blogs who wanted to find fresh content and were disappointed or irritated to find the blog experiment every where still gave the idea exposure. Had I read only those blogs, I would have gone looking to see what they were talking about and ultimately ended up participating through the back door…so to speak.

    Yes, people may have a “3 times rule of thumb”. I purchased back list books. Whatever the guide, they are sometimes overlooked just of curiousity. So, not only did I purchase Ms. Singh’s book yesterday, I purchased Ms. Frasier’s as well.

    Just because I participated in this experiment, once I’ve read the book I’ll post about it. Good luck to both of the authors and kudos to everyone involved for trying to involve readers in this unique way.

    ReplyReply

  4. Nienke
    Sep 06, 2006 @ 12:25:38

    I wholeheartedly give my support to fellow writers. We have this wonderful medium called the internet, why not use it to its fullest? Congratulations to Jane and Jayne for hosting this experiment, to Nalini for the release of her book, and Barbara for winning the draw!

    ReplyReply

  5. Cece
    Sep 06, 2006 @ 14:48:27

    I can see where Diana might have a point however like the woman Tess talked to in the bookstore, I have a three time rule. So between Sybil’s blog a while back, Rosario’s review (I hope it was hers I’m too lazy to look) and finding Nalini on Myspace, her name is firmly set in my head.

    ReplyReply

  6. NicoletteRivers
    Sep 06, 2006 @ 16:39:31

    I did a little take-off on this topic over on my blog — more just having to do with if I, as a reader, think blogs increase sales.

    As I pointed out, I find it helpful in terms of name recognition, but I have there has to be something more there to push me to buy a book — positive comments from bloggers I trust, or an enjoyable blog from the writer! If a viral campaign doesn’t give me more than just the name, it will probably fail.

    ReplyReply

  7. Vickie UK
    Sep 06, 2006 @ 17:52:20

    I ordered Slave to Sensation from Amazon.co.uk last week and am impatiently waiting for it to arrive.
    that’s another sale for Nalini Singh partly to do with the experiment, cos it got people blogging about this book.
    but its probably more to do with the fact that I absolutely love this site (and Rosario’s) and find that if you guys love a book then I probably will too.
    so this is a (slightly creepy fangirl) thanks for writing brilliant reviews. er, thanks!

    ReplyReply

  8. Robin
    Sep 06, 2006 @ 23:50:04

    I got my copy in the mail today; if it had not been for this experiment, I don’t know if I ever would have known about this book (at least not in a timely way).

    However, I was wondering what others thought of the cover quote by Christine Feehan. Even though I understood that Feehan was using her name to lend Singh some influence (which, after all, is the point of those quotes, isn’t it?), her reference to “all my fans” struck me as a little odd — like she was drawing as much attention to herself as to Singh (although I don’t th ink she did it intentionally). Did anyone else think anything of it?

    ReplyReply

  9. Tilly Greene
    Sep 07, 2006 @ 06:29:37

    Congrats to everyone! I thought it was an interesting idea for a new author to try and get name recognition in the big publishing sea. I hope it converts into sales for her but I think having a reader just recognizing her name on the shelf makes it a check in the win column.

    ReplyReply

  10. Marilyn
    Sep 08, 2006 @ 01:03:14

    It’s was lots of fun, a great experiment and hopefully we made a difference.

    ReplyReply

  11. CindyS
    Sep 08, 2006 @ 04:32:48

    I look forward to the follow up in November. I had also read Rosario’s review and had put it down to be purchased but knowing that others had read and enjoyed the book cemented my intentions to buy the book. In all honesty, if I hadn’t already been intrigued by the plot summary and the two reviews I may have decided differently in participating in the experiment.

    For example, I don’t read books with secret babies or virgin erotic writers as heroines so if either of that had been in the blurb I would have decided to let it go. Wait. There was the 200 bucks though also ….

    So incentive wise, if it was just something to support a new author that wrote a book that *I* wouldn’t be interested in reading then I don’t think I would participate.

    Give me an alpha male and paranormal wack-i-do and I’m there.

    CindyS

    ReplyReply

  12. The Good, The Bad and The Unread » Blog Archive » Things that make you go WTF
    Mar 23, 2007 @ 11:43:41

    [...] she aware of Dear Author and the different things the Ja(y)nes do to help keep readers informed but she had won the 100 bloggers blogging contest. A well established author who has won many a RITA, tells a reader she is hostile to the [...]

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