Image: Matthew Loffhagen
Welcome to part 2 of our article on guerrilla book marketing. Last time, we discussed the theory behind guerrilla marketing and a couple of examples of how it’s worked for authors in the past (check that out here). This time, we’re going to dig down into the tactics you can use in your own marketing.
As a quick reminder, guerrilla marketing is characterized by considered choices that attract maximum attention for minimal financial input. If you have money to spend on your marketing, that’s great, but even then, guerrilla tactics can help supplement traditional methods.
Create a discussion
The intent of effective guerrilla marketing is to turn other people into your marketers. You want people telling their friends and family about your work and for that to create enough buzz that blogs, social media, and traditional news sources pay you some attention.
One way to do this is to piggyback on existing trends or ‘moments’, especially around holidays. If you can launch a promotion that takes something like Earth Day into account, you can make it so that the reliable buzz around any kind of holiday works for you. For example, the makers of the popular card game Cards Against Humanity organize a yearly ‘prank’ around Black Friday, once raising money to dig a large, pointless hole, once offering literal bull feces for sale, and once offering customers the chance to buy nothing at all. While their efforts are often actually based around charity fundraising, they also make the news every year, offering the exact kind of holiday-themed story that mass media can’t turn down.
Where possible, you want this type of discussion to last longer than one moment in the news cycle. For Cards Against Humanity, it’s not just that their efforts net them one article a year, but that by establishing an institution, they prolong that discussion. There are already articles asking what their prank will be for 2018, and that means people are discussing their brand and products.Create a discussion around your work to make successful marketing last longer.Click To Tweet
Stunts can be effective ways for guerrilla marketers to get ahead, but they tend to be a flash in the pan. Focus more on events like competitions, mystery games, or other methods with a ‘journey’ that will give you multiple moments of attention. It’s also worth considering any method that will encourage people to create content for you – many brands run competitions where customers have to write a short sentence describing their product or send in a joke or themed photo. These tactics are effective because you can share the results on social media, giving you a lot of relevant advertising for relatively little input.
Layer your tactics
As you set about creating a discussion around your work, be sure to also create an environment in which that discussion has somewhere to go. Do you have a website for people to visit, do they know where to pre-order your book or how to join your mailing list? These are the questions that help you layer your tactics.
The intent with guerrilla marketing is to get the most that you can out of every choice you make. The best example is a competition that requires people to engage with your social media or sign up to your email list to enter. Yes, the competition creates buzz and, hopefully, is going to provide you with content to extend the discussion, but it can also be helping you build your social media following. Likewise, if you do decide on an attention-grabbing stunt, be sure that those whose interest it grabs have somewhere to express that interest. If all you have is a ‘coming soon’ announcement, the awareness you raised is being wasted.If you’re going to market in one way, ask how other techniques can fit around it.Click To Tweet
Keep it relevant
In the age of the internet, you can arrange some truly bizarre marketing, but don’t let unique choices overshadow a useful message. Cards Against Humanity do something new every year, but it’s always something that communicates the values of their brand.
People on sites like Fiverr will write your book’s title on their bodies or provide advertising materials in costumes or unusual locations. That can be exactly the kind of weird marketing that grabs attention, but be sure the discussion still revolves around your book when the dust settles. Authors have used sites like Etsy and Freelancer to create art based on their work, not just showing readers something new, or creating amazing prizes for giveaways and competitions, but ensuring that they stick to ideas and imagery that work in tandem with their writing.
Be ready to pivot
While guerrilla marketing means making bold choices, it also means making smart decisions. Since you’re working with limited resources, it’s therefore important to keep track of what’s working and what isn’t, and to be able to pivot your time and energy to the things that are giving you the highest return.
Track the numbers wherever possible – people reached, upticks in sales or social media engagement, what behaviors are actually translating into useful follow-through – and be ready to withdraw from what isn’t working to offer more support to what is.When you don’t have much money for marketing, you need the freedom to back what works.Click To Tweet
Effective resource-management might mean planning ahead – instead of offering up three gifts from the start, gauge the reaction to your giveaway and only invest further if you’re seeing a reward. Managed to book yourself on a bunch of podcasts to talk about your work? If you’re not seeing any real benefits from doing so, and you can think of other ways to spend that time, cancel future bookings and redirect your energy.
Of course, it’s important not to make this a self-fulfilling prophecy by holding back too much, but guerrilla marketers can’t afford to keep backing a losing horse. If a marketing service was failing to sell your book, you’d hire someone else, so apply the same logic to your own methods.
Play to your strengths
There’s a real, enduring benefit to focusing on your skills when it comes to guerrilla marketing. The idea here isn’t to stick to a prescribed pattern – with few resources, you need to do what works, and that means playing to your strengths. If you’re good with people, find some podcasts, minor shows, or blogs to go on that you can then share around. If you’re good with graphic design, make some bookmarks or flyers to dole out in strategic places. If you have a lot of time on your hands, spread your net wide and appear everywhere you can, and if you’re good at singing, write a theme tune for your book that will get stuck in people’s heads.
John Shors, author of Beneath a Marble Sky, has taken readers on group tours of the locations that inspired his novels; he has unique insight to offer, and he’s turned that into an immediate money-making opportunity and a way to market his work.
Whatever skills or resources you have, turn them to your advantage, and at the same time, consider what people need from you. There are hundreds of libraries, bookshops, and similar venues that would love to host a reading. Similarly, there are enough literary blogs and publications that someone is always looking for an interview, sample, or review opportunity. Research who needs what, figure out which of these opportunities you can do the most with, and layer each instance with other techniques to ensure you’re getting more than one thing out of every commitment.
Leverage social media
Social media is a guerrilla marketer’s best friend. It’s generally free, it makes it easier for people to pass on your marketing, and it compounds anything you’ve already done – whether you persuade someone to write a review, perform a reading, or just have people guess the answers to a riddle, everything that happens is potential content. While the nature of that content matters, quantity is also persuasive – after all, if an author is doing a lot of promoting, they must have something worth promoting.
In part 1, I talked about Neal Pollack’s reading in a train station bathroom. Hardly anyone was there, but it was the kind of event that no-one could resist reporting – the kind of event that would be plastered all over social media today. In this way, social media can contextualize some truly bizarre decisions – so long as someone sees it eventually, it can make sense to do it.Like it or not, social media gives all of your marketing a second life.Click To Tweet
Again, be sure your unique choices are relevant to what you’re selling, but otherwise, get creative. If you can tell a secondary audience you did it, the primary audience doesn’t matter half as much. Dave Gorman, for example, is a comedian and writer who has made a successful career out of undertaking strange tasks (such as meeting as many people as possible with the same name) and then chronicling them in a self-perpetuating cycle of work that is also guerrilla marketing. Gorman’s decision to meet other Dave Gormans provided the fodder for a stage show, television series, and book, but it’s also now a part of his mythos – something that comes up whenever he’s mentioned, and thus something that keeps advertising him to a prospective audience. Whenever Gorman interacts with the public, it perpetuates a discussion over what his next project might be; a discussion that can’t help but bring up his past work.
That’s the thinking that goes into guerrilla marketing, but what sort of actions can you actually take? Well:
- Run a giveaway or competition. This is a great way to create a lasting discussion and get a lot of attention for a relatively limited investment. If possible, try and offer something unusual – remember, you’re trying to give some blog or news outlet a way to justify filling an empty slot with your marketing. At the same time, don’t forget to layer your technique; collect social media followers and/or emails as you go. For more on these suggestions, see Make Money By Giving Your Book Away For Free! and Reward Your Fans And Build Your Readership Through Contests.
- Perform readings or put out displays. There are a lot of places that would be happy to host an author reading or have you provide a display free of charge. Of course, the bigger the audience, the better, and you should approach this kind of thing with the idea that you’re also creating a presence for social media. That might mean videoing a reading, or it might mean documenting aspects of the day to repackage as proof you’re a legitimate literary force. For more on this, check out Literary Fairs Can Help Your Career (Here’s What You Need To Know).
- Arrange reviews and interviews. You can always organize a review, it’s just that sometimes the reviewers might not have a big enough readership to justify the time it will take. Do your research, find people who’ll actually expand your reach, and make their life easy – free copies are helpful for reviewers, but digital copies that you can send along with a query make life easier for everyone. If you have a way to get on someone’s podcast or YouTube channel, take it, and have something to say when you do. Again, repackage appearances on social media – sometimes it’s not about what you said in an interview but about the fact you were important enough to get one. To learn more about this, try How To Get Reviews When You’re Just Starting Out and Influencer Marketing: Why You Need It And How To Get It.
- Do something bizarre. Hire a sky writer, organize a treasure hunt, have unique art or products made, commission some (legal) graffiti, set a world record for number of readings in a day/week/month, destroy your own work in an eye-catching way – something that no-one is expecting but that they’ll definitely remember. If John Shors can take a bunch of people on holiday, you can find a way to make the most of your knowledge or skills.
Above all, make sure you’re making the most of your resources. In guerrilla marketing, quality far outstrips quantity, especially when you can almost always reach more people demonstrating your marketing through social media than you can with the marketing itself.
Finally, remember that your marketing is part of an ecosystem. People want to be distracted, they want to buy good books, and media outlets want to fill their space with interesting stories. Make choices that help those people meet their goals and you’re increasing the reach and impact of what can be incredibly simple acts.
What artistic marketing has most affected you and why? Let me know in the comments, and check out our extensive marketing archive for more great advice.