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Terrible Tips Tuesday: Without a Platform to Stand On

January 18, 2011

In the marketing class I had to take for my business degree, we talked about various factors to getting someone to buy a product.  The teacher pointed out the obvious one that the $125 textbook did not:  people have to know the product exists!  And really that’s the greatest challenge for a writer, whether you’re self-published or you’ve got Random House’s muscle behind you.  Either way, you’ve still got to find a way to cut through the noise to let people know your product exists.  More than that, they have to think they really want your product.

Another blog would give you tips on how to do that.  I really can’t, because I have no idea how to do it.  If I did, this blog would get more than an average of two views per day and have more than an average of one comment per article.  Seriously.  That’s just damned depressing.

And the whole point for the one person other than me who might read this, is that getting people to notice you is the hardest thing to do, especially in today’s world.  With the Internet, TV, radio, movies, books, magazines, and so forth there are so many ways for people to divert their time from the sad meaninglessness of their lives.  Yet the more options means the harder it is for people to find anything.  Unless you’ve got the kind of money to buy tons of TV time or you’re lucky enough to know a big celebrity like Oprah, then chances are you’re going to be one of the multitude scrambling to be heard above the noise.

There’s all this talk about “going viral” and “buzz” and so forth.  And there are probably a lot of people who will claim they have the secret in order to fleece a few bucks from unsuspecting morons.  The real secret is that if anyone knew what the public wanted, that person would have trillions of dollars and not share that knowledge with anyone.  But as the old Hollywood saying goes, “No one knows anything.”  I’ve never been on YouTube, but I’m sure by now there are hundreds of millions of stupid videos on there.  Why does one person’s cat falling out of a tree get so many more hits than another person’s cat falling out of a tree?  Blind, stupid luck?  That’s probably the best answer.

You can Tweet the hell out of your project, post stuff on Facebook, MySpace, and any other social networking sites out there and it still might not make much of a difference.  You can build a website, but the real trick is getting anyone to go there.  My website for Where You Belong has 822 hits, most of which are probably me checking to see how many hits it’s gotten.  Other websites can get that many hits in a second.  So why do some get so many and some get so few?  Blind, stupid luck plays a big factor in it.

Also, you’ve got to go out there and network, because just like in the real world it’s not what you know so much as WHO you know.  Like the old logic goes, if I tell two friends then they’ll tell two friends and they’ll tell two friends and before we’re done, it’s spread to millions of people.  One person sees a link he likes and posts a link for all his “friends” to see and they reTweet it or Email it or whatever and before you know it, the thing has gone viral to millions of people and probably a few servers have crashed along the way.

I’ve often thought the easiest way to do this, especially for someone like me who’s as socially inept online as in real life, is to hire an assistant to work full-time to post shit on Twitter and Facebook and to ingratiate me to all these millions of blogs out there.  Because I really don’t have the time or (more importantly) the energy or skills to do that kind of stuff.  Though if I had the money to hire an assistant I would probably also have the money for some radio/TV time.

But if you’re serious about making a go with it, you’ll have to do what you can to get out there and network.  That might mean interviews with local papers or TV shows or it might mean going to various blogs.  In the end it’s a non-stop job to try and cut above the static to get people to notice you for one simple reason:  everyone else is doing the same thing!  On a lark I once followed 2,000 just about random people on Twitter.  I sat back for a few minutes and just watched the feed.  What a mess.  Two thousand voices all clamoring for attention, all saying “Look at me!  I’m important!”  There’s just not enough time to deal with all of them, not that many of them I would really want to in any case.  Multiply that by about 3.5 million and that’s the whole world.  Nearly seven billion people who each think he or she is the center of the universe.  Trying to get just a fraction of those seven billion to pay attention to you for even a few minutes can be almost impossible.  And if you can’t, it won’t matter how good your book is, it’ll be consigned to oblivion.

Until next time…


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  1. Ethan Cooper permalink

    Hi Patrick,

    A truth-telling commentary, to be sure. Personally, I’ve found it impossible to get noticed.

    Still, once in a while, someone gets lucky, gets a prominent review, and so on.


    • Sadly no one notices my reviews either.

      • Ethan Cooper permalink

        I consider myself lucky when someone comments on my reviews.

        When I started writing reivews on, I thought: Well, this is the way Ethan Cooper’s novels will be noticed.

        275 reviews later, I’m just writing for myself, creating a log of the books I’ve read and my impressions of them. I’m getting long in the tooth these days and I’ve learned a written record helps…

        Reviewing has become its own reward.

  2. After 10 years of writing reviews on Amazon, I’ve noticed that by and large the only reviews that get noticed are the semi-coherent rants when I hate something. My rant about “The Time Traveler’s Wife” got the most helpful votes ever for me, something like 47.

    Of course recently when I ranted about how much I hated the latest Sufjan Stevens album it was like going to a synagogue and saying Hitler wasn’t really that bad of a guy. I deleted that one something like 4 times to wipe out all the “Not Helpful” votes and annoying comments.

    Then some things if you look at other reviews you’ll see a one paragraph review written in all lowercase or something that gets 274 helpful votes.

    Life just isn’t fair sometimes.

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