Wednesday, January 9, 2013

How the P.S. In a Blog Post (And SEO) Landed Me a Book Deal

In an early episode of HBO’s hit TV-show, Hung, a financially troubled Ray Drecker finds himself looking for alternative ways to support his family in addition to his high school basketball coaching position. He settles on the uncomfortable idea of becoming a male prostitute, hesitantly enlisting his friend Tanya to become his “pimp”.

In her enthusiastic style, she suggests to Ray that they partake in Viral Marketing in order to bring more clients to their ‘Happiness Consultants’ business. Ray quickly responds, “What the hell is viral marketing?”

Though the episode premiered in 2009, his response wouldn’t be too out of place in 2012. The phrase is certainly known, but how to go about Viral Marketing still baffles many a media executive, small business owner, and anyone with something to promote. This book aims to change that.

The P.S. In a Blog Post

On the 25th of April I published a blog post on this site that I’m the most proud of, entitled ‘The Future of Blogging‘. With almost 400 comments, it’s the 4th most popular post I’ve published, and at over 11,000 words it’s certainly the longest.

Something many of you may recall is that at the end of the blog post, I had this to say:

P.S. If there are any publishers reading this, there’s another 20,000 words that I can say on this topic (I haven’t even started on mobile). I can see the “How a P.S. In a Blog Post Landed Me a Book Deal” headlines already ;) . Just a crazy idea to make life interesting…

And life certainly did become more interesting, because on June 18th a woman named Claire emailed me to ask if I was interested in writing a book for Wiley, one of the largest publishers in the world. Though I’m not going to be writing on the future of blogging directly, it helped someone who was ‘scouting’ me to see that writing a book is something I was interested in doing.

After finding my website through Google for the term ‘viral marketing’ and reading through my articles, I was asked if I would be interested in writing Viral Marketing & Advertising for Dummies. Many of you will know about the for Dummies series already, since their books can be found pretty much everywhere around the world, with over 200 million of them currently in circulation.

I was very honoured and excited to be asked to write the book.

But I said no.

To the advertising part.

Officially, I’ve signed my contract and I’m well on the way to writing the definitive guide to Viral Marketing, due to be released next year, titled Viral Marketing for Dummies.

I Know You’re Not a Dummy

At first I was very excited about the offer, but I did question the angle a little bit. After all, nobody likes to be thought of as a ‘dummy’. I got to thinking whether or not I would buy a marketing book with for Dummies in the title. However, I did soon remember that I have purchased multiple for Dummies books in the past, and definitely never felt offended by the title (and clearly nor have 200 million others).

The books were DJ’ing for Dummies and CBT (Cognitive Behavioural Therapy) for Dummies when I was heavily immersed in writing about personal development. At both times I didn’t know much about the topic and felt I would quickly get up to speed on both subjects without feeling overwhelmed. In an age where knowing how to get people talking is more important than ever (think: increased competition), I don’t think there could be a better time for me to tackle this subject.

Even Google have teamed up with Wiley to help people learn more about how to best utilise their advertising platforms. Their head of marketing in the UK, Lee Hunter, recently said “The respect that our target audience has for the Dummies brand helped to ensure a successful campaign.”

A gift from Wiley to get a feel for their style

What was interesting to me when I was reading over the Wiley author guidelines was a paragraph which basically stated (I’m not allowed to copy directly) that the books in no way should be written as if you’re in a higher position than the reader. Or in other words, don’t treat the reader like they’re a dummy. Especially not in any negative context.

If you’ve read my about page then you’ll know at 16 I was actually mentioned in the book DJ’ing for Dummies due to a successful website I ran, so I think of me now writing a book seven years later as coming full circle on my marketing and web-development efforts.

Actually Writing a Book

To me, writing this book almost feels like the closing of a chapter in my life. I’ve spent years working for myself and promoting projects online. I spent countless hours working for some of the biggest brands in the UK from my bedroom, helping them to get attention. I then spent two years in Cape Town, South Africa working with newspapers, car manufacturers, alcoholic drink conglomerates and more, all on their social media and viral marketing campaigns. With a lot of success.

Though there’s still a huge future in Viral and the field is constantly changing, I’ve been doing it so long that I want to get everything “off my chest” (or really, out of my head) that I’ve learnt through trial and error over the years. You could literally name any platform or almost any niche and I could tell you of a company that has managed to go viral and dramatically improve their bottom line.

Every time I write something for the book, something else from my past comes back to me and I have to quickly scribble it down because I know it’s going to be valuable for readers.

It’s very new to me to have deadlines (and very tight ones at that) for my writing, and I’ll definitely have to get used to having multiple people edit and critique my work before it’s ‘approved’. As far as actually sticking to my schedule, I’ve found the trusty Pomodoro method (written about over here) has helped me the most in terms of just sitting down and actually writing.

Coupled with Evernote for taking the hundreds of notes based on ideas that come to me or I find around the web. Oh, and I can’t forget WriteRoom as well.

Why You Should Pick up a Copy

Pinterest has taken the internet by storm in the last few months, literally growing to tens of millions of users, seemingly overnight. Alexa currently ranks them as the 38th most popular website in the world. Their growth can’t be described as anything other than viral. But do you know how many users they had a full three months after launch? 100,000? 1 million? 5 million?


Twitter now boasts over 150 million active users and 400 million tweets per day, but a full-year after launch that tweets-per-day figure was only at an average of 20,000.

With this book I want to rewrite the misconception that viral growth has to happen instantly, and that if you ‘fail’ with one attempt, there’s no way you can recover and have success in the future. I also want to highlight the clear difference between viral marketing and viral media. There’s already a chapter of the book with the title “One Million Youtube Views is Not Marketing”. If there’s no impact on your business from your marketing efforts, then you aren’t marketing.

The book isn’t going to be finished till the first few months of next year and it’s certainly not for sale now, so there’s no point in me trying to convince you it’s for you (yet), but I have been taking a proactive approach.

I’ve actually written in the book that no matter how fancy my marketing efforts are for its launch, unless it’s a really good read, it isn’t going to be very successful (though there are 50 Shades of exceptions).

I’m aware that you can’t please everybody, and I’ll have my fair share of negative reviews no matter what I write, but I’ve spent time reading a number of 3-star reviews on Amazon for books in the same field to see what people thought were missing.

Here’s one of them:

“The book unfortunately delivered nothing of substance. It was a mish mash of generic, over used popular business pablum. And never delivered on the promise of usable, nuts and bolts information.”

I actually enjoyed reading this because (no offence to the author) it’s a criticism I’ve had of other books on the subject too. I don’t just want to say “Create something good. Tweet about it”. I want to say, “Here’s how we came up with the concept for X campaign; here’s the platforms we looked at. Here’s what we didn’t use. Here’s what we did. And here’s what I would do differently if I were to do it again.”

I’ve already teamed up with some high-profile people involved in large successful campaigns, and went directly to the source by finding people with more obscure niches who have had large viral success.

As a final test of my own ‘abilities’ before I get totally immersed in this book, two weeks ago I launched a small viral campaign that took me 24 hours to put together. For the launch, I literally sent out 7 emails. I never shared it on Facebook, or on this blog, or to my email list. From the smallest of promotions it quickly made the homepage of Hacker News and received over 9,000 uniques on day one.

I’ll be revealing what that site was and more about it as a guest post on SEOmoz in the next couple of weeks.

I did another random test a few weeks ago as well, which had some promising results. All based on the ideas I’m going to be covering in the book:

It’s hard to walk into a modern bookstore anywhere in the world without seeing a for Dummies book somewhere, so I’m of course excited to have some kind of name recognition and to see my work on bookshelves. That being said, I like to think you all know I’m a perfectionist, so I’m going to be doing everything I can to make it the most valuable book on Viral Marketing that I can.

With the growing importance of content marketing and the growing blindness to ads online (there are over 15 million people on Google Chrome alone who have the AdBlock extension installed), I think there will be something for everyone to increase attention and grow their business. Whether you’re the single author of a blog or the marketing manager for a Fortune 500 company.

Thanks for sticking around through the irregular posting schedules of ViperChill. I’m always trying to work on something ‘bigger and better’ and hopefully some of you will be interested in the book when it launches next year.

Now, I have to get back to writing…


Franck Riboud Gerald W. Grandey Steve Jobs Yun Jong-Yong Alexey B. Miller

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