Q: What Builds Buzz for a Book? A: Craft and Enthusiasm.

Christopher Scotton and The Secret Wisdom of the Earth
Christopher Scotton and The Secret Wisdom of the Earth
Today I want to share my experience working with an author whose book comes out in January. During this process, I have been reminded of the core things I love about books, and what truly builds “buzz” for one of them.

The author’s name is Christopher Scotton, and his debut novel is The Secret Wisdom of the Earth.

What builds buzz? Three things have stood out for me in working with Chris and his book:

  • It begins with a great book. This comes down to the writing, story, and characters, and the deeply personal ways that these engage and connect with readers.
  • The next thing that helps is a wonderful and enthusiastic team. You can define “team” in many ways. Chris is being published by Grand Central Publishing where he has an incredible team of people who have fallen in love with this book. But his team includes so many others, such as booksellers, agent, friends and family, and so on. I have worked closely with the marketing team at GCP, including Andrew Duncan and Brian McLendon, and am constantly hearing about how others throughout the organization are championing this book, including their sales team: Karen Torres, Mike Heuer, Chris Murphy, Rick Cobban.
  • The third critical element has been reader support. The reaction from booksellers for Chris’s book has been amazing. This Publishers Weekly article by Rachel Deahl talks about the outreach that Chris and his team have done, and the incredible support they have received from booksellers. What is always critical to remember here is that people in publishing are READERS, that booksellers are READERS, that the sales team are READERS. Too often, I see people try to create “sides” within the publishing industry whereby people who publish or sell books are one type of person, and people who buy books are another. They aren’t. All are enthusiastic readers.

In my work with Chris, I am trying to create more opportunity around these three elements, while not getting in the way. The Publishers Weekly article mentions that Chris didn’t really come with a ready-made platform. This means that it’s not as though he is a known entity as a writer, or that he has spent years developing a readership. So a big part of my job was to help ensure that when people do read The Secret Wisdom of the Earth, Chris is present wherever they may be talking about the book.

As the book connects with readers, he should be ready – available on social media, comfortable with the process, and be set up to create moments of serendipity for those who connect with him.

Yes, so much of this is waiting for serendipity and being ready to fully embrace it when it happens. While we can’t plan for luck, we can prepare for it. Too many authors don’t prepare for these fleeting moments, and when one happens, they either freeze, or are not ready to really do anything with it. They lose opportunities because of that. A simple example: a reader recently Tweeted that she had read an early copy of The Secret Wisdom of the Earth, and then someone else replied that they can’t wait to read it. Chris saw that, and offered to send that woman a free advanced reader copy of the book. This was her reaction when she received it in the mail:

Receiving The Secret Wisdom of the Earth

This is how you create special moments for readers outside of the book itself – one small moment at a time. The novel is clearly hitting a personal place for people. When they each out to Chris, he should be there, be ready.

I experienced the opposite with another author this week, someone I was trying to reach out to. I was shocked at how difficult this was. There was a standard “contact” form on his website, broken links to social media, no mailing address. I had to do multiple Google searches to find my way in to this author, and never really felt like I found the right connection point. Now, not every author wants to be contacted by people – but I kept thinking, “What if I were a reviewer or a journalist – how would I get in contact with this author?”

Too often, I think many writers and creative professionals view the idea of platform or marketing as creating something artificial: a “promotion” that is meant to interrupt someone’s day, go “viral,” and magically bring in new readers. That’s not how I view it.

When working with Chris, I have this overwhelming feeling of respect. Respect for the book, for the organic enthusiasm that is building for it, and for that personal experience that happens between a reader and the story.

To be honest: I don’t want to mess that up. This is not about shouting from the rooftops, it is about understanding the tone of the novel, and the tenor of that relationship a reader has with the book. The work I do is in service of Chris, the book, and his publisher; the key thing that must remain is respect and trust between them and the reader.

We are not “optimizing eyeballs,” we are not being insanely promotional. We are honoring that special moment when a book seems to really speak deeply to readers.

Chris’s own story is intriguing too. Again, from the Publishers Weekly article:

“At age 53, he was not the kind of debut novelist—read: young—that the industry tends to champion… [and enthusiasm from within Grand Central Publishing] spurred them to increase the novel’s first printing to 100,000 copies and bring its marketing budget to six figures.”

It’s easy to get distracted by the big numbers. But much like my experience working with author Miranda Beverly-Whittemore, the story of the book is, in many ways, the story of the author:

For Chris and The Secret Wisdom of the Earth, we are working to bring the story to readers, while never overshadowing how personal that connection is. So far,
on Goodreads, it has 55 reviews, 89 ratings, and more than 1,000 other “actions” such as someone who added the book to their “to read” list.

If you want to experience the book itself, the publisher is giving a free preview of the first four chapters. Grab them here:

How does enthusiasm shape your experience with books: how you find out about them or how you share them with others?