Earlier today, I ventured a little bit further into the shady world of viral marketing than I’m usually accustomed to dealing with. I suppose, it was partly due to my having an idle sense of curiosity, but also it was borne of my interest in boosting sales of my self-published novel, Missing Zero, more generally.
So, anyway, as authors, we’re all called on to build platform. Or a following or a fan-base or whatever it is you want to call it. Which is why we now all have blogs and set up social media sites and frequent writers’ conferences etc. Basically, whether self-published or otherwise, the modern-day author is expected to become a brand, just like any other corporate entity, fighting over an ever-diminishing marketshare of readers.
Whatever. Ok, now, apparently, in the dirty-tricks world of viral-marketing there’s what is called “white hat” vs “black hat” marketing techniques. These terms are used to describe the different approaches, say, to such things as SEO (Search Engine Optimization). SEO being ultimately where you or your book ranks in other people’s google searches against you or your book’s name/title. Essentially, you want to be the first thing that pops up every time someone even just mentions the word google.
Like with most things, though, the way to achieve higher SEO rankings, for instance, can be realized through fair means or foul, and hence the terms “white hat” or “black hat”.
The same goes for most other aspects of book promotion. From blackmail through to shameless begging, you can bet every single author worthy of their moniker has donned a black hat in pursuit of increased exposure/sales, at least once (this week, if not this very day).
Hmm. Well, my “black ops” mission today revolved around a hundred or so QR (Quick Response) code stickers I printed out that were embedded with the URL address of where my novel is hosted at Amazon. NB If you’re not familiar with what a QR code looks like, I’ve attached below the one I’m using to promote the Missing Zero eBook hosted at Amazon.
The idea is that by scanning these codes with their smart phones, complete strangers are redirected to whatever web page you have specified on the QR code in question. In the main, corporations typically use these codes for promos and freebies, when they’re launching a new product.
You’ve probably seen QR codes on movie posters and information kiosks and the like. But increasingly DIY enthusiasts, like myself, are printing off their own “urban-guerrilla” versions of said codes.
In any event, by randomly sticking your own QR codes around interstate bus terminals or university campus cafeterias or sundry public thoroughfares, as I did today, you can virally promote virtually anything you choose. I felt like a veritable Johnny Appleseed, in fact, as I sprinkled the QR-coded seeds of my novel’s Amazon URL across the urban wasteland.
Of course, the beauty of a person being directed to the eBook version of your novel on their smartphone means they can then instantly also buy and begin reading said work of impure genius (namely, Missing Zero, in my case), in less than five minutes.
What’s equally amazing, though, is that you can actually scan the QR code at the bottom of this post right off the screen. That is, if you have a QR scan-reader app already installed on your phone. But don’t worry if you don’t, you can download plenty of free ones from the App Store (I’m talking to iPhone users, at this point).
But how cool is this? I have a 15-year-old fan of my Missing Zero Facebook page, who lives halfway across the world, in the UK. Anyhow, as a type of beta test, I asked him if he could scan the Missing Zero QR code I’d just uploaded to my Facebook timeline. And, you know what, within thirty seconds he’d sent me back a screen shot of the Amazon page the QR code directs to. The world suddenly seemed a whole lot smaller…
All right, so you want to see how this all works in action? Well, this is what you need to do: download a QR code-reader app to your smart phone (if you don’t already have one); then point your smartphone/QR scanner at the QR code attached below; then be astonished as you next find yourself at Amazon, looking at the Missing Zero eBook purchase/download prompt; and, then, finally, purchase the blessed masterpiece of outsider art, as you see fit! 😉
Go on, I dare you to give it a go…