‘Speechless with envy’ barely conveys my reaction to Hugh Howey’s tactic for launching ‘DUST’, the final book in his ‘WOOL’ Sci-Fi trilogy.
His idea is remarkably simple:
The ‘WOOL’ saga unfolds on a post-apocalyptic Earth. Survivors cling to life in a giant fallout shelter, a radiation-proof underground silo that forms a subterranean city extending over one hundred stories beneath the surface.
No-one is allowed to visit the radioactive wasteland outside. It remains a forbidden world. Any attempt at doing so is considered a crime, making the radiation warning sign at the silo entrance a tantalizing symbol for the stories.
Howey’s Book Launch Idea for ‘DUST’:
Howey created a ‘cult’ object that would appeal to Sci-Fi fans: A special USB thumb-drive featuring the silo Fallout Shelter Sign, to give away to supporters who would help promote the book by spreading word-of-mouth buzz.
Each USB stick contains his books WOOL, SHIFT, and DUST in both .epub and .mobi, with loading directions for reading devices. He also includes an intriguing ‘secret file’.
Here’s Howey’s gleeful reaction on seeing the ‘Fallout Shelter’ drives: (3 Minute Video)
It’s All About Reinforcing The ‘Uniqueness’ Of Your Book Brand With Readers
“…Of all of our inventions for mass communication, pictures still speak the most universally understood language.” Walt Disney
The ‘WOOL’ radiation warning symbol helps anchor Howey’s books in a reader’s mind. Furthermore, he’s so book brand aware he even has the symbol in his signature.
Here’s the signed Kindle Paperwhite that he gave away as a prize at the Boing Boing book launch party.
You see, Howey knows the secret is not to shout “Buy my book!” at readers.
Instead he draws attention to the WOOL brand by interacting and communicating constantly at a personal level with fans, often in streaming video chat sessions.
By this means he grows and deepens their obsession with his books, so they’ll read anything he writes, and act as his ‘word of mouth’ sales advocates.
How Effective Was Hugh Howey’s Promotion?
Howey initially gave away 10 of the Fallout Shelter drives in a Rafflecopter.com contest for subscribers, which generated over 24,000 entries. Think about it… 24,000 highly interested people waiting in eager anticipation for the DUST book release.
Furthermore, he gave away several hundred of them to key media people and supporters at a Boing Boing sponsored book launch event.
The reaction was nothing short of hysteria. Would a Sci-Fi fan ever throw away their Hugh Howey Fallout Shelter USB Drive? Most likely they’d leave it kicking around on their desk, keeping his books top of mind forever.
I’ve actually bought one of these irresistible thumb drives. I could pretend that it’s a cheap way to buy the book trilogy, but in truth it’s because they’re so COOL.
Of course the Fallout Shelter Thumb Drive is just one part of the overall book launch promotional campaign. For example the ‘WOOL’ brand is further reinforced by this movie-quality trailer. Be astounded… or disturbed.
How To Create A ‘Brand’ Promotional Idea For Your Own Books:
Identify what is unique about your books and zoom in on that
In the end the focus is on your stories. Never be overawed by marketing ideas such as the one being discussed in this post, no matter how clever. For any promotion to be successful, great writing is required – everything stems from that.
It’s always about your stories, so identify their uniqueness and use that as the basis of your promotional idea.
Your writing is germane to you, and you alone. It cannot be replicated, counterfeited, or stolen. Readers cannot get it from anyone else but you. Once they become hooked on your work, they’ll remain loyal fans and customers for life. And they’ll also start talking about your books.
Promotions that magnify this uniqueness in a memorable way can dramatically increase attention to your writing and reinforce your book brand.
They don’t need to be expensive either. The most basic of these would be a coffee mug with a logo on the side, or a book-mark, except that both are devoid of originality. Fortunately as a writer you can transcend such mediocrity, just as Hugh Howey did, because you have a massive advantage:
Take time to hunt down and identify an imaginative theme or striking brand idea steeped throughout your books that you can spread far and wide in an intriguing and unique way. It will be there.
Even if you never create a promotional device such as Hugh Howey’s thumb drive, distilling the uniqueness of your stories will give you a far clearer idea of how to talk about your books in the marketplace, and connect more effectively with readers.
Can you picture something that symbolizes your stories? Are you clear about your book brand? Struggling with it? What do you think of Hugh Howey’s idea? Do leave a comment.
Article written by Jonathan Gunson
Author / Book Marketing Coach / CEO Bestseller Labs
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