Monday, March 21, 2011
Guest Post by Vincent Zandri: I Want My Virtual Tour!
Vincent is a joy to work with and his numbers reflect his hard work and skill as a writer. He has gone from selling around 50 books a month to this month he will hit somewhere in the 6000 range. This huge jump is due to online social media, blog tours and all the other things he does to keep top of mind. I would suggest following his blog as well as his work, he is one to watch.
I Want My Virtual Tour!
By Vincent Zandri
30 years ago the rock music world was in the midst of grave upheaval. Radio was giving way to something previously unheard of, and something entirely revolutionary: Music Television or, what would come to be known as MTV. Music videos were the all the rage and no rock outfit, big or small, could compete in the marketplace any longer without having a music video produced. MTV became so big so fast it would prove the The Buggles 1979 hit, “Video Killed the Radio Star!” (the first music video to be broadcast on the newbie cable network), pure prophecy. The station that played music videos 24 hours a day would become such a visual phenom for youngsters and adults alike that musicians like Peter Townsend previously made famous by transistor radio were now filming advertisements in which they were paid to pronounce: “I want my MTV!” Clearly, the music paradigm had shifted.
But MTV wasn’t just an entertainment medium for the music starved masses. MTV was more than that. It was a marketing marvel. So much so, that bands were formed specifically for the MTV market while bands that struggled to “move units” during the 1970s were now finding themselves playing stadiums, all because of a single music video that became more popular than the actual music itself. Duran Duran (“Rio…Rio!” … gag!) is a prime example of a music career purposely founded and designed for MTV marketing. Also ZZ Top’s 1980’s revival (“She’s got legs…She knows how to use them…” Yup, sex sells…), DEVO’s classic “Whip it Good,” Bruce Springsteen’s “Born in the USA” tight jeans period, and even The Monkeys (minus Michael Nesmith) major mid-80’s comeback all owe their due to the marketing power of MTV video.
Fast forward to present time.
The world is undergoing an entertainment upheaval of sorts again. Only this time, the seismic waves are being felt in the literary and publishing world. While bookstores rapidly go out of business, and wasteful paper gives way to green E-Readers like the Kindle and the Nook, millions of authors, both indie and traditional, are investing in virtual tours. Designed to replace the traditional book tour of schlepping yourself to bookstore after bookstore where no one shows up not to buy your book anyway, the virtual tour takes place entirely online. It’s comprised of reviews (especially from the all powerful Mommy Blogs…don’t mess with them, trust me!), guest blogs, trailer teasers, giveaways, Facebook parties, interviews, chats, and more. And you don’t have to burn even a mile’s worth of gasoline to get there. It all happens on your computer making them the first zero carbon footprint book promo tool ever.
Like MTV all those years ago, the virtual tour is a powerful reader vehicle in that it provides a new kind of interactive entertainment whereby a fan can openly and intimately correspond or, if you will, reach out and virtually touch their favorite author over a period of 30 days—the usual length of a tour.
But also like MTV, the virtual tour is much more than entertainment.
It is powerful marketing.
As time that used to be spent watching the boob tube becomes traded in for time on the computer and, in particular, the social networks like the aforementioned Facebook and Twitter, more people are becoming exposed and turned on to new writers. Writers whose careers are quite literally being made and rejuvenated by the virtual tour.
I am one of these writers.
Take the case of The Innocent, which was formerly published under the title, As Catch Can by Random House imprint, Delacorte Press back in 1999. Back then, the internet was still relatively new and the concept of a virtual tour hadn’t even been conceived of yet. Books were pushed (or, as in the case of Catch, not pushed) the traditional way: book signings, author tours, perhaps an advertisement in the New York Times Sunday Edition. That was it. The rest was left up to word of mouth.
Writers weren’t expected to blog (what’s a blog?), create a social network of fans and friends, invest in trailer teasers, or anything else that is now becoming the standard marketing model for authors simply because these ideas and online platforms did not exist. Not one to get all lathered up over book signings, I sort of skipped out on the promotion junket, and as a result, Catch quickly tanked.
But now, ten years later, Catch is republished by StoneGate Ink. The book is re-edited, it’s got a new cover, and major a global tour has commenced. A virtual global tour, that is. This time, the resulting guest blogs and reviews have grabbed reader’s attention, not just in my hometown, but all over the world. The trailer teaser has been viewed by nearly one thousand people in the first month alone, and the chats, giveaways, and interviews, have created a forum for me to personally meet and greet my ever growing fan base.
But what’s really cool? The Innocent has climbed to number 4 on the Amazon Hard-Boiled Mystery bestseller list, number 7 on the Psychological Thriller list, and thus far, number 61 on the overall Kindle bestseller list. Because of the virtual tour and the attention it derives not only from my social network alone, but many social networks and tribes who share common literary ties, The Innocent has become a breakout bestseller in North America, and it’s also a steadfast bestseller in the UK.
The last traditional book signing I did in my hometown attracted maybe eight people. When you exclude my parents, that number is shaved to six. Not only did the bookstore not advertise for the event, they purposely double-booked a local news anchor who wrote a locally flavored tell-all. When I arrived, I was told to head on in to the “back of the store,” while the old news anchor got the top billing at the front. I signed my eight books (oops, I mean six), and walked out, vowing never to suffer that kind of humiliation again. I actually tossed my Sharpie in the trash. Oh, the bitter irony.
But that irony is pretty darned sweet too.
Because of the tremendous global marketing power of the virtual tour, The Innocent is not only selling thousands of copies, all my books in print are bestsellers. All of them!
And never again will I have to step inside a bookstore again unless I want to. The power of the virtual tour can be witnessed from my bedroom in New York or a hotel on the Grand Canal in Venice, Italy. What’s the song I’m singing now? “Virtual Tours killed the lousy, humiliating, book signing!”
Maybe MTV has given up music videos for smutty teen programming. Maybe CDs have given way to downloads and play-on-demand internet radio stations. Maybe movies can be downloaded to your computer instantly along with your favorite TV show (who needs to sit inside a crowded movie theater while the dude in front of you passes gas). Maybe novels are now available on your favorite E-Reader or Smart-phone audio program. Maybe the world is changing in ways we all never imagined and maybe we have no real idea of what’s about to change next, but for now there is one thing that will remain a timeless constant for yours truly:
“I want my Virtual Tour!”
Journalist Vincent Zandri is the author of the bestselling thrillers The Remains, The Innocent, Godchild, and Moonlight Falls. His new novels, The Concrete Pearl and Moonlight Rises, are forthcoming from StoneGate Ink in 2011. For more information on the author or to view his archived virtual tours and to purchase his books go to www.vincentzandri.com