DEBORAH CROMBIE: What a treat it is for me to host a fellow Texan! My friend Terry Shames writes about small town Texas the way I strive to write about England, with intensity, affection, and a deep intimacy. And her protagonist, former police chief of Jarrett Creek, Samuel Craddock, is one of my favorite fictional detectives--experienced, humanly flawed, but with a bone-deep decency. Terry's new Samuel Craddock novel, AN UNSETTLING CRIME FOR SAMUEL CRADDOCK, takes us back to the beginning of Samuel's career and his first major case as a detective. This book, like the previous five in the series, is getting a LOT of buzz, and here's what Terry wants to know about that.
TERRY SHAMES: Someone recently said to me, “Your new book is getting a lot of buzz.” That’s a great feeling, but then I was reading about an author who was doing a lot of “hype,” and I thought, “Hmmm, that doesn’t sound so good.” Which got me thinking about the difference between the two. I went on line and found several blog posts and articles about the difference, all of which had good points. They all seemed to think that buzz was organic, and hype was artificially produced.
All of the articles were from a few years ago and sounded a bit dated. For example, no one used the term “organic.” That’s my modern take on it. In our technology-driven world, we are increasingly able to drum up what looks organic, as in “Hey, look what this reviewer said about my book,” or “I’m so excited to read this comment….”
Is it manufactured excitement or real? Is it a review that really is wonderful, or does the author spin it that way? Ooo, there’s another word that creeps into the buzz-hype lexicon: Spin. It’s a way of taking an ordinary comment and boosting it just the right way to make it sound “wow.” This isn’t new. We’ve all seen the ads that say a book is “….Terrific….” according to some prestigious media outlet or review, only to find that the actual quote was “a terrific waste of time…” Kidding, but you know what I mean. Taking a word or a few out of context to spin it into what an author hopes will become buzz.
I’m not judging anyone for doing hype or spin, because in a time when publishers are doing little or nothing to promote authors, and the burden increasingly falls on writers, all of us are trying to figure out ways to wave a magic wand to convert our hype and spin to “buzz.”
I know how to help create buzz for other people, by sharing their good news, by telling other people about their books through social media or reviews, or word of mouth. But when I try to do the same thing for myself, it always makes me feel like I’m venturing into hype. If I say I’m “excited to share” something, I feel like a phony—even when I really am excited.
With my first book I stumbled into buzz because I didn’t know enough to be shy of asking a famous author to blurb my book. Carolyn Hart not only read it, but she mentioned it in an interview at a conference when she was asked what new great book she had read, and she gave mine a plug. Instant buzz. I try to “pass it on” every chance I get.
So my question is, how do you get past the buzz vs hype conundrum? What kind of hype do you do to create buzz? Have you seen examples of really good marketing that gave you the sense that it was “organic?”
DEBS: Readers, do you make a distinction between buzz, hype, and spin? As Terry says, we authors get so excited when someone says something nice about our books, but sometimes we hesitate to share. Opinions much appreciated!
And on a really fun note, Terry will be in Dallas on this Thursday, speaking and signing at The Wild Detectives at 7:30 p.m. I'll be there, and I'm bringing friends to meet Terry and Samuel and help spread the buzz!
Terry Shames writes the best-selling Samuel Craddock series, set in small-town Texas. A Killing at Cotton Hill won the Macavity Award for Best First Mystery. Mystery People named Shames one of the top five Texas mystery writers of 2015. Her sixth novel, An Unsettling Crime for Samuel Craddock is came out in January 2017. For more, see www.terryshames.com
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