The Snowball Effect Going Viral via Indirect Exposure

by Matt Cates

The Snowball Effect: Going Viral via Indirect Exposure
This article is about getting creative and developing indirect exposure to your slaved-over writing! You worked hard at it; now how do you get folks to read it?  Indirect exposure means creating links between your work and someone (or something) better known than yourself. In its basic form, it’s taking out an advertisement or posting a flyer--anything where a potential reader might be steered to one thing (an article/ website/ meeting/ event)--and then shamelessly blindsiding them with a brilliant sample of your stuff when their guard is down!  But magazine ads and flyers are too passive--so here some more dynamic examples:

Create a niche blog - I was watching The Men Who Stare at Goats, the George Clooney satire about what happens when people in the military start believing in weird things (like training soldiers how to stop a goat’s heart, as practice for doing the same to an enemy of the state).  The film’s based on a book by a British reporter Jon Ronson. I’d read his other bestsellers and decided to create an online fan forum using Wordpress. Once web traffic started flowing, I posted a colorful, clickable ad for my own website right on the home page. If they’re as interested in Jon Ronson as I am, then perhaps they’d also be interested in my fiction works…

Pester someone famous (but not too famous) - Before seeking representation by a literary agent, try to get a blurb or foreword written by an expert or a successful author. Jon Ronson had written about things like conspiracies and cover-ups, which I also incorporated in my fiction novel. So I hit him up for a blurb.  I knew he was busy; he’d just been on Conan for Pete’s sake! How could I stand out from his legions of fans? Well, I’d just started the world’s first blog about him. So I wrote him a complimenting e-mail (not too complimentary--no gushing fan stuff), mentioned the site, and asked if he had time to consider reviewing my novel and writing some words about it for the cover. I ended by noting such a blurb would be free advertising for his own work (as was the blog itself, but I refrained from pointing that out). He wrote back right away, saying how great the site looked. Then he started following me on Twitter (a rarity for him). No blurb as of this writing, but he’s warming up…and nothing beats a blurb from a best-seller who just appeared on The Daily Show and Conan.

Publish others! - Want an instant fan?  Publish a young author yourself! I created an e-zine within my own GoDaddy-hosted website and dedicated it to seeking out new writers in the realm of speculative fiction. That subdivision, Sable Mare Tales, also includes artwork and celebrity interviews with professionals from the art and writing business, such as Derek Riggs (the legendary artist behind the bestselling albums of British rock band Iron Maiden) and, forthcoming, Philip Palmer (author ofOrbit’s best-selling Version 43). The primary intent, however, was to build a home for the submissions of those who might otherwise have a difficult time breaking in. Do that and they’ll remember you.  Ask their permission if you can include them in a distro list, and email them when your book is for sale. And don’t forget to advertise your new e-zine with free listings on writing sites like Duotrope’s Digest!

Utilize social media - So you’re a tech-hating Luddite who just loathes the thought of learning how to exploit the networking riches of Facebook and Twitter? No problem, you can always sell your books from the back of a van or the local country fair (if you have a portable credit card machine!). But I suggest hopping on the Internet bus, Gus! Borders Books is gone…and the other chains are wide-eyed with fear. You think it is competitive now trying to get published? I can already hear the literary agents popping the lids on their bottles of aspirin. Publishing houses were tense enough with the rise of the Kindle and friends. Now, if an author doesn’t have a ready-made fan base or isn’t willing and able to promote their own work…hey, there’s plenty others who do and will. So build a website or a blog…maybe both.  Pester friends to pester theirs.  Yes, this is network marketing (but without that icky feeling you get trying to sell your friend on a pyramid scheme).

For more info on kick-starting your marketing strategy, check out:

The Shortest Distance Between You and a Published Book, by Susan Page. This book tuned me in to the idea of seeking blurbs from others. Makes perfect sense, for it is sort of a vetting process; it tells an agent that someone higher up the food chain thinks you’re worthy. Ironically one of the main purposes for getting an agent is to be a vetting process for publishers…
Rich Dad, Poor Dad, by Robert Kiyosaki.  The author related a story about an interview he did with a reporter who wanted to be a fiction writer but was having a hard time launching her career. Kiyosaki suggested she take a marketing course…which appalled the sensibilities of the young reporter, who considered herself an artist above the gross details involved with selling things. You’ve got to get past that to be successful in this Business!  

My Jon Ronson blog,, just to see an example of a fairly easy to build fan blog. Wordpress is a largely free hosting tool and offers several free and stylish templates, as well as some premium ones which do not seem to offer much more in the way of functionality. I did pay the $17 a year to have my own domain name (, instead of the free www.wordpress/, though. Another great feature of Wordpress is it offers the ability to link your blog directly to Facebook, Twitter, and others…so one post can be spread simultaneously through various social media.


Matt CatesComment