The year was 2012. The end of the world was nigh and being the savvy — and opportunist — gal that I am, I came up with a project where I would collaborate with fellow writers and produce an appropriate work of fiction to come out at just the right time: 21.12.2012.
Grim5next was an interactive anthology about the end of the world, written by 36 writers, edited by twice as many people, illustrated by a handful of… anyway, let’s not go into detail. It’s currently dead in the water.
What I do want to go into is how I kicked it off in less than a week.
If you read carefully, this “hack” will give you the power to: promote your project, strengthen your network, and get you working with people, gain fans, and learn more about the industry you’re trying to crack your way into.
As any other project of mine, it started on twitter. I had a large network of writer/editor/publisher friends, and even though I wasn’t published myself, I enjoyed talking to, promoting, and reading these people’s books.
My network wasn’t as big as it is now. I currently have 18K followers on my main account — V4Violetta — but then I had about 2K. If you’d like to know how I did it, you can follow this link to get my growth report.
As a bit of a disclaimer, I’d like to say two things:
- on twitter it is all about engagement and-
- everything is a numbers game, remember that!
Case in point: to make the grim5next anthology appealing, I wanted to add some illustrations. I contacted 100+ people, 10% of which said yes, I’ll illustrate for free. Before this incident, I believed people wouldn’t give away work without being compensated, but the response proved me wrong.
A bunch of highly-skilled illustrators joined my team, for free.
If I had emailed say, 10 people, maybe 1 would have answered. And maybe their answer would have been no. I forgot to mention that more than half of the people I contacted didn’t even bother to answer and some inquired about payment — with good reason — after which they said no.
The more people you ask, the higher the chances of positive response.
The same goes for anything: a giveaway, a contest, a book review.
This is why I am “building an army” on twitter. I know how hard it is to reach out to anybody, let alone sell anything when you don’t have the network to build your project or business upon. On the other hand, having this advantage means that when you have something to tell, someone will listen.
I’m in favor of early marketing and networking. Before you have the book or the business, you need to have a network.
Now let me tell you how I “hacked” my way with the project.
- I was already following other writers on twitter.
- I signed up for Goodreads and amassed 1000+ friends in 2 days.
- I created the Writers Worth group, where I’d post updates.
- I sent a hyper message to invite my friends to join it.
- I grew the group and had enough volunteers in a week.
- I kept using twitter (and #grim5next) to promote the project.
The rest was just: writing, moderating, emails, and editing.
Did I forget to mention? To add more people on Goodreads, simply go to: friends, find friends on — twitter, keep everyone ticked, click invite friends, and then wait for them to accept. When you create the group, all you have to do is invite people by sending a message to all of your friends.
You can friend and invite more people as you go, it’s easy.
I can imagine the same kind of excitement/activity can be generated for any project and/or book, even if it’s not collaborative. I’ll tell you how:
- Be yourself.
- Offer something.
- Build a community.
The reason Grim5Next attracted so much attention was because it gave people something to do together. But it doesn’t have to be an interactive project to get people’s attention. If you can create a group with enough things to keep everyone busy, you can achieve the same results.
Usually, on Goodreads it’s all about books, events, and reviews. So start a group where your friends and you can discuss books. Or write a choose-your-adventure kind of thing for fun. And make sure there is:
- a section where they can introduce themselves;
- a section where they can promote their books and events;
- a section where they can play games;
There are so many things you can do, but the takeaway here is:
A community can build or break any venture. Master the art of building a tribe and you’ll have support for anything you do.
The reason why a community works best is because the whole is stronger than the part. When you are a part of a group, all the other members have your back. They help you when you do giveaways, they engage you on all kinds of networks, and they introduce you to their friends.
And it’s all so exciting to share this whole journey with others. Why do you think I was obsessed with HitRECord? Because I saw great art and talked to talented people I’d never have met otherwise. It’s a miracle when you can establish relationships over the noise of the internet.
Why do you think NaNoWriMo is so successful? It’s because of the forums. They have sections for people to relax and take a break, to announce important milestones they had met, complain when they’d hit a wall, and share information others need to write their books.
Play games, adopt plots, and so on. It’s a phenomenon.
Bear in mind, you can never start a community unless you are giving these people something they need: whether it is the sense of belonging or a chance to win something or both, you need to stop promoting yourself and your book and start promoting everybody else. Seriously.
Being helpful makes you indispensable. Whether you have published a book or are running a freelance business or blogging for money or starting any kind of business, you can benefit from building a community.
When I conceived the “grim5next” idea, I didn’t know how I would find people. The thought of sending SOS tweets like “Guys, I have this amazing idea for an apocalyptic anthology, who wants in? Tweet me!” made me sick, and so I had to think of something else, and fast.
I knew that Goodreads was where everyone in the industry congregated, so I went there. I saw the groups, the “add friends from” button, and it all made sense. I like to say that growth hacking is a way of thinking.
It’s a process where you:
- have an idea
- look for ways to make it happen and —
- if you can’t see the way, get creative and forge it.
It’s about pushing limits, finding shortcuts, and being smart after you have done all that. If I had just befriended these people, created the group, and announced my book, I would have been ignored and laughed at.
Instead, I talked to people, discussed books, and collaborated.
It was the scariest and most exhilarating project I had ever done. And it was one of those miraculous things that defied the old saying “It’s easier said than done”. And you can make your project happen everywhere you are. For example, it can be as easy as starting a hashtag on twitter!
I regret that grim5next was not completed because there is no doubt it my mind that it would have been successful. However, it taught me a lesson, which I am now giving to you hoping that it’ll help you, too.
Thank you for reading and good luck!
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Building a future for startups.Published February 4, 2014