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Named to "Writer's Digest 101 Best Websites," this #SharingwithWriters blog is a way to connect with my readers and fellow writers, a way to give the teaching genes that populate my DNA free rein. Please feel free to add to the conversation using the very tiny "comment" link. For those interested in editing and grammar, go to http://thefrugaleditor.blogspot.com.

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Wednesday, May 10, 2017

Having You Been Yearning for a Viral Hit?

You aren’t going to want to believe this. “Going viral” is a myth. Nope it doesn’t exist—at least not the way we think it does.

I have been wandering around willy-nilly believing in the term “going viral.” I have even been actively suggesting we authors reach for “going viral” to achieve the promises and hope it offers us. Hoping for magic. One of my brilliant soundbites might turn into sudden fame. “Bippidy bopped boo! Instant transportation to princesshood!”

Here’s where reading a good book—a book by someone else—now and then is a good idea. Derek Thompson’s Hit Makers: The Science of Popularity in an Age of Distraction explains why we now know “going viral” is just so much bunk. It was once hard to track a word-of-mouth trajectory but because of the Internet scientists can now track the trajectory of the popularity of an idea or product.

In a study of Twitter, “More than 90% of the messages didn’t ever diffuse at all much less travel like a virus from person to person! The vast majority [95%] of [tweeted news] comes directly from its original source or from one degree of separation.”

If you are mad at me (and Derek) for this burst of your bubble, don't be. This is good news for authors. Now we won’t labor under our inclinations to hope someone else will do our marketing for us. Thompson says, “Popularity on the Internet is still driven by the biggest broadcasts—not by a million 1-to-1 shares, but rather by a handful of 1-to-1 million shares.” Those power sources are companies like TV channels and FM stations. Thompson calls them blast points like a “Kardashian post or a top spot on Reddit.”

Thompson urges us to quit believing in a “perfect democracy where anyone can become a star if they make something good enough.” I can’t tell you how many students I have had who hold other myths dear. For many of them, a great agent will be the magic bullet. They are sure that a $100,000 advance will surely be theirs because they’re positive of the creativity and originality of their product. (Most advances—even advances from the New York big five—come in at about $2,000 to $4,000.) Super agents and huge advances are as much myths as the myth of virality which Thompson calls the “David myth—obscuring the fact that the Internet is still run by Goliaths.”

So, you’re wondering why I am would pass along this bad news? I’d rather think I’m giving you what you need to know to circumvent the near-impossible, to save you time chasing elusive butterflies, and to be ever-so-grateful if you should win Thompson’s Goliath to your side. In the meantime, your goal will be networking so that you get lots and lots of those first-degree shares from the audience you want most.


Howard-Johnson is the author of fiction, creative nonfiction, and poetry. She is also a marketing consultant, editor, and author of the multi award-winning HowToDoItFrugally Series of books for writers including the award-winning second editions of The Frugal Book Promoter (where she talks more about choosing and the advantages of winning contests and how to use those honors)  and The Frugal Editor. Her latest is in the series is  How to Get Great Book Reviews Frugally and Ethically. Learn more on her Amazon profile page, http://bit.ly/CarolynsAmznProfileGreat Little Last Minute Editing Tips for Writers is one of her booklets--perfect for inexpensive gift giving--and, another booklet, The Great First Impression Book Proposal helps writers who want to be traditionally published. She has three FRUGAL books for retailers including one she encourages authors to read because it will help them convince retailers to host their workshops, presentations, and signings. It is A Retailer’s Guide to Frugal In-Store Promotions: How To Increase Profits and Spit in the Eyes of Economic Downturns with Thrifty Events and Sales Techniques. In addition to this blog, she helps writers extend the exposure of their favorite reviews at TheNewBookReview.blogspot.com. She also blogs at all things editing--grammar, formatting and more--at The Frugal, Smart, and Tuned-In Editor (http://TheFrugalEditor.blogspot.com )

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