I moved to Istanbul, Turkey back in December 2012 for a job (and to research my upcoming novel). As I’ve been chronicling this new adventure for my blog: An American Author in Istanbul, I realized the importance of authors using their real lives to engage readers via their various platforms (blog, facebook, twitter, pinterest, etc). It is in that spirit that I offer this latest post on Author Discovery.
For those of you who don’t know, Istanbul (and major cities in Turkey in general) has been a rather hectic place to be living of late. On May 29th, a peaceful protest of the planned urbanization of a cherished park (Gezi Park) located in historic Taksim Square, turned violent when riot police arrived and began tear gassing the protestors in an effort to force them to vacate the premises. Upon hearing the news (primarily via social media), hundreds of people returned to the square in protest. Over the course of the next day, despite escalating violence by the police, complete abjuration by the government owned Turkish media, and daily rants and taunts by the Turkish Prime Minister, the protestors have multiplied exponentially – now tens of thousands of people are protesting on a daily basis. Thus, what began as a small innocuous act of protest has become a full on movement.
Now, I’m sure you’re thinking, thanks for the information, Omar, but what the heck does this have to do with Author Discovery?
Well, over the past few days as I’ve witnessed this transformation here, I began to think about how an Indie author publishing a book is similar to a small group of protestors camping out in a park in protest. In both instances you have low to no awareness of the initial inciting action outside of a very small, well connected group of people. And in many cases, awareness never grows beyond this, mostly because there is no resistance, no media coverage, and nothing boosting or broadcasting information to the masses. What changed in this situation, was the out of control reaction of the police in opposition to this small demonstration.
I liken this to the extreme resistance and overkill Indie’s have faced from the traditional publishing establishment, literary critics, established authors (I’m looking at you James Patterson), large bookstores, literary agents, and even readers. The entire publishing ecosystem has been trying for years to squelch the independent publishing movement with sheer force. That’s why it’s such big news that Indies are being snatched up by traditional publishers and are now hitting the bestsellers lists. We’re not supposed to be there, so when one or two of us do make it, despite overwhelming odds to the contrary, it’s a big deal.
The protestors of Gezi Park were supposed to pack up and go home once the police showed up with their tear gas, water cannons, riot trucks, and bully clubs. Instead they came back with more reinforcements. The lesson here should be fairly straightforward – power in numbers. They can ignore one or some of us, but they can’t ignore many of us. That’s why becoming an active member in the Indie Author Community is so essential. Together we can confront and overcome the resistance we face on a daily basis. That’s why communities like the World Literary Cafe, The Alliance of Independent Authors, and many more are so important. They add legitimacy to our individual small acts of protest against the traditional publishing system.
Still, initial action and community are not enough to create widespread awareness. You need a message that is easily transmitted and shared. That’s where social media comes in. What’s the difference between a post that goes viral on social media and the millions that don’t? Jonah Berger, author of the NY Times Bestseller, Contagious: Why Things Catch On, states that the difference can be summed up with the acronym STEPPS.
- S – Social currency means that we share things that make us look good. Sharing information about the protests made the sharers look like they were in the know, on the verge, in the loop.
- T – Triggers are things in our daily path that remind us of the messages we are being hit with. The triggers here have been the Turkish flags and posters of beloved Turkish leader Ataturk that began popping up all over the place.
- E – Emotion is described simply is that when we care, we share. Look at the picture of the young woman getting blasted in the face by the aggressive policeman. This image has been viewed millions of times because we can all imagine being in the shoes of that poor woman.
- P – Public means that it is easy to see and imitate. Protestors began calling for their friends and followers to pass on the news of Gezi Park since the Turkish media wasn’t covering it. This made the protest public.
- P – Practical Value relates to news that you can use. Activists around the world have used the #occupygezi meme to unify, and organize their bases to action. Also bulletins have been circulated as to how to mitigate the affects of tear gas, what streets to avoid in the city, etc.
- S – Stories are the vessels in which messages travel from one person to the next. The messages highlighting the individual stories of protestors have traveled must faster and farther than calls to simply join the movement.
We as authors need to consider the message and the methods of distributing our message in order to gain wide spread awareness and discoverability.
The next lesson I’ve gleaned from the situation over here is the importance of persistence in broadening awareness and activity. If the protestors had gone home after that first night content that their message was heard, no one would have had any idea what was going on. Instead, they continued showing up day after day, night after night, in steadily increasing numbers. The message was generating the desired action. People were becoming engaged and actively involved in the cause. You know the saying out of sight, out of mind? Well it applies to protests and author discoverability alike. If you don’t show up on a daily basis and make the effort to connect with your audience in creative ways, then there is little chance that your book will become a movement.
So in summation, in order to transform your book into something that becomes part of the zeitgeist, consider how they did it here in Turkey. Take action, meet and overcome resistance, craft a contagious message, and keep showing up day after day until the desired result occurs.
It’s pretty much that simple.
For more information on #OccupyGezi, please click the link and/or check out this video: