These days, marketing and getting the word out about my stories feels kind of like cramming a book onto an overstuffed shelf and watching the whole thing collapse under the weight of a thousand other writers doing the same. On a shelf wrapped around the circumference of the earth. In a thunderstorm. I'm lost to the white noise of the infernal Internet machine. Marketing can be darned expensive, too. Sure, there are free and valuable options out there - such as blogging, interviews, blog tours, readers' forums, genre spamming, and what not - but paid advertising? Facebook ads? Things of that nature? Expensive, and not guaranteed to succeed. The cost can quickly rocket beyond the stratosphere, pinging off Felix Baumgartner, on its way to Elysium.
So here's one little thing I've been doing to spread the word - using QR code stickers. A scanned code that directs folk straight to my web site.
For those living under a rock for the past decade, this here be a QR code:
I'm sure you've seen them about, strewn haphazardly in everything from books, to street corners, to shops, to the arm rests on chairs at the airport (Note: all places I've left QR code stickers directing folk to my website). Using a smartphone equipped with a scanner app, the phone 'reads' the code and directs the phone to whatever is encoded in the image. In this case, my site.
I love QR codes, think they're great - hybridising the physical world with the digital horizon.
According to comscore, an average of 20 million Americans scanned a QR code every 3 months in 2011. Now, that's not HUGE in the grand scheme of things, but it does suggest a trend toward more and more folk utilising this technology. I think the trick is to leave the code somewhere unobtrusive but obvious. I don't just slap them down on a table at the pub, but I may leave one on a lamppost out front of a restaurant, or somewhere else where people queue and have nothing better to do than play with their phone.
I've only been at this a month, and it's hard to say whether anyone has scanned one of my codes. I'm currently living in Banff, Canada, and I walk past a half dozen of my codes everyday. On noticeboards, lampposts, and what have you. But I've left them all over Australia and a few cities in the U.S. Again, the stickers are unobtrusive but obvious, and most of them may have been removed, but not all.
For the next campaign, I'm creating a special 'QR Code' page, which can only be accessed directly through scanning a QR code out there in the world. The scanner will be directed to a page with promo codes and discounts for purchasing my stories, directly from this site. I'm excited to see just how many, if any, hits that page gets once I start dishing out those special stickers. Or whether my twitter followers increase, or whatever. I'm also working on designing a more appealing code, something literary themed, to catch the eye. We'll see. Using Google Analytics, I'll even be able to discern which hits can be attributed to a scanned code. Exciting.
The logical step from here, of course, is to get the code printed somewhere with a high volume of traffic. Location, location, location. Some ideas:
- Print media (newspaper)
- Billboard the code
- Product packaging (imagine the hits if I could get my code printed on 10 million Coca-Cola cans! AND DAMN THE MILLIONS I'D HAVE TO SPEND!)
- Accessories - t-shirts, jewellery.
- Edible codes
All options that would cost, no doubt considerable, funds, probably better spent elsewhere, but I'm trying to think outside the box here. We'll see how far I can take this, while keeping costs well within the scope of the benefits.
All in all, this is a very small drop in the marketing ocean, but at around $19 for a hundred stickers from moo.com, I'm willing to give it a shot.
Back to the word mines,