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How to Win MySpace Friends and Influence Readers

Writers who still traffic in dead trees are just beginning to figure out how to promote their books in the online networking universe. A few basic ways authors are making a name for themselves on MySpace.

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MAKE A VIRAL VIDEO, OF COURSE: One very crude (and crudely made) example, a promo for Chad Kultgen’s Average American Male, consists of three relationship scenarios culminating in monologues on “What Guys Are Really Thinking” about (blow jobs, pretty much). The book, every bit as misogynistic as the video, is flogged at the very end.
Page views: 800,000 on MySpace, well over another million on YouTube.
Sound strategy? The ad’s frat-boy appeal may be more effective than HarperCollins’s more-earnest attempts to market the book as self-aware parody. This is lad lit via Howard Stern with a predictable ironic twist.


PRETEND YOU’RE A BAND: Making use of the MySpace Music format (meant for bands to post a few songs), some writers have been shilling snippets of readings. Amanda Boyden did it cleverly in promoting last summer’s Pretty Little Dirty. Her bio is listed under “Band Members,” and her “Downloads” are samples from her book layered under songs by Lucinda Williams and Black Flag (for the latter, she’s reading about a Black Flag concert).
Profile views: 4,048.
MySpace friends: 397.
Sound strategy? With better sound quality and page design, Boyden might have gotten more traction. Maybe MySpace Writer isn’t far behind?


GIVE YOUR PROTAGONIST A PROFILE: Pocahontas, the star of Matthew Sharpe’s Jamestown who’s a futuristic version of her namesake, has a MySpace page that would likely confuse Disney-obsessed tweens. Her interests: “Thinking in English, hanging out with my gal-pals, IMing, my wireless device, evenings in the cornfields, Johnny, my secrets. Definitely NOT violence or guns or macho men like my father.”
Profile views 230.
MySpace friends: 38.
Sound strategy? To get it, you really have to read the book. But that’s kind of the idea: the in-joke as teaser.


LET SOMEONE ELSE DO IT: The Sam Lipsyte Fan Page (for the cult author of Homeland) seems like an authorial masterstroke: Fans can post stories and have off-topic chats. But Lipsyte had nothing to do with it. “My first thought was to figure out how to shut it down,” he says, “but it would be silly to send a cease-and-desist letter to the one guy who likes your work so much he started a fan page.”
Profile views: 2,055.
MySpace friends: 297.
Sound strategy? Sure, except readers may not know that opinions on the page (like a rant on abortion) don’t represent your own views. Lipsyte insisted on a disclaimer: “Sam is in no way involved … ”


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