Thursday, March 27, 2008

The Butterfly Effect

Sometimes the idea of marketing or promoting our book can be overwhelming, for oh-so-many-reasons. One of the most daunting factors can be sheer logistics: how can I, one simple author who only knows 103 people, 115 tops, ever have enough influence to generate the necessary sales numbers?

Well, the good news is that you don’t. All you have to do is take a look at Mary’s list of what Random House is doing for the launch of Ten Lucky Things That Have Happened To Me Since I’ve Been Hit By Lightning. Clearly she is not alone in this venture.

But even with as big a team as Random House, successful book marketing can feel hopeless. One image I cling to when thinking about marketing that brings me great comfort is The Butterfly Effect.

It's the one about how if a butterfly in China beats his wings, it can cause a tornado in Nebraska. Or something like that. It’s one of the terms used in describing chaos theory, which for the most part goes way over my head, but this image stuck.

It’s the same concept behind viral marketing…letting small, germ-like marketing bits invade the atmosphere and hope that the mutating, random nature of life helps them “infect” something. (Okay, so now do you see why I prefer the imagery that comes with The Butterfly Effect?)

It's like dropping a small pebble in a pond and watching the waves ripple outward for hours. Small steps can equal large results.

And that's what I so dearly love about the butterfly image. That the simple, delicate act of merely flapping one’s wings, when combined with the random nature of Life, has the ability to generate powerful results halfway around the world. And I think this is ultimately why I believe that doing some marketing, even if it feels hopeless, is better than doing none. You never know when a flap of your wing will generate something wonderful.


liquidambar said...

I think that's why Donald Maass keeps saying the most important thing is to write a great book. Everyone it touches will be more likely to pass on the word. Or, to use another metaphor, all those flower seeds we toss out will have more chance of sprouting and then putting out more seeds in turn.

Becky Levine said...

Yes. I love the imagery. For me, it's the You Never Know What Will Happen idea. Put something out there. Say, "Yes!" (which is often very hard for introverts). Try something new. Sometimes, nothing comes back. Other!

Years ago, I taught a beginning writing class at the local rec department. One of the students, a retired police officer (Lee Lofland, author of Police Procedure & Investigation, from Writer's Digest Press)and I kept talking and emailing and passing writing back and forth. Today, I'm working on the last three chapters of a nonfiction kids' book we're writing together--for Adams Media. Due out sometime next year, I think. From one little, four-person class.

Shari said...

Thanks for the encouraging post. :)

Devin said...

In a different vein, how about a waterfall which starts as a single drop?