The F-word Authors Should Learn from Rap Music
Hip hop, or rap, has done extremely well in the past twenty years and I would argue it is largely because of the F-word. Fans want the F-word, plain and simple, and I'm willing to bet this holds true with writing just as much as with rap music. The F-word I'm referring to is featuring. It's seen after the title of many, many hip hop songs, used to highlight a guest performer. Many music artists have worked together in the past, but no other music genre has done it so effectively. Writers would do well to learn from this strategy. In this post I highlight some rap examples of this success and discuss ways we can apply this technique to writing.
When someone starts listening to a particular rapper, it's not long before they have a list of other rappers they also want to check out. Fans quickly become aware of other artists similar to, or liked by, their new star. When they are looking for something else to listen to, guess where they are going to turn.
Rappers seem to enjoy promoting each other. Not only do rappers collaborate on songs and show up to each other's concerts, but often other performers will be mentioned in a song without even being featured in it. The only benefit is to raise awareness. Perhaps it's from the roots or history of rap, I'm not sure. What I do know is rappers take cross-promotion to a whole new level.
Take for example, Eminem. Arguably one of the most successful rappers of all time. A quick scan of singers he has featured, or has been featured with, reveals an extensive list, including: Skylar Grey, Obie Trice, Pink, Rhianna, Sia, 50 Cent, Lil Wayne, Busta Rhyme, Cashis, Yelawolf, Dr. Dre, D12, Lloyd Banks, and Akon, Jay-z, and The Game, to name just a few. I stopped counting at sixty collaborators.
As a second example, I looked up Snoop Dogg. I stopped counting at ninety collaborators. Here's a quick scan of a few other big names: Jay-z, over sixty; Lil Wayne, over fifty; Kendrick Lamar, new to the scene has over twenty... eleven on one album.
This "featuring" in rap music, is simply cross-promotion done right. A fan of one is introduced to another through collaboration. Just as in the book world, rap fans are always on the lookout for more. As an author, there are a number of ways we can cross-promote as well. A few come to mind and I'll briefly mention each: anthologies, multi-author book collections or boxed sets, Kindle Worlds, co-writing a book with someone else, and a few other ideas.
An anthology is a collection of stories... quite often short stories, from different authors. An anthology often has a common genre or theme, which introduces fans to authors they may not heard of. It may be be a collection put together and sold for shared profits, for charity, or it may even be put out as a free collection. Either way it gets your name out in front of new readers.
Multi-Author Boxed Sets
This is a collection of books put out by a number of authors, usually at a discount price. Similar to an anthology, this may be a collection of books of similar genres. This is often a collection of previously released books bundled together. It could be a permanent option or and possibly only be available for a short time for a promotion. A huge benefit to anthologies and boxed sets are the collective marketing. If all authors are pushing the book or collection, more readers can be introduced to the other authors.
Anyone who follows Joe's blog should know about Kindle Worlds. Amazon has a series of Worlds that anyone can write in. These include a number of popular series from authors, comic books, and even television series. The idea here is the same... if you write in the 'world' of an established author, you may be able to entice some of their existing fans to cross over into your books.
I've been in J.A. Konrath's Jack Daniels and Associates Kindle World for roughly six months now, and sales have been steady since. Not only am I currently selling books to Konrath fans, but I have no doubt this will also bring new readers to my other books over time.
I have two in Joe's Jack Daniels Kindle World, White Lady, and Paralyzer. Please check them out.
Co-Writing a Book
If you are very lucky, you may be able to co-write with a more established author. There are many examples of new authors being given an opportunity. Self-published Jude Hardin writing with Lee Child, Russell Blake writing with Clive Cussler, and Joe Konrath writing with F. Paul Wilson, are a few that come to mind. Even if you collaborate with other new authors, it will still benefit both of you. This isn't something I've tried yet, but it's on my list.
In my first book, Going Under, I name drop as a character (my psychotic antagonist) reads a J.A. Konrath book. In my new book, 14 Gable Lane, due out in February, I've worked in a similar scene where I have a character reading a book by another author friend of mine.
Back Material: Recommended Reading Lists, and Bonus Material
I've also seen cross-promoting using a Recommended Reading List in your back pages. This has been used by traditional publishing for years. If you can get a group of writers together who you recommend, you can list each other. With ebooks, you can even add hyperlinks to the author's Amazon page. You can also pair up and have an introduction to a friend's book as an extra at the back... maybe a few chapters, or a blurb, maybe even a short story.
Cross-promotion is an easy way to get your work in front of new eyes, but the take home message here is not just how to gain readers. The real message is, there are many ways in which you can help others by cross-promoting their work. We all gain far more from trying to help others than from trying to help ourselves. Take a lesson from the rappers on this one...prolific use of the F-word will help.