Tuesday, January 26, 2016

Guest Post by Silas Payton

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.

Kindle Worlds

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.

Author Mentions

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.

Silas Payton


adan said...

I like the way you've shown different routes to featuring. Everything from Easter egg in fiction to Kindle Worlds to co-writing.

I've only tried out KW myself, and agree about the reader connecting to the much better known writer. It's a great opp, esp how Joe has his set up, where we keep the rights to our own characters - super important.

And I gotta say, Paralyzer in Joe's Kindle World is not only my favorite of your work so far, but also probably one of the better thriller books I've read in or out of Kindle worlds.

All the best for you (smiles).

Unknown said...

I'll take this opportunity to send a big thank-you to Joe for all he has done and continues to do for self-publishing and authors who choose to go that route. I've told him before, but I'll say it again. If it were not for Joe, his blog, and the regulars who comment here and pass on their encouragement, I would not have started writing fiction. Thank you all. It continues to amaze me, that in this competitive world of business, how supportive the writing community has been.

Unknown said...

Great intro Silas. M for marketing :)

Anonymous said...

An excellent article Silas, and though I'm no big fan of any of the music you've mentioned, it still stands true if you go back a fair number of years in the music and writing industries. In music we have had folk like Marvin Gaye, Diana Ross, David Bowie and Tom Jones, all singing with different people.
In terms of authors, there are many big names who have books endorsed by their peers, and when you get to the level of those guys they don't need it, but both parties know how the game is played.
Personally, as you know, I've recently produced an anthology with guest authors, and it was with the intention of trying Sci-Fi, and also promoting the names of my six guest authors, who all produced great work.
We are working at a craft that for many years was thought to be the happy hunting ground of a select few, but as we both know, in the right company writers will find masses of support. Great write-up, which I will now promptly push on all available channels.:)

Tom Benson said...

For anonymous (An excellent article Silas), please read: Tom Benson, http://www.tombensoncreative.com - and long term casualty of attempting to comment on Blogspot.

Anne Francis Scott said...

The F-word . . . You had me going there for a minute. I thought, well, maybe. Until I came to the "featuring" part. And you hit the nail on the proverbial head with this one. Without a doubt, cross-promotion is one of the best things a writer can be involved with. I think of it as a selfless form of marketing--benefits everyone.

Great post! Thanks for putting this out there, and thanks to Joe for sharing his space on the Net!


Great post Silas. You're correct about the collaborations. Never occurred to me to check the music biz, but man rappers and the like do cross sell like crazy. I'm open to cross sell with anyone interested LOL!

Working Girl said...

An interesting take on promotion.....

Unknown said...

Nicely said Silas... and a good tip for those of us who really don't think too much about marketing (although we should)

Anonymous said...

Wonderful tips, Silas. There are so many ways to get your books in the hands of readers these days. Congratulations on your many successes!

Unknown said...

Great article Silas. I look forward to to reading more of your books.

Unknown said...

Great article Silas. I look forward to to reading more of your books.

T. M. Bilderback said...

Great article, Silas! I have read "White Lady", and I've also reviewed it - it was a great story! I haven't read "Paralyzer" yet, but I'm looking forward to it.

Playing with collaborations, or writing in another author's world, is a tremendous challenge to any author. If you don't capture the spirit and tone of the other author's character, you risk losing your audience.

With Joe's Kindle World, you'll read some of the best writers around, teaming their own characters with Jack Daniels...and Bill Roberts is one of the best characters to team with her!

Kudos to you, Silas!

J.R. Pearse Nelson said...

All good points, Silas. It's also FUN to break out of that comfort zone and work creatively with other writers and artists. I think we'll see more teaming up of writers and visual artists over time, for example, as new digital media continues to evolve.

Unknown said...

Thanks everyone for your comments and kind words. I'm thankful to all the writing friends I've found over the past year or so, many of which have popped in to comment. I also recognize a few regulars so far, as well as some fellow Kindle World writers. I spent the first two years of my writing in isolation, not telling anyone. Once I published my first in January of last year and started reaching out to the writing world, I found a support network of friends around the world. I've never experienced anything like it. I've never sent a question off to a self-published author, that wasn't responded to, often with information or with offers to help. Although I'm still trying to get my feet off the ground, I have learned a few things along the way, and I now strive to help as many others as I can. As I mentioned above, I wouldn't be doing this if it weren't for the help of others, especially Joe. This is one amazing writing community.

Unknown said...

Nice post, Silas.

Just to be clear, I haven't actually collaborated with Lee Child on any books. I would love to, but right now I'm just using story situations and supporting characters, etc., from the Jack Reacher universe (the actual Jack Reacher character remains offstage), and blending them in with my own characters and story situations, etc. All with Lee's permission, of course.

The books I did with Joe are actual collaborations, though. They were a lot of fun to write, and we've done pretty well with them. We have an exciting announcement about our novel LADY 52, but I'll let Joe tell everyone about that when he's ready. :)

Jill James said...

Silas, great idea to use that back matter to do something collaborative with it.


Silas I've spent a while working in a three different Kindle Worlds: Wayward Pines, Jack Daniels and finally Codename: Chandler. This is fun to work on shorter novels in these other writers sandboxes. I spent a lot of time isolating myself as a writer too, but since I started to open up I met Joe Konrath, Tom Schreck, Vincent Zandri, Belinda Fritche, Dennis Mahoney, and Eric Devine. I've exchanged emails with Blake Crouch of the Wayward Pines fame, William Hjortsberg, Hugh Howey, and Joe R. Lansdale, and recently the great F. Paul Wilson. All of this in a year because of opening up expanding and finding the generosity of so many well published writers. You have some excellent advice here. It's important to understand your own writing DNA. Things that work for others might not work for you, just keep plugging along and learning.

Patrice Fitzgerald said...

Thanks for the guest post, Silas. You're right about the amazing willingness of indie authors to reach out a helping hand to newer writers. I've written a series set in Hugh Howey's WOOLiverse, "Karma of the Silo," where I follow a character he created through to the end of her story. Naturally, this is with his permission and encouragement. I've also got a novella in Kindle Worlds, "Airborne," based on the events in A.G. Riddle's "Atlantis Gene." And I recently put together a space opera anthology, "Dark Beyond the Stars" with ten other authors. We've been really thrilled at the reception it's gotten.

What a wonderful time to be a writer.

Joe, thanks for continuing to host interesting guest authors...

Frank Parker said...

Excellent ideas there, Silas. Thank you for sharing, and Joe for giving you the space to do so. I had another idea the other day. Amazon have introduced a widget that enables you to link directly from your own website to a preview of a title. I used it for my own book on my own site. But it would be a great idea to cross-promote each other using that widget, promoting a different book each day. I'll offer the idea up to our fellow writers on IASD.

Anonymous said...

While a good idea, some people don't play well with others. Not everyone is cut out to be a collaborator.

Lowrychris said...

Great Post. I'm a big fan of looking at marketing that works in another medium, and utilizing, borrowing or customizing it so that it works in the business of writing. What a great breakdown, and I think it reminds us (writers) to keep looking for ways to reach readers. Or maybe INXS said it best "collaborate, imitate, try not to hate, love your mate." I'm paraphrasing, but I'm doing it with an Ozzy accent.

Pam Kesterson said...

Silas, I've anticipated this post, and it's worth the wait, with great information. Without a doubt, I know how the hidden Easter Egg scenario rolls out in your next book with a character reading a book by one of your author friends.

Putting that hint out ahead of time, then answering the inevitable question (correctly) becomes like a game to your followers who search for hidden clues and treasures. This technique can keep fans on the edge of their seat, in thrillers, or any genre.

Andy Updegrove said...

Silas - very good advice. There's a huge amount of wasted time and effort in self-publishing, with everyone rushing off, lemming-like, to try out the latest promotional trick, whether or not there's any evidence that it actually works. Taking a successful tip from another discipline trade makes an enormous amount of sense. Thanks for sharing your ideas.

Unknown said...

Hi Jude. Sorry about that. I know we had talked about your new Jack Reacher series and I knew those were on your own. For some reason I had it in my head you had worked with him before. My bad for not fact checking. Hope your JR series is doing well. Hopefully lots of people read this and look up your name.

Unknown said...

Bryan Higby, thanks for sharing that. I think that's the biggest take home from this. There is much to be gained by working together. I know the satisfaction I get from helping someone shortcut some of the crap I've learned the hard way, gives me great satisfaction and there are plenty of authors, who are willing to help or give advice. It's well worth coming out of our shell even if, as the person above mentioned some don't play well together, I believe it's still better we try. I've seen you around here a number of times and noticed you in KW. Nice to finally say hi. :)

Unknown said...

Pam, thanks for the comment about the Easter Egg. It was fun to build the suspense of who was going to pop up in the book, and was especially fun when that person was reading it. I was on the edge of my seat the whole time, and the response was great. This was purely for fun on my part. When I featured a character in Going Under who was reading a book by Joe Konrath, it was because I owed so much to him. In 14 Gable Lane I have a character reading a book I recently read by Nico Laeser. Nico has offered to beta read for me, help me with my cover, and do the illustrations for a children's book I've written. He offered asking nothing in return. It is selfless acts like this that I'm talking about and I'm honoured to name drop him in my book. Thanks again Pam.

Unknown said...

To anyone else I left out, thanks for stopping by and making this a very memorable day for me. I hang with some of you already, but if anyone else wants to connect I'd love to find a way to work together with you. I'm on all the usual online SM hangouts, but spend most of my time on Facebook. Thanks again Joe.

Joylene Nowell Butler said...

You forgot the most important collaboration of all: Eminem with Dido on a song called, "Stan" with lyrics that include: curtesy of Eminen:

You know the song by Phil Collins, "In the Air Tonight"
about that guy who coulda saved that other guy from drowning
but didn't, then Phil saw it all, then at a show he found him?
That's kinda how this is, you coulda rescued me from drowning

As always, excellent post, Mr. K.