I resumed my conversation with Hammett the following week. A partial transcript follows.
Cat: So tell me about your marketing strategies.
Hammett: I do online promotion and local book signings, but the one that works best is giving away free copies whenever I can. One segment of my target audience is college students and young adults who are very much into Lennon and the Beatles, so I have friends across the country leave free copies at campus student centers or off-campus coffee bars like Starbucks.
Cat: How do you know the free copies are being read?
Hammett: Several ways. There’s always a sales spike after the free distribution, plus I get email from people in various geographical locations telling me what they liked about the book. I call the technique cross-pollination. Assuming you have the right subject, like John Lennon, and the right venue, like a college campus, people are going to talk about what they like. The word-of-mouth campaign is still highly effective in something going viral. People hear about the book as it’s passed around a dormitory or the workplace. But you can pass around only so many copies, so some people end up buying the book.
Cat: Sounds logical. Is that all there is to it?
Hammett: It’s just the beginning. The feedback loop comes next. If people like a title enough, they put it on their blogs, Facebook, Twitter, or any kind of online personal profile. After that comes splitting. Sooner or later, young adults tell their baby boomer parents about the book, parents who were the original Beatles fans. They, in turn, start telling or emailing their friends about it, and cross-pollination starts all over again.
Cat: In your case, this might not be possible without writing about Lennon. Did you choose him on purpose?
Hammett: Not really. People want to feel good. They’re looking for hope and second chances and want to believe in something beyond themselves. Those were the waters I wanted to fish. Lennon was a logical choice to write about since he tried to exorcise a lot of demons during his life. People can identify with that, and if you have readers identifying with your protagonist, you’re halfway there.
Cat: Do you think John Lennon and the Mercy Street Café could ever go viral or become breakout fiction? Or maybe even a cult fiction?
Hammett: I’ve got a theory about breakout fiction and cult books, but it sounds a bit weird.
Cat: I like weird. I’m all ears.
What Hammett shared next was something I’d never heard about before.
About This Website
Index of Articles on This Website
What Is Cult Fiction?
Is Cult Fiction the Same as Underground Fiction?
Cult Fiction and Genre
Cult Fiction and ON THE ROAD
Cult Fiction and A CONFEDERACY OF DUNCES
Moby-Dick: The Ultimate Cult Novel
John Lennon and the Mercy Street Cafe: Cult Fiction in the Making?
The Next Wave of Cult Fiction
List of Cult Fiction Classics
Cult Fiction Websites
Current Trends in Fiction
Understanding the Literary Marketplace
Emerging Writers in the Literary Marketplace
Resources for Writers
About Cat Spaulding