One of my readers introduced me to Thunderclap, a social media tool that musicians, politicians, and celebrities sometimes use to get word out rapidly. A “Thunderclap” is a campaign that fans sign up for free — and then, at a designated time on a designated day, the Thunderclap tool sends out a message across all of your fans’ social media channels, simultaneously.
If you are a writer — especially an indie writer — there are probably already wheels turning in your head, right? Get a blast out about a new release, or a literary event, or a temporary sale on one of your books. The idea of a “thunderclap” sounding across all social media channels also sounds attractive because we know that a high burst of simultaneous sales can have a powerful impact on Amazon’s ranking algorithms, which in turn can lead to more sales of our books.
The potential is certainly exciting.
So, in May, I decided to do an experiment, running a Thunderclap campaign to promote the release of my new science-fiction/weird fiction title Ansible 15715. I also told other writers about it, and three joined me in running experiments of their own.
Now we want to report back to you on how it went. In this post, you will hear from me (Stant Litore), from Robert Kroese (author of Mercury Falls, Schrodinger’s Gat, and Starship Grifters), Jodi McIsaac (author of the series The Thin Veil), and bestseller Cheryl Kaye Tardif (author of Children of the Fog, Whale Song, and many other bestselling thriller and YA titles).
Spoiler: Although our experiences varied, three of us were left unsatisfied, and the fourth would try it again, but with reservations.
Here are the details…
DOES THUNDERCLAP WORK FOR WRITERS?
FOUR NOVELISTS SHARE THEIR EXPERIENCE:
STANT LITORE: “I tried to use the Thunderclap to simulate the telepathic distress call that is at the heart of my new release. So the idea was an attractive one — send out the distress call, with a link to the book, grab attention rapidly and maybe hit Amazon’s ranking algorithms hard. It was worth a try.
By giving the campaign its own time slot to work prior to other release-related promotions, I was able to check impact on book sales with some reasonable degree of certainty. I saw 10 sales per 100 supporters to the Thunderclap campaign — a very low return.
The campaign did prove effective in generating some enthusiasm among core fans on the day of — when the thunderclap went live — but it was a LOT of work to set up, and there are less work-intensive ways to rally fans for a release. Fans needed to be told what the Thunderclap tool was, whether it cost anything, and I really only got my 100 supporters by having more than 100 individual conversations inviting fans and colleagues to try the project with me.”
ROBERT KROESE: “It’s VERY difficult to get people to support it. I eventually gave up. Stant Litore’s was successful, but I don’t think he saw huge results from it. My feeling is that it’s not worth the effort.”
(Stant’s note: Rob also tried to recruit Thunderclap supporters through his email newsletter, which has a pretty extensive following. Being a humorist, Rob introduced his call for support with the phrase “I Have the Clap!” … which is rather different than how I introduced my campaign. Neither of our approaches were that successful.)
JODI McISAAC: “I reached my goal of 100 (barely), and it was nice to give my friends and core fans a practical way to help on launch day, but I doubt it had any significant impact on sales compared to what Amazon Publishing does marketing-wise during the launch period. But I might do it again, because as I said, it’s a good way to engage your core group.”
CHERYL KAYE TARDIF: “As an author/publisher who enjoys experimenting with new ways to promote books, I decided to give ThunderClap.it a try. I set up a promo for DIVINE INTERVENTION, selecting the minimum of 100 supporters.
I ran the promo for over 6 weeks, tweeting it and mentioning it on FB and elsewhere. When my promo time was up, I had only reached 39/100 supporters and my promo was automatically cancelled, as per Thunderclap.it’s rules.
They claim my social reach was 84,153 people. Yet only 39 people responded.
Part of the problem was that many were nervous about the site automatically gaining information from supporters’ FB or Twitter accounts. Many would not support me because of this, even when I explained it was fairly standard, and even when I reassured them that the site wouldn’t do anything with that info.
So my overall rating based on my experience: 1/5 stars. I think it has potential, but they need to revamp the supporters’ end.”
Stant Litore again. I think that if Thunderclap is to work for you, you need to already be a celebrity — and by celebrity, I mean an actual celebrity, like Oprah, Stephen King, or J.K. Rowling. Cheryl is already ahead of the rest of us in this post in that her fan base is large enough that she was able to get 39 supporters for her Thunderclap just by mentioning it frequently in her feeds. I suspect that King or Rowling would get a multitude of people behind their Thunderclap in that way.
The rest of us — whether our Thunderclap went live (as it did for me and Jodi) or didn’t (as in Rob’s case) had to invest significant time in making personal invites to our readers and discussing the tool. That is a lot of effort.
If you do try the tool, I recommend having a team of volunteers ready at hand to recruit supporters for your Thunderclap campaign — just as you would do for a kickstarter or other crowdfunding campaign. That will help limit the time investment on your part — though you will still need to invest time in interacting with, motivating, and celebrating your volunteers, of course! And if you try it, I recommend treating Thunderclap as a way to engage some of your core readers, rather than as a tool that will generate sales.
But there are certainly other ways to engage and mobilize your core readers that will prove both less time-intensive and will show much greater return.
Yours in truth and fiction,
Stant Litore is a novelist. He writes about gladiators on tyrannosaurback, Old Testament prophets battling the hungry dead, geneticists growing biological starships, time-traveling hijabi bisexual defenders of humanity from the future. Explore his fiction here. And here is one of his toolkits for writers, and here’s another book where he nerds out about ancient languages and biblical (mis)translation. Enjoy!