Would you let readers choose your main character’s hair colour? The title of your opening chapter? The design for your book cover?

Why not?

I’m asking, because I’ve just stumbled on a brilliant bit of marketing from Scottish Brewery, BrewDog, and one day I intend to try it – sadly not quite the way they have, but perhaps with a few writerly-ideas I’ve chucked out below. I don’t see why, with a little adaptation, it can’t help with that never-ceasing quest to build a bigger author platform.

#Mashtag - the world's first ever twitter beer!

Copyright © BrewDog 2013

The Plot

A beer created by the people, for the people, under the project name #mashtag. This venture into the marketing technique crowdsourcing started with the BrewDog brewers asking, via their blog, what sort of beer they should create next. People cast their votes on twitter, Facebook or the blog, and the next day the winning option was announced… along with the next element to be voted on. They went through malt style, alcoholic percentage, type of hops, the special ingredient, the name and even the label.

The result? (Or, What YOU Stand To Gain):

Promotion of a concept – this basically says “we’re different, we’re interesting, and that’s why you need to watch this space.”

Loads of return traffic to their blog – meaning more time for readers to browse their archives or join the mailing list.

Pride from participants – how much more do you value something when you’re in the exclusive club of people who’ve found it?

Spreadability – it’s not just a twitter or a blog contest. It goes everywhere, so it’s all the easier to share

Better brand recognition – having a strong design theme across all their social media platforms ensures the logo is pretty well ingrained.

Direct feedback from their target market – builds loyalty, and will generate ideas for grabbing the rest of that demographic, too.

A waiting list – stacks of consumers are actually awaiting the release. It’s like a Goodreads ‘To-Read’ list, only more alcoholic.

Can We Achieve It?

I know publishing isn’t the quickest thing in the world, so designing a book in five days might be tricky (unless you’re Stephen King). But don’t forget this brew will actually need to be brewed now, and yet in the short-term, the idea still worked. It’s creative and unique, and isn’t that the image you want, as a writer? It’s easy to be scared that our promotional idea won’t work but so what? Those who saw it will learn a valuable lesson about you, and those who didn’t see it won’t think any less of you, will they? And besides, doing the same old thing is bound to start looking a little shameless, right? (Like or share this post if you agree :P)

Anyway, I’ll get down from my soapbox now and just throw out a few thoughts on where I figure this might work. If anyone does want to give it a go, even in the future, let me know. I’m all about collaborating on interesting things, and you already have my full support. So why not try…

  • Taking your blog in a new direction
  • Moving blogging platforms altogether (running an event like this could certainly help you retain followers through the transition)
  • Establishing a Facebook author profile
  • Running a blog tour
  • Bringing your existing fans into your novel’s sequel, right when you’re in the final edits (a reward for them and a great buzz-generator for you)
  • Creating a new series of interviews/blog posts/or whatever you have authority on
  • Letting reader’s personalize your ready-to-publish, self-published book (your MC probably didn’t need to have hair like liquid sunshine, anyway)
  • Who knows what else? I mean, they’re advertising a beer even a cheese-eating squirrel would enjoy…

“Nut Brown by Alesmith is a dark brown, drinkable ale which pairs really well with nutty cheeses like gruyere or aged gouda.” Copyright © BrewDog 2013