Rock Your Book Marketing with the ELVIS Method

What Would Elvis and the Colonel Do?
One of the most interesting news items so far in 2024 occurred when Tennessee Governor Bill Lee announced the ELVIS Act (Ensuring Likeness Voice and Image Security Act), a bill designed to protect songwriters' and performers' voices from the misuse of artificial intelligence (AI). By coincidence, the same week that bill was enacted, I finally watched the 2022 ELVIS movie, directed by Baz Luhrman and featuring electrifying performances by Tom Hanks as Colonel Tom Parker and Austin Butler as Elvis.
The movie begins with the voice of the Colonel recalling his early days as a carnival sideshow barker, learning how to profit from the basics of raw human emotion. In the scene depicting Elvis' breakout Louisiana Hayride appearance, Parker sees his future unfolding before him, as Elvis' gyrating hips and murmuring lips seduce the females in the audience with that same raw sideshow energy a hundred-fold. Hank's voice says, "Now I don't know anything about music, but I could see in that girl's eyes that she was having feelings she wasn't sure she should enjoy." That is when it hit me: could another ELVIS acronym relate to promoting not just the King of Rock and Roll, but a modern day independent author looking to tie into that same kind of magical energy to promote a book?
So, my new ELVIS acronym was born, and E stands for
EXCITE: Lordy, did Elvis give the teenagers of America the most exciting thing they'd seen or heard -- a blend of rockabilly country and Afro-American blues -- something so new and exciting they weren't really sure they should enjoy it. But of course, the whole world did come to enjoy it, and while worldwide domination is more than the average indie author can expect, you can excite potential readers by emulating the King himself: develop a fascinating narrative with a rock 'n' roll vibe that sparks curiosity and makes readers eager to explore your work. From there, create a buzz with captivating social media posts and engaging teasers and book trailers. "Turn it up to eleven" with exciting words and images.
LIFT UP: Elvis had an uncanny ability to lift the spirits of his fans through his music, performing songs like The Battle Hymn of the Republic or How Great Thou Art with great dramatic flair. Growing up in a Black neighborhood in Tupelo, Mississippi, he heard the uplifting sounds of gospel and the joyful noise of revival church meetings that verged on the ecstatic. Authors can uplift their readers by crafting stories to inspire them, or provide valuable insights to help them grow and heal. Bring showmanship to your presentations so your audience gets to know you and the emotional core of your book. Convey that message in your marketing materials, demonstrating how your work can positively impact your readers' lives.
VIOLATE: Elvis Presley was known for pushing boundaries and challenging norms, sometimes even defying his manager's wishes. The climatic number of his 1968 "comeback" television special was If I Can Dream, written to honor the life of Martin Luther King, Jr. While he could have taken the safe and easy way out, following the Colonel's wishes to wear an ugly sweater and sing a Christmas carol, Elvis chose to sing the protest song, wearing a striking white suit, and delivering probably the most passionate performance of his career. In book marketing, violating does not necessarily mean breaking rules but rather bending genres or experimenting with unconventional marketing strategies. Break free from the ordinary and find unique angles to promote your book. Surprise your audience with innovative content and presentations that distinguish your work from the masses.
INCLUDE: Elvis valued his fans and made them feel like a part of his journey. Plus, he never lost touch with his roots, growing up in Black communities in Tupelo and then Memphis, where he became friends with the "King of the Blues," B.B. King. When asked if he felt Elvis stole songs and styles from Black musicians, B.B. stood up for his friend: “Music is owned by the whole universe," said King in a 2010 interview. "It isn't exclusive to the black man or the white man or any other color. It's shared in and by our souls...” Likewise, authors can create a shared sense of community by involving readers through contests, exclusive previews, or behind-the-scenes glimpses into your writing process. Foster a soulful connection that goes beyond the book, turning readers into loyal advocates for your work.
SUSTAIN: Elvis Presley's enduring popularity is a testament to his monumental impact on the music industry. His estate brought in $400 million in 2022, nearly fifty years after his untimely death in 1977 at age 42. Of course, many other rock icons died young, but others have sustained long careers. Willie Nelson is still at it at age 90, octogenarians Paul McCartney and Ringo Starr both perform to huge audiences, and the Rolling Stones have a new album and top-billing at this spring's New Orleans Jazz & Heritage Festival. Authors can achieve lasting success -- first by living a healthy lifestyle and staying off the booze or pills that killed Elvis -- and by implementing long-term marketing strategies. Cultivate an ongoing relationship with your audience through newsletters, social media updates, and regular new content releases. Keep the momentum going even after your initial book launch to ensure a continuous and growing readership. Like the old rock 'n rollers, "Ya gotta pay your dues," and that means constant participation with interviews, appearances, and social media posts. It used to mean constant travel, but in this post-pandemic world of virtual events, you can hit the circuit via Zoom from your couch.
By channeling the traits of ELVIS — Excite, Lift Up, Violate, Include, and Sustain—authors can infuse their book marketing efforts with the same energy that propelled Elvis Presley to stardom. Just as the King left an indelible mark on the world of music, independent authors can carve their niche in literature by embracing these principles and rocking their way to success. The next time you have to make a tough book marketing decision, just ask yourself: what would Elvis do?
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Image created with Microsoft Designer
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Jim Barnes is the Editor of IndependentPublisher.com and an old rock 'n' roller himself, a founding member of three rock bands in the '60s and '70s: The Zircons, Ben Flanders Memorial Band, and Acme Rock 'n' Roll Band.