Creating Word of Mouth

My last blog talked about the fact that word of mouth sells more books. Many of the well-known books became bestsellers because of this. Alice Sebold and Dan Brown are just a couple of examples. But how do we get people talking about our books?

First of all, you need to have a platform where people can discover you. It can be a website and on social media. Some say that this doesn’t sell books. Maybe it doesn’t directly but it helps people to talk about them. The very first rule for selling books is discoverability because if no one can find it when they hear about it, word of mouth is useless.

These platforms actually have two functions. The first is to gather a fan base and the second is to sell the book. If you feel shy about putting yourself out there in the public arena you will struggle to gather a fan base. But if you’re smart about it, you can put a lot of content out there on these platforms that aren’t necessarily just about you. Remember, you want to create word of mouth about your book. So these platforms are the places to expand on everything that readers are saying about your book.

The best way to start the conversation is to ask people to read your book. You might feel like this is giving it away. But these people will be your first fans and the reviews they give will accumulate and add to the ‘talk’ about your book. They’ll also feel special about having been one of the first to read the book and will want to help you to succeed. Ask these people to tell others about it and before you know it, there are discussions creating little ripples of interest before the book hits the market.

Be as strategic as you can when asking people to read it. Think about librarians, teachers, industry professionals in your field. These are people who will talk to other readers and recommend your book to them.

So, a big part of your book marketing strategy should be to make a list of people who you will approach to read and recommend your book. Try to make a list of at least 30 and if possible, make sure you give them an actual printed book, not a pdf by email.

Blaise the book chick

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Word of mouth sells books

Sell books by word of mouth. Image by Kev Howlett.

What do you think sells books? Would a big full colour advertisement in The Age be worthwhile? It might be but you need to weigh up the return on investment. It’s been so long since I took an ad out of that calibre that I don’t even know what it costs. Possibly a couple of thousand dollars? How many books do you need to sell to break even, let alone make some serious sales?

I like to look at the way I find books in order to work out how to help others sell theirs. The last book I read was Fahrenheit 451 by Ray Bradbury. It’s not a current book. In fact, it was published in 1953 and the copy I have is a 50th anniversary edition that I bought at an opshop. Now don’t go yelling at me for buying a second hand book. The whole idea is that we get people reading books any way we can (second hand, friend of a friend, library, bookshop). If they love your books enough, they’ll go buy their own copies.

Why did I read Fahrenheit 451? Because I have heard that it’s a good read. A classic. Was it a good read? I’d say it was but not something that I’d gush about, mainly because it’s not the usual type of book that I love. But now I can tick it off my ‘to read’ list. And I don’t feel as though I am missing out because I haven’t read it.

Ever heard the acronym FOMO? Fear. Of. Missing. Out. This is something that we really need to take notice of. Why did Fifty Shades of Grey sell in the millions? Because people talked about the book and people wanted to grab a copy for fear of missing out. Nothing to do with quality of story or excellent writing but word of mouth.

Recently I was on the train. Three teenage girls were sitting behind me talking about a coffee shop. One of the girls hadn’t been there and was told, ‘You haven’t lived until you’ve been there!’ I can bet that the coffee shop isn’t that special but now that girl feels left out and she will make an effort to go there.

This is what we need to do to generate interest in our books. Problem is word of mouth is hard to control. And how do we generate it in the first place? Over the next few blogs, I’m going to explore this problem. I’m not sure if I have the answers but I might come up with a few strategies to create word of mouth.

First step is to make sure that your book is discoverable because once word of mouth starts if the book can’t be found then that momentum is going to stop as soon as it started. This means have it in as many places and on as many platforms as you possibly can so that when someone Googles it, there it is for sale.

Blaise the book chick

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