Category Archives: reading

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

If there’s no money in writing & publishing, why do we do it?

There's nothing like opening a box of newly printed books. The love of stories and ideas is why we do it. Photo by Blaise van Hecke
There’s nothing like opening a box of newly printed books. The love of stories and ideas is why we do it. Photo by Blaise van Hecke

Small Press Network ran another great Independent Publishers Conference this month. It was great to get together with a roomful of writers, publishers, booksellers and library professionals. This is a unique way to look at the book world from all angles.

As we all know, the selling of books is the hardest part of the game and there was a lot of talk about publicity and marketing of books over the two days that I attended. The biggest take home for me was that everything is in the data. Thanks to digital technology, there are many ways to get data for a book out into the world. So be sure to register your book on Title Page (you must be a member of the Australian Publishers Association or Small Press Network to do this) and ensure that any online platforms have as much data as possible. Think key and tag words.

After two days of talking about how hard it is, you could start to think that being in the book game is really not worth it. Too hard. And yet, there are so many people writing books and starting up indie publishing houses. Why is this? Here are some of the things that were cited on the panel (of which I was a panellist):

  • The industry is generous. Where else can you be friends with your rivals, and share industry knowledge with each other?
  • It’s such a rewarding way to spend your work life.
  • The collaborations are fantastic.
  • We are all working to a common goal. To create great books.
  • Humans connect through story, so we feel compelled to get those stories out there.
  • Life is never dull!

And maybe we need to examine the phrase ‘no money’. What does that mean exactly? No money literally means zero and of course this is an exaggeration. To me it means that we’re not all becoming millionaires but many are making a good living from it. This is where we examine the value of working in something that we love versus working for money. I know what I’d rather be doing.

Blaise, the book chick