Friday, September 10, 2010

Word of Mouth

Today, I'm going to talk a little bit about the effects of "word of mouth."

Most authors aren't going to get that "BIG" deal, the "6-figure, everyone's buzzing about it, tons of promotional efforts, etc." deal that many people dream about. That is a rare feat. So, once you get published (because you will!), what if you are one of the majority without all that icing to help sell your cake (aka, your book!), how do you get it to the best-seller list? Or to at least sell through your advance?

There are many opinions on this. Social networking is important, of course. As well as making efforts to promote your book yourself. I'm no expert, having not been published yet, but the thing that seems to make the biggest difference for good (or bad -- even for those so-called BIG DEALS) is word of mouth.

If a book gets a huge advance, but the word of mouth for it is really negative, that book may not end up selling through it's advance even with tons of promotion. However the flip side is that if you get a smaller advance, but have glowing reviews being passed around and a strong "word of mouth campaign" gets going, you will easily sell through your advance, and possibly even propel you to that coveted best-seller list eventually.

The book world is small. We all talk about those BGs (Big Deals) as if everyone in the world must know about who the authors are, and how much they got. We watch the best seller lists like hawks and tweet furiously when someone we know or admire makes it. (Kiersten White #7!! Cassandra Clare #1! Alyson Noel #2! Plus even more; what a week!) However, you talk about advances or where books debuted to anyone outside of the writing world, and they have no clue what you're talking about. (well, they might understand the best seller list part, but the advances, not so much.)

Case in Point:

"Did you know my friend _____ got a MAJOR ADVANCE for her book _____ from ______?!?!"

"Uh... who's that? And what's an advance?"

So, basically, they think you're crazy and you are flabbergasted that they don't know what a MAJOR ADVANCE means and you both stomp away in frustration. (Okay, probably not that last part.)

However, if someone then tells that same person a year down the road when the book is published, "I just read ____ and LOVED it so much. You HAVE to read it. Go buy it right now!" THAT will mean something to them. And hopefully, they will go buy it and read it. And tell their friends and family, and so on and so on.

Just how powerful is word of mouth, though, really? I'm not sure. It would be interesting to find out. What do you think?


Steena Holmes said...

Word of Mouth is HUGE. That's where we all come in. I think we are 'getting' it finally - because we are seeing it happen to those we 'know' ... Sara, once you announce your deal you KNOW we will be there to support you!

Lyla said...

I think word of mouth does it in the end. Most of my friends only knew about The Hunger Games because I told them--but how much they liked it had nothing to do with me! Kiersten has over a thousand blog followers and since her blog is so great, I imagine most of us spread the word about Paranormalcy. I know Amazon reviews play a pretty decent part of whether or not I buy a book, too. So I guess the formula is... be awesome, so people will talk you up!

Colene Murphy said...

I think youre right. Word of mouth can make or break your book. If I hear too many bad reviews on a book that I'm already skeptical about (I'm a little ashamed to say) I'll pass over it for another book I have heard great things about. Just because it's so hard to keep up with everything great that comes out, I don't want to waste time on something I heard sucks.
But YOU have a great voice and am sure I'll be blabbling about your book when it comes out to anyone who will listen!

Carolyn V. said...

I totally agree with you Sara. What a good way to put it. =) I've mentioned a few of my friends who are getting their books published to some of my non-writer friends and they have no idea what I am talking about. But when I mention a good book I've already read, they totally know what I'm talking about (and some have borrowed my books). =)

Sara B. Larson said...

Steena - Thank you so much, you're so sweet!

Lyla - I guess we all just have to be super awesome then, right? Easy-peasy. Ha ha. Right. ;)

C.E. - I think that's true for a lot of people. And thank you!

Carolyn - It does make a big difference, doesn't it? Good point.

Lola Sharp said...

I try to plug/pimp books I fall in love with.
And I do get sincerely excited when my writer friends have successes.

But, to non-writer friends, I stick with talking about the books.

The pretty, pretty books filled with pretty, pretty words.

Christine Fonseca said...

I totally agree on the word of mouth - and the thing that keeps that alive...writing something of value that is good...REALLY good!

Cinette said...

Sure we all dream about the Big Deal coming our way, but if you want to shoot for the moon, you need to aim for the stars, they say. And there we go - 'they say'. Word of mouth is how it goes.


ali cross said...

Ultimately, I think that's all there is. It's all about the buzz, about what readers are saying. Sure, at first the "readers" are writers too, but still ... we hold the power to make or break someone's career (or success of a book) by the words we speak. Especially if we're talking to NONwriters too. Nonwriters look to us writer-types as the experts. WE should know what's hot, right? So if we badmouth a book, they're even less likely to buy it, with the converse also being true.

*I am the almighty ali. tremble before me*

Yeah. That kind of power. XD

Unknown said...

Word of mouth is important, no question, but the dream of the big deal....ah, that's hard to let go of. But it's true, most don't get on the NYT's bestseller list in one week, if at all. We have to plug away the best we can, and it's so nice to know we have friends (on-line and otherwise) to back us up.