Word of mouth is your single most effective tool for book promotion.
Sometimes I get the feeling that authors think word-of-mouth means talking about their book, or retweeting what other people say about their book.
That's NOT effective word of mouth promotion. Here's an example of what is.
Earlier this week I was on the phone with a client. We were talking about what she'd been doing recently and she casually mentioned she'd driven down to SomplaceElse to attend a book signing.
"Oh!" said I, always eager to hear what my clients are reading. "Whose?"
"Andrew MacRae. He's published by a very small press but it's a charming book."
"Aha," said I, tapping on my keyboard. "Murder Misdirected?"
Yes indeed that's the book. And my client had gone to Andrew MacRae's reading because he'd come to hers and was a long time fan.
I bought the book.
I read it on the subway, and finished at my favorite place to read these days: the SudsYerDuds Reading Room.
And now I'm telling you about it. That's word of mouth promotion.
Word of mouth is other people talking about your book. I've never met Andrew MacRae. I wouldn't know him if he picked my pocket or sold me a copy of Wilkie Collins The Woman In White (when you read the book, you'll get those references.) I bought it because my client liked it.
And she went to his reading cause he'd been a fan of hers.
The way you build word of mouth is by making friends with authors and the best way to do that is support them. Buy their books, attend their events, like their FaceBook pages, tell them on Twitter you like their books.
Word of mouth is a LONG TERM strategy. You can't start on pub day. You really can't start on pub YEAR. It's something you build slowly, relentlessly over time.
By relentlessly I mean ten minutes a day, every day. Nothing is MORE ineffective that a blat of tweets, or likes followed by radio silence.
Oh and buy the book here
This is primarily how I've learned of books I want to read. Sure, an occasional tweet, or certain blogs I follow (ahem) might suggest something, but nothing, and I mean nothing, beats someone *talking* to you about a book -or vice versa. I get excited if I'm reading a story I'm enthralled with, and then, as I share that with another person, they can see that excitement - much more effective.
For the long term, yep, it's why I have a blog, follow writerly blogs and Twitter accounts. I've come to know quite a few authors, writers this way and I support them wholeheartedly, and I believe, should the day come, they'll do the same for me too.
Lifehack: sincerity matters.
I'm new to this, but this is sort of the approach I've been taking. I got a question from another new author who has, let's say, prioritized other things over community, and this is what I was trying to say. Thank you!
There are two communities.
The desperate OMGBUYMYBOOK groups that share weird tactics (tag them in every post so they will click and SEEYOURBOOK.) And "Join 500 Facebook groups and post your book/blog/laundry list EVERY DAY."
I got stuck as the last admin standing of a small writerly group on FB and we had a few of those.
One who churns out "writing self-help" books was relentless in her attempts to divert traffic to her blog. I reminded her of our policy that you join in the conversation before you spam with "daily tips" and her response was a chirpy, "Well if you don't like them, just don't read them."
*engage moderator nerf-gun with thermonuclear ban warheads*
Then the much more laid back community where awesome writers hang out and talk shop and politics and photos of their kids and dogs. And when the new book drops, there are a few posts that get picked up and shared.
Guess which group I trust recommendations from? I am going to a conference in August a day early (with the expense that implies) strictly because I want to meet one of the authors I've interacted with on FB. I want to chat with her, get her autograph, and attend her seminar.
But the first seems quick and easy, the second slow and difficult.
I'm reading and enjoying a book right now, "The Exterminators" by Bill Fitzhugh, recommended by the guy at the checkout desk at the library who saw I'd just returned one of Spender Quinn's delightful "Chet and Bernie" mysteries. (Chet is Bernie's dog, who tells the story.)
People sometimes forget the key to social media is that "it's social." It's resistant to hardcore "sell sell sell." You have to invest time and energy in cultivating a network of "friends" online. I've heard it said that the day to start that work is not publication day, but about three years before, and most of what you post isn't about your book at all. It's social stuff.
There's one guy on Twitter who I'm pretty sure started a second, neutral-sounding account just to retweet his own promotional tweets. I turned off their retweets and haven't heard from them or him since.
If anyone on here wants to be entertained by authors on Twitter and you're not already following them, you should check out Jeffrey Somers, Sean Ferrell, and Bill Cameron. Just remember that I'm only recommending you follow them. I'm not making you and I disavow any responsibility for any mental health costs you may incur as a result.
What Loretta said. I got so tired of fake "I just read SUPER AWESOME BOOK by Joe Writer! Wow, best book ever!" tweets that A) I started unfollowing people who tweeted these things (and I bet several are shill accounts), and B) when legit friends do occasionally tweet about books they've read, my eyes just glaze over. It's a shame, but "Just read ..." tweets sort of equate to "couldn't stop laughing!" on pinterest pins for me.
The only thing I have noticed that works (for me, anyway) is if someone mentions a very specific detail from the book, ie, "I loved THE SHARK WHISPERER BY S. Cuba Diver - who knew they use chocolate to fill cavities in shark teeth?" But that's hard to do in 140 characters, and can still sound fake if not done well.
And it's so hard for us interovert types to make new friends. It might involve (gulp) talking to someone! I imagine The Shark will say all of writing involves getting over your fears though. =)
I pick out books for lots of reasons. For instance, when researching agents, I buy (and read--I read everything I buy) some of their clients' books. I also go into bookstores and buy any books that look like what I'm writing myself. Then I buy some that are nothing at all like what I write. I always buy my writer-friends' books. And I'll buy anything with an amazing cover.
But the number one thing that will make me buy a book is when someone I know and trust recommends it.
"...you should check out Jeffrey Somers, Sean Ferrell, and Bill Cameron"
Yeah, I like their tweets, also. They write good books, too.
Really nice mention, Andrew. Congratulations. Yep, good way to start Monday.
I agree with many of these comments that social media has become social noise. Word of mouth whether in person or on-line still sells 60% of books. Just be your charming self, write a book you can be proud of, and it's amazing what will happen. But as Janet says, it will take time so enjoy the journey! And keep writing that next great book.
" ...published by a very small press, but it's a charming book."
Sorry, but I find this comment insulting. Plenty of good books are published by small press. Including mine, "Shedding Light On Murder." Five Star/Gale. Does this count as getting the word out:-)
I haven't sold a whole lot of my books, but of what I have sold most have come from word of mouth, rather than various promotional efforts I've made. I would also add, don't be afraid to tell people you're a writer. Most will then ask about what you've written, the curious will look you up. You never know when that chain reaction might start.
Ian Martyn (www.martynfiction.com)
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