Word of Mouth – Who Knew?
So our poll on Friday (see sidebar) led to some spectacularly predictable results. Exciting! It appears we find out about books mostly through various recommendations, either online or from friends or acquaintances. Otherwise known as word of mouth. We also find a lot of our books through browsing the stacks (physical or virtual) and picking the ones that look interesting. Wow, who’d have thunk it?
This points back to the idea I wrote about a couple weeks ago in The Book’s the Thing. It’s difficult to buy or orchestrate word of mouth, and you certainly can’t manufacture it if nobody likes the book. Hence, your most important marketing strategy is to write the best book you can, and hopefully make it something a lot of people will enjoy and then recommend to their friends.
Easy peasy. (And um…when you figure out the formula for that, let me know.)
Another result from our discussion on Friday: Many of you wrote in the comments that you always look for books from your favorite authors. In fact, for many of us (myself included) it’s probably the first thing we turn to when looking for a new book to read. We browse to see if any of the authors we already like have a new book out.
I’m glad you pointed it out, because it can help me address something I’ve noticed lately—quite a bit of online lamenting about the lack of opportunity for debut authors in today’s publishing climate.
It’s true, the market is very difficult. Breaking in as a debut author is incredibly hard. As well it should be.
It’s not a vast conspiracy of sinister publishing mavens plotting to keep out the riffraff. It’s simply business. It’s a smarter decision to publish more books from authors who have an established readership, and fewer books from authors who have no readership at all.
In Friday’s Wall Street Journal, literary agent Jim Levine said, “These days, you need to deliver not just the manuscript but the audience,” (a quote I am now using in some of my pass letters to explain the platform thing).
It makes sense. If you were a publisher, which of these statements would you rather be able to say about the book you were about to publish?
“There are at least 20,000 people out there looking for this author’s next book.”
“This author’s mother and his wife and kids are really excited for his book to be released.”
Hmm, that’s a tough one. You get my point. If you’re a debut author and you’re finding it difficult… it’s nothing personal and it’s not a conspiracy.
Wait. Maybe it is a conspiracy and the evil plotters simply forgot to tell me about it (since 78% of my book deals so far have been for debut authors). Drat! I hate being left out.
Q4U: As an author, does looking at market realities, and considering questions such as how most readers find their books, help you to be more realistic and business-minded (as opposed to negative and conspiracy minded) about publishing?