Mouthing Off: The Importance of Word-of-Mouth to Debut Authors
Guest Post by Kimberly Packard
If you’ve just returned home from a long stint on a desert island, welcome home. Let me get you up to speed: Dallas is back, but our beloved J.R. is gone; we still don’t have flying cars; and Lady Gaga was not a figment of our imagination. And, if you’ve just returned and you’re a writer: everything you knew about publishing before has changed. Drastically.
Just a few years ago, debut authors with a marketing budget relied on their publishing houses to send them on whirlwind media tours to do guest appearances on morning talk shows, lunch with book reviewers from the daily papers and spend their evenings meeting adoring fans at local book stores.
Sure, some debut authors do still have the opportunity for this jet-setting lifestyle, but your chances of winning the lottery and getting swept off your feet by a prince are much greater. The industry consolidation has fueled the rise of Indie publishers, which in-and-of itself has major potential for up and coming authors, but the downside is the lack of the blockbuster budget.
So, what’s a debut author with an Indie publishing house to do?
The answer is easy. Mouth off.
I’m not talking about the kind of mouthing off that would get you chomping down on a bar of soap. I mean word of mouth. I consider myself to be one of the fortunate Indie authors. When I signed my contract for my debut novel Phoenix with Goodmedia Press late last year, I not only had a marketing-savvy publisher in my corner, but I also brought to the table many years of marketing and PR experience. But, the hurdle I had to get over was thinking of myself as the client, and give myself the advice given to my clients.
Think about the last time you heard about a good book. How did you find out about it? Perusing a book store? Maybe, if there is one within a 20-mile radius. Clicking through an online bookstore? Sure, but where to start? A trusted friend? More than likely, you’ll agree with this.
In the PR world, we tell clients that word of mouth is invaluable—both negative and positive. But, for the
sake of this blog, we’re going to focus on the positive, because we all wrote Pulitzer-worthy novels, right?
Think about Facebook. You may see an ad for a product and chances are, you scroll right past it. But, you’re best friend from high school posts something about the same product and raves about how it changed her life. What do you do? Run right out to the store and buy it.
Books are no different, and in a changing industry where bookstores are closing Indie authors must rely on word of mouth publicity to get their names out there. So, easily said, but how do you do it?
Find your talkers. Think about the conversations you’ve had with your hairdresser, your nail tech, your neighbor. Have books ever come up? If so, give them a copy of your book and don’t be afraid to ask to spread the word if they enjoyed it.
Book clubs are also invaluable tools for spreading word of mouth awareness for your work. I’ve spoken to two since Phoenix came out, and both times I had fun, engaged audiences that wanted to talk about the characters that I love—and turns out they love as well. And the best thing about book clubs, they talk to their non-book club friends about what they’ve read.
On the Interwebs, you can use sites such as Goodreads.com to help spread the word. For no cost, Goodreads will give away copies of your book to their community of readers. Not only is this helpful for getting new eyes—and hopefully new reviews—but it’s great for having your book added to several “to-read” shelves.
Don’t hop that next flight back to the deserted island yet!
Yes, the world is changing for authors, but what it does is give greater control to the author of his or her marketing, which, in turns, makes the authors more accessible to the readers. It can be a bit daunting, but once you start meeting people and realizing that the characters and story you labored over has resonated with them, it makes it worth all the throat lozenges and tea and honey concoctions from all the talking you’ll be doing.
Kimberly Packard is the author of Phoenix, a novel of three people tied together by two crimes committed 10 years and thousands of miles apart. Phoenix is published by Dallas-based Indie publishing house Goodmedia Press, and is available through Amazon, Barnes and Noble and iBooks. Read Kimberly’s blog I Make Stuff Up at www.kimberlypackard.com, follow her on Facebook or Twitter.