Wednesday, September 13, 2006

The Power of Word of Mouth

Word of mouth marketing or buzz is one of those intangibles to establish or orchestrate.  Many people would like to initiate word of mouth marketing. As people are talking about your book, it can lead to book sales and eventually getting on the bestseller list.  Some people take months to build this word of mouth experience. It’s why some books have been in print for several years before they show up on a bestseller list.  Some books have sold substantial copies and been in print for years—but have never been on any bestseller list. The bestseller list isn’t the only indicator of the book sales—but it is one indicator.

Buzz or word of mouth interest doesn’t necessarily translate into book sales. Over the last few days, I was talking with an editor in another publishing house. I inquired about the sales of a particular author. Across the blogsphere, this author has been much touted for their visibility.  During a single day in recent months, the book was near the top of Technorati beating out some other popular best-selling books. Yet I’ve never seen this author nor his book on any bestseller list.  Is the book selling? It’s where the rubber meets the road for the author and the publisher.  This editor friend admitted the sales numbers for this book were lack luster—nothing to talk about or tout. So what made the difference? You had a great deal of buzz or word of mouth about a book yet few book sales. It looks like everyone spun their wheels if it didn’t translate into sales.

As I’ve talked with a few people about this situation, here’s my conclusion—the difference is in the craft of storytelling and writing a good book. Now some books beat this difference too. You get the book, read it and wonder how it managed to get published—yet there was huge buzz and word of mouth talk about the book.  In the long run, I believe it comes down to craft and quality of writing. The authors who can communicate, tell good stories and write good books, will last—provided they get the right marketing push and other factors. It isn’t just one thing that makes a book successful but a number of factors working in harmony.

Womma-logoDuring the last week, I’ve learned about the Word of Mouth Marketing Association or womma. (Thank you, Vicki) I’ve looked around this site a bit and noticed that some companies like Zondervan Publishing House are members. They have some interesting material and pages to download from their members. I’ve added their newsletters to some material that I read on a regular basis in hopes to learn something interesting. Here’s what I did not find in this material—how to translate the word of mouth buzz about a product into actual sales.  I suspect there isn’t a single answer to this question—just more learning ahead.

4 Comment:

At 2:19 PM, Blogger Jerome Left a note...

Terry, good post about book publicity/marketing. I had a similar post today about my efforts with The Election. An entertaining story and word-of-mouth marketing are both extremely critical to a book's success.

At 1:33 AM, Blogger Mary DeMuth Left a note...

This was an interesting post, Terry. Thanks so much. I agree, there has to be both. If you look at the phenomenal blog buzz of "Snakes on a Plane," you'd think millions would flock to that movie. But, it didn't translate into people seeing the movie. Why? Because it wasn't a quality film. Word of mouth has to have something to back it up...In other words, there has to be truth behind the buzz.

At 7:58 AM, Blogger Trish Ryan Left a note...

Good point. I went to an author reading this week simply because of buzz (this author does a hysterical dance at the beginning of her appearance that I just had to see). But I bought her book because, from what I saw on Amazon.com and her blog, she can really write.

So maybe that's our answer...in between all our buzz generating, we need to up our game in terms of the quality of writing we put out there.

At 9:42 AM, Blogger R. K. Mortenson Left a note...

Hmm...I've an inkling which book you're talking about (no, not mine, my book(s) haven't been buzzed much lately).

Personally, I'm beginning to equate "buzz" more with "hype", and less with "word-of-mouth" these days. Buzz and hype can be generated, to an extent, by a publisher, publicist, and the author. Anyone on the book-producing side of things.

Word-of-mouth comes from booksellers and, best of all, readers. Buzz and hype can get wind of a book to this side, the consumer side, but only word-of-mouth will truly carry it from there.

I'd heard a lot of buzz/hype about a recent ABA book, THE BOOK THIEF. And THEN I began hearing the magical and elusive word-of-mouth following its release. It worked, for me, and I bought the book. And it is an amazing read. I think it surpasses its own hype.

I'd also heard and read a lot of hype/buzz about a recent release called ENDYMION SPRING (a juvenile fantasy). The premise sounded awesome. I'd had the title on my list for a year. But then...I've heard no word of mouth about it, and when it showed up in stores I took a look at the opening chapter, and disappointedly set it back on the shelf. In this case, the book doesn't seem to live up to the hype. IMHO.

Looking farther back, Harry Potter and Lemony Snicket both came onto the scene fairly quietly (almost silently compared to the surrounding fanfare now). In both cases, word-of-mouth took off (not exceedingly quickly with Snicket, but over time as the series grew) and launched these books into the heights of mega sales stratosphere.

Fascinating stuff. Love it. (Shameless buzz bit: Landon Snow #3 releases in two weeks! Spread the word!)


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