Mouthing Off: The Importance of Word of Mouth to Debut Authors

big_mouth_smile1218755919This post originally appeared earlier this week at Blogging Authors. Please visit their site for more great posts on writing.

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 the local book store.

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 the Indie publishers, which in 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 fortune 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 talk 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 twenty 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 shuttering 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 a fun, engaged audience 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.

About Kimberly Packard

Kimberly Packard is an award-winning author of women’s fiction. She began visiting her spot on the shelves at libraries and bookstores at a young age, gazing between the Os and the Qs. Kimberly received a degree in journalism from the University of North Texas, and has worked in public relations and communications for nearly 20 years. When she isn’t writing, she can be found rollerblading, doing a poor imitation of yoga or curled up with a book. She resides in North Texas with her husband Colby, Oliver the cat and a 75-pound lap dog named Charlie. Her debut novel, Phoenix, was awarded as Best General Fiction of 2013 by the Texas Association of Authors.
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4 Responses to Mouthing Off: The Importance of Word of Mouth to Debut Authors

  1. sfnowak says:

    Back in college marketing class they used to say that a customer who had a bad experience would share it with 11 others, who each in turn would share it with 11 others, EACH. Good news was not as broad. However, these days newspapers are dying, Internet news is rapidly becoming irrelevant because it’s mainly hype and commentary with very little journalism. In the meantime, publishers are changing the contract terms and many writers are e-publishing.

    Word of mouth and social websites – an extension of word of mouth to a larger audience – is becoming more powerful.

    Good article!

    Steve

  2. Kimberly Packard says:

    Thank you, Steve! You’re right, people rarely take the time to tell everyone how pleased they are with something but won’t think twice about complaining. That’s why it’s so important for readers to take a moment to even rate a book. One little rating goes a long way.

    Thank you for commenting! Have a good evening!
    Kim

  3. Awesome article Kim. Thinking about it is a bit overwhelming for me. Watching and reading what you have gone through is invaluable 🙂 Thank you for sharing!

    • Kimberly Packard says:

      My pleasure, Jennifer! I’m saving my notes to share when you’re doing all your publicity! 🙂

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