From The Mouths of Babes
Let’s talk about the most effective way to sell books. Of course there are the conventional marketing methods; various publicity angles, promotional materials, advertising, appearances, etc.
But I don’t want to talk about any of those. Social networking is what everyone is hanging their hats on these days, and is an increasing part of how all of us communicate. All good. But here’s the thing: When I see something that catches my eye, my first course of action, in an effort to suss out whether it’s actually “any good,” is to ask one of my friends if they’ve heard about it. I definitely take note when I hear about a book on twitter, a blog, etc., but it never gets me to actually buy it. What gets me off the couch is when a person I know tells me they loved (book title here) and I have to read it. Okay then. I will. In this day and age, can good old-fashioned word of mouth really still be the best way to sell books?
You betcha. What I’ve seen time and time again is this: what must happen for a book to be successful is that folks need to read the darn thing and think it’s so great that they have to tell someone else about it. Press it into their hands, as it were. Now this is interesting on a number of levels. First of all, it’s just so darn archaic that it can’t be considered anything but quaint. So that’s appealing. It’s also interesting because most people don’t take recommendations from friends about anything else. I’ll choose my own laundry detergent, car, and jeans, thank you very much.
If my best friend, sister, colleague, or someone in my book group tells me they loved a book, then I’m going to read it. The list of people that I listen to is actually pretty long. I don’t necessarily have to like their shoes, their house, their husband…they just have to have a certain sensibility that jibes with mine so that I trust their book judgment. Aaah…good book judgment. It’s just so fabulous when you know you’ve met someone with whom you enjoy talking books. It is true that most of my “book people” are women (of a certain age…ack), but it is obvious that readers of all ages and interests have a core group of people they take book recommendations from.
When authors play it smart, they reach out to a book’s core market first, with the hopes that “something catches.” That something is still one person telling the next person telling the next. Now I don’t care if they are recommending the e-book, i-book, or p-book… I firmly believe a range of formats only increases readership. But isn’t it great that in this day of electronics we still need to make that personal connection with folks to find out about a good read? The original meaning of the words “social networking,” — talking to your friends — is still the best way to move books. Square dance, anyone?