Word of mouth as it applies to authors

A term authors (or any self-employed person) love to throw around is "word of mouth."  That golden moment when books just start to sell themselves because they have taken on a life of their own.

But is it really "word of mouth"?  I mean, be honest, how often do you bring up books in daily conversation?  Do you highly recommend to your friends every book you really enjoyed?  I'm sorry to say that I don't.  Lots of things factor into a book recommendation.  For one thing, I have to think about it at the time.  For another, the friend or family member I'm talking to has to share the same taste in books.

Way back when, people used to talk about books the way we talk about TV shows.  "Word of mouth" was definitely how an author got exposure.  But I would say the more accurate term these days is "word on the internet."  Sad, but true.  I would argue that an author can be extremely successful by simply being an internet presence alone and never having a single live person recommend their book to another live person.

From a marketing perspective, this is very important to keep in mind.  Everything that you do online as an author is your modern day "word of mouth."  Of course, live referrals do certainly help things.  But it's important to realize that you're not just an internet profile you can hide behind.


  1. Alain, you make a good point.
    In a very real sense, our Internet profiles are who we REALLY are, in terms of our "brand."

    (Although I hate that term, "brand.")

    On the other hand, I DO still talk books with my friends and co-workers that are fellow readers. But in all honesty, I know fewer readers than non-readers.

    Shana Hammaker

  2. Add to that, most of the readers that I know do not own e-readers. The e-reader market is still a very new, very small percentage of the number of readers out there.

    So if only 1 out of every 10 friends reads books electronically, your internet presence is really the thing that makes the sales.

  3. These are valid thoughts. I rarely hear people mention books.

  4. It's just such a marked difference between books and movies. Movies you can casually bring up in everyday conversation with a stranger at a party. Even if they haven't seen the movie there's a good chance they've heard about it.

    Books, on the other hand, are just a different animal. They aren't really advertised to the extent that movies are. Plus, there's just so many more selections. The chances of two people having read the same new-release book are much slimmer.


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