The Power of Word of Mouth

So before on this site, I’ve spoken about how studies have found that the most effective way to get people to check out a book (and buy it) is not reviews from websites (though those are some of the most effective, hence why so many sell reviews), and not advertising on web-pages and other places, but word of mouth.

Well, yesterday there was a chance to put that idea to the test. If you swung by the site yesterday, you saw a blog post asking readers to swing by a Reddit subreddit discussion looking for good indie Sci-Fi authors and books. I brought it to the site’s attention and asked readers who enjoyed my work to head on over and say something.

Some of you did, and all I can say is THANK YOU.

Okay, I can actually say more than that. Because I can also tell you how impactful that was. See, I can see sales in near real-time. Within an hour of a few of you dedicated, awesome fans posting recommending Colony, sales for the day quintupled.

That’s right, they went up by a factor of five.

That, readers, is the power of word of mouth. Of someone telling someone else about a book. Word of mouth is quite literally the most powerful way to get a book out there.

Advertising? It’s expensive, and worse, gauged so that the return is just barely worth it (look for a full post on that soon). If you want to make $100 in book sales, you’re going to need to spend at least $50, often closer to $90, ending with a net gain of $10. This isn’t an exaggeration, by the way.

Reviews? They might bring in viewers, but a lot of places charge for the privilege (despite it being against a lot of terms of service with booksellers) and people know that on some level. Reviews from big outlets help, but at the end of the day?

It’s people talking about a book that really make it work. We’re surrounded by advertising of all forms, and we’ve gotten really good at tuning it out. Paid commercial for something? We shrug and move on.

But someone else talking about something and how they liked it? That’s not a paid ad: That’s another person talking about something they enjoyed. The more casual the interaction is, the more weight we put behind their words. They’re not being paid to tell us about something. They’re telling us because they enjoyed it.

That’s the power of word of mouth. That’s why yesterday, when a few of you headed on over to the subreddit and posted (three that I could see), sales quintupled over their daily average for this week, and within hours.

That’s the power you readers have, simply by talking to people about books. On social media. On forums. In person.

Word of mouth is the most powerful advertising there is.

I (and any other author) can pay for advertising. And it’ll show a small but simple return. We can beg places to review our books, or buckle under and pay them for one (I still refuse to do that). But at the end of the day, what has the biggest impact on whether or not we succeed or fail is you. The readers. If an author cannot make a big enough impact on their reading base that their readers talk about their work … they’re very likely doomed to failure.

So again, thank you to those of you who headed over and recommended my works. As I said, quintupling. Five times the daily normal. Within a few hours.

Readers, you hold a lot of power in your hands. The books you talk about, the books you choose to tell others about … It plays a heavy part in determining whether or not an author sinks or swims.

Please use it well.

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