The Ribbon Marker’s Guide to Effective Reader Entrapment
How to successfully get me, and many other readers out there, to buy your book.
2. Word of Mouth (WOM)
We would all like to think that we are above peer-pressure, and the being influenced by the thoughts of others, but the fact is we only allow those who we think are worthy of having input into what we do and say. I, personally, don’t hang out with a lot of readers who like the same genres I enjoy. Most of my friends go for more mainstream, highly publicized books or classics. However, I, like many other book readers, love talking about books, even if we are not talking about books in our preferred genre (the book club phenomena).
For about half a year, I asked my friends’ opinions on Fifty Shades of Grey. I was wasn’t really inquiring about the writing style or the way the story unfolded, but I wanted to know what my friends thought about E.L. James’ portrayal of the BDSM lifestyle. I am not a practitioner of the lifestyle (though I wouldn’t mind if my lover required some aspects), but I have a profound respect for those who do and I didn’t like feeling that their lifestyle, in essence who they, might not have been correctly portrayed (I dislike people who criticize things they don’t even make an effort to understand). Finally, after a year of opinion gathering, vacillating, and reading short excerpts of the books online, I finally bit the bullet and read the books shortly before the movie came out on Valentine’s Day.
BDSM books are one of the few times where I feel that authors should really take their time to do their research, because it is such a polarizing concept. People are either going to get it and identify with those who practice BDSM, be open-minded (it’s not for me, but whatever flips your switch), or want to condemn it as being sick or the sexual practices of people with issues. From the media frenzy, I felt like E.L. James walked right into an ambush set-up by those in the last category. By only portraying the more interesting or extreme aspects of BDSM (extreme control, contracts, punishment, etc.), and having the character who introduced it into the relationship having been an abused and neglected control-freak (opposite the virginal goody-two shoes), she basically gave the intolerant people a leg to stand on. These individuals’ wouldn’t waste their time in researching BDSM, because they already “know” that their current, uneducated opinion is correct.
The point is that all the hype or “buzz” about a book I would not have otherwise wanted to read (not so much for the uber tortured MC and the belief that an abused person can suddenly turn a corner that quickly), got me to not only read the books, but also to watch the movie (major $$ for E.L. James).
Word of mouth (good and bad) is a powerful tool which authors can use to generate and leverage reader interest. Polarizing books or topics will draw-in people who want to form their own opinions on such a popular topic. Good WOM has the ability to get reader, who wouldn’t ordinarily read that genre or the author, to take a chance on both. If the reader feels that the positive WOM and their own opinions of the book coincide, then the reader will: continue to explore the new genre or author; be willing to listen to further WOM from the trusted source who opened their world to new opportunities; and be excited to share their favorite books, authors, and genres with their friends, in the hopes they will like it (or at the least be willing to sneak-in their preferred genre in the book club selection pool).
WOM isn’t limited to literal, in person word of mouth. With the web at their fingertips, dedicated readers can share their favorite books, series, and authors with a larger audience (not limited to just friends). Electronic-WOM (e-WOM) is particularly relevant in the publishing industry, as the internet gives readers more access to books and authors. The reverse is also true; authors and publishers have more access to readers, enabling them to build relationships with their readers and have more accurate market research and shopping trends (something Amazon has mastered).
At the end of the day WOM mouth is what keeps new readers coming to both new, and old releases. A trusted friend sharing that they really like the newest book in your series, might just lead to all their friends picking up the first book in that particular series. And if your content pulls through, you can turn each new reader into an advocate for your books, who recommends you as an author, or your books to others. The the most frequent for of e-WOM used by readers are book reviews, a topic discussed later on in The Ribbon Marker’s Guide to Effective Reader Entrapment series.