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Discussion Starter · #1 ·
I posted a blog about this yesterday and it got some comments going. I'd be interested to see what everyone here thinks.

Here's the original link: http://bookbrouhaha.blogspot.com/2011/05/word-of-mouth-as-it-applies-to-authors.html

And here's what my blog says:

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.
 

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That's interesting--I do recommend quite a few books by 'word of mouth,' although I *very* rarely talk about books online with friends, etc. (although I occasionally mention them on my blog). I know a lot of people who end up buying books because of friends, book clubs, etc. and I think all of those are also forms of direct personal connection about a book.

Still, you're right to say that a lot of people do learn about new books through blogs, websites, etc., and authors should be aware of that!
 

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Discussion Starter · #3 ·
Gregory Ashe said:
That's interesting--I do recommend quite a few books by 'word of mouth,' although I *very* rarely talk about books online with friends, etc. (although I occasionally mention them on my blog). I know a lot of people who end up buying books because of friends, book clubs, etc. and I think all of those are also forms of direct personal connection about a book.

Still, you're right to say that a lot of people do learn about new books through blogs, websites, etc., and authors should be aware of that!
I suppose it would greatly depend on who your friends are. Personally, most of my friends read books that are not even remotely interesting to me. So if they recommend something to me, my first gut reaction is that I'll probably hate it :D
 

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I do think some of that 'word of mouth' is now done on websites. There's a board that a read regularly that is for scrapbookers and every week they have a what have you read thread. I've found a lot of good recommendations that way and have made some. I do talk about books with certain friends that love books and we make recommendations to each other but not just generally to anyone. Some people aren't intersted and others I'm a little leery of letting them know because I knowing their stances on certain books and don't want to deal with their disapproval.
 

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I guess I'm also left out of the word-of-mouth loop for fiction. I do hear about lots of professional articles and books, but the last time anyone talked about fiction was the DaVinci Code. Occasionally someone will mention the money an author like Rowling or Patterson are making, but that's in the context of just admiring folks who have made it.

I'd be interested in hearing about the opposite of my experience.
 

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Discussion Starter · #7 ·
Terrence OBrien said:
I guess I'm also left out of the word-of-mouth loop for fiction. I do hear about lots of professional articles and books, but the last time anyone talked about fiction was the DaVinci Code. Occasionally someone will mention the money an author like Rowling or Patterson are making, but that's in the context of just admiring folks who have made it.

I'd be interested in hearing about the opposite of my experience.
Exactly. The book has to be really controversial to pop up in casual conversation.

I sometimes wonder if this is because of the sheer number of books published? I mean, yeah, there are a lot of TV shows, but usually it's pretty obvious just from watching ads which ones are "tv's number one drama/action/thriller." Not so much with books. Like, I have no idea what the hot selling fantasy author/title is right now. There's not much cross-genre traffic.
 

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Alain Gomez said:
Exactly. The book has to be really controversial to pop up in casual conversation.
This really surprises me. You guys NEVER talk about the books you read with your friends? Honestly? Ever?

Or are you mistaking "word of mouth" for "buzz"? Because they are not the same thing. (EDIT: looking back over your posts, I see you're not. Is talking about books a girl thing?)

With normal word of mouth, nobody talks about bestsellers. Why would you? Everybody has heard of them. And besides, best sellers as they exist today are an artificial construct -- pushed books, rather than pulled. "Word of mouth" is about pull. Most people talk about books they've discovered, things the other person may not have heard of. For instance, since I'm not a romance reader, I didn't realize that Georgette Heyer also wrote classic mysteries -- until a friend (who is the last person you'd expect to read a Gerogette Heyer romance) told me about them.

"Buzz" is about what Seth Godin calls a Purple Cow -- something remarkable (i.e. something that leads you to remark on it). It is a subgroup of word-of-mouth. It tends to build up and die down. Word-of-mouth in general doesn't die down (which is how I come across 70-80 year old books I'd like).

Camille
 

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Word of mouth is how I discover most authors I haven't heard of before.  Not just word of mouth either, but book in hand recs, as in people lending me actual books they'll think I'll enjoy (most of the time without me asking to borrow said books--they just hand them to me and say "I think this is something you might enjoy.") 
 

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"This really surprises me. You guys NEVER talk about the books you read with your friends? Honestly? Ever?"

Never talk about fiction. As in NEVER. It doesn't even occur to me. We do talk about books on the financial markets, government, regulations, and the impact on the markets. That's how we make our living.

All these guys read a lot, and they all have Kindles and iPads. We do talk about the technical issues of those devices, how to use them, and the jockeying for position we see among the eBook sellers. We talk about the price of fiction, but that's just more financial stuff. But nobody ever discusses fiction.

To add more to the profile, I never read a fiction review in my life until I wrote the book and started poking around Amazon. I didn't even know what was below the blurb on Amazon pages. When people here start talking about what readers do and want, it's completely foreign to my experience. What intrigues me is I don't think my experience and what I observe are at all unusual. There are lots of consumer profiles.
 

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Alain Gomez said:
I suppose it would greatly depend on who your friends are. Personally, most of my friends read books that are not even remotely interesting to me. So if they recommend something to me, my first gut reaction is that I'll probably hate it :D
THIS.
My reader friends--good friends whom I respect and admire--generally read typical girl stuff.
Like, Sookie Stackhouse books and the like.

*Shudders*

Can't handle it.

Shana
 

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[quote author=daringnovelist]
This really surprises me. You guys NEVER talk about the books you read with your friends? Honestly? Ever?
[/quote]
I might talk to a friend twice a week on a good week. Most of the people I know don't read though. Of the ones that do, I might be able to name two that read the same type of books as I do.

With the exception of maybe five series of books, I've never picked up a book because of "word of mouth."

That exception of "maybe five series" wasn't really a result of word of mouth either, to be honest. Those were just series that I saw other people reading and decided to try without speaking to them.
 

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Terrence OBrien said:
"This really surprises me. You guys NEVER talk about the books you read with your friends? Honestly? Ever?"

Never talk about fiction. As in NEVER. It doesn't even occur to me. We do talk about books on the financial markets, government, regulations, and the impact on the markets. That's how we make our living.

All these guys read a lot, and they all have Kindles and iPads. We do talk about the technical issues of those devices, how to use them, and the jockeying for position we see among the eBook sellers. We talk about the price of fiction, but that's just more financial stuff. But nobody ever discusses fiction.

To add more to the profile, I never read a fiction review in my life until I wrote the book and started poking around Amazon. I didn't even know what was below the blurb on Amazon pages. When people here start talking about what readers do and want, it's completely foreign to my experience. What intrigues me is I don't think my experience and what I observe are at all unusual. There are lots of consumer profiles.
Yes, I agree, and I suspect it's one of the reasons for "apples and oranges" discussions about what kind of marketing works. It's likely the explanation of why certain genres or flavors of book take off, maybe coming from nowhere, and others sit there.

I remember in sociology class there was this study by Japanese researchers about the spread of innovation among apes. It was, of course, a limited study of rather unnatural conditions, so drawing conclusions about all apes is wrong -- but it does illustrate how something can happen in a social system:

The researchers would leave food out to draw in chimps so they could study them, and because of this the main thing they studied was how they reacted to the food that was left out. When they would leave a new kind of food out, they discovered that most of the apes ignored it as unfamiliar. Except for the adolescent females, who would try it. If they liked it, they would give it to their mothers. The mothers would then introduce the food to their other children. The adult males were last to find out about it, and might never discover the new food at all.

While this was a source of great fun in post-feminist times, I have to assume that you would find other kinds of "innovations" working their way into the tribe through the male chimps -- and that some of them would never reach some other segment of the population. And I would have to assume there was some sort of "discoverer to influencer" path of discovery among them too.

(And I suspect the last group to find out would be the equivalent of people who don't remember how they learned about something. They just ignored it until it was ubiquitous and familiar.)

So the question comes down to how do people who read your kind of books discover them? Which, imho, starts with a question for you guys who don't talk about books with your friends:

How did you first become aware of the last ten books you read?

Camille
 

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Ryne Billings said:
I found them through Google and browsing through the Kindle Store.
Can you be more specific about Google? What did you search on? What kinds of pages did you land on which helped you learn about the book?

Did you find a blog post about the subject matter which mentioned the book? Or did you land on a sell page at Amazon? A review?

Camille
 

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R. Reed said:
I don't know anyone off-line who reads books. My co-workers are blue collar (though we actually wear white uniform shirts) and my one other friend is not a reader. My book life is online.
Word of mouth can be word of keyboard -- your online friends are still your friends, and you are still influenced by them.

Camille
 

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daringnovelist said:
How did you first become aware of the last ten books you read?
Now that I have a Kindle, I find most of my books from here, or book bloggers (Like Big Al and Doubleshot Reviews).
And of course, I love the Amazon recommendations.

Shana
 

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daringnovelist said:
Can you be more specific about Google? What did you search on? What kinds of pages did you land on which helped you learn about the book?

Did you find a blog post about the subject matter which mentioned the book? Or did you land on a sell page at Amazon? A review?

Camille
Sometimes I'd just google a sub-genre or a certain book that I liked. It helped a great deal when I landed on a certain book's TV Tropes page. You can find certain books with similar elements though there.

But to be completely honest, the only blog that I ever went to before April of this year was Joe Konrath's, and that was entirely by accident. Furthermore, I've never looked at reviews. They never factored into anything for me. I still don't look at them while I consider a book since most of them have spoilers in them.

As for my methods on Amazon... I mainly found books that I liked and used the "Customers Also Bought" widget. There were also times that I'd just do a search for something specific like "epic fantasy" or "sword and sorcery".
 

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daringnovelist said:
How did you first become aware of the last ten books you read?

Camille
I find most of my books here on the KB, although I do find some by searching by category in the Kindle store or through the Kindle recommendations for me.

Regarding word of mouth, last night I spoke at a library. I don't write YA, but the librarian there is an aspiring YA author. I couldn't resist telling her about the YA I had just finished reading. Loved it and thought she would too.
 
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