by Bonita Y. McCoy
When you think about word-of-mouth marketing, you might envision the office water cooler where everyone stands around catching up on the latest shows or current events. A place where someone might say, “Hey, have you read Ted Dekker’s book? It’s great.”
Though this is word of mouth, it’s not exactly what is meant by word-of-mouth marketing. At the water cooler, you don’t have any control over the topic. People might talk about your book, or they might talk about what’s for lunch in the cafeteria.
So, I’d like to take the ‘might’ out of the equation.
Here are five tactics that will help grow your readership and create your network of influencers to spread the word about your next book.
- Direct Mailing: There is a lot to be said for the personal touch. Deb Haggerty in her workshop at the Blue Ridge Mountain Christian Writers Conference pointed out the importance of thank you notes and nice to meet you notes, to people you connect with at networking events.
A mailed note to the person is best, but if all you have is their email, then send a message that way. The point is to keep the connection alive, and the door open for future contact. In doing this, you will add to your list of influencers, beta readers, and writing buddies.
Postcards with the book cover on the front are also an effective way to use direct mailing. These are great to announce to friends and family that your book is out. A colorful card addressed to the individual will make a bigger impression than a post to no one in particular on Facebook.
With Direct Mailing, start with the those you know and build from there. It does take more time, but the personal touch will turn the fans on your mailing list into super fans.
- Reviews: Set aside a number of books to give to readers in return for an honest review. The key here is an honest review. Never pay for a review. If you’re just starting out, remember to get reviews from those outside your family circle. They will carry more weight.
In business terms, a review is a referral, so make it a habit to ask readers to write one. It will influence future customers who are trying to decide between your book and the one next to it.
- Create an Author Partnership: The idea here is to gather a group of authors who write in your genre and pool your influence and readership.
Several writers have done this with blogs, but another way to use a group like this is to add excerpts from one writer’s novel in the back of another’s.
Traditional publishers use to do this all the time. They would market the author’s upcoming release in the back of the current work and then have an excerpt from a new or lesser known author there as well. By doing this, you’ve given another author a chance with your readership, and you’ve given your vote of confidence. My only warning: be familiar with the other author’s work.
Then when that author’s book comes out, it’s their turn to host your excerpt from an upcoming title.
- Street Teams: This is a team of friends, family, and fans who are willing to read your book, share about it on social media once a week for a month or so, and give an honest review. Some authors hold book launches with their street teams. Others provide their teams with swag like bookmarks, postcards, or even tee-shirts with the book’s title and cover on it.
These teams can be set up locally or the author may choose to set several up in different cities to widen the sphere of influence.
Street teams are a great way to involve others in the behind the scenes activities of your writing life. They are extremely valuable, so treat them with respect and a great deal of generosity. The more you give; the more you get.
- Share and Share Alike: Social Media runs on likes, shares, and comments. If you want social media to work for you, create real connections.
We have all seen the posts where the only time you hear from that friend is when he or she has something to sell you. In author circles, that something is their book. Don’t be that friend.
Share other people’s work, pictures, funny comments, and they will share yours. Like those shots of the pig in the tutu and pass them on. Make real connections with real people, and when you announce that your book is coming out, they will be the first to congratulate you and share it.
Word-of-mouth marketing is all about people. As professionals, we should treat others with respect and try to be others-oriented. It’s not about what others can do for us, but rather, what we can do for them. If you use these strategies with others in mind, you’ll not only find success; you’ll find satisfaction. And who knows maybe it’ll be your book being discussed at the water cooler.
Writing Prompt: Make a list of potential Street Team members, then construct an upbeat email to send to them, or write three thank you notes to friends and family who support your writing.