Authorguy's Blog

Word of mouth and you

Posted on: June 21, 2010


This is the part that readers have to play in the great game of publishing.  It sometimes gets lost, what with all the hype about Oprah, and the movies that get made, and once upon a time The NYT Book Review page.  All of these groups would like you to think that they are the arbiters of taste for the book-reading public, a small and select group of people who know what’s good.

But that’s a crock.

The biggest advertising a book can get is the endorsement of those who have read it.  Sales figures don’t really measure that, since they are usually jiggered by the publishers to make a book look like it sells better than it does.  Sales figures are usually sales from the publisher to the store, not from the store to the reader.

I have read every book my publisher makes, even though they are not in the genre I happen to like and write in, which is fantasy.  Why?  Because she published me, and I definitely like my stories (Unbinding the Stone and A Warrior Made, in case you don’t already know).  This leads me to think her tastes are like mine, so I read other books.  Guess what?  Her tastes are like mine, and her books are about characters and the things they do, not about things that get done with an occasional mention of the cardboard cutouts who did them.  This is a story I will want to read, and probably will enjoy, in spite of the fact that it’s a mystery or a romance instead of a fantasy novel.

So when people come to me looking for a book recommendation, I can make one, and I always preface it with the caveat, “These are the books that I like, and this is why I like them.” I do this for a number of reasons, among which are the fact that I am a published author and want you to read my books.  If I can’t get you to read my books, I would very much like you to try some of the other books I know, because I’m an extraordinarily nice person and think that these books are worth being read and am willing to talk them up to anybody who asks.  I’m even willing to talk them up to people who don’t ask.

There’s the rub.  Lots of people don’t ask, and most people are waiting for the request before they offer the opinion.  (I don’t, but I’ve had to work at it.)  It’s really quite remarkable what people will do if they are simply asked to do it.  I’ve often been told that such-and-such people are very selfish, but when I go and ask them for something they are remarkably forthcoming.  Then I conclude that the original opinion was given to me by someone who had never asked.  It’s like there’s a rule that asking is an admission of some kind of weakness.  Maybe it is, but it’s not as if NOT asking is going to make you any stronger.  Ignorance is not cured by hiding it.

Fortunately, we have lots of places now that are like perpetual questions.  Goodreads has quite a few groups for readers, and nearly every group had a thread on “What are you reading now?” or “What are your favorites?”  Many new threads are started by people looking for recommendations who haven’t read the old threads.  Amazon has reviews for the books it sells right on the page.  If you read it and liked it, SAY SO.

We, the authors of the world, will thank you.  And we’ll write more books just like those.

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