Word-of-Mouth: A Powerful Tool For Bookselling

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Word-of-mouth: the most powerful bookselling tool in any writer’s arsenal. Seriously. This is what moves books.

I got to see it in action this past weekend – and I hope to see it more in the weekend to come. In this case, it’s not so much books as theater seats. My show opened last weekend to small audiences (the largest didn’t break 30 people), but we expected that. Many shows – between high schools, community theatre troupes like ours, professional theatre, and an improv jam – meant competition for seats. But the biggest drawback to audience size on opening weekend is the lack of word-of-mouth.

I don’t understand running a show for a single week. It hardly seems worth the investment of time and energy, especially since most people won’t have even heard about it until after it’s closed.

But I digress.

As stage manager and sound operator, I watched everything from the back of the house. And it occurred to me that a lot hinges on our meager audiences going out and telling anyone and everyone who might listen how great it is.

And, yes, it’s a pretty amazing show. After more than a month of it taking over my life, I still think it’s an amazing show.

So much hinges on the size of our audience. As a theatre troupe, our goal is to make back our expenses and costs of the production. That’s it. Of course we want to bring in more than that, but it’s not always easy.

The analogy is there – and all I could think about, watching our audience grow by at least a few bodies every day.

With so many books on offer, how do they sell? Browsing is hit-or-miss, but I feel fairly safe in saying we’ve all bought books based on someone’s recommendation. We use other factors, too, of course, but if I’m deciding between a couple books, I’ll generally pick the one I’ve heard (good things) about.

By the same token, I’d bet a bad review has made us all put down a book we might have otherwise bought. What we’ve heard makes a world of difference.

So if you love a book or an author, tell anyone who will listen. Leave reviews on Goodreads or Amazon, plug it on social media. Consider it good karma.

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