Marketing series: the power of word-of-mouth and why we need quality control

I’ve talked about the power of word-of-mouth in another post about social media influencers. The reach of social media influencers extends beyond just their audience. Their reach goes to the friends of their audience. This reach is transmitted by word-of-mouth. If a social media influencer recommends, say a book, not only will their audience consider reading it, but so will  their friends. If those friends like the book, they will recommend it to their friends and so on. This is how word-of-mouth advertising works. People talk about your book and make recommendations. Usually word-of-mouth marketing is positive, but it can also work against you. 

If a reader doesn’t like your book, they will discourage others from reading  it. Negative word-of-mouth can kill your sales and become integrated into your brand. Then you become  the author who writes bad books. This will affect your current and future projects. 

So, how do you  ensure good word-of-mouth marketing? Make sure the quality of your products, your books, are the best that you can make them. How do you do that?  For other products, you would look at quality assurance procedures, like car insurance. For a book, you hire editors.  To a lot of authors, editing seems like an activity that you do once or twice, and then you’re done. Maybe you make sure your commas are in the right places , or that you’re using the correct verb tense. But there is more to editing than punctuation and grammar.   As an indie author, you are the publisher, which means you control everything. You are the only one who can judge whether what you are selling is the best possible quality you can make it.

In traditional publishing (or corporate publishing), there are as gatekeepers. Agents, editors marketing teams, cover designers, the list goes on. These people are part of the quality control for traditional publishing. Having them may not always mean everything that comes out of a traditional publisher is good, nonetheless, a quality control system exists to ensure publishers are doing their best. As indie creatives, we only have ourselves. In order to ensure quality of our  products, we sometimes have to take off the creative hat to put on the publisher hat and think in terms of the salability of our product, meaning you’ve created something readers want.   

How do you replicate these gatekeepers to ensure salability? Let’s look at how the gatekeepers function. In traditional publishing, before you sell the book, you have to pitch the story to agents. Thus, you will likely face a lot of rejection. When you finally secure a contract, the agent  will likely suggest several rounds of revisions before they send it out on submission, meaning they pitch it to editors at publishing houses. An editor then has to pick up the book, advocate for that book to the marketing team and so on. Then the book goes through multiple editors, proofreaders, and formaters.   These editors look at everything from grammar, to story structure, to character development, and to dialogue. In order to produce a quality product as an indie author, you should try to replicate that process by having multiple people look at your work and give you suggestions on how to improve it. You don’t have to incorporate every idea, but it’s a good idea to consider them all, as they might help you better define your target audience and increase the salability of your work, therefore increasing your chances of positive word-of-mouth marketing. 

How to support Indie Writers!

Support indie writers by not only buying their books, but also leaving reviews. More so than traditionally published authors, indie writers depend on reviews. Help indie stories find their homes. Thank you and peace and joy to you!

Edited and Updated February 3, 2021

©2020, 2021 Michelle Raab, PhD. All rights reserved.

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3 thoughts on “Marketing series: the power of word-of-mouth and why we need quality control

  1. Fantastic post. I think this is one of the most valuable lessons authors can learn – as well as one of the edges that indie publishing has over traditional publishing.
    So much of the marketing advice I’ve read regarding books recommends a ‘scatter gun’ type approach, trying to get the word out to EVERYONE and ANYONE. But while you might attract some readers who’ll love your work, it’s inevitable that you’ll also attract many who don’t. Traditional publishers, aiming to create mega bestsellers, make the same mistake.
    Personally, I think I’d rather find a handful of readers who love my work – and hopefully recommend it to others – than a huge horde who hate it (and maybe warn others off it!)!

    1. I find that most indies are interested in niche markets, which requires different strategies than what traditional publishers employ.

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