Ever wonder how trends get started? As much as we'd like to think that all trends are Madison Avenue creations propagated by the media, many times a movement is sparked by the action of a few. Then word of mouth makes it spread. Author Malcolm Gladwell examines this phenomenon in his 2000 book "The Tipping Point". There's a chapter where he describes how this kind of movement by a few groups powered Rebecca Wells's 1996 novel, "Divine Secrets of the Ya-Ya Sisterhood", to surprising success. When I read that I sat up and took notice. I realized I could use the same concepts to market my first novel, "All I Need to Get By". You can too! Here's how.
1.) Write Your Book So It's "Sticky"
Don't compromise your artistic integrity, but do ask yourself the hard question: how much will your story appeal to others? When a book is "sticky", it's easy to remember. The story stays with people and they want to talk about it and tell others to read it. "Bridget Jones's Diary" is definitely sticky. So is practically everything that Stephen King ever wrote and all of the Harry Potter books. The topic doesn't have to be upbeat either. Truman Capote's "In Cold Blood" was a sensation when it was published despite its grim subject matter. Since I was writing about a family with a powerful father figure I knew a lot of people would connect and see themselves in the characters. What aspect of your book will draw people in?
2.) Be a Salesman
Yes, be a salesman, but not in the way you might think. I'm not talking about being "in your face" like the stereotype of a used car salesman. As Mr. Gladwell points out in his book, it's the little things that can persuade others. For a writer, that "little thing" is confidence and a strong belief in one's work. I recently spoke to a writer having a hard time feeling confident about her work. She's trying to get up the courage to submit a manuscript to agents and publishers but, as I said to her, "How can someone get behind publishing your book if you can't get behind it yourself?"
People are attracted to a person who stands for something, who believes in what they're doing. If you can be that person, people will want to buy your book. They'll know you have something to say. If you're dealing with low confidence, know that working on improving it is just as important as improving your craft as a writer. After all, no one is going to champion your book the way that you can.
3.) Use Small Groups To Spark Your Big "Epidemic"
In the fertile soil of small groups, word of mouth grows. That's what happened with "Divine Secrets of the Ya-Ya Sisterhood". It became a favorite for book groups, especially mother-daughter book groups. Those groups sparked a word of mouth wave that spread like wildfire. As Mr. Gladwell points out, "small, close-knit groups have the power to magnify the epidemic potential of a message or idea". I explored this concept with some success by contacting book groups across the country and offering to visit them if they read my novel. What groups can you reach out to in order to harness the power of those circles? And how can you fan the flame of your message so it will spread?
One Last Note: Why is all this important? Well, if you've gone through all the trouble to write and publish a book, your efforts won't stand up if you don't tell people the book is out there. And the concepts offered by Mr. Gladwell are so simple and organic that you may find the whole marketing pill easier to swallow. So take it--it's good medicine.
© 2005 Sophfronia Scott