Getting Great “Word of Mouth” Advertising

There are certain books (and cars, and foods, and vacations) that somehow demand to be talked about. You know what I mean.

 

For the past couple of years, I’ve heard people talking about the hit television series Breaking Bad, which tells of a high school chemistry teacher who decides to start a meth lab. I heard enough about it, that last summer I finally decided to watch an episode—and found myself deeply hooked.

 

Obviously, as authors, all of us want to get great word of mouth advertising. It is easily the least expensive form of advertising—since it costs you nothing—and the most productive form of advertising, since it comes in the form of testimonials from people that you know, and trust, and who are more or less a lot like you.

 

So how can you get it?

 

If you look at books that have gotten great word of mouth, there are a few things that they have in common.

 

1) Story is more important than style. Most bestsellers aren’t stylistic masterpieces. Instead, the authors offer prose that is merely workmanlike. The prose doesn’t interfere with the story. Many great stylists are actually challenging to read, and their stories become opaque and obscured due to overwriting. Bestsellers on the other hand are usually easily understood.

 

2) The primary emotional draws, along with the age and sex of the protagonists, are well fitted to their audience. For example, young readers crave a sense of wonder, humor, horror, and adventure. So Harry Potter worked beautifully for them. When Dan Brown wrote The Da Vinci Code, he hit strong beats of adventure, intrigue, and horror—which worked well for a middle-aged male audience. (See my book Million Dollar Outlines for more on this.) The stronger the emotional power of the tale, the more that readers will feel the need to talk to others about it.

 

3) The story has heart. What I mean by this is that something in the tale shows that the author didn’t just write this, he or she wrote it out of love. The author has to be emotionally committed to making this work great. Tolkien loves languages and history, and it showed in his work. John Grisham loves tales about the law. I’m convinced that you need to be in love with your work, too.

 

4) The story transports the reader. It may transport them to another time or another place, but it also needs to transport the reader emotionally and intellectually, make them feel things that they want to feel, think about things that suddenly become important to them.

 

I have sometimes said that a story needs to be “remarkable.” By that I mean, that when people are in conversation and a subject comes up that is tangentially related to the tale, one of the speakers will feel compelled to say, “You know, that reminds me of.” The need to talk about a story comes about naturally when the reader has a profound emotional experience with your tale. So be remarkable!

 

 

Twenty years ago, Dave taught his legendary 318R writing class at BYU. Some of his students included Brandon Sanderson (Way of Kings), Dan Wells (I am Not a Serial Killer), and Stephenie Meyer (Twilight). Dave’s approach worked well because he put emphasis not just on writing but also on the business of writing, so that an author doesn’t waste years of his or her life by making costly career mistakes. We have a few audit seats still open where you can be a "fly on the wall" when you audit it, but we will be closing registrations soon. Click here to Learn more about the class.
Consider joining the Apex Writers Online Writing Group If you’re a highly motivated writer committed to doing what it takes to make it in the publishing world, this group is for you. With Apex, you’ll be mentored by one of the world’s most successful writing teachers, David Farland. Once you join, you’ll be given access to all Dave’s online courses and seminars, such as The Advanced Story Puzzle Writing Enchanting Prose Editing to Greatness Promising Starts Magnificent Middles Powerful Endings Publishing in 2021 And Many More—(a $2400 value) In fact, new lessons are added weekly, all designed to help you either break into the publishing industry or move you up the ladder to becoming a bestseller. You’ll even get in on Dave’s calls where you can ask your own questions and get answers. You’ll be invited to join Study Groups—to go through workshop materials, study genres, publishers, and agents Writing Groups—to critique each other’s work Accountability Groups—to help you set and meet goals Writing Rings—where you can join like-minded authors and help boost each other’s sales by advertising to one another’s fan base Our private forum where you can research topics and network Our closed Facebook Group—network with hundreds of writers. We want to help bestselling careers, and you can do that better by networking with hundreds of writers who will help you boost your signal on social media when you sell your books, train you to market your work well, and help you break into Hollywood as your sales numbers grow. JRR Tolkien and CS Lewis had the Inklings. Ernest Hemingway worked with Faulkner and Steinbeck to achieve greatness. Now it is your turn! So what are you waiting for? The annual cost for the group is only $239, and you can pay monthly. Just click here to fill out an application.

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