Word of Mouth*

*OR “Introspective Thoughts I had while driving a LONG way to my favorite Thai place”

I’ve been talking to several people recently regarding the idea of “Word of Mouth”, and how it works. Does Word of Mouth join with publisher investment to make a success, or can it really turn a little or lesser known book into a star?

Here’s my thought.

A lesser-known, or lesser-publicized, book is like a hole-in-the-wall restaurant. If there’s a small restaurant, but the food is AMAZING, you will go out of your way to eat there. If it’s SUPERB, you will tell people. The small restaurant has obstacles to overcome – maybe it’s location isn’t ideal, or it isn’t getting the media attention – but it overcomes them by the strength of its content, its food.

Similarly, if you read a book, regardless of whether you’ve heard of it a zillion times, or stumbled on it, and you LOVE LOVE LOVE the book, you will talk about it. You will recommend it. You will hand-sell it. You will want to share it with others.

So the basic idea, in my perhaps-naive opinion, is that GREAT (sometimes not always good books, but GREAT ones) will (most often) get talked about. They’ll get shared. It might be a slow burn, a whisper growing into a chatter and into a shout, but they will get spoken of.

The best thing a writer can do, if they’re worried they won’t get enough push (the vast majority don’t) is to write the BEST EFFING BOOK they possibly can. Because bad books are many, and good books are plentiful (most of the ones that get massive buzz are in one of these two categories) but the GREAT books are few, and they DO stand out.

SO push yourself. Don’t try to write up to the par of the books around you. Try to go beyond. Try to make it always harder. Try to make it better. Don’t settle. If you settle for GOOD, then understand that there is a sea of GOOD. It’s an achievement just to float in that sea, of course, but if you can find a way above the water, you’ll get seen.


8 thoughts on “Word of Mouth*

  1. My word-of-mouth plug is YOU, by Charles Benoit. Totally awesome.

    And thanks for the great advice: just write a great freaking book!

    • veschwab says:

      I have that book! It’s coming up on my to-read list!

      And when you put it that way, it sounds like stressful, BAD advice. I think what I’m TRYING to say is that if we, as writers, took some/most of the energy we channel into WORRYING and focused instead on just WRITING THE BEST BOOK WE ARE CAPABLE OF, we’d be better served.

      • Oh, sorry for the wrong impression! I mean to sound invigorated, not stressed. I agree wholeheartedly that writers need to focus on their own craft and not on the other ten thousand distracting things our field is saturated with.

        And seriously, YOU knocked my socks off.

  2. Michele Shaw says:

    Great post! I agree–write your heart out, give it your all!

    • veschwab says:

      Precisely. I always give the simplest advice on here, I feel. Like the “DUH!” advice. But everyone else it seems is taking care of the more complicated stuff. I just think we get so swept up in sales and publicity that we get distracted from the one thing IN OUR CONTROL: the quality.

  3. Great article and sound thoughts and insights! Keep up the great…I mean Superb work!!!!


    • veschwab says:

      Haha, thank you! There was a time I thought I would write long, uber-insightful posts, and plan them, and be all “authorly”…and then I decided I would just post whenever I had a random thought/note of personal importance. Because maybe it’s not as articulate and brilliant as some of my fellow writers, but at least then it’s true to me.

  4. Jess says:

    I agree, absolutely. As a reader, it doesn’t matter ultimately what a book’s buzz is. I’ve been disappointed by some NYT bestselling books with huge buzz this year. But books I love, I’ll rave about and share with all my friends. My 3 favorites this year so far are Anna & the French Kiss, Fire, and The Sky Is Everywhere.

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