The Power of Word of Mouth: How to Sell Your Story!
ALL RIGHT! So you’ve finished your story, hit that beloved “The End” at the bottom of your document and sent it to the editor! Hopefully, it didn’t come back with TOO many red marks or else this process might take a bit longer than we’d expect.
So now comes quite possibly the most difficult thing you could do for your story: selling it. You’ll find that there’s no easy fixes, and one might quickly grow bored at the process or just give up entirely.
You want to publish this story. You want your baby out into the world, to see it grow and develop, to graduate from the primary school of Microsoft Word and find a good job in a literary magazine, Barnes & Noble, or Amazon (just make sure B&N and Amazon aren’t in the same room when he applies for the job!), but before it gets there, your story needs plenty of word of mouth. That’s the target you need to hit – you need to do the whole thing differently, ensure your story gets the right amount of exposure it deserves.
Simply stated, word of mouth involves you getting future readers and fans to do your advertising for you. Sounds easy enough, right?
#1 – Know Yourself
We all might write in one genre or do things a certain way that makes us all special little snowflakes, but who else knows this? Do they really consider you a commodity to be spoken about in conversations about books and upcoming fiction? Do you know how special you are? The first thing that needs to be done before you embark on your word-of-mouth quest is to know your story and preferred genre thoroughly. Some questions to ask yourself are:
- What is your story all about? (Of course you’d know this already, but how would you explain this to a newcomer to your work?)
- What are your values?
- What are you looking to do with your story and its themes?
- How can it help people? (I know it’s a weird thing to ask yourself, like it’s a product like aspirin or some other medicine, but you don’t know the power stories have on people.)
Having a fully fleshed out, in-depth knowledge about your story and its purported mission statement can help you pitch your story and its themes in a way your target audience would appreciate.
#2 – Research your competition
Each time we create something and endeavor to put ourselves out in our respective fields, we will surely encounter rivals. Being aware of your competitors is necessary to keep yourself one step ahead of the bread-line (shameless Aladdin reference). Starting out, you need to keep in mind the industry and the questions and/or issues plaguing it. It’s really important that you figure out what your potential rivals have to offer in terms of answers and potential solutions to the problem you’re aiming to solve yourself. By properly giving a careful look to the competitors, you’ll be able to figure out what they’re doing correctly as well as the pitfalls they’re fighting like hell to avoid. This gives you the chance to bolster your own defenses and mount an effective attack!
- What can you do better than them? What makes you stand out?
- How are they any different from you? How can you use this to your advantage?
- Are there any discernible weaknesses you can capitalize on?
#3 – Define your audience
Another important step to launching your word-of-mouth campaign is to understand your audience down to every painstaking little detail. Know this target group like you’d know your own children; it’ll help you determine what they do and don’t like. That way, this can help you craft your marketing strategy and pitch your story around those preferences.
Divide the audience into different “genre personas” so you can pitch your story to each of these demographics, no matter if the genre is different. When you write your themes in your story, you speak to a problem that’s very specific to a niche group; it’ll be as if you’re taking personal care to mind their issues. I believe this method would deliver an excellent image to your audience and compel them to get your story into more hands.
#4 – Embrace Exclusivity
It’s a well-known fact that people want what they can’t have. Fame, glory, the opposite sex…maybe that last part’s a little varied. But this fact is what drives this strategy. Offering an exclusive access to your story can be an effective method for implementing word-of-mouth tactics; sites like Spotify use this, as you can access the service only through invitation.
When introducing this service for your story, you should consider having influencers to try it out exclusively instead of making it available to the public. These influencers can provide a great amount of valuable feedback and invite their communities of fellow influencers to assist the service for your story. It sounds more like a product but that’s just it – your story is your product.
#5 – Find your uniqueness
For your story to become something noteworthy, something that truly stands out, there needs to be something about you that will ring true in people’s minds. You should offer something special that people want to blab about with their friends and family. If you’re just some run-of-the-mill writer like everyone who picks up a pen or sits to a laptop, your audience will push you to the back of their minds.
#6 – Build an engaged social community
Marketers immediately resort to social media to develop their fan base. A tight-knit community on social media is a necessity, in my opinion, for successful promotion of your story and other works. This is where knowing your audience comes into play; you need to understand your target audience to determine where and how they’d like to congregate online. Perhaps they like Instagram? Or they tweet like mad birds. Or Facebook appeals to them above all? Shakyra Dunn has an excellent article on the power of social media you should read.
Once you’ve picked out the proper platform (try saying that five times fast), start engaging them. This too will help you conduct research; you’ll understand how to speak to them. What kind of humor do they like to see outside of internet humor? What kind of language do they utilize?
The more people connect with you as a person as well as your story, the more likely they’re going to recommend you to others to read. That’s paramount for your campaign: to build a strong connection to your audience, and you do this by humanizing your story on social media. This’ll let your readers and fans know they’re in for a storyteller with personality.
Always seen with a pen in his hand and headphones on, T.D. McIntosh is always writing, always creating. When he’s not writing, he’s reading, studying or gaming. He’s currently working on his first YA fantasy series to entertain youths as well as the older crowd.
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