Maximizing Your Romance Novel’s Reach through Word of Mouth
It’s no secret that book recommendations carry significantly more weight than other methods readers use to discover books. HubSpot reports that 75% of people don’t believe advertisements, yet 90% trust suggestions from family and friends, and 70% trust consumer reviews.
Look at the BookTube and BookTok influence on reading. I can’t tell you how many books I’ve bought because I saw them recommended online. Colleen Hoover is a prime example of the sales word-of-mouth can creat. In 2022, Colleen Hoover books outsold the Bible. When asked about her success, she reported, “It’s not me. The readers are controlling what is selling right now.” (New York Times article)
Even better, recommendations are free, making word-of-mouth the best way to promote your book. The challenge is how to get readers talking about your book?
Get the Basics Right
Like all marketing strategies, there are a few basics you need in place to build word-of-mouth marketing success.
What You Offer:
1. A quality book. This goes beyond a great story, to include professional packaging that attracts readers. That means editing, professional cover design, and a blurb that creates interest and excitement.
2. A way for people to find you. Of course, being available for sale on Amazon and/or other retailers is a big part of this. But beyond that, readers need to find you via a website and social media.
3. A way to engage with you. Today’s consumers like to interact with businesses (as an author, you’re a business). They want to be heard and feel involved with you. Social media and an email list both help you achieve this.
Your Ideal Reader:
Once you have your product, a place to buy it, and a way to connect with you, you need to find your readers. To do that:
1. Know who your ideal reader is. The romance market is HUGE, but not all romance readers like all types of romance books. I don’t read much historical romance. I hate the secret child trope (I feel awful for the father and can’t get over how much time he’s lost with his child). Many readers will consume a variety of romance subgenres, while others stick to just one. Find out who is the reader for your book.
2. Find out where your ideal reader is at. TikTok is the place to be for millennial romance readers. There’s just no getting around it unless TikTok is banned in the U.S. Of course, millennials aren’t the only readers out there. You’ll find an older demographic on Facebook.
But social media isn’t your only resource for finding readers. What does your ideal reader read or where does she go to learn about romance books? Blogs? Podcasts? The bookstore? Book events?
3. Appeal to the reader when you find them. Once you know where the reader is, you need to go there and put something in front of them that will attract them to your book. If you’re advertising on Facebook, you want a graphic and text that makes your reader take notice. If you’re in a romance readers group, you want to join in as a member, engaging with other readers in a fun and positive way.
Step three is all about marketing, a ginormous topic. Here are a few ideas you can use:
Social Media: Social media platforms like Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram are powerful tools for increasing the reach of your romance novel. You can share news, updates, and sample chapters with your followers. Take advantage of the tools each platform offers, such as hashtags, polls, and contests to further engage your audience. You can also can use these platforms to build relationships with other authors and influencers who can help you spread the word.
Content Marketing: Content includes blog posts, articles, podcasts, and videos. You can create content about the main characters’ backstories or motivations, articles exploring the themes of your novel, and video recordings that provide a closer look at the plot and settings. Additionally, you can use this content to engage readers and build relationships with them.
Free and Paid Advertising: At one time, Facebook ads were the be-all-end-all to marketing. While I’m still having some success with it, it’s not the juggernaut that it used to be. Other ad options include Amazon, Bookbub, and TikTok, as well as through reader discovery resources like My Romance Reads, Free Booksy and more.
Free options take time to enact, but can be quite successful. This includes promoting your book on ebook directories and listing sites. (I have a large list of book promotion resources in the Member’s section of Write with Harte. Reminder…membership is free!).
Book and Author Events: I’m a huge fan of live events. You’ll generally do better if you can get on a panel so attendees can see you and learn about you.
Word of Mouth Marketing
Once you have your platform in place and are reaching out to readers, it’s time to have those readers start talking about you. This is no easy feat. A reader may love your book, but may not tell anyone. Still, there are things you can do to encourage your fans to talk about you.
1. Have a great product (see #1 under Basics)
Let’s face it, there are many great romance reads, but for the most part, they’re all fairly similar. The trick is to make yours stand out. Basics such as cover and blurb can help, but even that may not provide enough oomph. This is an area I’m still working on and if you’d like to find a way to standout in a way that makes your fans happy and talking about you, read Fans First by Jesse Cole.
3. Build a community around you.
Have you ever been to an Outlander event? I haven’t, but I know that fans dress up in 18th century garb. People like to belong. They like to feel connected around a topic. That topic can be you and your books.
Building a community can be as easy as starting a Facebook group for your readers. Many authors are now using Patreon or other subscription services that not only create a community, but generate additional income.
Be active in engaging with your readers. Have polls or get feedback. Learn about them and have them be involved in some of the decisions about your books.
You can create a calendar to post to your group and pre-schedule your post using a social media tool. I like Social Bee because I can easily schedule something to repost (e.g. a reminder to leave a review).
(see More Fan Fun to Encourage Book Buzz below)
It seems obnoxious to ask people to brag about your book, I know. Many readers are busy and may not think to share your book, but if asked, would be thrilled to help you out. Make it easy by providing tools and resources. Create social media text or graphics they can share. Give extra swag they can give away for you. Remind them to leave reviews. Consider incentivizing it by having a giveaway. I’ve used tools like KingSumo to make it easy for my fans to share and earn giveaway entry points. KingSumo will even randomly draw the winner.
5. Reach out to influencers.
In some cases, you may need to pay for an influencer to talk about your book, and in other cases, there may be a long wait (like reviewers). But considering how much influence these readers have, it could be worth the time and money if they like your book and share it on their channels.
6. Continue to get reviews.
Second to recommendations, reviews have a significant impact on whether a reader will buy your book. Have a system for reminding readers to leave a review, whether that nudge is in the back of the book, social media, or email.
7. Create merch around your book(s).
This is a fun and profitable way to build your community and have it advertise for you. There are lots of ways to do this. I’ve used Printify to create mugs, totes, t-shirts, and stickers. Using Shopify or Woo Commerce, you can sell the merch, or even offer some as gifts to your very best fans or to giveaway winners.
More Fan Fun to Encourage Buzz About You and Your Books
- Offer your fan reader group a sneak preview of your new book.
- Offer your fan reader group advance copies of your new book.
- Give fans exclusive content like bonus chapters.
- Celebrate a Fan of the Month on your website, reader group, and social media profiles.
- Have a contest for the best illustration of a scene from one of your books and post the winner on your website and social media.
- Create fan pages for the main characters in your book.
- Ask fans to post pictures of them reading your book.
- Write a book specifically for your fans. You can even have them help plot it!
If readers are more likely to buy a book on a recommendation, it’s a no-brainer that authors need to find ways to encourage their readers to talk about their books. The above offers a few ways in which to engage readers and encourage them to let others know about you.