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Why Word of Mouth Still Sells Books

John Murray credits word of mouth as being the best way to sell books. “People don’t like to be told what to read, but to make their own discoveries.” And to brag about them to others, apparently.

Despite Stephen Elliot’s assertion that ‘People don’t recommend good books to friends: they only recommend great books,’ there do appear to be exceptions to this rule. Take a rather over-used example: Fifty Shades of Grey. (I know, I know!) A spokesman for Nielsen BookScan, the firm responsible for compiling the UK book-chart, said: “The success has not been driven by people who regularly buy books, but by people who buy three or four books a year.” From this we learn that people who read fewer books  manage to get disproportionate  bragging-power out of them. To begin with at least, E L James may have had more people talking about her because when asked what author they had been reading recently, they only had one name to remember, they talked about it longer and with each repetition their endorsement was reinforced and they began to sound more convincing.

Catch me off guard and I may not be nearly so eloquent. In other words, the fact that I read a book a week may mean that I have grapple around trying to remember the title or the author.   

Photograph by Matthew Martin