How to Generate Personal Recommendations for Your Books (Word of Mouth Marketing)Word of mouth is one of the absolute best ways to generate book sales. When someone we like or respect recommends a book—or restaurant, Netflix show or favorite moisturizer—we are far more likely to take their advice.

Imagine having dozens or even hundreds of people recommending your books to their friends, family, clients or social media followers! This is not an unreasonable goal, provided you develop a solid strategy.

How to Inspire Word of Mouth Marketing

The first step is to create fans who love your book, which means writing a buzz-worthy book. If you’ve received good feedback from readers (the ones who don’t know you!), you’re on the right track.

Next, determine who would be most likely to recommend your book to your target readers. This means thinking beyond the readers who happen to find your book on Amazon and figuring out who reaches large numbers of your ideal readers. This could mean leaders or members of nonprofits and charitable organizations, service providers, bloggers, social media stars and others who have influence over your ideal audience.

Here are some examples:

Book about building a healthy marriage.
Referral partners: Therapists who see clients with relationship struggles, people who run marriage retreats, counselors at places of worship.

Book covering local history.
Referral partners: Members of local historical societies, museum docents and employees, genealogists.

Memoir about living with an addict.
Referral partners: Addiction counselors and members of addiction support groups for families.

Book about how to start a small business.
Referral partners: Small business consultants, counselors at the Service Corp or Retired Executives (SCORE), attorneys and accountants who work in small business.

Memoir about traveling through Europe.
Referral partners: Travel agents, especially those specializing in European trips, members of travel adventure clubs.

For all the above examples, and for yourself, also consider bloggers, podcasters, social media stars, and those who host online or in-person forums that reach your ideal audience.

Several years ago, I attended a local chapter meeting of Business Networking International (BNI). The chapter leader stood up at the beginning of the meeting and held up a business book he’d received in the mail. He went on to rave about the book and pass it around for attendees to see. Many took pictures of it with their phones as a reminder to make a purchase later. It turns out that the author had invested in mailing out hundreds of copies of his book to BNI chapter leaders across the country with the goal of generating word of mouth. Watching the results in action was inspiring!

Action Step:

Consider who would be most likely to personally recommend your book to your ideal readers. Really spend some time on this exercise. It could be realtors, business owners, therapists, restaurateurs, website designers, life coaches—or anyone else who fits in with your goals.

Connect with Referral Partners

Now that you’ve identified who will make great referral partners for you, your next step is to determine how to best connect with those people. For example, let’s say you identify that therapists would make great partners because they can recommend your book to their clients. You could begin by looking for therapist associations or groups that meet in your area and see if you can either attend a meeting and get to know some members or, better yet, offer to speak at their next meeting (in-person or by Zoom).

You can also reach out to therapists and offer a review copy of your book. One of the best ways to offer review copies without mailing out dozens of expensive books that disappear into the abyss is by either sending emails to therapists offering a copy or having postcards printed that offer a review copy and mailing those out. You can do your own research to find addresses or you can purchase a mailing list through a provider like

Once you receive a response and a copy is requested, you now have what’s known in the sales world as a Warm Lead because you’ve verified that person is interested in what you have to offer. After you send the book, follow up in a couple of weeks to confirm the book was received and that the therapist had time to read it over.

As mentioned earlier, if you’ve written a buzz-worthy book and you market it to the right partners, word-of-mouth should come easily. And it never hurts to ask for support. You could say, “Since you enjoyed the book, would you please consider recommending it to your clients?” (Or friends/peers/students/etc.)

For podcasters, bloggers and social media stars, the process is similar. Reach out and offer a review copy of the book, then follow up in a couple of weeks. This can often lead to the recipient recommending it to his or her readers, listeners, etc. And they may even invite you to be a guest or contribute a post.

Want some more ideas? Check out our post on Where to Send Review Copies of Your Book.

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