How diffusion could sell more of your books 1 Comment


There is a theory of the spread of technology called the diffusion of innovations and it could help you sell more books.

Diffusion of ideas

According to the theory, most people are resistant to the idea of trying something new. For example, a new technology or a new author. However, word-of-mouth recommendations overcome this hesitancy in a way that nothing else does.

For everything – including your book – there are those customers who are willing to take a risk and try it out. that’s why the first few sales an author makes are often to friends and family. It is also why having a good rapport with a core following can really get the ball rolling.

To make it as an author, you just need to connect with your very early adopters.

Ideas that spread, win

By Yaffa (Flickr) [CC BY-SA 2.0 (https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/2.0)], via Wikimedia CommonsThis is Seth Godin (shown to the right). You may remember we wrote about Seth Godin not so long ago.

The theory of idea diffusion is the core concept in Godin’s book “Unleashing the Idea Virus“. If you’ve not read it, I highly recommend it.

In order to take advantage of idea diffusion, your book needs something that makes it easy to spread.

We’re not talking about getting lots of book review blogs to review the book. That’s just more word-of-mouth (no bad thing). However, to really move through the adoption curve a book needs something that makes those that read it excited enough to want to share it with their friends.

If you can find that something, your book will sell well.

Diffusion explains blockbusters

Within the adoption curve, at some point, the innovation achieves a critical mass. This is when the number of individual adopters ensures that the ongoing adoption is self-sustaining. When this happens for books you get a blockbuster.

The Harry Potter series, for example, connected with early adopters in such a way that very idea of the book diffused through the population under its own steam.

Take, for example, our article about Brexit’s impact on UK authors. On social media, that post was seen by orders of magnitude more people than our core followers. In the first few days that one post was in front of hundreds of times more people than were following us. The follow up on people’s reactions reached a number of people about equal to our core following.

The difference was that the first Brexit post had something that people wanted to share. It resonated with the anti-Brexit crowd. As a result, the article diffused out to a much larger audience.

If you can find that point of resonance within your draft novel, and if you can connect with the right early adopters, your book will sell itself.

How you find that resonance is a deeper and more complicated issue that we will explore in the weeks to come.


About Matthew Brown

Matthew is a writer and Geek from Kent (UK). He is the founder and current chair of Thanet Creative as well as head geek for Author Buzz. His ambitions include appearing on TableTop with Wil Wheaton and seeing a film or TV series based on something he wrote.


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