Thursday, September 08, 2005


My 13 year old recently asked me for money for the school book fair, and mentioned something interesting: "I'm going to buy Eragon. All my friends are talking about it."

Now we've been big into J.K. Rowling and more recently Chris D'Lacey, and I am constantly bugging my kids about what they like (Ella Enchanted and Because of Winn Dixie were last year's household hits.) However, this was the first time my kid wanted to buy something that his friends had recommended. I asked him what they said about the book that got his interest.

His exact words: "I know it's about dragons. The guy who wrote it, Christopher Paolini, is a kid like us. They think that's cool. If it's good I want to get Eldest."

He knew the author's name -- another first. I have noticed Eragon being sold in the quarterly school book sale handouts since the book hit the BSL, and that's choice advertising. But I think word of mouth sells more books to kids than anything, and you can't buy that. They decide on their own whether they like you or not.

Now if we could just get adults to do that.


  1. Alas, kids (and adults) don't always listen. My oldest is a walking advertisement for numerous series, particularly fantasy and science fiction. She loves and adores books and is always enthusiastic about discussing them. But what she usually hears from her friends is either, "That book is too big, and it looks boring" or "That's a BOY book." Sigh...

  2. My kids are like that. I've picked up several great series that many adults over look but my son suggested I read them. We have similiar tastes.

    Oddly, he didn't like Eragon.

  3. My son (12) just finished Eldest and he loved it. He claims it's "A hundred times better" than Eragon, which we both liked. He wanted the first for exactly the same reason as your son: it was written by a kid.

    Your point about adults is well taken. I'd love to see a well developed web site where professionals and devotees of genre make honest recommendations on what they like and why. The few I've seen were used as marketing tools or for fan boards.


  4. Anonymous9:35 AM

    My nine-year-old son loves recommending books, and it seems to work at times. The other day, he proudly told me he'd been successful in getting his Calvin-and-Hobbs-obsessed friend back into reading novels.

    He asked me if he could work in the kids' section of a bookstore in the summer, helping kids and parents pick out books. I doubt anyone would hire a little kid like that, but I bet a bookstore could get some publicity if they did.

  5. I wanted to read BOY books when I was a kid. I guess I still do, but I've discovered there's a few GIRL books worth my time as well.

  6. Anonymous11:23 AM

    I just couldn't get past the first chapter the first time through Eragon. I tried again a couple of weeks ago and found that the same things I disliked about theme and writing style still held, and I still couldn't get past the first chapter. Especially since I've got other reading in the queue from authors like Lisle, Modesitt Jr., MJ Rose, and our very own PBW. Much better quality than Paolini.

    However.... I do think it would be a good starter book for a youth just getting interested in the fantasy genre. My first introduction was The Hobbit/Lord of the Rings when I was 13. That's when I gave up on TV. *~)

  7. Anonymous12:14 PM

    I don't know -- with the million-dollar kind of ad campaign thrown at Eragon and Eldest (and I'm happy for the author and the books -- I loved 'em both!), it's hard to say if this is genuine word-of-mouth or just that kids get marketed to much more aggressively than adults.

    School kids are, after all, a captive audience to some extent, and coincidentally, this book is getting an enormous push from its publisher (as well it should, so believe me, I'm not arguing with that.)

    To me, real word of mouth as a test would be a book that wasn't necessarily getting the big push.

    Certainly the first couple of Harry Potters were examples of that -- tons of the British editions selling in the states before the American edition of the first book had been released here. That's solid word of mouth, but it's also a phenomenon.

  8. Problem with word of mouth raves adult style is that usually, I'm never as impressed as I expected to be. If an adult book has gotten so much positive press, eventually I'll pick it up to see what all the fuss is about. Nine times out of ten I'm left feeling very disappointed, not quite sure if I've missed something key or just that I have different definitions of what fabulous is.

    Although, I am a huge Harry Potter fan and this did begin with me wondering what all the fuss about those silly Potter books were about.

    As for Eragon, I'm a bit relieved to see here that some others didn't absolutely love it. I picked it up and didn't get past fifty pages before I gave up. Even though I gave it a lot of leeway knowing it had been written by a teenager, I still couldn't understand why it was so much better than other fantasies already out there. Maybe it's just me.

  9. Anonymous4:04 PM

    When we - a crowd of 15-year old roleplayers - discovered the Slain stories in 2000AD were based on The Tain, we all went out and bought the Kinsella translation, causing, no doubt, a strange blip in the local academic bookstore.

    The other one we all bought or borrowed was "The War of the Powers", for reasons which should be obvious to anybody who remembers it. :)

    However, in general, I think word of mouth works best for books with a really cool, easy to summarise, high concept, e.g. the Honor Harrington series: "Female Horation Hornblower in space".

    And, of course, the Stardoc series.

  10. "But I think word of mouth sells more books to kids than anything, and you can't buy that. They decide on their own whether they like you or not.

    Now if we could just get adults to do that."

    We do. But listening is an entirely different skill....

  11. Great blog. I recommend books all the time. I usually give my books away. I learned about Eragon ages ago because my best friend's husband reads all fantasy, loved it, and they bought it for my 9 year old for her birthday. She said it started a little slow, but she's about a third of the way into it and now loves it.

    But sometimes marketing is a good thing to get kids to read. She saw early ads for the SERIES OF UNFORTUNATE EVENTS and wanted to see it. I said there were books out and bought her the first three. She read them cover to cover twice because she loved them; she loved the movie, and she's read all 11 books since. She might not have been interested if she hadn't seen the movie ad.

    Anyway, obviously we're big readers in my house and I still believe the best way to create a good reader is to read to them as young children, and let them see you reading.

  12. Anonymous12:24 AM

    I bought Eragon back when Chris and his family were publishing it themselves and doing the proverbial "selling it out of the trunk." That was before he got the big contract, and why he got it. I don't remember the stats, but he sold a ton by driving around doing signings, at cons and your basic grass roots stuff.

    I loved the book, and I have one of the originals with his sig. He was 15, I think, when he wrote Eragon, so that's pretty amazing.

  13. Lynn M:
    Problem with word of mouth raves adult style is that usually, I'm never as impressed as I expected to be. If an adult book has gotten so much positive press, eventually I'll pick it up to see what all the fuss is about.

    That's why I tend to listen to recommendations from friends rather than reviews and general press. I've picked up farr too many a "bestseller" that's near hit the wall to trust the word of someone I don't know anymore. :P


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