Some of my favorites have been
1. The Divine Secrets of the Ya-Ya Sisterhood by Rebecca Wells: This funny, touching story of Southern-fried female friendship is the follow-up to Little Altars Everywhere, which was originally published by a small press but became a word-of-mouth hit.
2. On Cold Mountain by Charles Frazier, was published by Atlantic Monthly Press, another small one. This sweeping, Civil War historical may have first been considered too literary for mainstream readers, but hand-selling and reader enthusiasm made it an enormous success.
3. The Lovely Bones by Alice Sebold: Who could have imagined that a murdered child telling her story from heaven could be so compelling? Although a larger publisher (Little, Brown and Co.) got behind it, enthusiastic fans and book clubs swept the book into bestsellerdom.
4. The DaVinci Code by Dan Brown: I’ve heard a lot of critics gripe about Dan Brown’s writing style (and I have to admit, his characters leave me cold), but there was something so fiercely-compelling about this bestselling thriller that it spawned legions of imitators, along with the inevitable “companion editions”. Was it the premise that captured the imaginations of millions, or was it the novel’s relentless pace? Whatever the magic ingredient, on one can deny the book had plenty of supporters eager to recommend it to their friends.
Other books I’ve eagerly recommended include The Poisonwood Bible, by Barbara Kingsolver, The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-time, by Mark Haddon, The No. 1 Ladies’ Detective Agency, by Alexander McCall Smith, and Skinny Dip, by Carl Hiaasen. Most have featured a unique voice or protagonist that truly made the book stand out as an original. Two of the books I’ve mentioned, The Da Vinci Code and The Poisonwood Bible have excited me because they’ve caused me to re-evaluate concepts I have previously taken for granted. I couldn't stop thinking of any of them for days and remember them all clearly even years later.
So which books have roped you into helping spread the message in what is now termed “viral marketing”? What about these particular books compelled you, and do you think an author can do anything to increase his/her novel's chances of resonating with the public, or do you feel this phenomena is outside of our control?