Otis Chandler, the CEO of Goodreads, recently had an excellent article: Winning the Battle of Book Discovery. (I highly recommend reading it.) He said this: “In an increasingly crowded and noisy marketplace . . . abundance has irrevocably changed the publishing industry, and it has made discovery the central problem facing the book business.” (Emphasis mine.)
Since “discovery” seems to be the central problem, then it stands to reason that becoming and staying “visible” is the solution.
And yet, those of us who’ve put our books out there know that becoming and staying visible is much harder than it sounds in today’s abundant book market.
Otis Chandler goes on in the article to list several book discovery trends. As a fairly visible author, I’d like to not only publicly thank Otis Chandler for his spot-on advice, but also to reiterate his points from my perspective.
Three primary ways for authors to stand out (as mentioned in Chandler’s article):
1. Generate Word of Mouth.
Chandler says: “The most valuable commodity for the sustained promotion of a book is word-of-mouth buzz . . . According to a recent survey of Goodreads members, 79% of them report discovering books from friends offline, and 64% find books from their Goodreads friends.”
When friends get excited enough about a book to start talking about it, that’s the highest praise and offers a huge boost to an author’s discoverability. Of course friends can’t genuinely get excited about a book that’s ho-hum or doesn’t grip them.
So obviously, we won’t start word of mouth promotion without a compelling book.
But when we do have a praiseworthy story, then we need to help facilitate chatter both in real life and online. I wrote a recent post about the importance of online reviews here, so I won’t go into great detail now, except to say, that word of mouth has played a pivotal role in getting my books noticed.
I started to keep a running list of blog reviews readers were posting about The Doctor’s Lady, but eventually I couldn’t keep up and stopped after about forty. Amazon has over 100 reviews. My Goodreads widget in my sidebar shows that readers are posting reviews about my book there too.
Every time a reader chats about a book whether in real life or online, that spreads the scope of the book to his or her circle of influence, giving a ripple effect to our discoverability.
2. Start Pre-Launch Buzz.
Chandler’s article mentions the increasing importance of starting the buzz about a book early in the book’s life cycle. And I can attest to that importance.
Getting our readers excited about our books starts many months before the release. Promoting the cover can often be the first thing we use to generate interest. My publisher got my readers involved in picking the cover of my next book, Unending Devotion (even though it doesn’t release until Sept.). Already 6 months ahead of release, Unending Devotion has been “marked-to-be-read” by numerous readers on Goodreads.
In the coming months, I have plans to help increase the buzz well before the release, just as I did with The Doctor’s Lady. In fact, my brainstorm list is already close to a page long.
3. Build a Tribe.
Chandler’s article says: “96% of [of Goodreads members] say they read books by authors they already know. This is why building a loyal following of readers will pay major dividends for authors when they publish their next book.” (Emphasis mine.)
We have to prepare ourselves for a slow uphill climb in building a loyal base of readers who love our books. Usually we won’t have millions of fans with our first book. But with each consecutive book we publish (by generating word of mouth and pre-launch buzz), hopefully we can continue to pull in new loyal readers to join our ever-widening fan base.
For unpublished or debut authors, the loyal tribe starts with those friends and connections we’ve established through building our web presence. I’ve found that the genuine friends I’ve made along the way to publication have been some of my biggest fans and supporters.
Summary: Even if we do all of the above and then some, we may still have a difficult time getting discovered by readers. As Chandler says, “There’s no one silver bullet when it comes to getting your book discovered.”
I learned early in my writing journey that I can’t hole away in my writer’s cave. I had to step out and get visible long before I published my first book. And I’ve continued to stay visible and to connect with readers after publication.
So my final advice for discoverability is to get out and connect with people. Be real. Be genuine. And be available.
Lots of questions today! Do you mostly stick with authors you already know and trust? Or are you willing to try new authors? What are some things your favorite authors do that help them stay visible? Or if you like their books well enough, do they even need to stay visible?Will you buy their books regardless of what they do?
P.S. The Doctor's Lady is currently ON SALE on Kindle for only $2.99 as part of Amazon's "The Big Deal" through March 25. Snag a copy while you can!