By Jody Hedlund, @JodyHedlund
Over the past few years, the book world has grown increasingly crowded as droves of indies have rushed to publish books. In the last year, we've also seen traditional publishers beginning to experiment with novellas, niche genres, and other markets thanks to the revolutionary nature of ebooks. In addition, established authors are re-releasing backlists as fast as they can.
All of that means that more books are available than ever before.
I think most of us can agree that it's become much harder for any ONE author to really stick out from the masses of other authors. There are just so many of us scrambling to get our books in front of readers, shouting, "Read my book! Read my book!" (Well maybe not literally shouting, but often it feels that way!)
Sometimes we can begin to feel like we're drowning in the sea of all the other books, that we're mostly invisible, that even when we supposedly do everything "right" to spread the word about our books, we still go largely unnoticed.
Recently John Owen emailed me and asked me a question that I'm sure many of us are grappling with: "How do I expand my reach and make aware to the general book buying public the availability of my book?"
When browsing online bookstores, most (non-writing) readers don't look at the publisher as they make buying decisions. So indie versus traditional publication is not a hugely important factor in reader buying habits.
Obviously readers gravitate most to the already established authors. So being a name brand like Stephen King, Nicholas Sparks, or Danielle Steele still counts for something.
But readers who are willing to explore beyond the tried-and-true brand names often look for recommendations from other readers, keep an eye on trending books, and gravitate toward the buzz.
They also take into consideration price as well as reviews, particularly leaning toward books with lots of reviews. Sometimes, they even consider the number of books an author has published as a benchmark for reliability.
It stands to reason, then, that authors who are trying to get their books noticed can take advantage of those common reader patterns:
1. Find ways to get others to genuinely recommend our books. Often that takes the form of initially giving away limited copies of our books (like on Net Galley) or to specific reviewers or Influencers. In exchange for the free book, we should make sure the reviewers or influencers know our expectations about promotion or reviews.
2. Try to generate buzz about our books. Obviously it's very difficult to quantify the effect of blog tours, facebook chats, social media sharing contests, Pinterest boards, Goodreads giveaways, taking out ads, etc. Since all of those things are usually occurring at the same time, we can't easily identify which ones are the most helpful. However, every little bit of buzz we create has the potential to get our books in front of a new reader.
3. Look at ways to make the price workable. There are LOTS of theories about how to price ebooks. The general consensus is that ebooks should be priced lower than print books. But beyond that, opinions range all over the place for the "right" price. For multi-published authors, having one on sale (or free) can be a way to hook readers (particularly with a series).
4. Encourage readers to leave reviews. This can be done as simply as leaving a request as well as link at the back of the ebook. "If you've enjoyed this book, please consider leaving a review at an online bookstore." I usually ask my launch team (influencers) to leave reviews. Book bloggers are often open to reviewing books. We can also look for people who might be interested in the specific topic or message of our books and offer a complimentary copy for the purpose of a review.
5. Keep writing and always look for ways to improve our books. If readers stumble across an author with only one book containing a handful of reviews, the reader will be less likely to take a chance on the book. But if the author has written lots of books that each have lots of reviews, the readers will think the author is more successful/popular and thus more reliable. Whether true or not, that's the reality of the system.
The bottom line is that there are no magic formulas for getting noticed in today's crowded market. My philosophy is to first and foremost continue writing the best books that I possibly can. Then at the same time, I try to be savvy about marketing and trying new things.
What about YOU? Have you ever felt invisible in today's crowded market? What are some ways you've found especially helpful in getting noticed?