How Can Modern Writers Become & Stay Visible?

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!


  1. My reward for getting up at 4 AM is being first in the comments!

    This makes perfect sense. It reminds me of how the music industry has changed in the last ten years. I want to be the literary equivalent of that hipster band that no one's heard of, then breaks out into the mainstream.

    Thanks Jody!

  2. For me, it doesn't matter. If I love a book, I'll pay attention to when the sequel is coming out. I love reading new authors - in fact more than I love reading the sequels or second book. I love that discovery.

    I personally, don't care how visible an author remains. Though, I must say, the authors that are real, friendly, honest, likeable - I'll instinctively promote even if I didn't like their book as much as another one.

  3. Steve Laube had a link on his blog today that tells about the hype and build up of The Hunger Games. It was really interesting how word of mouth played into its success.

    I will try new authors if their reviews are good and alot of my friends are talking it up. I do love my favorite authors and will keep reading their books even if they aren't in the public eye. It's all about the writing! ;)

  4. Great points. I love reading new authors. However, I usually don't stray too far from my favorite genres.

  5. I'm always willing to try new authors, and I find many of them through the blogging world.

    An author's visibility is a non-issue for me if I've loved their book(s). If they're one of my faves, I will happily sign up on their email list to be reminded of when they have their next release coming out, and, of course, pre-order, and it would be fine with me if I didn't hear from them in between. I think the authors who've had a blog following prior to the success of their first novel probably put a higher expectation on themselves to keep up at the pace of blogging (or any other social networking) than they used to maintain before publication. When really, I think their fans are pretty gracious and forgiving because they'd rather have another great novel in their hands.

  6. I always try new authors, but I'm loyal to ones I love who continue to produce great books! :)

  7. Yay for WANA! Great post, Jody! It's so hard to stay visible sometimes. I think we can all use the reminders. Unfortunately, I did all that and sales are...I haven't even bothered to look the past few days b/c sales suck. LOL.

  8. Good morning everyone! I'm really gleaning insights by reading your comments!

    Sounds like the majority of you don't really care if an author you love stays visible, that you'll still buy their book regardless of their online presence. That's good news for established authors. However, for newer authors who want to INCREASE their readership, I think it's important to continue to stay visible.

    April, it is a very slow steady uphill climb to build a readership! Hang in there!

  9. Phew, Jody, that IS alot of questions. :) This is the story of how we found you. You commented on Sarah's blog. I'm not sure how you found her blog but since you had positive things to say on Sarah's blog, I immediately clicked on your name to see who you were. I started reading your blog. Then when we found out you were doing a book signing (your first book) in a nearby city, we had to come meet you. You were so kind and loving. You took time to talk to Sarah and share your writing journey and it really encouraged her. Anyway, long, long story short, We love you. I love your books and like I've told you before, you are one of only two authors I've read the books at least 2x each. So, yes, I already have your next book in my cart on amazon!! :) Does this answer how new authors stay visible?! :)

  10. As always, you've provided great advice for those of us who need it. Thanks, Jody.

    I do enjoy reading books by new (or new to me) authors. When I've found an author whose book I liked, I generally read everything else by him/her, providing it's in a genre I enjoy.

    I love a series that tells the stories of secondary characters from a novel I've liked. Those are the releases I anticipate most.

    It's encouraging to read in these comments that so many people are happy to try new authors.

  11. I think it's important to stay visible too.

  12. GREAT article! I buy authors I know personally, esp. their debuts, and I'll buy fave authors. Other authors I'll try but it's usually through the library or from friends. Word of mouth is the best, I think. It's mostly how I find new authors.

  13. Great article. I do follow certain authors, but I'm always happy to read debut authors in the genres I read. As you've said, word of mouth is the biggest key. If I hear great things about a book, I'm going to give it a shot.

    Jody, what are some of the things a debut writer should have on her checklist for promo? Have you posted about that? Thanks!

  14. Another great post, Jody! And very timely for me as I start to think about how to ramp up over the next year for our release next May. And thanks for the link to the Goodreads article. I'm defintiely going to take a look at it.

    As far as known and favourite authors go, their visibility isn't such an important thing for me. If I like an author's voice and storytelling ability, I'll be buying their book no matter what. But it's cleary crucial for debut authors to be visible; where you have no known product out or it's just out, how do you stand out to be seen in the first place. I have to admit that whole concept gives me mightmares. But it's simply the way the system is currently, so we have to learn to work within it.

  15. What an encouraging post, Jody. I can't wait to read your next book. I've loved the first two and love, love, love the premise of your next one!

  16. I am always trying new authors, though it's usually on the recommendation of someone I know. I also am helping several of my friends promote their new releases; so word of mouth is definitely important to me (to give and receive).

  17. I definitely tend to follow favorite authors. If I find a book I really like, I look for other books by the same author.

  18. I am always on the lookout for a new author, but I generally borrow their books from the library - it is only my tried and true favorites that I will buy. However, I have been known to read a book from the library that I ended up loving and then buying for my own collection so I could read it again or borrow it out to someone else.

    Until about a month ago I didn't follow any authors online, so their web presence has never mattered to me, and probably won't in the future (although I am loving their blogs and it has made my reading experience more enjoyable!) I usually search Amazon or the library catalog for the genre that I read and that is how I find authors. I don't usually stray from my preferred genre (historical fiction), unless a friend highly recommends something.

  19. Thanks so much for sharing your wisdom and Chandler's link. I agree wholeheartedly that discovery is the central problem - especially for new authors. With the plethora of books (both traditional pub and e-pubbed), wading through the choices seems overwhelming. I'd be curious to hear your page-long brainstorming ideas since I have a release coming in July. Thanks!

  20. Jody, you have become the visibility guru, but you've done it in such a lovely way. All along you've offered advice to HELP writers, while also mentioning your book. Brilliant!

  21. I'm thoroughly non tribal to an extreme. I don't buy books by authors I know, but by subjects or writing styles that appeal to me. However, I may only hear of these books by word of mouth, or because it's on the new book rack at the library or bookstore. The new book rack/table is the place to be (for this reader). Or faced out--I found your first book because it was faced outward, and I was browsing to see what was in the Christian fiction section. :)

  22. Such awesome advice. The thing you do so well - and that I'd add - is be REAL. Be yourself. :D

  23. I love discovering new authors. I found one through a chat group she was a part of because she asked us to read her first couple chapters and give feedback. I own every book she wrote, except her newest which is on my list to buy. I discovered others by reading blogs of my favorite authors, who recommended new authors and others because the cover caught my eye at the bookstore and I picked it up to read the cover blurb. Others came from word of mouth. I am always looking out for good books to read.

    I am looking forward to reading your next book this coming fall.

  24. I love discovering new authors. I found one through a chat group she was a part of because she asked us to read her first couple chapters and give feedback. I own every book she wrote, except her newest which is on my list to buy. I discovered others by reading blogs of my favorite authors, who recommended new authors and others because the cover caught my eye at the bookstore and I picked it up to read the cover blurb. Others came from word of mouth. I am always looking out for good books to read.

    I am looking forward to reading your next book this coming fall.

  25. Thanks, Wanda! I'm glad you discovered me and I hope you'll enjoy my next book too! :-)

  26. Donna, Maybe I'll have to share some of my ideas via a future post! The thing about brainstorm lists is that they can get a little wild and crazy! But that's the fun part of brainstorming, writing down everything that I WANT to try! Now, that doesn't mean I'll DO everything, but it's fun to dream! :-)

  27. Stacy asked: What are some of the things a debut writer should have on her checklist for promo? Have you posted about that?

    My thoughts: Stacy, That's a VERY big question! I think I could take a blog post (or two!) to answer that question!! :-) I'll mull over your question and maybe try to answer via a future blog post if that's okay with you!

  28. Good tips! One thing I learned is know your target audience and go to them!

    For my middle school book The Dragon Forest, I visited schools and gave talks about the writing process, my artwork, and myself.

    I have sold many books this way, donated some to the school libraries, and even donated my artwork. I keep in touch to find out if kids are checking my book out.

    It has worked! Many kids are looking for my second book already!

  29. I burst out laughing at that picture, it's awesome!

    Spot on, Jody. Word of mouth sounds so old fashioned these days, but it must be the best way to hear about great books. I have read so many fantastic books by authors I've both heard of and not heard of and in genres I wouldn't would normally avoid and I have loved them all. You just don't know what will hook you until you read it. Giveaways are a great way to risk a new genre.

  30. Jody, that would be awesome. I look forward to the post. Thanks!

  31. Wow, 100 reviews! That's really good. I often read online reviews before I buy a book, because they're typically very candid; if many of them praise the author, I'm often more inclined to buy the book.
    I do often stick to authors that I'm familiar with, because if I like one or two of their books, I'm more likely to like their other books. But sometimes I get tired of reading the same authors over and over again, because I often see similar elements in all the novels. Nicholas' Sparks books are a good example of that. That's why I am always looking for new books by authors that I haven't read yet; it can be a refreshing change to read something different.

  32. I am willing to try new authors -- one of my favorite authors was found through a sale going on at my local Family Christian Bookstore.
    But I also highly value friends' recommendations.
    And here's another thing: If I don't like an author's book, I am very hesitant to give that author another try -- unless someone gives their book a stellar word of mouth endorsement. Yeah the "stars" on Amazon or Goodreads make a difference, but a personal endorsement is usually the only thing that can overcome a bad first impression.

  33. I'm definitely willing to try new authors, but I don't usually do so by just skimming the new release shelves. It's almost always on the advice of other readers/critics that I give new authors a chance. Thanks for the links to the article/your commentary; it's very helpful information!

  34. What a great post! Thanks so much for posting. As an unpublished author trying to be discovered herself, the whole process seems a little daunting. It's always nice to see some new ideas on the biz. :)


  35. I am an Australian author who would love to be able to use Goodreads better. I find that site extraordinarily difficult to navigate.

    I have trouble finding the place to put reviews and usually stumble upon it by accident. I am not sure how to market my own books on there either.

    Very frustrating!

  36. Hi Diana,

    I'm sorry to hear of your frustration with the site. Just so you know, I don't generally do much on GoodReads to promote my books, other than book giveaways, a link to my blog, and answering reader questions. I think the site is primarily for readers to share their love of books. So it's a great place for readers to chat and not necessarily a place for us as authors to intrude. Anyway, I hope that reassures you some. Goodreads does have a wonderful author tutorial with other ways authors can get involved in the site. I highly recommend reading through their suggestions.


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