When I was first in the industry, discovering a book was easy and pretty uncomplicated. Back then, publishing had seasons, and if you wanted readers to find the book, you stuck to the rules. Big books in the Fall; change-your-life titles in January; and summer reads, smaller books and fluff-type titles the rest of the year. Now, however, there are no hard and fast rules. Other than news or seasonal tie-ins, there’s little rhyme or reason to when a book is published. The landscape has changed, and we’re all just trying to figure out the rules.
With thousands of new titles flooding the marketplace each day, discovery becomes even more challenging. The meaning of “discovery” is pretty obvious. The ways to get discovered, however, are not. So why is discovery important? You may argue that the books being released on a particular day have nothing to do with your title. You’re in a different genre and therefore you won’t be affected. The truth of the matter is that you are affected; even if the next 10,000 books published have nothing to do with what you’ve written, they’re still taking up bandwidth and virtual shelf space, and they’re all still vying for the same thing: readers.
Readers are harder to reach than ever. They’re bogged down with to-dos, overwhelmed with email and inundated with choices. We get 30 seconds, maybe, to capture their attention and most of the time we fail the first, second, and third time. In order to get in front of your customer you have to do it multiple times. The old marketing rule of 7 may now be the rule of 70 – or more.
What’s an eager author/publisher to do? Let’s face it, the landscape has changed, the rules have been modified and, in some cases, tossed out entirely. Discovery happens in a different way and, as you’ll see from my points, it begins and ends with your reader.
Ten Ways to Get Discovered
1) Publish. A Lot: For those of you who have spent 10 years writing your last book I have news for you. You have ten days to write your next one. Okay, I’m sort of kidding with the ten days but, candidly, the most successful authors are pushing out tons of content: meaning books, not blog posts. In most categories, readers are hungry for new reads, new books, and willing to discover new authors. You’ll have a better time getting found if you continually push new books out there. How many should you do? At a recent writers conference some authors said they publish four books a year.
Yes, that’s right, four.
2) Bundling: If the thought of writing another book is making your head spin, take heart, there’s a solution: bundling. The idea of bundling several books started in the fiction market, or rather it found its stride there. Many romance authors were taking their prior books –two or three books they’d written, regardless of age - and bundling them into a set or series. Guess what?
It’s considered a new book.
In fact many romance authors I spoke to partnered with other authors of a similar genre and bundled books. In one instance, this gave them an eBook bestseller. You can see some samples of bundling here: http://amzn.to/186u3ah. Basically, the idea is to create a new cover; slide the books into one offering; put it up on Amazon; and voila: new book.
3) Relationships: More than ever, relationships matter, whether it’s reader relationships, blogger relationships or bookstore relationships. Getting people to help you spread the word is all about connections and fostering them. How do you do that? Just listen to your mother.
Say please and thank you.
Never assume you are entitled to a review, interview, or anything, just because you published a book. Even if you get a not-so-great review, still thank the reviewer for taking time to write it. If someone blasts you, ignore it. Good relationships are about knowing what to foster, and what to walk away from.
4) Book Reviews Drive Your Market: Several years ago we saw the decline of reviews. Bloggers were inundated with book galleys, and wait times to get onto big sites were endless. This drove a different type of review: the reader review. You may say, “Well duh, don’t readers often review books?”
Well, no; in fact, if you talk to most authors, they’ll lament the fact that they can’t seem to get their readers to review their book. The key to reader reviews is: getting a lot of people to talk about your book. You can do that by engaging your readers, and encouraging them to review your book. I’m not saying to ignore bloggers but rather, supplement what they can offer you.
Many of the very successful books or the books we hear about that crossed over from unknown to stardom, did so through their readers and reviews. Hugh Howey is a great example of this. He’s pretty clear that he wrote for his readers, he listened to his readers, he engaged his readers, and guess what? He built a solid fan base and off-the-chart sales.
5) Ask For What You Want: Now you’re thinking, “Great, so how do I do this?” Well, you ask for it - and you do so in your book. I have been testing all of these ideas with a book that isn’t attached to me – meaning it’s not my book. I wanted this to be a book by a first-time, unknown author (better to test stuff if the author has no platform). So, we had a page added to the back of the book that basically said, “I hope you enjoyed the book and here’s how you can help me.” The author then went on to explain how tough it can be for an author to get reviews for a book and how they, the reader, could help out. It was written in such a way that wasn’t begging, but empowering. Guess what? We’re up to nearly 280 reviews on Amazon, all readers. Yes, it works.
6) Smart Networking Online: When we do a blog tour for our authors, we often get readers to go onto blogs and talk about the book. It’s a great way to start a conversation and get on really high-traffic blogs. When we’re done, I always encourage authors to stay in touch with the bloggers, or post a comment on that blog thanking the commenter for their post. I recently had an author do this. She posted thank yous, and offered her book to any blogger wanting a copy to review. She got three requests from very high-traffic sites. And I mean big bloggers. See? Find an open door and then walk through. If you don’t have people talking about your book, why not try commenting yourself? Engage with the bloggers, thank them for a great post and offer your own insight. Don’t sell, engage. Trust me, this works, because you’re digging into your network, creating connections, and building relationships.
7) Wattpad, Goodreads, Library Thing: Don’t have time for Facebook, Twitter and the like? Too bad. You need to focus on connecting with readers through these sites because this is where some significant discovery can happen. Whichever site you choose, get on there, and be active. If your reader is primarily on one site (let’s say LinkedIn if you’re a business author), then forego spending a lot of time on the other sites. Be everywhere that matters to your readers.
8) Does Length Matter? When it comes to putting a ton of books out there, do they all have to be 300 pages long? No, in fact I’ve written some that are shorter, under fifty pages, and others that are over 200. Mix it up. Short is the new long, so go for it. If you can’t do four major books a year, but can do one or two major ones and four novellas, great. Find something that works for you, but don’t let word count stop you. If your content is good, readers will clamor for more.
9) Wait and See: Many authors want to put out a book and wait and see. Though patience is a virtue in many things, don’t ask your readers to wait. Also, as an author you shouldn’t just wait to see what happens. In most cases, nothing will happen with one book. Publishing more books, builds more connections. Your second book will sell better than your first, and your third may sell better than your first and second put together. As your connections grow, so do your sales. Think about this: there’s a reason that phone companies turn out new models seemingly every few months. They know that their audience wants new, and as technology becomes more advanced buyers want more. They are listening to their consumers, and so should you.
10) The Power of Free: Finally let’s talk about the free factor. A lot of authors balk at this, but here’s the deal: free is a great way to pull in new readers and gain exposure. However, the way that this technique is implemented has changed. I used to see thousands of free book downloads a day, and now we see hundreds. Because of this, it might be necessary to do a few rounds of free throughout the year. One freebie offer won’t net you a ton of exposure, but regular offers just might.
Keep in mind that this list isn’t the definitive guide when it comes to discovery. The sales funnel has changed, and authors must adapt. Most of us are just trying to navigate through the noise and find more readers.
In order to do so, I believe the key to visibility will be going after your reader in ways that don’t just encourage them to read your book, but empowers them to take action once they do. I believe that when you focus everything you do on your reader, they will reward you in ways that will help you and your book find its way into the hands of many, many new fans.
Penny C. Sansevieri, Founder and CEO Author Marketing Experts, Inc., is a best-selling author and internationally recognized book marketing and media relations expert. She is an Adjunct Professor teaching Self-Publishing for NYU.
Her company is one of the leaders in the publishing industry and has developed some of the most innovative Social Media/Internet book marketing campaigns. She is the author of twelve books, including How to Sell Your Books by the Truckload on Amazon and Red Hot Internet Publicity, which has been called the "leading guide to everything Internet."
To learn more about Penny’s books or her promotional services, you can visit her web site at www.amarketingexpert.com.