These are the confessions of a book promotion junkie. What follows is a detailed account of my addiction and how I feed it.
It’s every author’s worst nightmare. No, not the dreaded 1 star review. Those are hard to stomach, but they do go down (scotch helps, I’ve heard). But what happens when you have spent months and years pouring your life force into your book, publish it, and wait with clenched stomach as nothing happens?
Not. One. Sale.
This is what it means to be UNAPPRECIATED. UNDISCOVERED.
So what can an author do to avoid this scenario?
The good news is there is no reason to go missing in this digital age of books. Yes, there may be over 32 million books in print (or digital) at the moment. Yes, books still have to compete with every other form of media, from video games to Facebook for the valuable attention of readers. Yes, doing this will involve building some sort of platform – the dreaded term used to batter us from the traditional publishing temple for years.
But don’t fret. I’m going to make it easy for you. I may have not (yet) sold millions of copies of my debut novel, One Blood, but google Qwantu Amaru. What you see is six years of work at making sure I would never be unfound. And now it is time to pass on the secrets to you, dear author.
Below, in order of importance, find 5 things you must do to be discoverable by readers:
- Navigate the Amazon: Amazon.com is more than the world’s largest book retailer. They offer the best FREE ways to be discovered by readers everywhere. The keys to author discoverability are in their closely held algorithm. Search for your favorite book genre on Amazon. If you look at the right side of your screen you will see a drop-down box which reads Sort By. See it? When you click on the drop down, Amazon reveals many of the ways it delivers books to readers. You have relevance, which is related to a book’s category; newness and popularity, which is related to publication date and a combination of daily/hourly sales; price – high to low and low to high, which is self-explanatory; average customer review, which is also self-explanatory, but EXTREMELY important to discoverability on Amazon; and publication date, which allows readers to sort titles from newest to oldest. Other ways Amazon makes books discoverable are the customers who viewed this item also viewed scrolling bar, Amazon bestsellers rank updated hourly, customers also bought items by which is a recommendations algorithm, and just for you, another recommendations algorithm. Include the Amazon author profile, Book extras (integrated with Amazon’s reader community – Shelfari), what other items do customers buy after viewing this item, KDP Select, Amazon prime, and Listmania; and you can see why with these tools, Amazon has upended the publishing industry. It is your job as author to learn how to tip the Amazon algorithm in your favor (if you are traditionally published – don’t expect your publisher to do this for you, they have NO IDEA how Amazon works). I will go into deeper detail in a future blog, for now, let’s get to #2.
- Build a website: there are folks out there who will disagree with this point, but I maintain that outside of an optimized Amazon presence, a well-designed website is the 2nd most important way authors can improve discoverability. If you are doing it right, your readers are going to want more of you. Your website is where they will get it. It is the only online real estate you own. If Facebook and Twitter stopped functioning tomorrow, your website would still be standing as a monument to your excellence. Your website needs a blog, like this one, that you use to creatively draw curious readers into your world. Your site also needs to be easily sharable, likeable, and flexible.
- Give it away, give it away, now: The Red Hot Chili Peppers knew what they were talking about. One of the best ways to ignite word of mouth, build up reviews, and break down the barriers to trying out a new author, is to simply give your book away for FREE. In business school I learned that the two most powerful words in marketing are NEW and FREE and this principle still holds true today. Whether you use Twitter, a reader community like goodreads, or e-mail to do this, do not neglect this step. In the online and offline world, books move via word of mouth more than any other mechanism. And giving away an ebook is basically free to you as well…
- Network, network, network: When you’re not giving books away or tinkering with your website and Amazon page you need to be meeting and greeting prospective readers, independent bookstore owners, book bloggers/critics, librarians, blogtalk radio show hosts, publicity folks, and other authors. The more people you can engage whether online via social media or offline in the real world, the better your chances are of being discovered. Don’t pass up a chance to conduct an author interview, write a guest blog, comment on a blog you find interesting, @tweet a #bookworm on twitter, or make a new fan on Facebook. Leverage the fantastic tools on reader community sites like goodreads, librarything, Wattpad, and Shelfari. And keep your eye open for the next cool way to interact with people.
- Keep writing and publishing: When switching hats from author to book promoter, it is very easy to forget why you are doing this in the first place. Yes, being found by readers is extremely important, but the more books you have out, the easier you are to find. So don’t quit your night job lol!
Follow these 5 tactics and watch as you emerge from the clutter into a position of prominence!