You’ve put in the hard yards by creating your book. Wouldn’t now be the time to sit back and watch the sales mount up?
Sadly, that’s almost never the case. Getting discovered is a bit like herding cats—a lot of work with confusing results. Yet, it’s possible to train a cat and it’s possible to compete against the millions of books out there.
The Amazon marketplace has enabled a horde of first-time authors to release an electronic toilet roll to the masses, generating miles of virtual paper that no one’s ever going to read. Yes, I’m being sarcastic. To an extent.
Most of those authors will die undiscovered. Smart authors learn to combine offline and online tools to reach the widest audiences. It can be scary to compete in this arena, particularly when other powerful authors are riding a rocket to fame: Amanda Hocking, Darcie Chain, Hugh Howey, etc.
Inaction’s no use, unless of course you don’t want your work to be read. Though if that’s true—why did you write it? You could keep blank sheets of paper for much less effort.
So how do we get discovered?
Over the last few years, I’ve found these 5 keys to discoverability:
1. Relax a little. Time’s on your side. So are the search engines.
This doesn’t mean take a 6 month sabbatical, but it does mean you need to stop being so hard on yourself.
Search engine love, like any other enduring love, takes time to develop. Unless you’re delusional, you wouldn’t expect that nice girl to marry you on your first date—so why would you expect to be number one in Google in an afternoon?
It will take 3-6 months of planned effort as you establish your website, your blog, your social media presence, etc. As you persevere, you’ll start to see the platform take off—and as soon as it does, you’re ready to start your next book.
Which brings me to my next point.
2. Write Faster. Way Faster.
It might sound crazy, but the more products you have, the more likely you are to be discovered . We’re no longer vying for bookshelf space in a store—online markets like Amazon and B&N have unlimited space on their shelves.
I’m not urging you to stop reading this post and go write (you’ll miss the other 3 keys) but I do insist that you get writing once you’ve finished this article.
The more books you have, the more of a brand you’ll establish. Coca-Cola may be famous for their synonymous drink, but they sell a whole heck more than just Coke.
The good news is that this strategy also lets you recover if you release a stinker: no-one remembers Tab anymore, do they?
3. Reach out to your readers—they aren’t coming to you. At least not yet.
What do you need to get that first date?
In most cases, a meeting, an exchange of glances, some small talk, and then for someone to pop the question. Very few people get to meet the person of their dreams while staying locked up at home.
That doesn’t mean your home (and for authors this means website) should feel abandoned. If it is, it’s unlikely your date’s going to want to come past the front door. Spend a few weeks to make your website lovely and fill it with content. Once it’s done—throw open the doors and invite people in.
Get on to the forums or LinkedIn communities where your audience hang out and ask their opinions. Offer your advice freely and work up a reputation in your field.
Forget your fellow writers unless you actually target them as part of your audience. Hanging out with writers is a bit like looking for a date with another person in tow who’s just as desperately trying to get laid. That’s no way to get a date and no way to win an audience.
Here’s an example of this in action. I run two Facebook pages. The first has limited interaction despite a following of 530+ people. Why? Most are authors, too—we’re all too busy promoting ourselves to talk to each other. The second was set up nearly 6 months later. It’s all about the readers and has over 1,800 followers and, more importantly, people talk on that page.
The other authors can be useful for something, though: they can provide you with a ready-built audience. Browse their Twitter followers and start conversations with those people who add value to their social media presence. Soon you’ll be engaging with readers with much less effort.
You can also use the Facebook ads to target your posts at their audience. This is where the dating analogy breaks down. You’re not stealing the other guy’s girl, because most readers will engage with more than one author. There’s space for us all.
4. Whatever you’re doing, make sure you can sustain it.
If you like someone, you make an effort to keep contact with them.
Phone calls, letters, romantic meals, and so on, are the key to a relationship. The same is true for your audience: if you’re not constantly engaging them, they’ll pick another guy.
There’s a zillion social media channels (or at least it feels like it at times). We’ve got Facebook, Pinterest, Flickr, Twitter, LinkedIn, GoodReads, Google+, etc.
The good news is you don’t have to get involved with all of them. If you’re trying to win someone’s heart, there’s a fine line between romancing and stalking. You don’t send flowers, chocolates, perfume, a love letter, ten texts, a chauffeur-driven limo, an invitation to a movie, a lunch invite and then call every hour or so just to see how they’re doing. At least I hope you don’t!
It’s cool to try a few channels and find out which gets a good response and which doesn’t. If your date has hay fever—don’t keep sending flowers.
Once you know the channels that work, put an hour a day aside and have a plan for it: e.g. draft one blog post, make a Facebook post, write 5 forum comments, 5 comments on the blogs you follow, etc.
Stick to your plan. Relationships take commitment—show some to your audience. Don’t spend more than an hour a day on this, or you’ll never write anything new; but don’t skip days either.
5. Avoid the most boring subject on Earth: You.
Ever been on a first date where the other party talks about themselves all night long? They tell you about their ex-lover, their cats and their mom; they keep on speaking until after the desserts are served. If you have, you’ll know that there’s unlikely to be a second date. Who wants to be with someone that dull?
Don’t be that date with your audience. Talk about them, ask them questions, respond to their ideas and shut up about you. By all means announce the launch of your new novel, but don’t keep doing that every hour of every day, unless you want to become that awkward person that everyone blocks out.
You’re a writer. Write to entertain. Get people excited to be a part of your audience. Then they’ll buy your books. They’ll re-tweet your posts. They’ll say how good you are.
It works just like in dating. Someone whom friends describe as amazing never ends up lonely on a Saturday night.
If you enjoyed this article, why not take a minute to check out this book: “How to Build a Powerful Writer’s Platform in 90 days”?