Have you stared at your book ranking and sales data and wondered why no one is reading your work?
Are you disappointed that your story hasn’t caught fire or hit USA Today’s front page? If you answered yes, I want to share a secret with you. I want to tell you something, and it might hurt your feelings. I don’t mean to be cruel, but I have to be honest.
No one has ever heard of you.
Readers do not know you exist.
That can change, but for now, you have to know the truth. You have to face the stark reality that you’re not famous, you don’t have a cult following, and you’re not a New York Times bestseller—yet.
One of the biggest obstacles for indie and small-press authors to overcome is finding readers. You may have a great book cover and your prose may be razor sharp, but let’s face it, you are one in a million. Hundreds of thousands of books are published every year, and as a new author, it’s not likely that readers will search your name or your book’s title.
Depressing, isn’t it? Well, it can be if you’re subject to resignation. But if you are the type of person who sees an obstacle as an opportunity, you may have what it takes to climb out of the literary abyss and into the public arena.
The problem with publishing is that unless you have a platform or a method to reach out to readers, you are like a grain of sand on the beach. People will walk on you all day long but never know you’re under their feet. If you publish on Amazon, your book is thrown into the ocean of e-books and will splash around until readers start buying. When they purchase your book, it’ll stay close to shore, where other readers can see it. But if you don’t plan for a beach party upon publication, your book will drift off to sea, and eventually end up in the South Pacific, stranded on a lifeless island. If your ebook is ranked in the 300,000+ zone, this is you.
If you publish on Barnes & Noble’s PubIt!, iTunes, or Smashwords, it’s even harder to get noticed, because the sheer weight of new books will push you deeper into the water.
So what can you do? What does it take to lift your book above the crowd and get the notoriety you deserve?
Good question. When I have the secret formula, I’ll bottle it and sell it to you for a thousand dollars per ounce. Until then, it helps to know that you are not being flat out rejected by the world, but you are, rather, unseen. Understand that, and embrace it. Knowledge goes a long way when you are problem-solving. Don’t take it personally. Accept your reality and work to improve your position in the crowd.
Of course there could be a few details like cover design, price, blurb, and editing that need fixed. But I'm talking about those today.
You need to figure out how you’re going to be an author that readers recognize. You have to build a platform. You have to brand yourself. You have to go into the big world, put on a pair of stilts, and start shouting “Hey, everyone, look over here! I write suspense novels with jaw-dropping twists. Anyone interested?” When you do that, someone will turn around and say yes. If you wrote a good book, they might recommend it to someone else. They could also write a review and encourage others to buy it. But don’t stop there. You have to keep walking clumsily through the crowd, hand-selling your work to readers, bloggers, and reviewers everywhere.
If you’re no good with stilts, try the trapeze. If that doesn’t work, hop on a unicycle or put on a clown suit. You may not get it right the first time around, but with a little trial and error, you’ll discover what works and what doesn’t. Just remember, what works for me may not work for you. I’m a lion tamer, and that’s somewhat daunting to the vast majority, so I wouldn’t recommend it. Besides, you could lose your head.
Getting noticed, especially when you only have one book published, can be a slow process, more so if you are not actively building your platform. The truth is, there is no quick answer to growing an audience. Building an author brand and platform takes time, maybe months, maybe years, and it takes multiple books and creativity.
Amazon’s KDP Select program is one tool that can boost an unknown author’s visibility tremendously. However, until your book appears on other book pages and gets serious traction, it will float away from shore until it manages to hit another spike via your marketing efforts or an unknown cause.
If you look at the top right-hand side of my blog, you’ll notice that I've almost hit five hundred followers. I’m excited about that because several months ago I didn’t think I’d reach one hundred. Five hundred looks like a lot, but there are other blogs with a whole lot more subscribers than I have. There is always a bigger duck in the pond.
Don’t compare yourself to anyone else. Take an honest assessment of where you are and chart a realistic course that will keep the wind to your back, blowing you toward shore, where the readers are. You might hit a sandbar on occasion, but that’s okay; authors wearing clown suits and splashing around in the ocean are likely to get a little attention.
This Post is an excerpt from my way cool book, The Indie Author's Guide to the Universe. Read my latest review where an author claims I helped boost his failing book to #16 in the free store.
Jeff Bennington is the best-selling author of Reunion, Twisted Vengeance, and The Indie Author's Guide to the Universe.