Hi everyone! Today I’m welcoming Terry W. Ervin II to the Five Year Project. Today’s a bit of a long post, but chock full of information, so I’m just going to let him take over from here.
Getting Books in Front of Readers
With literally millions of novels out there, it’s a challenge to get attention…to get a book in front of potential readers. Sadly for anyone reading this, I don’t have the magic, or silver, bullet. There isn’t one proven method, or combination of actions and activities, that will offer success in this endeavor. Even worse, the market, technology, reader preferences and methods of finding books to read is continually changing.
But don’t despair…and don’t stop reading this post.
There are some things based on my experience that can make a difference—a positive one.
Experience? You might be thinking, who is this guy? He isn’t a NY Times Bestseller. That’s true, my individual novels don’t sell in the hundreds of thousands. They sell in the hundreds and thousands. This guy’s novels aren’t in the top 1000 on Amazon. That’s true, for now. But I’ve had novels that closed in on the 2000s, for a short while before fading. Nevertheless, if Steven King or Hugh Howey say something that contradicts what I recommend, definitely give their words significant weight.
I think number one as far as a book (or books) getting noticed is to write and publish. Get your work out there. The best advertisement for a previous book is a new one.
If you submit a novel to publishers, while you’re waiting for that novel to find a home, write another. If you self-publish, don’t wait to see what happens with your first or most recent novel. Get another one out there for readers to get ahold of. A second novel, in essence, doubles your chances of finding readers. If it’s a series…you need to keep those that have found your works happy and interested. Beyond that, some readers don’t want to ‘invest’ in a single book author.
But just having a book out there isn’t enough. It has to be a good book, sure. But it needs a good cover. People do judge a book by its cover. It has to work both full size and as a thumbnail. If someone sees it as an ‘also bought’ or while browsing in some other fashion, if it (the cover art/title/layout) doesn’t catch a potential reader’s attention in some manner, he or she will move on and never ‘discover’ your work.
That means you have to check out the types of covers a publisher provides, especially in your genre, before you submit to them. (That’s just one bit of criteria to consider, but really determining publishers to submit a manuscript to is a whole separate article). If you self-publish, be professional. Hire someone skilled and experienced, just like you would an editor. It’ll increase the odds of your book finding readers.
Get reviews. What others say will echo louder than what you, the author says, or what your publisher says. Word of mouth is important, and reviews are a form of word of mouth, and will further entice readers considering investing time and money in your book.
Reviews from reviewers, reputable ones online, are difficult to get. Reviewers with a wide readership, and even trusted ones with smaller readerships are inundated with requests. That doesn’t mean you shouldn’t try.
Reviews at Goodreads, and Amazon and B&N, and wherever your books are available, make a difference. Real reviews. Avid readers who use such reviews as a measure of a book’s quality to gauge whether it’s something they want to read…well, they invest at least enough time to make a few clicks and check out who the reviewer is. They especially take note if a reviewer has one review on Amazon, and it’s for your book. That one is discounted, and may actually count against an author—fair or not.
Ask your avid reader friends to give an honest review, especially if they write reviews on a regular basis. At the end of your book, ask the reader to post a review. If you sell copies at author events, ask a customer to write a review, especially if they enjoyed it. Yes, reviews from folks you don’t know and have never met do show up, but it’s only a small percentage of those that actually read the book. And if the book sells very few copies…that means few reviews, helping to pave the way to obscurity.
As an author, networking with readers can be dicey, especially online. Reader forums, for example, are very wary of authors self-promoting. More than a few bad apples have largely poisoned that well. The same thing with writer forums. And oversaturation of ‘buy my book’ sort of Tweets, well, they are not productive and can prove to be counterproductive. Having a Facebook page where people opt in? That can be a good place for a community of interested readers to interact with an author. But again, it’s not a place to try to ‘sell’. Readers who’ve built an online relationship with an author are more likely to talk about your works to their friends.
Again, someone else saying nice things about your work means more than you saying it yourself. If someone tweets, or posts or reviews…that will carry much more weight.
There are email lists and use of free ebooks and other promotional maneuvers…but that is fodder for another lengthy post, that someone else might want to write?
Finally, get out there. While it might happen that you can sit at home and play hermit and, despite this, your novel catches fire…that is very very much against the odds. Luck isn’t a strategy. Yes, luck can be a factor, but setting yourself up so that you cross paths with a bit of luck…that’s more of an objective to shoot for.
Go to book fairs and festivals, if you have print copies. Present at local libraries, talking about genres or the publishing business, or working with artists…or whatever you feel is one of your strengths to share. Visit forums, with maybe a link to your blog or website—probably not to an Amazon buy page—in the signature file. If folks at the forum(s) find your comments and input interesting, they might on their own try to discover more, and follow that link.
At those events and forums, network with the other authors. Exchange business cards and emails and knowledge. Offer to do interviews or the like on your blog or share on Facebook, or retweet something. Do this without an expectation of reciprocation. But if reciprocation occurs, your work will be out there, in front of eyes and potential readers…and, well, someone else is saying good things about your works, or offering a platform for you to provide some value to the visitors of that platform, be it a blog, a forum, a writer’s group, or a book club.
That’s the sort of thing I’m doing here. I was provided an opportunity by Misha to write an article for the readers of her blog. She suggested the topic, and it was within my realm of experience to provide an article to cover it, or at least that’s my belief.
…And if you’ve made it this far, you read the article. Thank you.
…And I hope you both enjoyed it and found it interesting and potentially useful.
…And I also hope you’ll click to learn a little more about me and my works available…and if they are something not directly of interest to you, share with others who you know it might be.
…And if you don’t? That’s okay too, because the main point of this article is assisting writers in ways to get their books noticed…not to sell my books. The hard sell is for persistent telemarketers and pushy used car salesmen, right?
Terry W. Ervin II is an English and science teacher who enjoys writing fantasy and science fiction. His First Civilization’s Legacy Series(fantasy) includes Flank Hawk, Blood Sword, and Soul Forge.
The Crax War Chronicles, his science fiction series, includes Relic Tech and Relic Hunted (his most recent release from Gryphonwood Press).
In addition to writing novels, Terry’s short stories have appeared in over a dozen anthologies, magazines and ezines. Genre Shotgun is a collection containing all of his previously published short stories.