Hundreds of thousands of books are published every year—and that’s just in the US. From speculative fiction to creative nonfiction, poetry to textbooks, romance to historical records, the world is awash in words. It’s a good problem to have for readers, but a challenging one for writers.
So, for the writers:
Discoverability and engagement are key.You may have written the best book thousands of people will ever read, but if they don’t know that it exists they won’t one day name their first born after your heroine or ink your words on their flesh. That’s not my goal as an author, but it’s someone’s goal (good luck with that). Whatever your aims, just don’t miss your opportunity. No doubt you’ve seen that old marketing adage that it takes 7 times before a person actually registers an ad. 7.
Like it or not, sometimes your books shows up in people’s lives as an ad or something very like one. This may not be what you’ve dreamed of, but it’s part of it. Books require readers to activate their potential.
Excellent practitioners have written extensively about discoverability and all it entails (e.g., ISBN, online optimization, and event planning). Go read it. In my opinion, it’s a distinctly different process for indie authors vs. traditionally published authors vs. small press authors. They all have this in common though: make it as easy as possible for people to know your work exists, why it may be for them, and don’t assume you know the target market (research, target, then widen).
On to engagement. If a person is engaged they pay more attention to what’s being said and consider participating/checking out what it is you have to offer. Engagement can come in many forms. Some people love social media. I’m not one of them, but I try to find what’s actually valuable to me about it so I can share that. I try to focus on saying something worth saying and providing something that people want to have. Luckily people are a fairly diverse lot: some wish to be in conversation with authors or know their thoughts on a given topic or event. Others want a look into your life: what you’re up to, what you enjoy, that your hydrangeas are in bloom. They want to know what moves you and how you move through the world.
As a pretty private person I curate this process. I tend to think first of why I would be speaking to People as a monolith and take it from there. I talk to People when I think We need to talk about something/make progress. I think of it in the collective sense, and also to tell them I wrote this thing you may want to check out if XYZ. That’s what’s genuine for me.
Find what’s genuine for you. Get creative. Do what comes naturally because you’ll keep doing it, which greatly increases the chances you’ll do it long enough for your readers, and those who will be your readers, to notice.
Tenea D. Johnson