Friday, November 7, 2014

Being Discovered

I use the passive form of the verb on purpose. Being discovered is the last and most difficult hurdle for a writer, because there’s really no path to reach that goal. (Which is why the industry generally refers to it as discoverability, the ability to be discovered, as paradoxical as that sounds.)

The actual writing, as challenging as that may be, can be tackled. You can study the craft by reading books and articles, taking classes and attending conferences, in order to learn principles and techniques – even if you also need inspiration and talent. And a writer wants experience to understand how to get their thoughts and ideas into the right words. But it can be done.

And while getting traditionally published remains akin to winning the lottery, print-on-demand and e-books have made publishing your work independently a fairly straightforward task anyone can accomplish. (Though doing a good job of it may require an awful lot of effort.) But when it comes to reaching readers, there’s very little the author or publisher can do. It really is up to individual readers to find the books they’ll enjoy (and they’re the only ones who truly know what they like.)

Consider first the position of the writer going the traditional route. First they have to convince an editor somewhere that their work is something a publisher can successfully market to consumers – and it’s difficult enough to even get an editor to read a manuscript from a new author. Then, assuming a writer is one of that tiny fraction of a percent to have their book released by a traditional publisher, they still need to connect with potential readers.  But most traditionally published books by a new author don’t get any advertising. What they get is maybe six months sitting on a shelf in a brick-and-mortar bookstore, and the opportunity to pique the interest of someone browsing for books.

Which is something self-published books don’t get. But while both traditionally and independently published books are available online, self-publishers get their own advantage – time. A traditional publisher will drop a book that doesn’t catch on in those few months it’s in the bookstores. It will be pulled from the shelves, receive no more of the little support it had gotten from the publisher, and the author will have an extremely hard time getting a second book published.

On the other hand, a self-publishing writer can continue to try to get their book into the hands of readers, even while they write and publish their next book (and the next, and the next, and so on.) And each successive book brings new opportunities to catch the eye of potential readers.

The problem for authors, no matter which way they get published though, is that their books end up in a sea of millions of other books all clamoring for attention. Of course a writer wants to be read, but forget finding a reader who will even give your book a chance. Before you can get to that point, people have to know your book exists. Before you can be discovered, you have to be read, and before you can be read, you need to be noticed in the first place.
Part 2: Getting Noticed?

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