Saturday, July 16, 2011

Discoverability: The new challenge to authors

The one thing you can always count on in the world of publishing is there will always be challenges. The second thing you an count on is that what was your greatest challenge yesterday may not be your greatest challenge today - and that's why the most agile amongst us will survive.

I've said for a long time that this the best time to be a writer...and I still believe this. One of the reasons why it's so good now is the "old challenge" was one that the author had little control over. The "old challenge" was getting published. The traditional process had very few slots and too many talented authors vying for them. The author was at the mercy of agents and a few big publishing companies and there was little they could to effect the outcome.

But now authors have many options for getting published. Many factors are contributing to this:

  • The shift away from large retail bookstores (breaking down a barrier to entry)

  • The emergence and dominance of ebooks (level playing field regardless of publisher)

  • Lessening of stigma of self-publishing (as more and more authors become successful)

  • The growth of successful small presses (providing more "slots")
So, now the ability to get our books published is easier than ever, what's more, if the author chooses to take sole responsibility for doing that they can take their fate in their own hands and their own talent and sweat can give the book a viable chance at earning well. Congratulations that challenge has been subdued.

So, what then is the new challenge? One word - discoverability (okay, so it's a made up word but it will soon reach "real word" status just as muggle did). By fixing the "old challenge" we now have many more authors out there and being found amongst them is our new challenge. No, I'm not one of these people that says, "Woe to all of us...we'll drown by the influx of too many writers." I think more choice is a good thing. But it does mean that as authors you have to work harder so that people can discover your fine work.

The big winners in this new environment will be Amazon, Google, and Apple. Why? Because they control discoverability. So as authors you need to makes sure you are maximizing your exposure with these places. Think about the following things:

  • Have you selected your categories wisely?

  • Are you making use of the Amazon Author's Central features?

  • Have you considered making an app version of your book?

  • Are you tagging and asking others to tag your books for maximum discoverability
And while these players are going to dominate discoverability - don't abdicate your own role in this. You need to establish a DIRECT connection between your the author and your reader. The more that is under your control the less dependent you'll be on others. (Think Pottermore). What this means is building your blog/website (so that there is an exclusive place for people to connect with you) and drive traffic to this exclusive space with your social networking.

I'll be talking more about both these topics in the coming weeks. But if you haven't read my guest post at Michael Hyatt's site entitled Five Steps to Building a Platform When You Hate Selling Yourself. I suggest you start there.

I've never said that publishing was "easy," but it is very "rewarding." I love a challenge. I thrive on it so I'm glad to have a new thing to turn my talent and intellect to. I hope that together we'll give you some ammunition to vanquish as well.


Suzanne Tyrpak said...

Hi Robin,

I always look forward to your thoughts. I'll be watching!

Sierra Gardner said...

Great post Robin! It can be intimidating to see how many other great authors there are out there. Thanks for the tips on how to maximize discoverability - looking forward to the future posts.

John Twipnook said...

Hi Robin,

The link for Michael Hyatt's site says, "Page not found?" Thanks as always for the analysis and advice.

Robin Sullivan said...

Oops - thanks John - I fixed it.

Theresa Ragan said...

Hi Robin, great post. I like the word discoverability. I also like a challenge. Thanks.

Barbara Fillip said...

I'm wondering how this fits in with "The Long Tail."

Dennis Lively said...

discoverability! Good non-threatening way to say marketing and promotion. I like it!

Your points in your guest posting were right on. Good job.

You KNOW that marketing and promotion can be just as non-threatening!

The best!
Dennis Lively

Robert Bidinotto said...

Robin, thanks for another great post. I agree with everything you wrote. "Discoverability" is a concept that seems akin to what marketing gurus Al Ries and Jack Trout described as "Positioning" in their classic book of that title. It's about making your product distinctive enough to show up on the radar screen of your target audience.

I'm particularly eager to read what you have to say about "selecting categories wisely." I'm chafing because Amazon didn't allow me to steer my book down into specific sub-genres where I know it would do well. HUNTER is stuck up in more generic thriller categories, with many thousands of other titles.

I'd love to know if there are ways around this barrier. Any ideas?

Melissa Douthit said...

Hi Robin,

Loved this post. Here is something I found on Passive Guy's website: How Self-Publishing Changes the Bond Between Readers and Writers:

I thought you might be interested.

Thank you for the blogs!


Anonymous said...

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Alex F. Fayle said...

I've been watching the new challenges emerge and was totally daunted by this "discoverability" aspect.

I know from running other small businesses that it's a huge task. For that reason I've decided to do it slowly and carefully. Over the next year I'm planning on writing several more books, pay for quality editing, proofing and a cover, then releasing them according to a specific marketing strategy that builds over time. No way do I want to do a whole lot of marketing work for one or two novels. Economies of scale are an important factor to success (a la Hocking/Locke).

crw said...

Perfect timing. It feels like my first ebook "Call me Aphrodite" is still in an unopened box in the cellar of the bookstore; even the staff don't know it exists. At least that's my analogy for my low sales. But I have a second ebook due out in about 4 weeks which will really benefit from some discoverability spread over it.

Ursula said...

This is a really good post, and a good thing to think on right now. I often wonder what happens as the mainstream jumps into the pond and puts marketing muscle into areas traditionally used by indies? also, thanks for posting the tips, and all the very helpful advice on the boards and in your blog. Your background in marketing really shines through, and your well considered posts and comments are invaluable.

Suzanne said...

Discoverability is a tough nut to crack. The Copyblogger folks recently provided some excellent tips on how to increase your visibility here.

Suzanne Adair

Damon J Courtney said...

Passive Guy also had a post a few days ago that was from a reader looking to discover new ebooks. Being as his blog is mostly read by authors, it was interesting to see where they go to find something to read.

How Do You Find Good, Reasonably-Priced Ebooks?

There was a followup the next day here:

Source for Online Indie Bookstores and Book Recommendations

While the discussion is more from the reader's perspective, that's really what we're talking about here. How are readers going to discover you?

Robin Sullivan said...

@Barbara - Discoverability is essential in a long tail model. Bascially there are many products all vying for attention so you need to promote yourself to rise above the "din". My 2 cents worth.

Robin Sullivan said...

Hey Robert - I actually think of Discoverability different than Positioning. But there is certainly something to be said about positioning yourself as a big fish in a small pond to get maximum exposure.

Robin Sullivan said...

Melissa - thanks for the link - Yes I'm interested - that "connection" between "reader and author" is so much more important these days becasue there is the technology to "really" do this that we didn't have - even just a few years ago.

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