How I Got “Discovered”
Discoverability is the new self-publishing buzzword these days. “You have to be discovered” is the siren song for Indies. Some authors maintain that Amazon Kindle Unlimited (KU) is the answer, some authors maintain going wide and selling on all platforms is the answer, some authors want to scam their way up the charts with formatting tricks, some authors try and trick potential readers into thinking they are the next “Big Thing” by purchasing fake “Social Proof”.
All of it works. Even the scams. But there is really only one way to make a name for yourself and find long-term success. Find fans.
You can’t fake a fan. You can’t. A fan is someone who loves your stories. A fan is someone so excited for your next book they don’t need to be asked or be paid to go spread the word around. A FAN is happy to do that. A fan is thrilled to tell everyone they know about your new book. Or your old books. A fan is your ticket to success.
You can sell a lot of books to readers but if you want to succeed in self-publishing for any length of time you have to have fans.
So to me discoverability equals finding fans. This used to be called “a platform” in traditional publishing. That’s what they all used to ask, “Do you have a platform?” Platform is really synonymous with “fan-base”. So do you have a fan base and do you have verifiable proof of your fan base?
No? Well, let’s talk about finding fans.
How do you find fans?
1. Write a good book with a great ending. Great beginnings will get you a reader. Lots of things will get you a reader. A free book will get you one, a 99 cent book will get you one, KU will get you one, a good cover or a good blurb are also part of finding readers. But the only way to get a fan is to write a good ending. The ending is everything. If people never get to the end they won’t be coming back for more. So who cares that you sold 20,000 copies of book A? If those readers don’t finish your story and turn into fans you won’t be selling anything of book B. So everything I say in these Marketing Tip Monday tips all hinges on the assumption that you can write a “good” book and a great ending that leaves readers satisfied, wowed, and in love with your next book before you even write it. THAT is the key to writing a “good” one.
2. Be social, be available, be honest, be fun, be out there. I know writers are naturally an anti-social bunch, hell, I’m pretty high up there on the anti-social scale. But it’s virtual. All you have to do it put yourself out there online. You don’t have to go to book signings, you don’t have to do speaking engagements, you don’t have to appear on podcasts. You just need to get yourself on social media and be yourself. Give your fans a way to connect with you. That comes in the form of Twitter, Facebook, Groups, even Goodreads if that’s your place.
3. Advertise, but before you advertise, make sure you understand who your audience is. Jana Aston and I were discussing the advertising plan of a very niche, fetish erotica series the other night (not ours) and we both said the same thing… why the hell would you advertise a series that will appeal to less than .01% of the total reader pool? I mean, hey, if you can find a place where all those niche fetish people congregate and that place has advertising opportunities, then go for it. But I’m betting that was not the case for this particular subject matter. If you’re writing very niche specific genres, then you have to accept the fact that your potential readership might be small. The broader your potential audience the better your chances are to sell books using advertising. Know what your book is, what your ideal reader looks like, and then go find them. That might mean running Facebook ads, that might mean Instagram ads, that might mean print media. I have no clue where you should advertise, only you know that because only you know who your audience is.
4. Grassroots marketing. This goes back to #2. If you have a place for fans to find you then some will seek you out. Every message to your Facebook page, every email, every retweet, every private message is a way for you to say, “Thank you for reading. I’m so happy you liked the book.” I’m appreciative each time I get a message like this and I answer every single one. I don’t give out my email, so I don’t get those. But I look at my messages on Facebook every day. I have an 8000-member fan group where any one of them can ask me a question at any time. And I read every post in that group. Every single one. I have about twenty or so fans who go out of their way to post stuff about my books every chance they get. I see every notification. I don’t always have time to go hunt down each post, but if I see the notification in real time on Facebook I do make a point to go over to the thread (which is usually a who is your favorite author kind of post or what was your last five star read post) and at least like their reply. It makes a difference. To me, for sure. I love that there is this small group of unaffiliated people (not my street team) who just want to spread the word. How did I get these people? Number 1. I wrote good books they loved. Which is why “Write a good book” is number 1.
5. Release often. I think all four steps above are critical, but this one is the most important. If you have a large backlist you will find more readers and you will have more opportunities to find fans. If readers see you have regular new releases they start to “notice” you. Noticeability is the first step to “discoverability” and the easiest way to get noticed is to release on a regular schedule. I did all five steps in 2013 and 2014 and this is what set me up for a really fantastic 2015. If you don’t write fast, then find other ways to get people taking about you. You can do that with a pre-order, a cover reveal, a teaser, a giveaway—all kinds of things. There are limitless ways to get your name out there if you are creative. And if you’re not creative, then why are you writing fiction? Honestly. Ask yourself this. If you automatically think you can’t come up with creative marketing ideas, then how can you possibly come up with creative story ideas? Maybe you never tried to come up with an original marketing idea? Maybe you tried something and it didn’t work. Hell, I’ve done dozens of marketing campaigns that didn’t work. So what? Live and learn. Do something else the next time. You can’t learn anything new without making mistakes.
This is an example of how I structured my 2013 (for real, this is what I did)
January – Book Blog Hop featuring I Am Just Junco (Books 1-3)
February – Multi-author SFF promo for I Am Just Junco, Cover Reveal for Range & Magpie Bridge (Junco Books 4 & 5)
March – Kick Butt Blog Hop for I Am Just Junco, Tragic Cover Reveal, Range and Magpie Release
April – Clutch (I Am Just Junco 1) 99 cent sale, Ad for Clutch
May – Released Tragic, ENT Book of the Day Tragic – 99 cent sale ad
June – Tragic tour with Xpresso Tours, Manic to ARC reviewers, Manic Cover Reveal
July – Released Losing Francesca, Losing Francesca Tour with Xpresso
August – Manic release, 99 cent sale Tragic, Manic Tour with Xpresso
September – Panic cover reveal, Tragic special promo tour
October – (Met Jana Aston and hired her as my assistant, which changed my whole life), Panic Release, Panic tour with Xpresso, Friday Night Freebie for Panic on New Adult Addiction (which is my book blog), Cover reveal for Return, final book in Junco series
November – Released Return, final Junco book, FORD cover reveal
December – Junco Bookbub ad, Slack released, Bookbub for Tragic (TWO Bookbubs in the same month! I have no idea how I pulled that off!), Slack was Friday Night Freebie on New Adult Addiction
That comes to two novellas (Magpie and Slack) and six full-length novels (Range, Tragic, Manic, Panic, Losing Francesca, and Return.)
So if you look at what I did for 2013 it’s easy to see that I put this five step process to work. And this was only 2013. 2014 I ramped this all up, concentrated one hundred percent on romance and put out eight novellas (Bomb, Come, Follow, Like, Block, Status, Profile, and Home) and four full-length novels (Taut, Guns, Come Back and Coming For You). I also did a multi-author anthology called BEND which made the USA Today Bestsellers list, but that contained the novella, Come.
Whatever you do remember this – Practice makes perfect. The more you release a book the better you understand the release day patterns. The more stories you write the better you understand what constitutes a “good” one. The more you interact with your fans the more comfortable you feel and the more personal the interaction becomes.
Here’s the thing – no one gives as many shits about your book, your characters, your story, your success, as you. No one. You are the best person to find fans. You are the only person the fans care about. Not your PR company, not your assistants, not the bloggers. YOU. So if you want to be “discovered” you first have to get “noticed”. Follow those tips above – and sorry this blog does not accept comments, but if you have something to add to this post or just want to leave a comment, you can do that here.
I have a cover reveal today for my new rock-star romance, ROCK, and if you want to enter the big giveaway I have going, just scroll down past the cover and book info.
Special thanks to supermodel Robert Reider and photographer Luciana Varga for the great cover photo!
Melissa Vetti’s lips were softer than the down blankets on her bed and they were equally as warm. We lingered in the kiss longer than we should’ve. Longer than ever before, not moving, not tonguing each other, not seeking more with wandering hands trying to pick at the buttons on our jeans. Just connected.
“I love you,” I whispered into her mouth.
“I know,” she giggled into mine. She always said that when I pushed, but at least this time it didn’t come with a litany of excuses. We’re too young. You’re leaving in three months. We have our whole lives to fall in love.
It was too late for me though, because I’d been in love with her since the sixth grade when we ditched the chaperones on the class camping trip in Rocky Mountain National Park in the middle of the night.
We both lived next to that park. We wandered into that forest so many times, the woods were our home. And the spot the school chose for the class trip was close by. Our town is not really rich, even though if you want to buy a decent house up here in Grand Lake these days, it’s gonna cost you a million dollars. Our schools are not by any means well-equipped. Hell, most younger kids who live here, and there aren’t many, go to school in Granby, the next town over. But a trip to the local woods was something everyone could afford.
I knew the way—hell, she knew the way too. And when the small waterfall came into view, the moon making the water in the pool shimmer silver, we both got sweaty hands and chills up our spines.
Missy Vetti and I had our first kiss that night and I loved every moment of it. The sound of the forest at night. The cool midnight breeze whipping past our skin making us shiver, even though it was July. The heat of her breath mixing with mine and the way my fingers found their way into her hair and pulled her close out of instinct.
That’s all we did that night. Just one kiss in the dark. But it was enough for me to fall in love. And now that we were on the verge of college, it seemed like every moment had been wasted. Like I should’ve done so much more with her. Everything felt like a missed opportunity.
“You have to go before my dad gets up, RK.”
“I know.” I’d been sneaking into her house to sleep over for years. Not every night. And we didn’t fuck or anything. Missy Vetti was as pure as the water rushing down the mountain and her dad spent every night sleeping like a bear in the winter, so we never got caught. Or maybe he knew and didn’t care? Maybe he knew his daughter was perfect and would never let a boy spoil her with sex?
I reluctantly pulled away from our embrace and sat up in her bed, looking back over my shoulder. “Pick you up at eight?”
She smiled big. Big. Big. Big.
That’s all I got—a smile.
And I have seen that smile in my nightmares for the past five years and asked myself the same question over and over again.
Why did I kill her?
SPECIAL ANNOUNCEMENT: Every day this week JA Huss is giving away FIVE ROCK super swag packs on her Facebook page. Enter HERE
Win $50 Gift Card, Signed copy of ROCK, Kate Spade Wristlet, Victoria Secret Lip Gloss Kit, and a Brighton Notepad with Pen.