“Discoverability” — a problem for writers AND readers

I’m sure that most new indie authors — assuming they lack a back list or name recognition  — have noticed, as I do, that in the absence of ongoing promotion our titles sink into oblivion pretty quickly. We don’t get bookstore sales of any significance, and once sales drop below a certain threshold, people browsing Amazon or other sites aren’t likely to ever see them.

Mind you, this is often true of traditional authors once their initial release period in bookstores is over, too. And then they’re pretty much stuck, unless their publishers have gotten savvy about goosing sales online (I notice that more are doing just that).

Of course, readers are also in a tight spot. Many of them would like to find good new indie authors. They know there’s good stuff to be had, and pretty cheaply, too. It’s just that there’s also a lot of crap, and sometimes it’s hard to know which is which. Not every amateur writer also has an amateur cover and amateur sales copy to warn us off, and some do mysteriously well at garnering five-star reviews. Conversely, many fine indie books suffer from an author’s lack of experience as publisher, with uninspiring or poorly targeted covers or copy. And pretty much by definition, new authors will lack reviews.

One site that I admire as both reader and writer — I suppose mostly because it is particularly rigorous and specific about its requirements — is Awesome Indies, which requires that indie authors obtain authorized reviews from people with literary credentials. I was pleased that The Awful Mess was included there recently. This site doesn’t get as much traffic as it deserves (not that I should talk, given how little this site gets). It could definitely benefit from more marketing mojo, and I hope to contribute to that effort in the future. Meanwhile, if you’re looking for solid offerings by indie authors, it’s a great place to browse.

Amazon’s own solution for indie authors is to offer (for Kindle Select authors only, of course), free days or Kindle Countdown Deals as options that can get Amazon’s own promotional algorithms working in an author’s favor. I’ve had pretty good luck with these myself, but I’ve also never counted on them to operate on their own. I’ve always done at least a little paid advertising (and free social promotion, too) to get the process going.

Of course, many indie authors don’t operate exclusively on Amazon, so those promotions aren’t quite as effective for them (it is still possible to do free and price promotions, but it’s a lot more complicated).

That’s part of the reason why a plethora of for-profit and non-profit sites and email list operators have popped up to help indie authors make connections with readers and vice versa. BookBub is the best known and most effective in my experience (and also the most expensive), partly because their lists are incredibly responsive, they have standards about what they will accept, and they are geniuses at writing sales copy (aided by their own brilliant use of A/B testing).

Others include Kindle Nation Daily, BookGorilla.com, The eReader Cafe, One Hundred Free Books, and many, many more (some of which I can’t use because my book has graphic details in it). Pretty good proof that they are effective: traditional publishers are beginning to take advantage of some of these operations, too.

Some sites or lists will accept your title even without an associated promotion. For example, Great Books Great Deals generously offers “new release” promos and/or “Less than a Latte” promotions for indie books that average over four stars. The Fussy Librarian and eBookSoda try to match readers with new books that are like other books they enjoy and these are currently either very affordable or free while they build up their lists. And there are many other similar efforts, some specific to certain genres, like Awesome Romance Novels, a site run by author Donna Fasano.

Book bloggers — often but not always fellow authors — also offer indies a way to reach an audience, although it’s a rather labor-intensive way.

Where do you find good indie authors, if you do? Share your sources! Or do you even notice the difference when you’re looking for books? I’d love to hear your take on this.

2 thoughts on ““Discoverability” — a problem for writers AND readers

  1. Sandra, I hear what you’re saying loud and clear. I too have an explicit erotic romance book. I find that most of the so called book clubs don’t want anything to do with indie authors like us. We have great stories to tell. The only thing we can do is hope for some great reviews. But they aren’t easy to get either. I have my book everywhere. Sales are slow going. But still I keep on going. I have a new blog on http://www.aedmonds315.Wordpress.com . It’s getting lots of attention and from what I have read it just might do the trick. Readers what to know about the author. Especially indie authors. So that’s what I’m giving them, me. I wish you success..Annie

    • Mine’s not erotic so much as graphic (and just in a couple of places), which means I actually have a much easier time finding places to promote than you will in your genre. I wish you good luck, too!

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