Here’s the thing about being a published author. You can write the greatest story ever told (yes, I know that one’s been done already but just go with me on this for a minute). However, if no one knows about the story, you’ve wasted all your time and effort. A decade or so ago, the publishing industry was a well oiled, if somewhat cranky, machine. An author wrote a book. The book was submitted to a publisher for consideration. With luck and the right alignment of the planets, the publisher made an offer to publish the author’s book. Frequently that offer included significant marketing efforts to let readers know about this newest great read.
All of that has changed (for most authors). The chance is minuscule that a publisher will spend money and resources to market any single author’s book. E-publishing and the much wider acceptance of e-reading has produced a glut in the market. At .99 cents (or less) per item, books are some of the cheapest entertainment available. You might say this is great. Readers have more choices, and reading dollars have greater purchasing power. Hooray! I’m a reader. I love getting inexpensive books. What I don’t love is spending even .99 cents for drek.
How do I, as a reader, decide which of the millions of available books will give me a satisfying read? The avenues I once used have dwindled. Book stores no longer have friendly sales associates who’ve actually read the books and can hand sell them to me. Heck, brick and mortar book stores are disappearing faster than water in a desert. On the up side, book reviews have increased in number, but even the best reviewers cannot keep up with the thousands of books being published every week. In addition, reviewers are not without bias, so taking a recommendation from a reviewer involves some risk. Nor can I count on the reputation of a publishing house. I’m absolutely certain that every publisher believes the books they publish are the best books out there. Sometimes the publishers are right. Just as often they fail to meet the entertainment mark.
At one time in my life, the most reliable measure of book quality was an author’s name. Almost every reader has at least one ‘favorite’ author. A 'favorite' author represents consistent entertainment quality, and readers purchase that author’s books simply because of the author’s name. I must have a dozen or more ‘favorite’ authors. Sadly, I found those authors years ago, before the market glut and dwindling referral resources. Now days, some of my favorites rarely publish more than once a year. I can’t wait a year between books. I need more quality authors, and I’m not finding them.
Guess what? Other readers are also not finding new ‘favorite’ authors. I know. I’m one of those authors whose books languish for lack of a reliable conduit to readers who would love my stories, if only the readers knew the tales existed. I, like most of my fellow authors, spend time, effort, and money (which I’d rather spend on books) with social media, public appearances, building websites, running drawings, and announcing all these marketing efforts with little or no return on my investment.
I’ve taken countless marketing classes, attended numberless chats about how to reach readers, and exhausted myself both physically and mentally. I’ve worried myself into writer’s block. What I worry about most is the message sent by all the marketing and announcing followed by a close to deafening silence when I reach the point of exhaustion. In the end, this author is left with more questions than answers. What impression am I really leaving on the audience I hope to reach? Do readers know how much I care that I give them the best possible book? Do they have as much trouble as I have, finding new favorite authors? What’s the best way to increase my readership without being annoying and/or hopelessly whiny?
In an ideal world, I would do no marketing. I would write and spend time interacting with readers who love my books enough to let me know I’m one of their ‘favorite’ authors. The world is far from ideal, but if I could give readers one message it would be this. I write because I want to entertain you each and every time you open one of my books.
Please leave a comment. Let me know how you’re dealing with the market glut and the search for new 'favorite’ authors.