Discoverability

Discoverability is, as I think everyone agrees, the Holy Grail when it comes to writing. That’s true for both traditionally published and self-published authors. It’s true for everyone.

Thus, this post by James Scott Bell at Kill Zone Blog certainly caught my eye: How to Get Discovered When Nobody Knows Who The Heck You Are

I’m pretty sure that I’m already routinely doing the stuff that simultaneously fits into both of the following categories:

(a) I know how to do it, and

(b) I don’t hate doing it.

This includes writing the actual books, blogging here, and buying promotions via promotion sites. It doesn’t include any kind of social media, because while I don’t dislike Twitter, say, the more time you spend doing stuff on social media, the less time you spend writing. Or something, anyway; time has to give somewhere. Also, it turns out I personally can’t focus on writing properly if the outrage meter is constantly turned up, and social media is really terrible that way.

I am keenly aware that there is a huge amount of other stuff that fits into a third category:

(c) I’m willing to believe it’s important, but I don’t know how to do it, don’t want to learn how to do it, and/or hate doing it.

One story of the past year or so is an ongoing attempt to move one thing at a time from (c) into the (a+b) category. After I really know how to do something, I’m likely to hate it a lot less, after all. But I don’t expect to frequently stumble upon something I’m not already doing and think, Wow, yay, that sounds like something I’d be happy to do starting tomorrow! I doubt that this Kill Zone Blog post will prove to be an exception, but hey, sure, let’s see what this post has to say. Let me see, looks like eleven points, so I guess he started off to do ten, probably, and then added an extra. So let’s see what comes first …

1) Use a loss leader. Sure, probably, though that depends on having a series. And I’m not sure whether it would be useful enough to set first books permanently to 99c or free or whatever. Maybe it would. Maybe I’ll try that for an extended period eventually.

2) Use Kindle Select.

Yes, I’m feeling like this is probably correct. I’ve gone back and forth with pulling everything out of KU and going wide with it all, but I don’t think that’s going to happen very soon, if at all. I’m probably not going to put out the Tuyo series through BVC because I want to leave it in KU. Tuyo and Tarashana between them get at least as many KENP reads as everything else put together.

The Black Dog series, not sure. The next ones I’ll do through BVC are The Sphere of the Winds and Door into Light, because those are not in KU anyway. (I ought to have done them first, but I didn’t think of that.)

Pulling Death’s Lady out of KU has definitely dropped royalties for that series, even though sales immediately went up. I’m going to use that series to try different wide strategies and the Tuyo series to continue trying KU strategies and we’ll see how everything looks in another year. Or two.

3) Grow your email list.

YES, I KNOW. Everyone says this. This falls solidly in category (c). I promise, I absolutely vow, that I will for sure do stuff to make this happen next year. The Facebook group Wide for the Win recently had a series of posts about this and I copied a lot of information from those posts. Putting off doing stuff with that now is self-indulgent in a sense, but also means I can focus on writing, so not entirely self-indulgent.

4) Write a lot of books (as fast as you comfortably can)

WHEW. I’m happy to make this a priority for the next year or two. Or more. If this were the only thing that had an effect on discoverability, I’d be really pleased.

I will just note that someone on Wide to the Win says what worked for her is bringing out a new book every month — sometimes two books per month.

I don’t even disbelieve that. I bet she really is doing that. Not via ghostwriters and plagiarizing either. Short books, I’m sure. Romances, I expect. But I bet she is truly writing a book a month (sometimes two.) If you wrote an average of 10,000 words per day (yes, I know), you could write a book in two weeks and revise in two weeks (I know). I’ve seen too many writers claim they can routinely hit 10,000 words per day to think this author is making that up. Besides, I’ve done that … like, about four times, maybe, ever. But I have done it.

Anyway, a book a month, ha ha ha, no. That’s not happening for me. But with reasonable luck, and depending on decisions about completed and semi-completed manuscripts I have sitting here and there, I should certainly bring out at least three books next year: Keraunani, Tasmakat, and Invictus — that last is the mostly-completed SF novel I want so much to work on. I hope to also complete and release Silver Circle, but I’m going to prioritize Tasmakat because first, I want to, and second, as I said, the books in this series are blowing away all my other titles in KENP pages read, so it’s a practical choice as well.

I’m still intending, but not guaranteeing, that the 4th Black Dog collection will come out this year. If it doesn’t, then very early next year.

Anyway, yes, it’s quite clear that the more work you have available, the better.

5) Covers Yes, I’m really happy with the Tuyo / Tarashana covers and varoius others, but this is both more difficult than one might expect (it turns out) and probably important.

6) Back cover copy. Actually, I think I’m okay with this. But no doubt this is something that could always be better. And it does fall in the category of (a+b) — stuff I’m fine with spending time on.

7) A+ Content. I have no idea what the post is talking about. Add it to (c) above.

8) Author page on Amazon. Yay, I already have one. It turned out to be showing weird things when I first took a look at it. This was the same time that Amazon kept telling me that Black Dog ranked pretty highly in the category of video games. It took several efforts to get rid of that category, add more relevant categories, and fix the author page.

9) Price. An ongoing dilemma right there.

10) Social media. Not a good place to sell books, says Bell in this post. But, he adds, that could be a statement that has lost validity, so don’t write it off. That seems probably correct to me.

11) Advertising. I have personally found some paid promotion services to be very useful. The Black Dog series is still way up in KU reads because of the promotion in October. The effect is quite obviously still working its way through the series, too.

I have not had any luck with ads. I haven’t landed a BookBub ad for Tuyo and haven’t found Amazon or Facebook ads useful (at all). Results, I hear, vary. I don’t know that I will ever learn enough about this to find ads useful. I still want to get a BookBub ad, but I gather that may not be possible with anything in KU. Failing that, I need to actually learn to use the other tools at BookBub. That is another thing I will try to do next year.

Meanwhile! Bell’s conclusion:

Getting noticed in the roiling sea of content can seem a daunting task. You know why? Because it is. There are over 3,000 new books that come to market every day. It’s therefore crucial that you manage your expectations and keep moving forward. 

I’m not sure whether that’s overall a pessimistic take or an optimistic take on discoverability. Manage your expectations = pessimistic. Keep moving forward = optimistic. Either way, it seems like an accurate summation.

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2 thoughts on “Discoverability”

  1. Hello. I’m a relatively new reader of your books (I’m currently reading and enjoying Door Into Light) and ran across this post. I thought you might be interested in how I discovered your works.

    Editor Navah Wolfe recommended your books on Twitter. I searched your name on my Kobo, saw the Griffin Mage trilogy boxed set for 2.99, a very good price, read the sample chapter, liked it and bought. When I finished the trilogy I looked to see what other series you had and put House of Shadows on my Kobo wishlist. I read a lot and always have a mountain of books in my TBR pile, so it sat on my wishlist for a few months until I noticed a price drop and bought it in June. I might have bought it eventually at full price, but the decision to buy that day was based on the sale. I read it and immediately added Door into Light to my wishlist, which sat for another couple of months until I was browsing my wishlist looking for something to buy yesterday. I bought it for the full price. I’ll probably pick up Black Dog next.

    In my experience Twitter only helps with discoverability if someone else recommends your work.

    Anyhow, I hope this data helps a little.

    Nicole

  2. It does, Nicole, thank you!

    Navah was my editor for The Mountain of Kept Memory and Winter of Ice and Iron — two of my personal favorites. She did a TON of editorial work for Mountain. She wanted me to cut one protagonist, give that role to a then-minor secondary character, and redesign the plot a bit to make that work. I did, and Mountain wound up a tighter story and is now one of my personal favorites. I respect Navah’s judgment a lot and have bought and read several books because I knew she acquired them.

    I agree, if exactly the right person recommends something on Twitter, I’ll buy it right then — especially if the price is good. May be years before I read it and I may not remember by that time who recommended it, but that certainly is one reason I’ll pick up a book.

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