I am republishing an article from one of my favorite e-zines Advanced Fiction Writing. (Author’s permission statement is published at the end of the post.) The subject of marketing in the world of new media is timely and appropriate, and hopefully of particular interest to my New Media Writing classmates. Enjoy! ~ Aspie Writer
Marketing: Long Game Discoverability
by Randy Ingermanson
The buzzword that authors and publishers are using these days is “discoverability.” Is this sensible, or is this just the latest quackery?
I’ll give you my opinion, but first some context.
An enormous number of books get published every single day of the year. How is any one book supposed to stand out in the crowd when the crowd gets bigger and noisier every year? That is the problem of “discoverability.”
In the old days (say two or three years ago), publishers and authors had a few standard tools for getting a book discovered. Publishers sent their books to the major reviewers. They paid hefty money to buy placement on the front table at Barnes & Noble and Borders and other booksellers. They paid publicists to get their authors on radio or TV. Authors held booksignings at bookstores. They put up web sites and blogs. They went on speaking tours. They hit the social media networks.The purpose behind all of these methods was to get word-of-mouth going. Quickly.
The problem is that the old ways aren’t working as well as they used to. There are far more books than there used to be. Truth be told, the old ways never worked very well in the first place. For every success, there were plenty more failures, with no rhyme, no reason to explain the difference between success and failure. Notice that most of the methods I mentioned above are actions with short-term effects. The review magazines have an influence for the month they’re printed. After that, not so much. Placement on the front table works for as many as days as you keep paying for that front table real estate. After that, not at all. A radio or TV interview is on today, gone tonight.
A booksigning works for the three hours you’re in the store. After that, the bookstore people might remember you, maybe. When you give a talk, you can move a lot of copies at the back of the room today. As soon as you leave the venue, you don’t move any copies.
A tweet has an effect for a few hours and then it’s gone. Short-term marketing made sense in the old days. Back then, a book had a shelf life of a few weeks. If it hadn’t been discovered by then, the bookstore sent it back to the publisher for full credit and the book disappeared. Publishers and authors had to play a short game because that was the only game in town. They hoped that somehow, playing the short game hard enough would generate word of mouth. Sometimes it did, and when it did, great things happened. But the short game has always been hit-or-miss. In the old days, if it didn’t hit, the game was over.
E-books have changed all that, because e-books are forever. There is no three-week ticking clock for e-books. Once an e-book goes on sale, it has an infinite length of time to be discovered. That means that it now makes sense to put more effort into “long game discoverability.” If you spend all your marketing in short-term efforts, you are going to get all your returns as short-term results. But the instant you turn off the electricity, the marketing machine stops. I suspect that there will be more winners in the future because there will be more choices. Because there is more time for each book to find its audience. Because more of the actual money goes to authors and less goes to those pesky “middlemen.”
If that’s true, then publishing is becoming a long game, and much more of your marketing effort should go into things that last. Things that make you discoverable next week, next month, next year, next decade. You can only be doing so many things each day. If everything you do is for short-term results, then you can never get off the marketing treadmill.
Here are a few of the thousands of things that might make you more discoverable for the long haul. These are not guaranteed to work. A lot depends on how well you execute. But these are things that last:
* Web site articles or blog articles with content good enough to attract traffic from search engines.
Imagine spending an hour to write an article on a topic related to your book. Imagine posting it on your web site. Imagine that it brings in 100 page views every day. (This is not a huge number.) Imagine having a blurb about your book on that page. In a year, that blurb would be seen by over 36,000 people. In a decade, 365,000 pairs of eyeballs would see it. That’s not nearly as sexy as spending an hour on a TV show. But which do you think is more effective at selling your book, long-term?
* Guest blogs with an “about the author” blurb that links back to your web site.
I saw a question this morning on an e-mail loop for authors asking whether blog tours work. I have my doubts about the short-term effectiveness of a blog tour. But I know for certain that a link from a blog to your web site lasts pretty much forever. Incoming links really help your site get noticed by the search engines. Incoming links last a long, long time. If this is part of your marketing strategy, then do your guest posts on blogs that actually get traffic, because a link from a high-traffic blog is worth more to you. I suppose doing a guest blog isn’t as exciting as speaking to 100 people in a room and selling 25 copies of your book. But guess which one lasts longer?
* Your author page on Goodreads.
Goodreads is a social network for readers. That’s the whole point of the site — to help readers discover books and authors. Any author can have a profile page on Goodreads. It lists all your books, with links to major retailers. It includes blurbs for each one. It lets readers click a button to become your fan. There is a lot to like about Goodreads. You can post excerpts of your books. You can get various widgets to embed in your blog or web site. You can link in your blog so that new blog entries show up in Goodreads. Facebook and Twitter get all the hype right now. But neither of these social networks are exclusively about books. Goodreads is. If you’ve got limited time to spend on social media, then Goodreads seems like the smart place to spend it.
* The “Also Bought” list on the online retailers.
On every book page on Amazon, there’s a section labeled “Customers Who Bought This Item Also Bought”. There are similar sections on B&N and Smashwords. This is the online equivalent of browsing in a bookstore. The “Also Bought” list means that each of your books is an advertisement for your other books. If you have a sizable backlist of books, then your books can cross-promote each other very nicely. This means that it’s entirely possible that your best marketing strategy might be to just write more books. I don’t know any way to prove this, but it’s possible.
In my opinion, the days of exclusively using short-game marketing are over. If you want to see a quick bump in sales, then yes, use some of the short-term marketing methods. But a long game now makes sense. Think about marketing tasks you can do today that will still be working for
you ten years from now. And relax. Marketing isn’t a lottery anymore. Now it’s a matter of making smart long-term investments that will pay off forever.
This article is reprinted by permission of the author.
Award-winning novelist Randy Ingermanson, “the Snowflake Guy,” publishes the free monthly Advanced Fiction Writing E-zine, with more than 31,000 readers. If you want to learn the craft and marketing of fiction, AND make your writing more valuable to editors, AND have FUN doing it, visit http://www.AdvancedFictionWriting.com.
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