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The discoverability puzzle is not unique to SpecFic

The conventional wisdom about how to market a book goes something like this: blog, maintain a website, post on Facebook, chat on Twitter yada yada yada…

But, as Becky pointed out in her response to Heather’s “Snagging Readers” post the other day, “social media is great for building community and connecting with readers once you have them, but it’s terrible for finding readers.”

Which means much of the marketing advice for authors is wrong. So what do we do?

Mark Coker, CEO of Smashwords, once wrote, “In this new age of the immortal book, marketing will take a back seat to discovery.”

The problem is, almost everyone in the publishing industry is still trying to solve the discoverability problem. This isn’t an issue that only faces Christian writers of speculative fiction. It’s a problem faced by every author who doesn’t already have a platform the size of New York.

Elsewhere, Coker wrote about results of a survey he conducted that show the ways readers find books are varied. That means we need to use multiple ways of finding readers.

Discoverability is a frequent topic over at the Beyond the Book podcast, where in an episode from last year Otis Chandler, CEO of Goodreads, said although there’s no silver bullet for book discovery, there are some best practices to consider.

Many of them have to do with metadata, which was the subject of another Beyond the Book episode wherein Renee Register, co-author of The Metadata Handbook, called metadata “the information needed for product description—what the potential reader or consumer might need to know, either to find or discover a book, and, importantly, to decide if that’s the book that they want.” That means that what we write about our book in its description is almost as important for finding readers as writing the book itself.

I don’t claim to have the answers—I’m not sure anyone does. But one of the most intriguing articles I’ve read on the subject lately is “Are You Marketing to Your ‘Adjacent Fans’?” by Porter Anderson. It suggests that one way to find readers is to look sideways. For example, instead of “My book will appeal to readers who enjoy Isaac Asimov,” one might pitch one’s book as “My book will appeal to the kind of people who enjoy Star Wars.”

This approach fits in very nicely with Faith & Fantasy Alliance’s plan to market books at fan cons. That may be only one piece of our discoverability puzzle, but every piece gets us closer to the goal.

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About Kristen Stieffel

Kristen Stieffel is a writer and freelance editor specializing in speculative fiction. She's a member of the Editorial Freelancers Association, Christian Editor Connection, and American Christian Fiction Writers.

3 comments on “The discoverability puzzle is not unique to SpecFic

  1. Definitely not “just” a spec fic problem.

    I think social media *can* find you new readers, if you give your passionate fans cool things to share with their friends. But it’s not a total solution.

    People are going to be finding a lot of different ways to make this work, and no sooner will one person succeed with one tactic then another avenue will open up. Technology and apps and social media just keep growing and adding on more bits.

    It’s frustrating to some that there’s no simple formula, but at the same time I think it leaves a lot of room for many ways to succeed. I suppose it will naturally exclude those who don’t feel up to all the learning and effort it takes to make it work, though. (That’s me on some days… but overall I’m enthusiastic about it.)

  2. Another podcast on the topic of metadata, this one from Joanna Penn at The Creative Penn: http://www.thecreativepenn.com/2012/05/06/amazon-metadata-mark-edwards/

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