Discoverability: a modern marketing buzzword. For writers, discoverability means the difference between gaining an audience and publishing into the void. Now, USA Today bestselling author and renowned business blogger Kristine Kathryn Rusch deftly tackles the topic of discoverability in this latest WMG Writers' Guide.
Rusch covers topics such as when to hire help, how to measure success and the most important thing a writers can do. With Discoverability, which was named one of the 11 Best Book Marketing Books, Rusch offers professional writers the most comprehensive guide available today to help them make an informed decision about the best marketing approaches for their writing businesses.
Kristine Kathryn Rusch has written countless books in just about every genre, under a variety of pen names, but she has also been a tireless advocate for writers and—in the last several years—for indie writers. Her blog The Business Rusch has often given me insights I've never considered before, and her massive book The Freelancer's Survival Guide (part of the bonus SuperBundle) is required reading for any writer who wants to know what's going on in the industry. No one would have written a book on "Discoverability" five years ago, and it may be one of the key topics any new indie writer needs to know today. – Kevin J. Anderson
"Discoverability gets my highest recommendation and a must read for writers who want to develop a career and make a living in the Indie Publishing industry."– Marion Hill
"There are lots of books out there about how to market your book. Some of them are good. Some aren't. Discoverability is one of the best…"– TeleRead
"Kristine Kathryn Rusch's new book Discoverability is by far the best resource I have read to date to help indie authors succeed after the book is written."– Chris Syme, Principal of CKSyme Media Group
"Kristine [Kathryn Rusch]'s extensive experience in both traditional and indie publishing shines through in this amazing book. Though written for fiction authors, all writers will benefit from reading this book."– Tim Grahl, "11 Best Book Marketing Books"
THE REASON FOR THIS BOOK
Everyone—including self-published authors—is worried about the "mountain of crap" that self-publishing will (has?) brought into the industry.
Everyone ignores two important facts: one person's crap is another person's beloved book, and publishing has always produced books in great volume. The recently merged Penguin Random House (or Randy Penguin as one of my favorite PRH authors calls it) will publish 15,000 new titles in 2014, not counting everything in its backlist.
I hate to say this, but a lot of those 15,000 titles will be crap—at least to someone.
The number of books published in the United States has always been extremely high. If you add up the number of books published worldwide, you'll realize that, with so many choices, it's amazing anyone reads the same book at all.
Traditional publishers tell writers two contradictory things:
1. Only traditional publishers can help books find an audience.
2. Writers must promote their traditional published books in order to find an audience.
Um, well, no.
If traditional publishers actually knew how to find an audience, then writers wouldn't have to promote their traditionally published books. It's really that simple.
Traditional publishers don't know—and have never known—how to get books in the hands of readers. And writers generally mispromote their books.
Yet readers find books anyway.
Among writers, the promotion discussion has gone on as long as I've been in the business. And it's always startled me, because I have a background in business outside of publishing. I've also been very active inside traditional publishing, and the one thing I learned early is that traditional publishing has no idea how to market anything well.
First, let me share some terms with you.
By "traditional publishing," I mean publishers who work in the old model that existed before the changes in the industry.
That model works like this:
Writers provide content (product) to Publishers.
Publishers distribute that content to Distributors.
Distributors distribute books to Bookstores.
Bookstores distribute that content to Readers.
The new model, which has evolved in this century (and has become prevalent in the years since 2009) works like this:
Writers provide content (product) to Bookstores.
Bookstores distribute that content to Readers.
Most people call this model self-publishing, but I call it indie publishing, because, if you're going to do it right, you will need a team to help you. At minimum, you'll need cover designer, a copy editor, a line editor, a content editor, and an accountant.
You can learn how to do covers yourself and how to handle your own accounting. But you'll always need a second eye (a copy editor) on your team. And once you have a team, you're no longer a self-publisher. You're an independent publisher.
I've worked in traditional publishing in every single job except as an agent (and you'll note that I don't include agents in either model above. In this modern world, they're not necessary). I have started two separate successful traditional publishing companies, and advised the owners of several other traditional publishing companies.
I've edited, worked in bookstores, and helped distributors. I've even worked in libraries.
I know publishing. And since ebooks and print-on-demand disrupted the staid old publishing business, I've also become what's known as a hybrid writer, someone who indie-publishes and traditionally publishes her work.
Because I can never do just one thing, I've owned successful retail businesses. I'm in the process of buying another—or, to be more accurate, buying back the business my husband and I sold seven years ago.
I've owned at least ten businesses. (I always forget one or two, which is why I'm not being exact here. I'm too lazy to go back and figure it out accurately.)
I still own five. One of those five is my writing business. Another is a publishing company. The rest exist outside the realm of publishing entirely.
I'd like to say that most of my writing has been in fiction, but that's not true. I've written nonfiction professionally since I was sixteen years old. For more than a decade, my primary writing income came from my work as a business writer for major magazines. I interviewed the owners of countless start-ups and long-term success stories. I wrote business cover stories on everything from Hollywood production companies to game companies to investment firms.
I also worked as a broadcast journalist and spent a few years as the news director of a non-profit radio station, where I learned how different non-profits are from for-profit businesses.
I have written ad copy for radio, newspapers, and television. In the modern era, I've written ad copy for Kickstarter projects and other online ventures. I've done marketing for almost every business I've been involved in, and I noticed, well before one of my blog readers mentioned in the comments, that "Publishing is the only business in which marketing is an entry level position."
Yeah, and it shouldn't be. The fact that it is shows how unconcerned traditional publishers are with marketing.
This book will not tell you how other writers market their books. Instead, I'll look at the way other businesses market their product.
Once you finish writing, your book must go from being your baby to being a widget. If you cannot make that shift, then close this book and set it back on the shelf (or delete this free sample from your ereader). Until you can honestly call your writing a product, you will not be able to do the things listed inside this volume.
I have written this book with a specific target audience in mind. That target audience is composed of established writers. Beginners can read this volume for information for their future, but until you've published several titles, the content of this volume is not for you.
I initially wrote this book in 3,000-word chunks that I posted on my weekly business blog. The original posts are still online, along with the comments from all of the readers. You can find them on my website, kristinekathrynrusch.com. Some of the comments are very useful. Some are…well, you'll see.
I did write the blog posts out of order, so some of the context that you get in this book is missing. Also, some of the information is dated already, even though I put up the first post less than a year ago. That dated information is still available on the website, but I have updated that information for the book.
Because I initially wrote these chapters for my blog, I had to put up a set of assumptions. I wanted all of the readers to know where I'm coming from—and I still do.
Here are the assumptions I'm making for this volume:
Assumption #1: You will read this book in order. Usually people who buy self-help books read only the chapters that interest them. If you read this book out of order or skip chapters, you will miss a lot of important information. This book will only help you if you read it in its entirety.
Assumption #2: With only a few exceptions, we will be talking about fiction here. There are promotion techniques that work for nonfiction—even on the first book—that do not work for fiction. I don't want to muddy the waters here. We're discussing fiction in this book.
Assumption #3: You have learned your craft well enough to intrigue readers. You know how to tell a good story; you have grammar, spelling, and punctuation under control; you create interesting characters; and you write what you love.
Assumption #4: If you have indie-published your work, then your work has a good blurb, a great cover, and a well-designed interior. Your work is available in ebook and trade paper formats. (I also hope you have audio books, but for our purposes here, I'm not going to assume it.)
Assumption #5: If you have indie-published your work, your ebooks are available in every ebook venue you can find. Your paper novels are in extended distribution on Createspace or through some other print-on-demand company. In other words, if a bookseller whom you don't know and never will know wants to order your paper book, that bookseller can call up a catalogue from a major distributor (Baker & Taylor, Ingrams) and order your book at the proper bookseller's discount.
Assumption #6: If you are traditionally published, your books are with a company that makes the books available in ebook and paper formats, and your books are still in print. (If they aren't, ask for those rights back and then publish the books yourself.)
Assumption #7: You have at least a minimal web presence. You have a website that readers can easily find. You have a list of your published books somewhere, also findable. You have some passive marketing in place. (A mailing list, a social media presence, or a contact button on your website. Something.)
Assumption #8: You have published more than one book. Most of what I tell you won't work on one novel. You'll need several—or at least a novel and some short stories. If you're haven't published much, make sure you've done 2–7, and write the next book.
Those are the assumptions.
Now, I have one big WARNING:
Everything I say here, everything, MUST take place after you've finished writing your story/book/novel. Do NOT take ANY of this advice into your writing office. None of it. Be an artist: write what you love. When you're done, then worry about marketing it. This new world of publishing allows us to write whatever we want and publish it. Please take advantage of that. When you write, be an artist, be a great storyteller, not a marketer or a salesperson.
I know, I know. Lots of warnings and assumptions. But I had to be clear, because these points are extremely important.
Because if you don't fit into the target audience for this book, then much of what you find here will not apply to your work. It's as simple as that.
A lot of the information you'll read here will challenge your cherished preconceptions of the way books should be marketed. If you've been around publishing—both traditional and indie—you've absorbed the conventional wisdom about book marketing.
The main tenet of that convention wisdom is this: publishing is a special business, and traditional rules of marketing do not apply to it. That tenet has been around since the 1940s, and it's just plain silly.
Traditional publishers have never reached the majority of readers because traditional publishers haven't tried. Most of the indie publishing marketing gurus are making the exact same mistake, focusing on the discount marketplace at the exclusion of the average customer.
This book will give you ideas on the best way to reach readers, show you solid marketing techniques, and help you evaluate the success of your publicity campaigns.
The book will also help you decide the most important part about marketing your own work: when you should let your work speak for itself.
Ultimately, this book should help you figure out what's best for you when it comes to marketing your work. What's best for you might not be best for me. Every writer is different.
My goal in writing this book is to help you make an informed decision about marketing for your writing business. Once you're informed, you can do anything you want—follow conventional wisdom, follow traditional marketing, or subvert everything.
If you're informed, you'll have a reason for doing whatever it is you're doing—rather than following the crowd.
And that's the most I can hope for.
All writers believe they need to market to rise above that tsunami of crap. Mostly, what you need to do to rise above is pretty simple and straightforward.
Write well. Do your passive marketing correctly. Write a lot.
Very simple to say.
Very hard to do.
But I have faith in you. You picked up an unconventional marketing book. That's an important first step.
When you close this book, you'll know enough to make the right choices for your business.
Remember, marketing is always your choice. Not a requirement. And not something someone else can dictate.
Good luck with your writing—and your marketing. And remember to enjoy it all.
—Kristine Kathryn Rusch
Lincoln City, Oregon
August 8, 2014