Book Awareness

The hardest thing about being a writer these days is getting noticed. I’m convinced of this.

I judged several contests this year and it’s apparent to me that there are some really good writers out there. I’m also a critique partner and an editor and a blog tour coordinator. I see lots of books, some that I’d like to see hit the NY Times best seller lists. But reality is, they probably won’t.

Promotion of books is hard.

It’s harder now than ever, I think, because we have had an explosion of indy publishers and an ever-growing number of self-published authors. How does anyone set themselves apart from that crowd?

I just left a Facebook Launch Party chat for one of the best books I’ve read this year. I got there late and already there were nearly 300 comments. Wow, I thought. Three hundred!

But guess what. If each of those comments was from a person who has bought or will buy the book, that’s small potatoes. And this book deserves BIG potatoes! 😉

Speculative middle grade and young adult writer Sally Apokedak is working to build her tribe, and as a result has come up with a great idea. She’s creating a semi-annual newsletter about the best picture, MG, and YA books–a great tool for parents looking for Christmas presents in the fall and for summer reads for their kiddos in the spring.

On top of this, Sally is giving away prizes. Just for signing up for this wonderful newsletter (and trust me, one look at her web site and you know she does things up right), you’ll be entered to win a Kindle Fire, or one of the other prizes available. What a deal.

But with all the goodness, you’d expect hundreds and hundreds of people to sign up, wouldn’t you? Let’s just say, she hasn’t reached those numbers yet! 😮

What’s it take, I wonder. Giving things away doesn’t seem to get you noticed any more these days.

Everyone blogs and Tweets. Writers are speakers and do interviews and book signings. Yet that’s the deal–everyone does it. How does a writer separate from the pack?

Is it brilliant marketing? A great public relations campaign?

Or do we say that God works all things for His purposes? Great marketing campaigns have been known to lay an egg and small, unheralded projects have been known to hit pay dirt.

So here’s what I think. If I ever publish my fantasy novels and they find a readership, everyone will know that it’s God at work (one of those “wonders and signs” I wrote about recently 😉 ) because I’ll tell you flat out: I haven’t got a clue how a person or a book can separate from all the others out there to actually be noticed. As I see it, it has to be something God brings about.

Published in: on June 26, 2012 at 6:52 pm  Comments (6)  
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6 Comments

  1. Thanks for linking to my page. And for posting about my newsletter on Facebook.

    Question: Which book is one of the best books you’ve read this year? Which launch party were you at?

    Comment: I can’t understand why people haven’t signed up for my newsletter. I sign up every time I see a chance to win an e-reader. I don’t sign up for a chance to win free books anymore. There are just too many free. I don’t even go download free books on Kindle anymore, unless they are ones I really want. I have way too many books on my Kindle now, that I haven’t read. But a free e-reader always attracts me. Even though I already have one, I love to give them away as Christmas presents.

    I’m wondering, though, if it’s not different enough. As you said in your post, we need to do something different.

    My next goal is to come up with a Youtube video that goes viral. Even that, though, might not attract an audience to my other stuff. I remember that really funny “So you want to be an author?” video. I never went to the site of the woman who made it. I don’t even know her name.

    So I think if you’re going to do a funny video, you have to build into it, a link to your website or have the characters talk about your website or you book so people will remember it.

    A lot of work–this marketing stuff–but also a lot of fun trying to figure out how to get a following.

    And in the end, as you say, it’s God that decides these things. No matter what we do, God is the one raises up kings and knocks them down. He’s the one who fills out a mailing list or not as he sees fit.

    But he works through people, more times than not. I’m thankful he gave you to me for a friend. Thank you for working to get the word out about the newsletter. And thanks for the kind words about my website.

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  2. Answer: I should have given the title in the post. Not sure why I didn’t. I was referring to Angel Eyes by Shannon Dittemore. Great book, wonderful writer, and gracious launch party hostess. I wasn’t there long, but it was fun.

    Comment: I’ve seen the promotional thing go the rounds. First it was bookmarks. Every author started giving out bookmarks until someone began to question if they really brought sales. The latest is book trailers. I just read an article in a professional newsletter questioning how effective they are unless they are linked to a speaking engagement. I tend to think if they do what you suggest and link to the book, they could be hugely effective. But we’re back to the question of this post–how does someone separate her book trailer from all the hundreds of other ones (not to mention all the hundreds of thousands of other YouTube videos)?

    I do think we should think creatively and do what God puts before us to do (which is why I’m doing the CSFF Blog Tour and writing at Spec Faith). I think we should offer product which will benefit others so that they get a glimpse of what we’re about.

    Gideon didn’t take a seat under the nearest tamarack tree once he understood that God would give Israel the victory. Instead, he stepped out in obedience and did what God asked him to do. I think that’s a good model to follow. 😉

    Becky

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  3. Oh, and I forgot to mention free books. As you said in your post about your Sweepstakes, the quality isn’t always so good in the ones meant to bring subscriptions to a blog or newsletter. In addition, the idea of giving free e-books to move them up in rankings won’t work anymore either. You mentioned this and just yesterday agent Steve Laube, I believe it was, linked to an article that said Amazon is now linking the ratings to price, so cheaper books that brought many buyers because of their price will no longer go head to head with more expensive books people are buying for their quality.

    So my guess is, we will soon see a reduction of the free book offers. But I could be wrong.

    Becky

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  4. “So here’s what I think. If I ever publish my fantasy novels and they find a readership, everyone will know that it’s God at work (one of those “wonders and signs” I wrote about recently ) because I’ll tell you flat out: I haven’t got a clue how a person or a book can separate from all the others out there to actually be noticed. As I see it, it has to be something God brings about.”

    Well, you know, Becky, that I completely agree with this. Just finishing up Merchants of Culture and that seems to be hammering in the point even more deeply.

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  5. Yes, I do know you agree, Karen. It seems like the only position to take if we believe that God is sovereign.

    Yet having said that, I’ve noticed repeatedly throughout Scripture this past year what I’ve termed the synergy between God and Man. I don’t understand it, mind you. Just observed it.

    For example, I just read in Acts this morning about Paul going to commander Justus and telling him not to set sail. They did anyway and found themselves blown off course by a terrific storm. Two weeks later, Paul tells them he had a vision from God. No one would die but they’d lose the ship.

    But here’s the strange part. A day or so later when they are approaching land, Paul reveals to the commander that the sailors are planning to take the lifeboat and run. He says, if they do that, the rest of us will die.

    Say what? God had told him they would not die. Now Paul is saying, If you don’t act, what Sovereign God revealed won’t happen.

    Usually we today don’t have the benefit of knowing God’s plan. I think that might be for the good (nice of me to approve of God’s way of doing things, don’t you think? 🙄 ) because I wonder how often we might pull back and not act because we know what God is planning.

    I guess this is also why I don’t think one person can determine if another is doing too little or going overboard. We might weigh in on what we think works but not on how much another person should do.

    How can I say what God wants for another person? It’s Peter asking Jesus, What about John back there; what’s going to become of him? None of your business, Peter, Jesus said essentially.

    I guess my point in this post is that “getting noticed” is unquantifiable, but I don’t think for me that means I still shouldn’t try to think of ways to stand out from the crowd. My first concern is to write in such a way that the story itself might stand out. From there, I’m not sure what else might do it, but I don’t mind weighing options. And praying for God’s direction.

    Becky

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  6. I remember a year in the 1970s when there were 17 Australia novels published. Everyone celebrated. It was a record for local production. I knew most of the authors, read all the reviews and went to most of the book launches. Nobody needed to do any particular promotion. They each sold about 2,000 copies t0 about the same group of people. Now we have the sheer weight of numbers sitting on us.

    The science fiction writer Theodore Sturgeon was once told that 9/10ths of SF was crap. He replied that 9/10ths of everything was crap. I believe the publishing revolution has boosted that to something like 99/100ths. The main skill for literate people used to be hunting out the elusive worthwhile reads. Today it is the ability to block out almost everything that is being pushed at us.

    The major scarce resource today is attention. But the corporations have so much expertise in capturing people’s attention that the rest of us can’t compete.

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