You’ve published a book — a book you slaved over from the first sentence to the last, a book you poured your own blood into, a book which you edited and proofread until it was a polished diamond.
Where are your readers?
Why don’t they just scent your work from afar, rush in droves to buy it, and then swoon with satisfaction once they read it? Why can’t they appreciate the delicate character work, the intricately realistic dialogue, the beautiful settings, the way you structured the thing so wonderfully?
Why is there only silence?
Here’s the thing: you aren’t owed any readers. In your universe, you are; in the outer universe, where readers live, you’re not. Try not to confuse the two.
As far as readers are concerned, you’re invisible, intangible, a phantom. You’ll remain so unless you recognise certain things and act upon them.
1. Recognise that people neither know nor care what work you have put into your book.
When you have an electrical problem in your house, you call an electrician. He or she fixes the problem. You don’t need to know exactly what or how it’s being done (though ours has a habit of trying to explain it all): you just want the lights to work.
Fiction readers are largely the same. They just want the thrills, the emotional roller-coaster, the sensations, the laughs, the tragic, comic, ironic or epic pay-offs. How you did it (or how long it took) is only of interest to literature fanatics like myself.
2. Recognise that there are some people, somewhere, who can almost see you.
These people are scattered all over the world. They possess (from your point of view) a weird ‘second sight’: they can almost ‘see’ your book. How do you know? Because they are seeing and buying books very similar to yours. If yours were to appear in front of them, on the right shelf or website just before their eyes, they would probably at least reach towards it and take a look.
Your primary job is to find these people.
3. Recognise that, until you find these people, your job as a writer is not complete.
It’s very easy to think that when you write the final sentence of your book your work is done; it’s even easier to think that when you finally get the edited draft complete, that’s the end. Of course, every writer assumes that publishing the thing is clearly and obviously the last step.
Getting the book into the hands, and then the minds and hearts, of readers is the last step. When a reader buys your book, reads it and experiences the exact thrills, emotional roller-coaster rides, sensations, laughs, pay-offs and so on that you intended for them to experience — and, in all likelihood, a few things that you didn’t intend to be in there but which readers found there anyway — that is the end of the journey.
A farmer doesn’t consider harvest time the end of the season: selling his crop at the market is the proper end. Taking it to market and finding the right buyers is all part of his job. Traditional publishers used to be the only way to do this bit for writers, but now it’s open to anyone trace, entice, persuade and sell to the right readers.
4. Recognise that there really are people out there who are going to adore your work.
Provided that you have covered the basics of writing craft and your story is in any way worthwhile, it will have fans. Your job is to emerge from the phantom world where you currently reside in relation to them, swirl into visibility, materialise in a place and form where you can be seen, and solidify enough for them to be able to buy your book.
This process sounds like alchemy or magic, and there is an element of that about it: but it is also a known and reliable procedure which you can learn and follow. If you want to complete the arc from writing your story to reaching your readers’ hearts, you could argue that you owe it to yourself to learn and follow that procedure.
All you have to do is read and apply the material provided.
Please feel free to ask me any questions.