I hope that you are taking on board the advice given in the last couple of articles. Some of it isn’t easy to swallow, but without doing as I’m suggesting, you’re likely to remain trapped in the Phantom Zone, invisible and inaudible to your potential readers across the planet.
It boils down to four basic — very basic — stages:
1. You have to APPEAR in front of people in a form that they can perceive.
This means, these days, having your own web domain — your name.com, or co.uk or whatever it might be, and your own website, even if it’s just one page. Without these things, you’re a ghost in the modern world. And you need your social media aligned so that it looks reasonably professional, not originated by someone working at random times from a kitchen table: you need a smart-looking profile picture, a concise and informative bio, and everything looking more or less the same across the different social media sites. Those things add up to Square One: you are there, you can be recognised as an author.
2. You have to have a WELL-WRITTEN, thematically alive book which stands out from the flat offerings of other people in your genre or sub-genre.
This has been covered at length, but in summary, without powerful themes, metaphoric and symbolic content and depth of meaning, your fiction will be two-dimensional and will be lost in a crowded marketplace. Having at least ONE book which possesses these qualities gives you an item of communication — it’s you, in a package, speaking out your message to the world. For this to work well, of course, you need to have a message, to know what it is exactly that you’re trying to say.
3. You have to KEEP COMMUNICATING long after the book has been finished and published.
You do this through social media, blogs, appearances at events and in workshops, and any other way that generates what we call ‘social proof’, which is another way of saying ‘visible staying power’. Your book was your standalone, single, powerful communication — you talking about it, or things relating to it, along every available channel, continues that communication, repeating it or parts of it again and again until it arrives in the minds and hearts of your readers.
4. You have to FIND YOUR READERS.
Your readers are not ‘any old readers.’ You don’t have to bombard the planet with spammy ads trying to get every reader to read your book. It’s cleverer, more authentic — and more fun— than that. You have to do the detective work to find YOUR readers. It’s really worth doing so, because these people are going to love your work, by definition — not only that, they’re going to spread the word about you to others like themselves.
So let’s assume that you are on the road to doing these things.
Let’s say that your work is packed full of thematic content in a really well-defined niche — for example, Victorian ghost stories.
You’ve been consistently writing blog posts about the period, including snippets from your work to promote your book.
You’ve developed a really engaging Instagram profile with thousands of followers and hundreds of fans, and this is mirrored in other social media.
You’ve recently completed some other projects including a collection of short stories which was well received by its initial readers.
Through social media, other writers, who admire how successful you’ve become with all of your branding and marketing, leave ‘Likes’ and comments for you everywhere.
But you’re still having a hard time getting readers. Sales of your book are minuscule.
It doesn’t seem fair, does it? You have a premium book, affordably priced, that reflects your skills and values. You have a ton of interested admirers — but they won’t pay to buy your book.
What should you do?
You’ve probably read a great deal about editing your work to a highly specialised form which powerfully communicates what you want to say. Theoretically, this allows you to attract ideal readers — it’s the ‘pull’ method of marketing, as opposed to writing something of lower quality, less focussed, and then working hard to push and push and push it out to readers.
But spot the crucial element of this formula: if the wrong people are seeing your high quality book, you will not attract the readers you need to succeed. The key piece of marketing is to make sure you are placing the book in front of the right people.
Who are the right people?
Readers buy books. Every reader is the right reader for somebody. Of the millions of people who wander into bookshops across the planet, all of them are looking for something.
In your case, in the example above, the right people are those who are looking for a high quality, reasonably priced Victorian ghost story.
Birds of a feather flock together.
You may have made the critical mistake of staying within the social circles you had before you wrote your amazing book. As a struggling writer, you networked all the time, while keeping your costs as low as possible. Many writers join free Facebook groups, for example, hoping to not only pick up advice and companionship, but readers.
But here’s the thing: Facebook writing groups are full of writers also hoping to pick up advice and companionship, networking all the time, keeping their costs as low as possible. You’ll get some sales in those circles. Maybe you had to offer free chapters, free downloads, even free whole books, but you got some sales. A trickle of money came in — just enough for you to think ‘This is a beginning’ and to continue to pump the groups for sales.
What are you doing wrong?
If you have found your focus as an author, understand your values and your message, have written a book or books which are three dimensional and therefore which stand out in the crowd, it’s possible that those other writers, who were always looking for writing tips and to make friends, were no longer the right match for your book. They read your posts, follow your career on social media, and admire everything you are doing. But they aren’t necessarily looking for Victorian ghost stories.
Theoretically, if your writing is as developed as we are assuming it is, they could definitely use a read of it for the sake of their own development as writers. Probably the ones who bought your book were thinking like that: ‘Victorian ghost stories aren’t really my thing, but this writer seems to be successful so maybe I could learn something…’ But that’s just a few people, a few sales.
And that’s the key point:
Just because someone reads your posts and clicks ‘Like’ a lot doesn’t mean they want what you have to offer as an author, nor does it mean they are in the right mindset to buy your book.
You can successfully position yourself as a highly successful, impassioned author with powerful themes who deserves success, but you might be fishing in your old pond. The wrong pond.
The solution, naturally, is to find the right pond.
You can offer the most brilliantly written stories and have the most compelling messages in the world, but if only the wrong people are hearing about you it’s not going to get you very far.
If this sounds like you, a big shift of viewpoint could be about to occur.
Because when you do find a way to tap into the market that does want what you do and how you do it, the result will be a flood of eager readers.
It’s not necessarily a quick fix — but it’s worth it.