Build Your Own Ocean
Have you reached a point with your activities as a writer where you now have written your novel and have even perhaps posted it online - perhaps for sale on Amazon, perhaps with its own Facebook page, perhaps with tracts here and there in writers’ groups?
You’ve spent ages planning it, even longer writing it. Then you laboured to create a website for it and you were 100% confident that you had exactly the new novel that people would be looking for. They would flock to your site and buy your book.
The first day you launched your website, you kept checking the stats - there had only been a few visits. That’s okay, you thought. Readers just haven’t found it yet. It takes a few days for momentum to pick up.
But day after day, you found myself getting more and more desperate, with just a handful of clicks on your site. What was wrong? What had you overlooked? Why weren’t people buying your book by the truckload?
Finally it occurred to you to look and see where the clicks on your site were coming from. When you did, you found that all of your customers were coming from the same postal codes. Your postal code and the postal codes where your friends lived.
You’d written an earth-shattering novel to reach the entire world and only reached the people you already knew.
Why was that?
Not readers’ fear - your fear.
The fear of getting out of your comfort zone; the fear of really letting people see you - and especially of letting people see the book in which you’d bared your heart and soul; the fear of reaching out into the Wide World where things were so much more likely to go out of your control.
Fear has paralysed you. It has locked you in a small cell, surrounded by the things you know, the things you can control, the safe things.
So what’s the answer? How do you get out of your comfort zone cell? Modern consumers are already jaded by traditional advertising tactics. Facebook is saturated; social media is almost choked with marketing messages. Check your news feed and count how much is pure advertising, simply people trying to grab your attention. The more readers are bombarded by tailor-made, rapid-fire, over-enthusiastic marketing messages, the less trust they have in the sources sending those messages.
But the answer is nevertheless online. It is the world’s largest shop, the greatest and most dynamic human community ever seen. And what works online is what has always worked: you need to give and share.
Amazon’s Kindle is awash with free books, which is the first wave of this tactic. Thousands of authors have twigged that the way to hook a reader is to dangle free bait, bait that requires no commitment whatsoever, in front of that reader using the ocean that is the internet. This tactic works - people catch the most fish by going to the places where the fish are, places like Amazon and Facebook.
But, just like the traditional fishing industry, stocks can get dangerously depleted. Just as a fishing trawler can overfish a region and eventually come back empty-handed from a once-fish-rich area, so are new authors finding that the old places are ‘fished out’. Readers have a certain amount of time and energy for reading and this is already glutted with bait.
There are two very concrete things that you can do about this.
1. Make sure that your work is ‘coded’ in such a way that readers smell quality a mile away.
2. Build your own ocean.
In other words, in a marketplace which is heavily saturated and which is already showing signs of serious strain, your work needs to stand out as high quality. It needs to resonate with readers on levels that they barely understand; just a few words describing your story need to make those readers salivate and move their fingers to the ‘Buy Now’ button before they have a chance to notice the thousand other fish swarming nearby.
And your creativity needs to reach new depths. I don’t mean that your work isn’t creative - it obviously is. You have faith in it; you’ve worked hard at it. But I can virtually guarantee that whatever you have written is working on a fraction of its potential horsepower. You need to tap into the ‘nuclear reactor’ of your own fiction in such a way that you not only create the resonance described above, you dig out your very own ocean full of readers.
Then all shall be well and all manner of things shall be well.