How to Get Noticed

Earlier this week another writer and I were talking about how to sell more books. The question was: How does a writer get his or her work noticed?

When I started writing, I though a writer sat at a desk, typed out a story, sent it off to an editor, who (of course) loved the story, the book was published, the author then did a few book signings or interviews, and then started another book. I didn’t think about advertising or publicity. That would be the publisher’s job. Right? My job would be to write and cash the checks.

What a blissful dream.

The reality, especially today, is publishers do very little advertising. Most publicity falls on the shoulders of the writer. If I want to sell more books, it’s up to me to bring them to the attention of possible buyers. Not always an easy task, especially since the e-book came on the scene.

Why has the e-book made a difference? Primarily because the number of books now available (both in print and as e-books) is staggering, and every year the numbers increase. Whereas my romances used to be on the shelves for six weeks at the longest and after that time only available as used books, now they can live on forever as e-books.

If a paperback or hardcover book didn’t sell well, it was remaindered. Nowadays the physical book may disappear, but if there’s an electronic version, it goes on and on. Also, in the past, if a publisher didn’t feel there were enough buyers for a certain type of book, it might never be published. But nowadays getting published isn’t dependent on being picked up by one of the big-name publishing houses. Smaller, niche publishing houses keep springing up; publishers who are willing to accept stories that may only have a small audience. And, as we know, Amazon has given everyone a chance to have a book published, in one form or another, which isn’t necessarily bad. More and more self-published books have made best seller lists, won contests, and created millionaires. Being self-published has lost the stigma it once had.

A new analysis of U.S. ISBN data by ProQuest™  affiliate Bowker™reveals that the number of self-published titles in 2013 increased to more than 458,564, up 17 percent over 2012 and 437 percent over 2008. Print titles were up a very strong 29 percent over 2012, indicating the format’s continuing relevance to self-publishers. (October 8, 2014 )

More than a third of contributors in Books In Print have an ISNI as opposed to the traditional ISBN.

New Providence, NJ – May 7, 2014 – A new analysis of Bowker® Books In Print shows that a full 33 percent of its contributors have the ISO-certified International Standard Name Identifier (ISNI) connected with their names and in use in the database. ISNI was created just over two years ago and has topped 8 million assignments, 2.33 million of which are represented in Books In Print, showing rapid uptake by authors and other contributors.

So what does that mean for me or other writers? It means our books, whether in print form or as e-books, even those published in the traditional manner, are simply a few among hundreds of thousands. It means getting name recognition is not easy, and for most of us, it’s our job to make sure our books sell. Which, I’m sure, is why agents and editors often ask a writer for a marketing plan.

But wait, I’m a writer, not an ad man (or woman). Which brings me back to my original question: How does a writer attract a potential book buyer?

Ad agencies know repetition is a key factor in sales. Dean Parker says, “It generally takes 3 exposures to the same ad before a potential client will respond.”

He also says you need to reach your targeted market. This is the point that worries me about my advertising. Yes, I know writers are also readers, but am I reaching book buyers who aren’t writers? And if not, how do I do that?

These are the few things I’ve learned.

1) A good story (especially one that happens to be about a topic that’s of general interest) is primary.

2) A good title and a good cover are important.

3) Name recognition is important. Some people are afraid to buy a book if they’ve never heard of the author.

4) Having a “Brand” can help people find me, especially if my brand gives people an idea about what I write. In my case, my brand is “Romance and Mystery Writer.”

5) A web site is essential. This is where a potential book buyer can see what I’ve written and what my writing is like through excerpts and blurbs; can discover how to buy what I’ve written; and can learn a little about me. This web site needs to be professional looking but also welcoming, easy to navigate, and visually pleasing.

6) It’s important to join various social media sites (Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, Pinterest, etc). Why? Because if name recognition is important, this is one way to develop that recognition. It’s not a “Buy my book” time, but a time to be seen as a person.

7) Book talks and book signings, even if poorly attended, are important. They help with name recognition, with readers, store managers, store owners, and librarians.

8) No one knows how effective bookmarks, flyers, tray cards, or any other printed advertising might be, but they get your name out there. Same with blog hops and contests.

9) And finally, word of mouth is the best advertising a writer can get, which goes back to #1 on this list. If people like my book(s), they’ll talk about them. And, if you have a fan club, treasure those people.

I treasure those of you who read my blogs. Thank you and have a wonderful Thanksgiving Day.

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20 Responses to How to Get Noticed

  1. Diane Burton says:

    Great post, Maris. Very difficult to attract readers. I guess we keep plugging away, trying to get our names out there.

    Happy Thanksgiving to you & your family.

    • Maris Soule says:

      Thanks, Diane. And a very Happy Thanksgiving to you and yours. As you said, we just keep plugging away. Persistence has always been an important factor in success.

  2. Timely post, Maris. The most difficult part of my writing for publication is the self-promotion. It’s so much easier to promote someone else’s work.
    You make some good points here.

    Happy Thanksgiving!

    • Maris Soule says:

      I wasn’t kidding, Loralee, about my delusion of simply being a writer with others (the publisher) doing the promoting. Alas, we may not like the self-promotion, but you’ve proven you can do it, so pat yourself on the back.

  3. Thanks for the recap, Maris. I knew most of this (although the statistics were new), but every so often, it’s great to see it in print as a refresher.

    Barbara Barrett

  4. Melissa Keir says:

    What great advice! Thanks!!

  5. I FBed an Tweeted, Maris. Really good post.

  6. Maris, you’re a peach. Yes, it’s true. We write and promote, do all the right stuff and yet. . .I’m 83. Eighteen stories to my credit all published by Vanilla Heart Publishing.
    Happy Thanksgiving to you and your loved ones.

    • Maris Soule says:

      Charmaine, I’m so glad that you’re still actively writing and promoting. I’m not far behind you in age and I love hearing about other “more mature” writers who are still active. (You’ll have to check out my 2015 book, A KILLER PAST. My main character is 74 and she’s not sitting in a rocking chair knitting.)

  7. Well said, Maris. No matter what we do to be noticed, it all comes down to having a good product to begin with.

  8. I think you’ve covered this topic very well. Not much for me to add here. Reaching readers is what it’s all about, and it has become more difficult since there’s now a tidal wave of e-books and self-published work. However, word of mouth is important. Getting readers to recognize our names is a significant factor.

    • Maris Soule says:

      My concern, Jacqueline, is if I’m reaching readers who are not also writers. I hope I am, but I’m sure there are venues I’m not even aware of. Thanks for stopping by to comment.

  9. I’m a writer who buys books, don’t read them all; but sometimes I fell empty headed–not enough words swirling around from thick hard cover books. My shelves are creaking as much as my joints. At 74 the dream of snagging a main stream publisher goes on and on.

    Happy Thanksgiving. Lincoln started the observance during the Civil War. So remember to thank the Lord for our marvelous, flawed country.

  10. Great article…nice mix of stats and practical advice. The publishing industry shares a similar flaw with Youtube. What’s the best thing about Youtube? Everyone can upload a video.
    What’s the worst thing about Youtube? Everyone can upload a video.
    The same is becoming true of publishing. The sheer quantity of reading material “published” daily is indeed staggering. I think the key is to develop a hyper-loyal fanbase that multiplies our marketing efforts through word of mouth.
    I have had interviews about my book, Paradigm Rift, on many radio stations, newspapers, and even TV. It appears that ONLY the TV appearance (a midwest #75 market station) resulted in solid measurable sales increase, for about 48 hours. My first signing is coming up in mid-December, I will be interested to see how that goes.

    • Maris Soule says:

      Good luck with that signing, Randy. I’ve had some where the store sold out of my books and others where only two books were sold, but in each case the advertising the book store did prior to the event, and my interaction with the book store manager resulted in many sales after the event. I like your youtube comparison. That’s exactly the same problem we’re facing today.