How do readers find books?
It's something of a mystery for us all - writers, publishers, even as readers, it's not something we always understand. We readers do find books - all the time, we're discovering new writers, or new books by writers we've loved. But how, precisely, does this happen? What's the process? This is something which has confounded publishing houses for...well, longer than I've been around, anyway! They still don't know. But indie writers are out there self publishing today, and relearning the same Dread Secret.
That there is no secret.
Some books just get an audience right away. Others get readers after a certain period of time. Others get ignored by the public. And telling which is which, or why one succeeds immediately and another does not, isn't a science. It's something more human than that, because storytelling is something which touches our hearts and souls more than our minds.
I hear constantly from writers who desperately flog their one book as many places as they can. They tweet about it, post about it, strive for review blogs to read and review their book, get Facebook and Google+ pages running... In short, they end up spending hundreds of hours of effort - maybe even thousands of hours - working hard to get just another handful of readers to pick up their book.
I have a theory on this. My theory is based on the idea that I'd like many people to read and enjoy my work - let's say 5000 or more. It's also based on the fact that I simply don't know 5000 people - and I am betting most other folks don't, either. Sure, writers who've spent years building fan bases have their core "10,000 fans" - which is a great goal. But for the beginner, unless you're famous in some other manner, I don't think you can count on reaching out and individually contacting those 5000 people.
But I am more and more sure that you don't need to, either.
Dean Wesley Smith has said many times that your best marketing tool is the next book. Barry Eisler said the same. Write more books - each is another draw which will pull in a few more readers, who will go on to read your other books if they like what you wrote.
So I did a little experiment.
I released a new book. I put it up on Amazon only, as ebook only (it's now available on Nook and Smashwords as well, and will be on Apple, Sony, and Kobo soon). Then I kept it completely silent. No friends and family sales. No tweets. No Facebook mention. No talking about it on any blog, or anywhere on the internet. It was a completely silent launch for two weeks.
And during that time, something interesting happened. That book averaged a sale a day, usually exactly one new book sold every day, even though I never once did *anything* to encourage anyone to buy the book.
Which means people were finding it without blog mentions. Without tweets. Without friends buying copies. Without reviews. Without anything at all.
A reader a day isn't a blockbuster. But it's not bad, either. And it demonstrates to me clearly that good books will find readers. Yes, you might speed up the process a bit by blogging about it (which I am here, my experiment done). But I'm more convinced than ever that all the social networking and advertising in the world is not as important as simply working hard to write well, working hard to produce a quality book, and then getting back to the task of creating the next good book right away.
I'm already hard at work on the next. How about you?
For now though, you can read the first of a new contemporary fantasy series, "By Darkness Revealed", which follows the adventures of Ryan Blackwell as he comes into his full magical powers in our modern world, while attending the military college of Northshield University. Something dark is stirring there, and Ryan will have to rise to meet the threat - if he can - in this short novel.
The blurb: "Ryan Blackwell thought to escape his magic by burying himself in the military college at Northshield, Vermont.
Instead, he finds himself in the midst of a deeper and more dangerous sorcery than he has ever encountered before.
Suddenly, only Ryan's wit, will, and the talent he once hoped to leave behind stand between a nightmarish creature and everything he cares for."
And the cover: