Discoverability Tools and the Writer’s “Fight for Time”

Expert publishing blog opinions are solely those of the blogger and not necessarily endorsed by DBW.

The feedback and chatter from this week’s DBW Discoverability and Marketing Conference (including this post from Porter Anderson) is positive—if for no other reason than the conference exists. Any time publishing minds gather to specifically focus on better ways to connect great books with interested readers, that certainly has to be seen as an encouraging development.

That publishers, pre-occupied with the nuts and bolts digitization processes for the past few years, are perhaps now able to turn their internal strategy discussions to finding, nurturing, and ultimately selling to their audience is great news for an industry wading through radical changes in the way books are discovered, bought or borrowed.

Maybe the most encouraging element of the conference is the possibility that discoverability is moving past shiny buzzword status to rollout and implementation, with actual tools being developed and distributed to help authors find their way through the morass more effectively. Rick Joyce, Chief Marketing Officer at Perseus, who delivered the keynote address at the conference, is certainly one who is experimenting with new DIY tools to help larger numbers of authors help themselves.

But the news for authors trying to write a great story while simultaneously navigating new marketing waters is still a ways from auspicious. As most every author can tell you—sometimes between sighs—the need for a robust social media platform that the author develops and manages, or that they pay to have someone manage for them, is considered crucial to a book’s success. Mere mention of the “P” word evokes an involuntary twitch. To be fair, traditional publishers are becoming more digitally adventurous,  especially for lead titles, but again as most writers and publishers can attest, much more is expected of authors when it comes to marketing their book than ever before. In a post this week, Mike Shatzkin wrote in the always-educational comments section: “One major publisher we spoke to acknowledged that publishers would increasingly be depending on authors to do these things as bookstore shelf space disappears.”

But that’s hardly a surprise for most writers.

Facebook, Twitter, blogging, building relationships with other bloggers, conversing regularly with fans, creating additional content for guest posts and between-book features — all are part of the daily regimen for the platform-savvy writer.

But what effect does that have on the writing? It’s assumed that authors will take on the responsibility of marketing their work, but at what cost? In my Bibliostar.TV interview with J.R. Moehringer, author of the new historical novel, Sutton, he spoke about his excitement for the new technologies available to writers to connect with readers, but also about the risks associated with the new requirements.

“You have to fight for time as a writer. Time to report and time to reflect. Because the world is speeding up–and that”s a good thing but it comes with some risks and dangers. I think the challenge for writers in the future, at least for me being the kind of writer I am, is to find little islands or pockets of slowness, of quiet within the maelstrom, within all the change.”

That writers are more aware than ever before of the need to contribute more to their book’s success is a positive. But the degree to which publishers and even agents can provide a more clearly defined and tested discoverability path for their writers — either with internal or third party resources– will determine the ultimate success of the traditional publishing model. Without that guidance, and with the declining importance of physical distribution for many authors, the publishers’s difficult, nuts and bolts digitization efforts loses too much of its impact.

This finally, is the important next phase of the digital transition. That we have evidence the industry is ready to address discoverability with it’s full attention—like Tolkien’s Eye of Sauron turning upon the topic—is encouraging. Those focused discussions, the kind that helps writers do what they do best, is possibly the best news to come out of the conference.

To watch more of our interview with J.R. Moehringer and other authors, go to Bibliostar.TV.

2 thoughts on “Discoverability Tools and the Writer’s “Fight for Time”

  1. A.T.H. Webber

    The entire industry is in flux, with authors still left to stand alone on their little islands screaming at the passing ships.

    Having authors independently promote their books for the trad-pub houses smacks of a land grab by the houses themselves.

    “You. You there. Give me that manuscript you have been working so hard on for so long. For I am a publisher, and I wish to avail myself of your work. In exchange for a locked in contract that supplies you with a small percentage of the sale of your work, I will allow you to call me your publisher. Now go out and sell your book for me, would you…”

    I am an independent author, and have more than enough trouble trying to get my book noticed, for little return. What benefit is there to earn even less, while still tying up my time away from writing my next book because of the need to continually promote my own work?

    Reply

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