Expert publishing blog opinions are solely those of the blogger and not necessarily endorsed by DBW.
As a founder of Reedsy, I am constantly thinking about how publishing and the publishing community are evolving and innovating. A recurring theme (or buzz word, depending on whom you ask) is “discoverability”—a metric of how easily and efficiently an author’s work is found by new readers. Discoverability is a space Reedsy hasn’t entered (yet?). And there are good reasons why.
Discoverability in the book industry?
Working closely with authors both indie and traditional in the past few years has shown that readers don’t have a discoverability problem: everyone and everything from friends to family to newsletters are there to give you ideas for your next read. And if you read a lot of books, you probably have a Goodreads account and may have even found a few blogs you trust for book recommendations.
But it’s on the other side of the discoverability equation (helping authors get discovered) where there’s room for improvement. So how can we create a platform that helps authors improve discoverability and build a loyal readership?
What are an author’s options today?
There are a handful of sites that might help a new author get discovered, but none of these options is without significant flaws. Wattpad is great if you’re a hobbyist publishing non-edited fiction, but it doesn’t do much to distinguish or reward quality.
Is Goodreads the answer? It could be, but there’s no easy way to transform commenters into fans who will follow your progress, read your newsletters and, most importantly, buy your books.
Is it Tablo, Inkitt or any other social discovery platform for books? Unfortunately, those aren’t the solution, either, since Wattpad copycats don’t have the community strength to bring you quality readers in your genre.
So what’s the bottom line? Is it that building an author platform is a slow and difficult process, and that tech startups can’t change that?
Well, sort of. Whether you’re self-publishing or going traditional, you shouldn’t expect anyone to manage your business on your behalf. In particular, you are solely responsible for building your “platform”—a network for reaching readers directly via website, social networks, mailing lists, podcasts, etc. Having a strong platform and not relying on a third party (publisher, retailer, crowdfunding platform, etc.) allows you to be in control of your business, reduce costs and minimize uncertainty.
So as of today, there isn’t a single good resource for quality authors looking to find their first fans. Apart from some rare cases, today’s successful upstart author will have to do a bit of everything, be here and there and everywhere. Becoming discoverable is a struggle.
So what do authors need?
After speaking with many authors and helping a few with their marketing strategies, I’m starting to get a sense of what kind of platform would really help build a readership from scratch. Here are some of its features:
– A platform curated by humans before it’s curated by algorithms. The first step to find the best books is still to have a centralized authority that filters books based on their quality and then lets the community do their job. This will attract quality readers who are more inclined to build a relationship with the author. Building such a platform is slow and costly, but it will yield better results over time.
– Direct email marketing and downloadable mailing lists. If someone likes your book, they should be able to opt in to receive updates about your progress, new releases, special offers, appearances and more. The medium should be platform-agnostic. As of today, email is the only tool that can do this.
– Diversity and subcommunities of readers for different genres. Our ideal platform would need to be properly segmented to help authors find readers already interested in the type of books they write. This means:
- The owner of the platform will have to spend time and money creating those targeted communities. To some extent, Bookbub is doing this.
- We have to capitalize on subgenres with cult followings or legion fans. Traditional classifications don’t put enough emphasis on niche.
- Once subgenres are thoroughly accounted for, recommendations should be based on nuanced projections rather than simply offering readers “more of the same.”
– Incentivize readers to pick certain books. Readers don’t need to find thousands of free books; they need to find your book. How can we get readers hooked and spending more time on your book instead of your competitors’?
Am I missing something? Certainly! I look forward to more suggestions or seeing this platform built!
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