As an avidreader I’ve been reading novels for the past 16 years and counting. Romance was the genre that I started with and over the years I’ve had to expand my reading palette to prevent unnecessary burn out. Reading this long there is very little that surprises me. There is very little that I haven’t read already. I used to have a pretty good author list that has now dissolved to a select few. However, there are new authors emerging everyday. Back in 2004, The New York Times reported that a new book was being published every 30 minutes. As a reader with a select few of favorites these days, I’m always in the market for trying out a new voice.
Marketing Tools that Work or Don’t Work for this Reader
Each reader goes through their own process of trying a new author out. New authors have their work cut out for them from the time they are handed their first sale. How to get noticed? How to get your name out there? How do you attract a new audience? I’ve read my share of first time authors and unfortunately, a few of them never make it past their first book. Why? No audience, poor sales, or lack of promotion for starters. What responsibility does the author have in getting their name out there? I’d say a lot. The publisher can put your book in the right places but I would think that the rest is up to the author to self-promote like hell to get their book noticed among the thousands that are published each year.
Much of this commentary is from my perspective as a reader. However, other readers are more than welcome to add their thoughts and opinions on the marketing tools that publishers and authors use to gain new readership. I only know what works for me and what doesn’t. I’m a seasoned reader and have read it all. Most of us have a system when it comes to purchasing a new book from a new face. So here’s what I look for when buying a new book.
- Excerpts are invaluable. I love to read excerpts especially since I buy more “e” more than I buy “paper” these days. So it is only prudent to have excerpts made available to clinch the sale after I’ve read the rather boring plot summary. The important role of excerpts is pretty much obvious. As readers we get a taste of the author’s style and narrative voice. I can sometimes tell immediately if a book will work for me or not based on the excerpt. Also is it first person or third? Very important for some readers to know before they buy.
- Word of mouth or good buzz doesn’t hurt and can be pretty powerful. However there has to be a balance here because too much good buzz is a killer. Most readers like me are turned off by it.
- The cover debate still rages on. The impact or role book covers play in making or breaking a book is still, well, debatable. Rarely do I buy a book based on cover alone but it does happen. However, more times than not, the book itself just doesn’t live up to the cover. On the other side of the coin, there are books with underwhelming covers. Obviously, covers are important. It’s the first thing readers see before they even read the plot summary.
- Professional review sites, magazines, reader blogs and such. Ah, well, they play a important role in how I decide on new authors I’m on the fence on but more often than not, if I’m already a fan, reviews don’t have much of an impact on my wallet. I do pay attention to Publisher Weekly’s starred reviews but often their taste in books doesn’t always jive with my own so it really just boils down to readers having similar taste to your own. Another good promotion tool is having favorable reviews in RT because it does seem to help. Barnes and Noble puts their RT magazines right next to the new romance releases. Uh, I really don’t use RT reviews but millions of other readers do.
- Promotion and Placement is very important. When I shop at Barnes and Noble, I always make a point to visit the Recommendation shelf where booksellers promote the books they’ve enjoyed to readers like me. I’ve had much success with one bookseller named Janet. She likes Stephenie Meyer and Patricia Briggs. Also, the display stands that serve to block my path down the aisle as I try to go to another section of the bookstore or books that are highlighted as “new” will always get my attention but it doesn’t always turn out a sale. Attention is good.
- Having a unique voice or a different spin on the current trend doesn’t hurt but if you’re not churning out what is popular and hip then you run the risk of having very little audience for your new book. I like unique and different but I am a lone voice in a sea of voices that want more of the same.
There are other marketing tools that I find quite annoying but there is one that I find misleading. Author cover quotes anybody? Author cover quotes don’t promote your book to me. Especially the same generic cover quotes by the same people who probably didn’t even read your book. I just learned from Mrs. Giggles website that Talia Gryphon is a pen name (pen name?) for Laurell K. Hamilton’s ex-bodyguard who is now writing dark fantasy. It’s a book I’d been looking at because of the kick-ass cover and sure enough the LKH quote was on there, too, touting that it is a “unique idea” in the paranormal genre. Right. After reading Mrs. Giggles review of it, I think I’ll have to pass. I must admit that I do like reading cover quotes from magazines or other review sites but author quotes don’t quite do it for me for impulsive buys.
Another annoyance is the lack of updated author websites. I think many other readers have expressed the need of having a updated website very eloquently and I’m not rehashing that here. It looks as though many authors seemed to have received that message while there are those who are still MIA or just don’t have the time to update their website. Well, it’s a good thing that there are hundreds of other books to read by authors who do update their websites. A Reader’s Plea to Diana Norman: please get a website!
Alas, I could go on and on with this topic but all good things must come to an end. I will end this saying that a reader’s journey to finding that “good book” is endless and hard work. Amazon.com always recommend books based on my buying history but I don’t put much faith into their choices. I think I’ll stick to my gut feeling, reader reviews and my gut feeling.