Thursday, November 05, 2015

The Challenge of Finding New Readers

Dan Walsh is the bestselling author of 15 novels, including The Unfinished Gift, The Discovery and When Night Comes. He has won 3 Carol Awards and 3 Selah Awards. Three of his books were finalists for Inspirational Book of the Year (RT Book Reviews). Dan is a member of ACFW and Word Weavers. He lives with his wife, Cindi, in the Daytona Beach area where they love to take walks and spend time with their grandkids. Click here to connect with Dan or check out his books.

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Back in the old days--and by old days I mean 5-6 years ago--readers used to find new authors by walking the aisles of their favorite retail bookstore. New novels used to come out in nice hardbacks, which were often presented front and center in the bookstore on carousels, end caps or tables. These books were often pricey. Most readers would only buy at this price for authors they already knew and loved.

When looking for new authors (at least new to them) they might shop the markdown bins or check out the paperbacks. Always on the hunt for a great read. And when you found a book you loved, you hoped that author had written many other books. If so, you'd start making your way through them. And as you did, you didn't really mind if you paid a little more because now you knew...this was an author who was able to deliver a great reading experience.

But now that's all changed. Book lovers in increasing numbers are shopping online these days, which has made life increasingly difficult for traditional publishers. The rules of the game have all changed. All the old ways they employed (to enable readers to find their authors newest books) don't apply anymore. 

This shift to buying from mega online stores, like Amazon, have changed the dynamics of book marketing, maybe forever. Certainly for now. Two other major factors have shaken things up a bit, as well:

  1. There's no longer such a thing as "limited shelf space." And because of ebooks, there's no such thing as "books going out of print." Realizing this, hundreds of authors have refurbished and relaunched their out-of-print books, and are now selling them online directly to the customer.
  2. And hundreds of would-be authors, whose books used to be locked out of the process because they were rejected by traditional publishers, can now "go indie" and upload their books directly to these online stores. There's no one now to stop them. A fair number of traditional authors have joined the ranks of this new indie army.
Both of these things have resulted in a massive explosion of new books available for readers to buy, and at prices that were unheard of just a few years ago. For authors, all of these new and exciting things have come at a great price. Now it is harder than ever for readers to find your book. 

Instead of just a few aisles to browse through, readers are faced with literally millions of choices. Imagine walking through a bookstore 5 times the size of a Sam's or Costco's. Or sitting down to a restaurant with a menu as thick as a phone book. The question is "discoverability." How do you get readers to discover you or your book in the midst of so many choices?

Here are a few things authors are trying:
  • Perma-free - This is the idea of making the first book in a series of novels totally and permanently free. At the back of the book, and in each of the books in the series, you place a direct link for the next book, so all the reader has to do is click, buy the next book and keep reading. Of course, they pay for the rest of the books (but don't mind because they know the author's work now). 
  • Boxed Sets - This idea involves a number of authors in a similar genre banding together to create a 4-5 book set, which the reader can buy for a ridiculously low price. For example, my suspense novel, When Night Comes, is part of a boxed set right now called Fatal 5 (Click Here to check it out). Readers can get 5 suspense novels from bestselling authors for 99 Cents. Why would authors give away a great book for less than a quarter? Because this marketing idea will allow hundreds of new readers to become aware of their books.
  • Targeted Ads - Authors are learning what business people have known for years. It takes money to make money. You have to be willing to spend money to get your book before the eyes of readers who might like to buy it (if they only knew it existed). Massive email newsletters have popped up like BookBub, Freebooksy and Ereader News Today (ENT), which send out tens of thousands of emails every day to readers who've subscribed to their service, highlighting daily specials in the readers' favorite genres. Facebook has also created a marketing opportunity for authors to buy ads that FB will weave into the Newsfeeds of their customers, who they already know like your kind of book.
  • Shameless Plugs - One interesting method is to use the platform of a widely read blog you write for to shamelessly plug your newest book. Like I'm doing now for my newest novel, Rescuing Finley (which you can pre-order now for $3.99). It releases on Nov 19th in ebook and print.
As you can see, connecting readers with the authors and books they love has become quite a complex adventure. Since this is primarily a writer's blog, I'd love to hear some of the creative ways you've found to connect with new readers. 


Heather Day Gilbert said...

Great post, Dan. I've heard that permafree is still working and it's definitely on my radar. In the meantime, I'm thrilled to be in Fatal 5 with you and I know we're all excited to watch it hit new readers!

Dan Walsh said...

Thanks Heather. It's a great marketing idea. Thanks for all you've done to help it fly. Besides the potential to reach all these brand new readers, our existing readers get a chance to read books by authors they might have never known about.