A.A. Milne, creator of Winnie-the-Pooh, once wrote, “Almost anyone can be an author; the business is to collect money and fame from this state of being.”
I would agree, and suggest that the single most difficult aspect of the biz for every author, possibly greater than crafting a novel, is discoverability—getting his or her work into readers’ hands.
I started my writing career by self-publishing and found it almost impossible to get readers to notice my books (not an uncommon thing for any writer, whether self-pubbed or trad-pubbed). Neither blog tours, nor Twitter yielded appreciable returns. I threw thousands of dollars at both on- and offline advertising with depressing (non-) results, even after garnering stellar reviews.
In a world where the rules were continually changing, I needed to find not only a way to draw attention, but something that would continue to drive readers to my books.
One author’s online post caught my attention. Although I’ve long since forgotten the specifics, the key point was that he had found his success not by asking for anything from his blog’s readers or contributors, but rather by giving back to the community.
By that time, I was part of a vibrant community of self-published authors. I was an invited contributor to a communal blog and had made friends of numerous award-winning writers on FaceBook. It occurred to me that one thing I could do for all of them was to promote their work on my website which, although it was attractive to look at, was basically gathering digital dust.
As in crafting a novel, I knew that mediocrity would not suffice, so I began by reaching out to everyone noteworthy, asking if they would be interested in being interviewed and having their most recent work publicized. I suspect I was doing something right, because in 2014 I received an email from Hank Phillippi Ryan’s publicist asking if I’d like to interview Hank to help publicize her soon-to-be-released Truth Be Told.
That interview, for which I remain eternally grateful, helped lend my series, The Write Stuff, enough credibility that I began attracting ever more prominent authors and—more important—their readers to my website, where my own titles are prominently displayed on the sidebar.
I have since had the privilege of interviewing such notables as Mike Resnick, Nancy Kress, Kevin J. Anderson, Anne Hillerman, Todd McCaffrey, Charles E. Gannon, Robert Dogoni, Ann Charles, Mercedes Yardley and Dan Wells, some of whom have taken the time to read my work and give their endorsements.
In the midst of this, I attended Sasquan, the 2015 incarnation of World Con, in Spokane, Washington. At the book launch party for The Outpost, by multiple Hugo award-winning author, Mike Resnick, I came to the attention of WordFire Press, my current publisher. They wanted me to interview their authors! Their interest in my interviews led to their discovery of my books, and publishing career took off.
I am certain had I not had that “Ah ha!” moment when I decided to give back by creating my interview series, my publishing career would not have taken off as it has. So, look around, inventory your own skills and interest, and find a way to give back, or pay it forward, to the community of writers and readers you interact with. Who knows? Your kindness might pay off in ways you never imagined.
Raymond Bolton lives near Portland, Oregon with his wife, Toni, and their cats, Max and Arthur. He has written award-winning poetry as well as four novels. Awakening, a paranormal epic fantasy endorsed by Mike Resnick, was published by WordFire Press in April 2017 and is also available as an audiobook. WordFire has recently acquired the rest of the series. Thought Gazer, Foretellers and Triad are expected to be released in the latter half of 2018.