by Bryan Oettel
While books hold a unique place in our culture, on the web they follow the same rules as everything else:
Discoverability is key to success.
Even the most artful volume of prose can disappear into the great black hole of the internet if an author fails to carefully cultivate their online presence. Readers must be able to find your book, and the likelihood of that happening greatly increases if it shows up high in an online search.
With the growing importance of online and mobile sales, it’s vital for any author to consider themselves a brand that is identifiable and discoverable online. You, as the author, cannot control Amazon’s algorithms or what Indiebound puts on their home page, but you can make sure your data is making you as visible as possible when someone is browsing in your genre or doing a relevant search.
There are a few simple things you can do to ensure both you and your publisher are putting your book in the best position possible for discovery and an online sale.
The art of keywords
Before creating a book description (or any other promotional material) that might find it’s way to the web, make a list of keywords that you think will have the most impact online. Do you classify your novel as an “absorbing work of fiction” or a “dystopian science fiction novel”?
For a great number of writers the natural inclination is to think about your work in big, broad strokes in the hopes of finding the widest readership possible. Your work might be an “absorbing work of fiction” but the kind of reader most likely to buy your dystopian sci-fi novel will never find it because there are a thousand of other books – ranging from kids books to adult classics – carrying the same keywords. Whatever phrases or words that might appear in a prospective reader’s online search should be incorporated into your write-up.
Skillfully selected keywords will guide potential customers to your book.
What keywords will make your book stand out in an extremely crowded market? There’s a fine art to choosing the right keywords but most importantly you must select keywords that closely match your work. The more relevant and targeted you get the greater the chance you’ll connect with just the right reader.
Keep it short and sweet
Make sure that your book’s title and subtitle are working in your favor. Back to discoverability. Many authors are firmly convinced that they have to get every important detail into their title and subtitle. However, if your title or subtitle exceeds 50 characters you increase the likelihood that it will not display properly when viewed on the standard desktop or even more commonly on one’s mobile phone or device. It can show up so truncated or oddly clipped that it creates a negative reaction with a viewer. Be concise. Short titles also look good on the book’s cover.
Create your virtual identity
You’ve heard it before but it’s vital for you to develop a dynamic social media presence. Go beyond a Facebook page, and get on Twitter, Instagram and, if possible, even create a Wikipedia profile page. Establishing your author profile online impacts how people might discover you. That said, stay on message. A Facebook page dedicated to cats doing cute things might attract viewers but more than likely it won’t lead them to discovering you as an author they want to read (unless you’re writing a series on cats).
Are your online efforts geared to expanding your audience? You should be regularly reaching out to potential fans with targeted posts highlighting where you are in your creative process. Maybe you announce where you are going to be giving a reading, or you might do something as simple as highlighting where you are in the writing process: you’ve just finished a great chapter in your novel, and with your followers you share the excitement over what happens next to your main character.
Befriend the disruptor
The internet has been a huge disruptor and created some not so wonderful changes in the book world. At the same time, it’s also created a great number of opportunities for writers. Think of all the self-published authors who would have otherwise been shut out of a career. And it has also opened up a myriad of ways people can find books that didn’t exist a generation ago.
Love it or hate it, the digital world is here to stay. It challenges you to think creatively about your book, and how you might connect with all the possible fans out there just waiting to discover you.
Have other suggestions for discoverability in today’s marketplace? Share them on the Career Authors Facebook page.
Bryan Oettel is an e-Commerce consultant, and formerly Director of Merchandising & Editorial at Barnes & Noble.com.