There are a lot of obstacles that stand in the way of getting your books into the hands of readers. For many authors, there is, first and foremost, the whole issue of an introvert trying to tell the world that something they did is not only great, but worth actual greenbacks to gain access to. Marketing is not for the faint of heart. Marketing for authors is akin to suddenly finding yourself in the role of a gladiator wearing nothing but old lady underwear and wielding a pool noodle while the lions circle you. Add in the plethora of social media (Should I tweet? Blog? Insta? Where is my audience and how do I find them? What’s a Snapchat and why does everyone have dog ears on their pictures?) and the whole platform idea can make any author want to quit.
I’m still trying to find my way onto my audience’s horizon. It’s not an easy task. I asked Siri to “find me teens who like to read historical fiction that is more literary than commercial.” She gave me The Most Popular World War II Fiction of the Past Decade, a Book Riot list of U.S. historical fiction, and an article on literary vs. commercial writing. But no teens wanting to read my book.
So there’s the blog. Yeah. That thing that sits on your website and stares at you because you have ignored it. Kind of like that picture of my dog above. It makes you feel guilty while you do everything but pay attention to it. “Feed me,” it says, while you look around your house like you’re Old Mother Hubbard.
What about a hook? What do you call your blog? Something clever, of course. I named mine “Destination Providence.” It seemed like a really cute idea at the time, reflective of my journey to be a successful author, a little bit serious, a little bit irreverent. Tonight, I googled myself for the first time using just my blog title. It was not successful. I scrolled through fifteen pages of hits looking for me, but instead I only found cheap flights to Providence (we should all be going because apparently there is no shortage of cheap flights), wedding Providence, gay Providence, and (my personal favorite) Jerry’s Artorama of Providence. But if you want to find me by my blog name, you’re probably going to have to put it in quotes and add either my name or wordpress to the title (don’t forget the quotes).
There are, of course, lots of places to advertise your book. Advertising is marketing. If you have a budget. There used to be free Goodreads giveaways, but then Goodreads figured out that desperate authors would be willing to shill out real money for a chance to be discovered by readers and, well, now you have to buy a package. Because America and all that.
You could enter a contest or two. I did. They cost money, too (most of them, anyway). And unless your book is already receiving some buzz, published by a major house, or coauthored by a celebrity, you probably would be wasting your money to apply to any well known contests. Keep it simple, look for places where you actually have a chance to win, and hope for the best. It happens, I’m living proof. Just don’t go broke on trying to win contests that are out of reach for undiscovered authors.
Which brings me back to my Siri question. Where do you find teens who like to read and who like to read historical fiction and who want to fall in love with a book like mine that isn’t weighted down in snappy banter or page turning plot twists? I know such readers exist, because I’ve met some.
I just don’t know where to find any more. If you meet some send them my way. In the meantime, I’ll be waiting here with the same look on my face that my dog gets when I eat a bag of crisps in front of him.