Doesn't it sometimes feel that there's a gazillion books published each year? (Actual sources say it's closer to 3 million, but who's counting?) And--not to cause mayhem with statistics, or anything--but only 75% of Americans even read and/or listened to a book last year, with the mean number of books being read turning out to be 15. (Thank god for the bookworms among us, right?)
So, there's a vast ocean of published material, and not enough swimmers in the sea. What can you do to improve your chances that someone will read your book? Here are some ideas:
Know Who You're Writing For:
If you want to connect with a middle grade reader, don't write in the style of War and Peace. There are certain things that middle graders care about, and certain ways they see the world. Aim for that.
Use Social Media, but be Authentic:
I'm sure everyone writing for publication has had the idea of "platform" drilled into them. In droves, they've turned to Facebook and Twitter as a marketing tool. But greater minds than I agree: as a marketing tool, social media isn't too effective. How many of you have been turned off by an author tweeting incessantly about their book? A much better strategy is to get on social media and show other facets of your life. Two people who do this very well are David Lubar, whose Facebook statuses are a mix of excruciating puns, and insights about what interests him (he's a gamer, and has been taking a class in stand-up comedy.) He's also not afraid to get political. In short, he comes across as a real person. You betcha I'm going to grab one of his books to read.
The other guy who does things well is our own Matthew MacNish. With Matt, you'll find out about sports teams he roots for, and what's working (and what's not) on The Game of Thrones. Again, he's for real.
Write a Book That Makes an Emotional Connection:
Here I'll tell you a story which will explain the photo at the beginning of this blog post. The Orchardist by Northwest writer, Amanda Coplin, was published last year. It is set in eastern Washington state, near a town called Wenatchee, and tells the story of a man named Talmadge who has an apple orchard. One day two runaway girls appear on his land and he protects them against brutal, armed men. (I'm brutally paraphrasing Goodreads here.)
The Orchardist received good reviews in the press. It won the 2012 Barnes and Noble Discover Great New Writers award. Was I going to read it? Nope. I read mostly middle grade, and it takes a lot of cajoling for me to stray.
My local book store prominently placed it. One of the staff raved about it as a "staff pick." Still no sale.
Then, a few Sundays ago, I sat at a table to drink coffee with a few seniors from my church. One of them asked me how my writing was going (yay, I got to talk about me!), and then the topic moved on to books we'd been reading. One of the men, a gruff-looking guy with wrinkles chiseled into his face, said "I just finished a great book. The Orchardist." (Surprise here. He doesn't look like a guy who reads much fiction.) "My wife was reading it for her book group, and I picked it up. It... it moved me deeply." He started crying.
Right then and there, I decided I was going to read The Orchardist. The author didn't tweet me. The reviewers (whom I don't know) hadn't moved me. But my church friend's emotion got to me. If a book can touch a reader so deeply that he can cry--or conversely, she can laugh till the tears come--then I am a potential reader of that book myself. Who knows, you might see another grown man cry.
What gets you to read a book? Tweets, newspaper reviews, word of mouth? Or something else I haven't thought of? Thanks for stopping by the Mayhem today--and if you haven't yet done so, check out our splendiferous 700 follower giveaway.