What Is Book Discoverability?

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Authors, like many entrepreneurial artists, put a lot of value in tricks. They’re willing to sell books for free or set up a mailing list because they’ve seen other authors do the same thing. The problem comes when writers employ some of these tricks without understanding the basic concepts behind them. At their core, many tactics related to book marketing have to do with book discoverability.

At its center, book discoverability can be any one of a number of ways in which readers find your books. In the old days, book buyers only had a few ways to discover their next read. You could see a book on an end cap in your local Borders or you heard about the latest bestseller from a newspaper review. If you were self-published, you had essentially no chance of getting your book out to the public at large, though you could still do well enough if you brought traffic into your website. Now, the number of methods for book discoverability has grown exponentially, which is great for readers and a new challenge for authors.

Book Discoverability Broken Down

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We’ve already mentioned the methods of book discovery like BookBub, permafree series starters, and social media, on the dozens of posts throughout the Author Marketing Institute. Plenty of authors use these tactics incorrectly because they don’t understand how the process of book discoverability works. When it comes down to it, if your books aren’t getting discovered, it’s an issue of poor traffic.

When you aren’t selling books on Amazon, Apple, Google Play, etc., it doesn’t mean that those platforms aren’t working. One of your main issues is that you’re not getting enough traffic on your book sales pages. How did a social media platform like Facebook trounce Friendster? There are a lot of reasons why, but if you ask the question “how,” the answer is that it started getting significantly more traffic. More traffic means more potential readers and more sales.

The problem with traffic is the same issue that all people who host a website run into. There’s a lot of web traffic that you can’t control. Let’s say you have a day with an unexpected and unexplained sales boost. It’s very likely that you had an increased amount of traffic to your sales pages that day for whatever reason. You can’t control days like that, but that doesn’t mean the book discoverability issue is completely out of your hands.

Your First Goal In Marketing

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Being a self-published author is sometimes like working three jobs at once, and one of those jobs is in marketing. Your first goal as a marketer should be to bring more traffic to your pages. Whether a method worked for another author or not is irrelevant. You need to find ways to bring traffic to your pages so that more readers know who you are and start buying your books. We realize this seems incredibly simplified and obvious, but a lot of authors don’t seem to get it.

If you spend 40 hours a week posting to Facebook, but you only reach about 20 of the same people every time you post, then you’re missing out on the first step of marketing. Without traffic, you won’t get sales. It’s not Amazon or Apple’s responsibility to send traffic to your pages. You can’t assume traffic will come naturally of its own accord. It’s up to you to figure out how to send traffic to your book pages.

And Your Second Goal…

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Some authors take years to figure out step one, and when they do, there’s no telling how long their method for traffic-generation will actually last. In the midst of all this, authors must also consider the second step of book discoverability. Their book must look and be good enough to buy.

When readers discover your book, it needs to be ready for its starring moment. It’s painful how frequently writers focus on the first part of discoverability without thinking about the second. They’ll spend hundreds of dollars on a promotion without realizing they have three misspellings in their Look Inside or that their book description looks terrible on mobile devices. Without a strong cover, good reviews, and a compelling description, all the traffic in the world won’t do you much good.

Everybody wants a landslide of traffic and critical acclaim that puts them into the top one percent of all authors. They want to be an outlier, but there are plenty of writers who do well simply by following the rules of discoverability: get traffic and impress that traffic. The authors who understand this simple formula of book discoverability don’t need a windfall. They’ve got the basic knowledge they require to keep themselves at the top of the heap for the rest of their career.