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A few days ago, I wrote about the HNS conference presentation on Selling Historical Fiction, which sparked interest and comments on various social media forums. Tony Riches encouraged me to add ‘bubbles’ representing Amazon (all 12 sites) and the other main online retailers that enable writers to reach an international audience. On Facebook Dianna Rostad, Sarah Johnson and Rachel Bodner chatted about the importance of cover design and sub-genre to attracting an audience.

I promised another diagram to explore the topic of connecting writers with readers in the self-publishing realm. Having spent twenty years in consulting, I find diagrams illuminating although I am aware that some see them as simplistic and that it is difficult to show all the subtleties of a situation in one single diagram. Consider this one a work in progress.

Selling HF to readers

One of the outcomes of my 2013 historical fiction survey was a very long list of online sources readers use to find book recommendations. Almost 700 of them, in fact. Investigating the list – a laborious process – has allowed me to categorize them according to broad purpose or functionality as shown in the ‘bubbles’ that facilitate connections between writers and readers. (I’ve excluded some sources such as publisher sites, newspaper sites and librarian services from the diagram because they are not typically available to indie authors.) Self-published authors who cannot exploit the agent-editor-publisher-retailer chain, must decide the best combination of influencers to approach to get news of their books out to the market.

Bombarded as we are with messages and imagery, individuals pause only briefly to  assess interest, which means the book’s cover and title must arrest the reader and convey something about its subject. Rachel Bodner offers her personal experience in a very interesting blog post.

It’s also worth reflecting on the answers readers gave when asked to comment on the importance of several factors in choosing a book. Here’s the breakdown:

Factors influencing book choiceAdding ‘very important’ and ‘extremely important’, subject matter comes out on top, followed by author, trusted recommendation and price.

A few reflections:

  • choose online sources to feature your book that suit its subject matter
  • a trusted author might be willing to lend their brand to your novel but you have to earn that privilege
  • as noted above, cover art must convey subject matter
  • book blurb and tag line also have to grab attention
  • you need a combination of online influencers to reach an audience of any size at all

I think I’ll look for correlations between factors that go into choosing a book and other responses such as preference for e-book or print, age, gender, and number of annual book consumption.

That’s it for now. Your thoughts, critique and suggestions are very welcome.