Wednesday, 23 October 2013

Discoverability is a Dirty Word

Do you agree? I've heard it bandied about a lot lately. How to get out there, improve your Amazon rankings (crack those algorithms sista!), categorise and re-categorise your book, beat your breast on Twitter, have your freebie weekends, sign up on Bookbud, Wattpad, Shindig (if you don't you haven't got a chance), raise your profile, crank your sales up out of the doldrums, make sure your traffic is climbing and don't forget your mother's birthday is on Wednesday.

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Discoverability. A dirty new word thrown in writers' faces. Sure, we all wish for it. Whether we are big-time published, sans ou avec an agent, small press published or bravely self-published. We all want to be magically visible, magically thrust at the bookshop browser or into the credit card-touting online cruiser's face. We all pray that our books will zoom up the charts, will fill shop windows and be seen clutched in commuters' hands in the tube.

But when discoverability becomes a huge, daunting word that plays havoc with the writer's aspirations? Can you feel another nervous breakdown coming on? As if the process of writing, the search for ideas, the reconfiguration of old ones and these being pulled out of a hat, weren't hard enough...

Think of the best novels or short stories you have ever read. The most tingling ones, the ones that still come back to you when you are driving or waiting for a bus. Why? How was it that they happened before you? Was it because you were flitting through rankings? Maybe, just maybe. But most probably not. The most chilling story I've read lately was by Flannery O'Connor. I was looking for back-up info for an intro I had to write. I then spent the whole morning reading brilliant old-school short stories. Learning and thinking. And lately, I've bought books by Simon Booy, Tom Vowler and Cate Kennedy. Not one of them a bestseller - I don't think - but all worthy prize-winners. All bought for a host of reasons including the ones below, and not because their 'discoverability' was thrust in my face.

It is widely recognised that different genres perform unequally in this daunting world of discoverability or oblivion. Romance and thriller readers are trigger-happy and account for the most sales, especially by debut authors. For literary and historical authors the slope is steeper and has its own quirks. In a world that is saturated with new titles, review space in the press is minimal, so even an unassuming short story writer has to get out there online, and growl.

Tips for the literary writer confronting the wilderness? Go back to base camp. Go back to reading. Remember what started the flame in your belly at the beginning of all of this. What did Socrates say? Know thyself. What should writers say? Know thy readers.

What makes YOU buy a book?

1.Bestseller list
2.Cover looks nice
3.I liked the sound of the author
4.I read some of her/his stuff before
5.My BFF/sister/brother loved it
6.Book review
7.Found it in the tube

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  1. I found a copy of Eva Trout on a train when I was a student. It has always remained one of my favourite books.

    1. I've always wondered about this book and now you've really sparked my interest. Sounds like the book found YOU!

      Thanks for dropping by. Best, cat

  2. Good stuff.Catherine!
    I reckon on 'discovering'/'disinterring' a writer who is now enjoying a permanent sabbatical six feet under, at least once a month! But that doesn't mean writers need to shuffle off their mortal coils to be successful...although it can help sales! Seriously tho', reading new,undiscovered writers even if they have been dead for donkeys' years,is always a revelation. With 'fresh' writers...maybe I think..."How the heck did this drivel get published?!" or " Where has she been hiding her light?" (C.McNamara?).With long-neglected or deceased writers it's more "What a shame their books can only be found in charity shops & second-hand '5 for £1' baskets?! or "He needs to get a younger agent!". It's a jungle out there,ain't it? You just have to do what you're reams of stuff, learn from the best...& wear wicked heels at public events! My tongue is firmly in my cheek here! Striking covers..yes!..Sexy name?...yes! Style?...yes! But above all literary merit...something that will reverberate still, weeks,months,years later! And a personality helps a writer good head & shoulders on the small that readers connect & want more! I await your next blog with anticipation!

  3. Wait, there are free good books on the tube? I must start trolling!


    1. Can you believe? I'm going to have a scoot around next week when I'm over there! Xxcat