Writing is NOT the hardest part

So, you have a killer novel. It has great characters, plot twists that would make Hitchcock drool and an ending so unbelievable M. Night Shyamalan would bow down to you.

That’s all well and good. It could be the most expertly written work of fiction even penned (or typed as the case is now) and it may not matter.

Not one bit.

No one will see it … unless you MAKE them see it.

This is an exciting time for publishing. Technology has made it so anyone with a great story (and even a not-so-great one) can distribute it online thanks to site like Amazon and its Kindle Direct Publishing platform. Coupled with CreateSpace, anyone can produce a paperback title as well as a digital one.

Because it is such a great time and because the market is open to, well, everyone, there is a lot of competition out there.

A quick search of ebooks on Amazon reveals that there are more than a million fiction books for sale on the site and 3.4 million titles total.

How do you get your book noticed?

That is a question I have been grappling with since by first book, Nine Meals, hit the marketplace a little more than a year ago.

While I am far from an expert on getting a book noticed, I have picked up on some things that helped two of my books, Nine Meals and The 17, reach No. 1 in its categories.

No. 1 Writing is NOT the hardest part

It’s actually the easiest and most enjoyable part. It is also very important. It won’t matter how much to promote or how many people discover your work if it isn’t the best quality possible. Word of mouth is huge and readers are very smart. They know a well-written book when they see it.

No. 2 Find a good editor

See above. No book is going to be perfect, but it should be as close to perfection as possible. A book riddled with errors will turn people off on not only that book, but on any future books you write.

I was blessed to find one of the best editors in the business, who not only corrected typos, grammar and punctuation foibles, but also challenged the nuts and bolts of the plot and word usage. No writer can edit his or her own work. It can’t be done.

No. 3 Your book — your baby — is done and polished to a shine. Now what?

Clicking “save and publish” is exciting. It’s like watching a child you raised and nurtured go off to college. But your task has just begun.

When your book is published, it becomes one in a sea of millions of books. How in the world will anyone see it?

Amazon helps you out a little by allowing you to categorize your book into two categories. Some are fairly specific while others are vague and open-ended. The key is finding a niche where your book can rise to the top. This is easier said than done.

A second way Amazon helps you out is by allowing you to attach seven “key words” to your title. These are search words or short phrases that Amazon uses to help people find your book. The key to these keywords is to find the right combination. Some work in conjunction with the categories to slot your title into a very narrow niche. This is the best way to get your book in front of the people who you are targeting.

Now, I have to admit, I am still struggling with this. My books aren’t rigidly tied to one genre, so it is difficult for me to pigeonhole them. That may be hindering my success. My advice would be to write a book that has one, singular rabid audience. You’ll have more success that way.

It’s the age-old question: do you want to make money, or do you want to write a book that is dear to your heart? It’s difficult to do both.

No. 4 Social media is your friend

Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, etc. are great marketing tools. Use them … but don’t abuse them. Offer something other than peddling your books. Post pictures of your puppy. Comment on what color you think that blasted dress is. After awhile, too many posts about your book becomes no more than white noise.

No. 5 Temper your expectations

Don’t think you will get rich or get a big publishing deal or become the next J.K. Rowling as soon as you publish. You have to build up a fan base, publish many books and, well, get lucky.

Remember why you write to begin with: because you love it. You love sharing your imagination with others. You enjoy spinning a tale and take delight in just one person gaining entertainment from it.

I am tickled when I see a tweet from a reader about one of my stories. In fact, one of my biggest fans went on a tweeting rampage last year when she read Nine Meals and to date it was the most fulfilled I have ever felt as a writer, to see her gain so much enjoyment from what I had written that she felt compelled to tweet what amounted to a play-by-play of her feelings about the work. Nothing is better than that.

That was worth more to me than a million sales.

Do I want to make money? Sure. Do I want to be the next big success story? Absolutely. But that is not the only reason I write. And it shouldn’t be yours, either.

So, keep writing and keep plugging away. It’s hard to get noticed out there in a world where everyone can be a writer and publisher. Just have faith that quality will trump quantity.

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