Warning: Discoverability Dependency is Hazardous to Your Fiction Marketing

by | Sep 17, 2014

By Jason Kong

Before your books can be read, they have to be found. You’re probably familiar with these common tactics:

  • Tweaking your book’s keywords to be more search-engine friendly.
  • Posting to your blog daily, even when no one seems to be reading.
  • Establishing a presence on every social media platform, and staying active on all of them.

These are activities intended to help your discoverability. You’re trying to increase the likelihood of connecting with potential readers through your digital content. If you’re diligent and patient, people will eventually find you and your work.

The problem? Most authors underestimate how long “eventually” is.

The amount of published fiction is already huge, and consumers are overwhelmed with the number of stories that have flooded the market. You can be waiting a long time before you start to see any traction at all. And you may never see the readership that you think you deserve.

If your primary marketing strategy is waiting for people to finally come around your way, then you have discoverability dependency. And that’s bad news.

Let’s take a closer look why.

The brutal truth about discoverability

Being found is a crucial step, but it’s just the first one.

Many newcomers won’t care about your offerings at all. Others might be curious, but not enough to proceed. Still others are truly interested, but life gets in the way and they don’t take action.

If you’re fortunate enough to get a small percentage to give your fiction a try, you’re at least on the right track. One reader at a time is progress, slow as it may be.

But how do we explain those cases where there’s an obvious surge of visitors, or a spike in traffic? What causes the momentum push you’ve been hoping for?

That can happen when someone likes your work enough to endorse it to a bunch of others likely to feel the same way. For the sake of discussion, let’s call this noteworthy individual a connector.

If you wait long enough, perhaps connectors will end up finding you.

But why wait?

Identifying the connectors

Somewhere out there in cyberspace are clusters of people that could be potential readers for your stories.

You can’t be certain of their interest, but you can make an educated guess. Reaching out to the connectors of these groups is an effective way to accelerate your marketing efforts.

What kind of people are these connectors anyway? To get you started, consider these three categories that are relevant to your fiction writing:

  1. Influencers – These are people who have established platforms that attract the kind of people that would likely read your fiction. Book bloggers that review your genre, for example.
  2. Fans – If you’re fortunate enough to have contact with your most loyal readers, engage them regularly by using social media, email, or a blog. They want to hear from you.
  3. Peers – Writers that do their storytelling in your genre don’t have to be your competitors. Figure out a partnership opportunity that allows both of you to expand your reach to each other’s audiences.

See if you can come up with a list of people that are connectors for one or more of these categories. Then, for each individual, do some online research to see what kind of audiences they’ve attracted. Can you honestly say their respective followers would be compelled by your storytelling? Are they likely to be interested? If so, those connectors are the ones you should contact.

The secret to successful outreach

Even if you accept the importance of seeking out connectors, you may be intimidated at the prospect of approaching them. After all, the more popular someone is, the more likely that person gets pitched on a daily basis.

Just remember you’re not asking for a favor or making an irrelevant proposition. If this connector truly has an audience that could be interested in what you do, then you have something valuable to offer. Make that benefit clear when reaching out.

Want an opportunity to get in front of a blogger’s audience? Propose a guest post using an angle that’s perfect for that readership.

Want to get your novel read by a book reviewer? Ensure that your story fits well into the scope of what that reviewer covers.

Want to encourage your loyal readers to help spread the word about your work? Offer giveaways and special bonuses, just for them.

Figure out what your connector wants, and you won’t have to do much selling at all.

Wait — aren’t we just talking about networking?

Yes, we are.

The concept of helping each other out through the exchange of value is nothing new. You certainly can still do that if both sides are behind a computer screen. The internet, after all, is a network.

So don’t use discoverability as an excuse to avoid human interaction or to be passive in your marketing. Seek out the right people, don’t just wait.

You have what it takes. You can depend on that.

Photo: bigstockphoto.com

tbd advanced publishing starter kit


  1. Taneeka Bourgeois-daSilva

    It was hard at first to gain a presence through social media. I created a blog and a page for Google+, Facebook, Twitter, Linkedin, Pinterest and a few others. About three months later, I noticed that when I conducted a Google search for my name, my indie publishing company or my upcoming book that it showed up on the first page. I continue to make frequent posts to my blog and to my social media pages. It actually works! Great article. Thanks for sharing this with us!!

    • Jason Kong

      Thanks for chiming in, Taneeka.

      Ranking well in Google is definitely important. You do need to be found when your name or books are queried. The big challenge for fiction writers, however, is being able to address why someone would be making the search in the first place. Figure that out, and you’re in really good shape.

      • Taneeka Bourgeois-daSilva


        Are you basically saying it’s great that when I search for my name that it comes up, but now I need to get others to search for me? If so, this is the problem that I’m having. My upcoming book is a chapter book. There are tons of chapter books on the market. How do I get readers to even know that I exist?

        • Jason Kong

          Well, there isn’t just one way for readers to find you, Taneeka. I think one idea to consider is the one I covered in this article — identify a cluster of people with a high likelihood of being interested in your book, such as a readership around a particular blog, then figure out how to get in front of them. Guest blogging and advertising are two simple examples of how to do that.

          The larger point I tried to make with this article is that yes, some people will stumble upon your work and become readers. That’s great. But don’t completely rely on that to get your traction. Take the initiative by seeking connectors, people interested in your work that also lead others interested in your work.

  2. Laurence O'Bryan


    Building slowly is the reality for most writers online. There are a few services to give you an extra push, such as BookBub, BookSends & BooksGoSocial, and using those to increase your chances of discovery cannot be ruled out. Big publishers spend a lot of money on marketing. Indie authors should get comfortable with spending small amounts.

    • Jason Kong

      Laurence: Advertising can absolutely be part of a good marketing strategy. In a way, advertising is a form of outreach like I described in the article — if done well, you’re deliberately getting in front of an audience that has a likelihood of wanting what you’ve written.

  3. Desiree

    Great article! I think it’s important to emphasize that there’s a difference between looking to build a genuine relationship and basically spamming, and that sometimes it can be a fine line. Genuine relationship building also takes time and it’s best to focus first on giving rather than getting.

    • Jason Kong

      Desiree: Yes, good points. Many people do outreach with a “me first” perspective, because well, that’s the reason they’re outreaching in the first place. Asking yourself: “Why should this person I’m contacting care about what I have to say?” is a good question to ask.

      And, yes, I agree that giving first is a great way to approach relationships.

  4. Ernie Zelinski

    These two quotations kinda relate to discoverability:

    “If someone types in your name into Google and you don’t show up, you have a problem.”
    — Scott Ginsberg

    “The second page of a Google search is a good place to hide a dead body.”
    — Unknown wise person

    • Jason Kong

      Totally agree with that second quote, Ernie. Being on the second page, for all practical purposes, is no different than being on the twentieth or hundredth page. You’re not going be found.

    • Joel Friedlander

      Ernie, love those. And so true. Getting to page one should be every online marketer’s aim for their specific keywords.

  5. Heather Day Gilbert

    Excellent post! Building a platform isn’t easy and getting your book read is something YOU have to work on as an author. Strategic giveaways to your reader demographic can help. Blog tours can help. Tracking down reviewers in your genre and approaching them can help. But it all takes WORK. Yes, tweaking keywords/categories/blurbs can get your book on lists and make it show up more…but getting the word out is more personal, as you said.

    • Jason Kong

      You’re exactly right, Heather! And I probably should add that if you’re forming lasting relationships (as opposed to having a “one-and-done” approach), then everyone benefits in the long-run.

  6. AlanD

    Mister Jason Kong is on spot. My books rest buried in 70-100 web pages on Amazon along with books in the same genre. The trick is to get noticed. The trick is to get noticed without cutting your ear off.

    • Jason Kong

      Alan: Yup, it’s true that being extreme is certainly one way to get noticed. But another way is to make a good connection, so that both sides are happy to have found each other. Outreach is simply taking initiative to make that happen. And truly, it is a lot less painful than cutting an ear off!

      • AlanD

        I think what we are saying here is- as the self publishing industry grows and grows there will be a greater number of jobs available for marketing experts able and willing to market books for us ‘self pubbers’. (That’s a good thing!)

        • Jason Kong

          The need for better marketing for self-publishers is certainly there. Whether that need is mostly filled by marketing professionals, technology, or self-publishers themselves remains to be seen.

          Anyone care to make a prediction? :)

  7. Lizzie Williams

    Thanks Jason,

    This is just what I needed to hear. I just launched my site a few weeks ago. I promised myself that I would be patient, but I’m already getting a little antsy and doubting myself. Your words have encouraged me to not give up and that “if you build it, they will come” doesn’t necessarily apply to the Internet (smile).

    I haven’t written a book (yet), but I enjoy reading Joel’s blog. I especially look forward to his monthly Book Cover Awards. I don’t always agree with his decisions but it’s fun and a welcome diversion.

    Again, thanks for sharing (you too, Joel)…

    • Jason Kong

      Thanks for reading, Lizzie.

      Building it and knowing people will show up does happen in certain circumstances… if you’re already connected to a group of loyal readers, for example. It doesn’t work so well if you’re an unknown with no platform.

      The internet is magical, but it won’t fulfill everyone’s fantasy. :)



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