In the Sisters in Crime 2011 Publishers Summit Report, “How Readers Find books,” librarians appear to play a major role in selecting books and recommending reading material based on readers’ preferences. Librarians often make these selections based on reviews and ARCs.
I’d guess, unlike librarians, general readers are not avid followers of Library Journal, Publishers Weekly, Booklist, or Kirkus, and the readers don’t receive ARCs. They probably don’t spend much time reading library blogs. Although librarians who read reviews select based on what they believe will interest their readers, the librarians have narrowed the available selection. As readers, we are used to this limitation since before we were old enough to master complex sentences, English teachers have selected what we should read.
Blogs, Facebook, and Twitter do not appear to contribute hugely to reader selection. Book tours and publisher promotion are not what they used to be for guaranteeing author exposure. (The word exposure makes me think of an easier way to gain notice and possibly even a mention on TV but would the writer be taken seriously? Does that matter?) According to the Sisters in Crime publication, networks such as Goodreads, Shelfari, LibraryThing, and Anobii are used by readers who want to share their favorite books. I am only familiar with Goodreads and it can be complicated to navigate.
I live in a rural area and there’s often a long wait at the local library for the latest bestseller in popular genres. Due to recent budget constrictions, less well-known authors may not have been acquired by the library that often focuses on children and teenagers who do not have electronic access to reading material.
My book choices often come from recent publications by members of Sisters in Crime and Mystery Writers of America, and from books displayed at writers’ conferences. My kids, who don’t belong to writers’ associations, often base their fiction purchases on the recommendations of friends. Recommendations spread especially rapidly among teen populations.
What is a writer to do to be noticed by potential readers surrounded by ads and distractions? Send a most wanted poster with recent head shot and snappy blurb to libraries in every town in America? Writing the best book possible, at least early in one’s career, still seems vital to the process of being read. Also, it doesn’t hurt if the writer touches on a deep-rooted question, problem, or need for the story to take off. What that deep-rooted stimulus will be could be anyone’s guess. Who could have predicted the popularity of THE HELP? Maybe it’s the woman’s angle and the fact that the issues raised have not yet been socially resolved.
As a person who shrinks from promotion, I keep taking advice and hope at least some of it will help. How do you plan to promote your book?