Blogged last week over at Amazing Stories on the topic of discoverability. Here's the first part of the article and you can hop on over to Amazing for the full post...
How do readers and authors find each other? That’s the eternal question, not only in the science fiction romance genre, but in general. The concept is known as discoverability from the author side of things and “How do I find something good to read?” from the reader viewpoint.
The ways to find new books used to be rather limited. You could spend delicious hours in a bookstore (can you tell I used to love to do this?), examining covers and reading the blurbs on the back, sampling the prose a bit, to see if the story could entice you to part with your money. Some of my fondest memories are going to the bookstore on Sunday afternoons with my Dad and sussing out new science fiction novels, especially Andre Norton.
A few years ago, there was one book I kept picking up and thinking about and then walking away from, and finally bought on my fourth trip to the bookstore, Heart Change by Robin D. Owens. That was my introduction to her Celta series, after which of course I ended up devouring all the books. It was the cover that attracted me initially. Never underestimate the power of a really well done piece of cover art.
Of course recommendations from friends – that viral “word of mouth” factor that is every author’s dream – are another good way to find new reads, IF your friends are into the genre you’re looking to read. I guess my Dad was the first person to give me “if you liked this, you’ll love that” science fiction recommendations. Since many of my friends these days are also science fiction romance authors, that helps. I’ve found all kinds of good books to read, and new-to-me authors, from Ruby Lionsdrake to Michelle Diner to M. K. Eidem to Susan Grant and more, based on word of mouth.
Additionally, recommendations from an author you respect and like can carry huge weight. In the old pre-ebook days, it was common to have a blurb or two on the cover from big names in the same genre. That’s still done of course, but when browsing for ebooks it’s not as attention-getting. I have to say it was an incredible moment for me when my favorite author, Nalini Singh, tweeted that she’d not only read my book Wreck of the Nebula Dream, but enjoyed it! I’m glad I didn’t know at the time that she was reading it or I’d have been a nervous wreck myself. It’s a thrill to have someone you respect and love to read, say they liked something you wrote. (And maybe some of her 29K twitter followers decided to try the book too. One can hope.)
A free offering is another, no risk way to find a new author.There’s a whole group of us, some 800 strong, in the Science Fiction Romance Brigade, and under that banner we’re issuing a series of free samplers, known as Portals. Currently we plan four volumes, with varying heat levels. Each volume has ten first chapters from different authors, to allow a reader to try out different worlds at no risk and then make the jump to the rest of the book if they’re intrigued. I’m involved in the project and the first chapter of my award winning novel Mission to Mahjundar is in Volume One, along with nine other samples. We’ve got a structure behind Portals, including a web page, a newsletter and many other plans to enhance our discoverability. I was in charge of the cover design and you can imagine the issues trying to develop something that worked for 40 authors, who write different heat levels. Luckily my wonderful cover artist Fiona Jayde was willing to tackle the challenge for us. We refer to the slightly scruffy but sexy guy on the covers as our Portal Keeper....
And you can go to Amazing Stories for my other suggestions!