In the words of Publisher’s Weekly: Discoverability is a Bitch
Discoverability, being the ability of books to connect with readers. I was recently reading an article on the method behind the blockbusting “Fifty Shades”, and while I was under the impression the trilogy was self-published at first, that’s not true. The books were picked up by a small company who couldn’t handle the huge demand, and in stepped Random House.
The discoverability came much earlier, when Ms. James posted the work on a fan fiction site for the YA series “Twilight”, and receiving more than a few raised eyebrows, removed the content and posted it in its entirety on her own weblog…
So, in the case of “Fifty Shades” what Ms. James refers to as “luck” was in fact, digital visibility.
You all know, I never read the books, but I do know what they’re about, so does everybody—that’s discoverability, these minute bits of information we harvest everyday that have a huge impact on cultural awareness and reading patterns.
Now I get to talk about how the paradigm established by E. L. James effected my own process from writing a novel, to publishing it. About three years ago I wrote a novel—autonomous, creative, everyday I looked forward to it—fun! On completion I started working with two lovely literary agents who instructed me to start a blog. I was baffled, more than a little reticent, oh, and probably a bit recalcitrant. Strike that. Very recalcitrant. “Why?” I repeated like a stubborn six year old. “Because that’s how you connect with your audience.” Sounds pretty definitive doesn’t it? And a lot like that lightening in the bottle phenomena…discoverability.
So, while I was becoming discoverable, I was made a few offers by indie presses for publication. I chose one, and while I had a publisher, I was still doing the blog everyday, and then for a period of four months, going through the book line by line with an editor. I discovered that while initially writing is a pleasure both challenging and mind expanding, so was editing, to a large extent.
You might be wondering at what point I’m going to start grumbling; here we go, right about now. In February of this year my publishers were—suddenly—no longer in the business of publishing books. In a blink, there went my distribution, marketing, platform, advertising, press, interviews, reviews, publishing know-how, and maybe my discoverability??? On hearing the news I was stunned and nearly speechless. I went to bed speechless, and when I woke up in the morning I thought, Nobody ever was discovered at Schwab’s Pharmacy, it’s a stubborn Hollywood myth. Everything we do in life we can chalk up to our own initiative, and god damn it, I have a barn and I’m going to put on a show.
Or something to that effect…
The results of that effort, on my part, on the part of editors, on the part of graphic designers, photographers, bloggers, and friends with amazing feedback is here: