Pocket fiction Writing Contest

By Dario Ciriello

Part of the Indie Authors Series

Discoverability—as ugly a word as I ever saw—is the term increasingly applied to the dilemma facing every author and publisher: how to make your book discoverable so that it can be found.

The challenge is even uglier than the word. Consider:

  • Between 600, 000 and a million new titles were published in the US in 2012, of which about half were self-published1 Amazon Kindle alone carries over 800, 000 digital titles
  • Less than one in ten new books will get professionally reviewed2
  • The average brick-and-mortar bookstore will stock well under 1% of the millions of books actually in print in the US, perhaps even less than 0.1%3

The problem is an obvious one: no matter how good the book you’ve just written—and everything that follows assumes you have written a good book, and that it has a good cover, and has been edited and proofread—how do you get it noticed? Although I’d love to give you a single, simple answer, there isn’t one. But there are a lot of partial answers.

The Two Hundred Pocket

The huge majority of self-published and even small indie titles sell between fifty and two hundred copies, then stop. The reason for this is that their audience never breaks out of the immediate circle of the author’s (and perhaps publisher’s) family and friends. This is a real and well-documented phenomenon, and an extremely hard pocket to break out of. To make matters worse, the stigma against self-published books—whatever anyone tells you—is alive and well, not least among many traditionally published authors. Unless you’re a triathlete, getting your book noticed and taken seriously is going to be the most difficult thing you’ve done in your life.

Plan Ahead

First of all, release your book in print as well as an ebook. Print hasn’t and isn’t going anywhere, and being in print gives you extra credibility both with reviewers and readers. There’s a learning curve and skills involved in formatting for print (or you can pay someone to format for you), but the actual setup costs of POD (print on demand) are very low.

Second, be patient. I know, you’ve spent a year or more writing and rewriting and now you’re done, you want that book published and selling—I’ve been there. But you really need to do two things: first, produce an ARC (advance reader copy) of your book, which you’ll send out to publications, bloggers, reviewers, and hopefully be able to use to get blurbs from well-known authors in your genre; and second, allow at least four months between ARC and release date.

When you send out ARCs, let those people know what the book’s release/publication date is. Anything less than four months—six is better—dramatically lessens your chances of getting reviews or blurbs. People are busy.

Also, think hard about how you’re going to price your books. With print, you should remain competitive with other Trade Paper (6” x 9”, your likeliest format) titles—nobody is going to buy a $20 paperback. Since POD is expensive, margins will be slim: I suggest allowing yourself a $2 - $3 profit margin per book. With digital books, the opposite may apply: the greatest temptation is to under price since you have no hard costs. Don’t do this! My advice is to save the $1.99 - $2.99 range for special promotions and flash sales: if your book is too cheap, many people will think it might not be very good. The “sweet spot” for full-length novels in digital form is settling between $4.99 and $6.99. Given you’ll make an average of close to 70% profit across platforms, that’s a win-win price range.


This is when the huge bulk of the work to making your book discoverable takes place, not when it releases.

During the 4-6 months of lead time before public release, do something towards making your book discoverable every day. Work towards getting a buzz going by:

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