Bunny Island Key West

How Authors Discover New Readers


Because it is rarely the other way around. The onus is increasingly upon us as authors to do some fancy foot work to entice the reader to give our book a shot; particularly if it is a first or even second book. My big fear is having four or five books shriveling on the vine, never being read.

Plenty of websites provide information on internet book promotion and I have used some of these resources and here’s what happened. I got readers, sales even.  I did not offer No Name Key for free but charged 99 cents and gained 6-800 buyers each time and retained  40% of revenues  – thus paying  the cost of advertising and perhaps gaining  a little momentum. Advertising is often a bargain, and the reason I don’t offer it for free is that although I suspect many more people would download,  far fewer will actually take the time to read it. But I do think I will try it at a later date. I am, however,  about to opt out of KDP select and reformat for Kobo & Smashwords.

If you are unaccustomed to negotiating the Internet maze of suggestions and advertising opportunities, I strongly suggest that you hold your nose and dive in. Because no matter how you slice it, this is where the reading audience lives.


Learn more about how to do this here. This site covers everything, from writing, publishing, marketing and a few topics I never thought to ask. Read it a small slice at a time, because it is overwhelming, but I think it is the best free resource available today.
The Book Designer

Although you can find this by searching through the above mentioned website, I wanted to provide a direct link to this article. When you are ready to promote your e-book, here’s where to do it.
Where To Market Your e-book Deal

But maybe you’ll be amongst the 2% that get discovered without doing anything. It’s possible but I think it begins with word of mouth, one happy reader telling another. The majority of sales happen this way. But word of mouth is much stronger online by way of quality reviews and endorsements.

The greater reason for connecting is that you get to have community that supports your work and makes the lonely downside of writing bearable on the tough days when it seems pointless to carry on.



The first and foremost skill required is an ability to ask for attention. The catch is that it is often the hardest. Don’t make it difficult for people to find your book and buy it.

Take advantage of the specifics of place and time in your work. When I discovered No Name Key, I was compelled to write about the place, and didn’t worry about who would be interested in this obscure little island. Even if everyone who lived there bought a copy, I would still be out some cash, that’s how tiny the population is. And some of my characters were not very nice.  But then I realized that the tale takes place in the larger arena of the strange Florida Keys, and beyond that, Florida and I began to see more possibilities.

One author I know got scathing review on Amazon because a resident of the city he he set his novel in was offended on how he portrayed her city.  She objected on the basis of his book being bad for the tourist economy, and therefore gave it a one-star review.

This brings me to another pet peeve. I received my first one-star rating on Goodreads and was mortified. I had never gotten a single star rating before. What really bugs me about Goodreads is that random people can leave “ratings” without reviews. C’mon, not even a line, not a clue?  At least my friends crappy review on Amazon shows her prejudice and is therefore easier to dismiss when you read her reasoning. Not so in Goodreads, hence the proliferation of people who have 626 ratings and two reviews. I have yet to create a book giveaway, something I think could work well on this site. If anyone has tried it, let me know how it went. I am curious.

When I see reviews on Amazon for a book I am interested in reading, I check to see the reviewers qualifications, meaning their prior activity on Amazon. If this is their only review, chances are they are friends/family of the author and as such, untrustworthy.  I also mistrust books that receive only glowing 5-star reviews. Even Raymond Carver has many one-star reviews, actually especially Carver.  So if you are a new author and have received a bad review, congratulations!  You are becoming the real deal.

Selling physical books requires stealth in this age of diminishing bookstores. I often feel a little like this guy, as if I am doing something illicit.


But I am making progress. I sell a fair amount to stores that don’t normally carry books or maybe carry just a few. Sometimes odd and inspired matches can be made. My biggest seller is our local quilt store, The Seam Shoppe. I have wonderful relationships with the owners and we have become friends over the five years I have lived in Key West. They genuinely love the book and so recommend it to their clients. I have books in The Key Deer Refuge Center Bookstore. and Big Pine Key Lodge and the two shops at the Key West airport. I need to travel up the Keys to find other venues for my book.  So my suggestion is to start locally and create a grass roots support system for your work. If they don’t want to carry your book, oh well, on to the next.  But you may be surprised.

Books are inexpensive, often an impulse buy for their clients. I always drop off a free sample as an act of goodwill and also because nothing beats the recommendation of someone who genuinely loves your book and can describe it to their customers. How many things cost less than $20.  Put a sticker on it that says “Award Winning” if it is, or “Signed by Author” in showy gold or silver to gain their attention.

The important thing is to put yourself out there and ask.

Some major recent accomplishments for me is that my book, No Name Key has been accepted in Custom House Museum, Fort East Martello, and The Earnest Hemmingway Home & Museum.

This Sunday, The Hemmingway Home & Museum even granted me a coveted book signing.


Each success makes asking a little less painful, because I have more third party endorsements to point at.  I am thrilled and very grateful for the response I have had so far.

Now I need to get back to work on my next one because the most important thing is to carry on with the work. I am hoping to release it this Spring.  I hope this gives a bit of insight into what to do as a fledgling writer or even if you are stuck with bad sales and a feeling that no one is reading your work. Accessing people who are  excited about your work – and returning that favor is the greatest reward I can imagine. 

I just realized that I have forgotten to write about how to ask for endorsements, blurbs for your back cover.  Next post I will get into that because it bears discussion.

Please respond with anything you may have found to be useful in your publishing journey.  For now, “Off the Grid” is calling.




1 comment for “How Authors Discover New Readers

  1. Susannah Morrison
    February 25, 2015 at 5:51 pm

    Jessica, your blog is full of useful information garnered from personal experience, the best kind.
    Thank you.

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