You Want NovelPath, and This is How I Know…
First a quick definition: NovelPath will be a direct connection between writers and readers that has not existed since the very first writers wrote on cave walls for their fellow, very local, cave dwellers. Yes, this may sound mysterious and impossible, but I am confident that you will see that NovelPath is the opposite — practical, common sense, data-reliant, reader-powered, and very possible. It is the way to connect with readers that writers have been dreaming of forever.
You are a writer who wants to write more and market less. You long for a fairy godmarketer:
- Someone to see your book for what it is and wave her magic wand and magically insert your book into the dreams of the readers who will love it.
- Someone who won’t charge you too much for waving that wand.
- Someone who won’t ask you to trust that the wand is working, even if you don’t see any difference.
- Someone who will take your goal and break it down to practical marketing steps and keep you in the data loop on what is working and how it is working.
You know that marketing is part of the job, but that doesn’t make you enjoy doing it. You’ve tried ads, you’ve tried building an email list and running giveaways, you’ve tried writing fast, you’ve Tweeted, Shared, Liked, Posted, Instagrammed. You’ve hired a VA. You’ve hired a PR person.
Or maybe you’ve thought about doing all of the above and weren’t confident enough that you’d be spending your money wisely.
Sometimes your marketing effort work, sometimes it doesn’t, but it always steals time and creativity away from the writing.
You are a writer. You want to write.
I feel your pain because it is my pain, too. When my first novel was bought by a publisher, I built an author website, I guested on as many blogs as I could find to host me, I jumped on social media (and then promptly drowned in all the possibilities). What I didn’t realize is that none of it mattered. My publisher had printed a certain number of books and sent them to a certain number of bookstores. Those bookstores shelved my books (or didn’t, if they didn’t have space). I was a small player. Nothing I did in the marketing sphere had any ability to have an impact on my success.
It was a wake up call. If I wanted to keep publishing and get to mid-list or bestseller, I needed to keep writing. So I did.
Twelve books later, the indie revolution swept over publishing like a tsunami. I had seen it coming, and I saw the possibilities. At last, the power to get my books into a reader’s hands was within my grasp. Technology not only makes ebooks possible, it makes social media marketing effective for small players like authors.
Empowerment goes hand in hand with responsibility, so I threw myself into learning what I needed to know to bypass publisher and bookstore to get my book into the hands of my readers. I’d already spent decades learning how to tell a good story, now all I needed was to find a way to connect with my readers. Or so I thought. Marketing turned out to require me to put myself out there in a way that felt wrong. Like I was jumping up and down, shouting “Look at me!” The kind of behavior my parents had frowned upon.
Worse, the constant attention to sales was short-circuiting my creativity. I started bobbing and weaving around marketing. First I’d throw myself into writing a book, then into marketing it, doing so much less than my long to-do list required of me.
Perhaps you share my experience? I dipped a toe into the indie revolution, believing it was the future, but unsure of myself. I watched other authors market spectacularly well and soar into indie bestsellerdom. I applied some of what they were doing to my own marketing efforts. But I applied it sporadically and half-heartedly. I ran a marketing campaign based around helping my daughter pay for her wedding, and succeeded. I ran a campaign to hit the USA Today bestseller list, and succeeded. But then I went back to my non-marketing cave to recover from the effort of hyping my books to the big wide social media world of readers. This is NOT the way to find readers and sell books.
You know the dark secret of marketing that caused me to stumble as well as I do: to market, you have to — consistently and unwaveringly– treat your book as if it is the next best thing since the invention of sliced bread. For you — and for me — that’s harder than writing a book. Harder than writing a dozen books.
You may not be surprised to hear I think my stories are worth reading, but I don’t think they’re better than sliced bread. There’s a bakery down in Freeport, Maine that makes the best bread ever (When Pigs Fly, if you ever get there…and don’t let the name put you off). They sell whole loaves, but they also have an industrial slicer. You buy the bread, and then they slice it for you. Worth every extra minute standing in line waiting for a neatly sliced loaf.
There is an Answer, It Just Needs to Be Built
Maybe you feel that FaceBook, Amazon, iBooks, Barnes & Noble, Kobo, etc. should be the ones to solve this author marketing problem. After all, they have the reader data to make better matches of books to readers. That data has made them digital powerhouses.
What would you say if I told you I think we — all authors — should join together and solve this marketing problem, taking a page from FaceBook, Amazon, iBooks, Barnes & Noble, Kobo, etc.?
No. Not a union. Something bigger. Something better. Something way more fun. Something that gives us the ability to take a page from the book of Amazon and Jeff Bezos — to give readers a better way to find their next keeper shelf book, chat with favorite authors, and share their love of books with other book lovers. After all, we were readers first. We get the joy of reading a book that touches us more than anyone else in publishing.
We should join forces to become a digital powerhouse, just like the big guys, but in our beloved reader niche. A digital powerhouse that tells us: who our readers our, where they hang out, what makes them buy a book…pretty much everything Amazon, Goodreads, et al know about our readers and aren’t telling us. I’ve been saying this to other authors for 5 years (or maybe more…you should see my notebooks). But I’ve been saying it quietly, in conversation, at conferences, at mastermind groups. And I’ve been waiting for someone to step up and do it.
But no one has. (Darn it. I so would have supported the heck out of them.)
As of now, I have stopped waiting. My startup, NovelPath, is aiming to become the reader-powered, author empowered digital powerhouse we’ve been dreaming of. During my five years of dreaming, I’ve been slowly creating NovelPath in my mind. I can see it…if it were a novel, I’d already have started writing and probably have the cover designed. Or maybe it would be done, because writing a novel is something I have proved I can do alone.
But this isn’t a novel, and I can’t do it alone. I need to build a marketing and data team. I need to build the best reader playground app there is (better than sliced bread!). I need to build an author dashboard that delivers targeted market analysis that gives you just what you need to decide how to keep your readers buying your books.
Building the app is going to take at least six months. The demo will be faster (just as soon as my developer stops pulling all nighters getting software launched at his day job).
The best news is that we can start building our marketing dream team now. Start testing and experimenting and getting ready for when the playground opens and we need to keep readers (and you) happy and reading.
Are you excited? Can you see the future we could have?
Do you feel like a fairygodmarketer may finally be on the horizon? If so, please cast of vote of support for the effort with a direct donation of whatever you want to Kelly McClymer Books.
Are you unsure this future is possible?
Maybe you think technology can’t help us reach our readers more authentically and with fewer gatekeepers than we already have. If so, I point you to Amazon, Uber, Netflix, Pandora. The data is leading everyone who is using it to find and keep their peeps happy. There is no one better than authors to do this for our peeps, our readers. We get books. We get story. We can take a page from Bezos’ book of Amazon and make readers very, very, happy.
Maybe you think a writer can’t make this happen. Why do you think it took me so long to step out of the shadows and say, “Watch me go for it!”? During the last five years, I’ve had to face that question every day: why am I the one to pull this off? I can’t code (well, I can, but very slowly and you don’t have that kind of time). I like looking at neatly gathered and analyzed data, but I don’t like having to gather it every.single.day. I love looking into the future and trying to see what’s going to happen next. But trying to make it happen is a whole different kind of work.
I have arrived at a complicated answer as to why I need to do this, built of disparate experiences and skills amassed over years of being a “writer-and.” You know, a writer and a mom. A writer and a student. A writer and a dyslexia tutor. The one thing I still need to prove to myself is that I can be a writer and a team builder. To succeed the way I know NovelPath can succeed, I need to build a team talented enough to do what needs to be done with marketing, data, and reader engagement (what the suits call making your readers happy to hang with you).
How Can you Help the Future Get Here Faster?
NovelPath has a tiny core team of interns right now. But we need to expand. Our ideal team building starts with talented writer-ands: writer-and-game-designers, writer-and-marketing-genii, writer-and-data-geeks. If you are one of those, please look over the job vacancies and see if you may fit. The pay at startups is awesomely low and the work neverending. No one understands books and readers like we writers do.
Eventually, NovelPath will need to raise capital through equity sharing. A data analysis business requires that kind of financing because data analysts are in the hottest job market in the world right now. And an app that serves millions of readers needs talented support and lots of dedicated server space (did you know Goodreads has 65 million readers, 2 billion books, and 68 million reviews?). And NovelPath want the best for our readers, and our writers.
I want to raise most of that capital from other authors who believe in the dream, who want to share in the power of all that reader data and use it to empower themselves and their readers. People who know reading is fundamental, not frivolous. People who get why NovelPath would use most of it’s profit to develop new ways to help readers find exactly the right books to read and authors to find the readers who are going to love their books. Non-reader-venture-capitalists don’t get this. Trust me. I’ve been talking to a lot of them. Most VCs want to reap profits, not watch them get plowed back into the business of delighting readers. That’s one reason why Bezos and Amazon get knocked by Wall Street. But who cares about Wall Street? We’re looking to make readers and writers happy, not make bankers, investors, or VCs richer at the cost of reader/author happiness.
Are you a hopeful skeptic, with a “I’ll believe it when I see it” attitude? Join the NovelPath newsletter list so you can watch what happens (successes and inevitable failures both) as we move forward.
Do you think it this is an impossible dream? Stand aside and watch us prove you wrong. When you are convinced, however long it takes you, we’ll be happy to have you jump on board.