book discoverabilityI just discovered a blog called Bookavore, which published a great little essay this week. The topic was ‘book discoverability’ and Bookavore wonders just how big a problem this really is. From the article:

I agree…that there is an audience discovery problem for authors (and publishers). But I really can’t get on board with this idea that readers have a book discovery problem, no matter how many times I hear it. I think publishers just really want readers to have discovery problems, so we can all be in the same boat.

It was an interesting observation, and, I think, a true one. Most readers have the problem of too many books they want to read, not too few. I have been an avid reader for years and I don’t think I have ever finished a book without having another few ready to go. Of course, I am not opposed to suggestions—my mother and my sister will sometimes suggest a book I might try, and a Kindle-owning co-worker has recently been trading ideas with me on the bus since we take the same route.

But those suggestions are usually extra to the books I plan to read already. I have more than a few that have been sitting in my Calibre library for a year, or longer, waiting to be gotten to. In fact, I recently stripped my Kobo of all library books and internet freebies so I could spend the rest of the year trying to mow through some of the books I’ve paid for! If the co-worker or Mom or sister do suggest something I might like, and it interests me enough to read it right now, all it’s doing is delaying whatever was next in the queue—and there is always something else in the queue!

I don’t doubt that authors have a ‘discoverability’ problem—they want readers to discover them and they want to stand out from the noise of all the other books and all the other authors in a growing playground where anyone can play. But I agree with Bookavore that this is not necessarily a problem for most readers.


  1. I think the problem is the inability for undiscovery. There are already more books currently written than I can live long enough to read them all.

    As for new books, I pretty much eliminate for consideration all young adult, media tie-in, ECAS (episodic character adventure series), or self-published by non-professionals. That gets rid of the bulk of new stuff and maybe let’s me more carefully “discover” other books.

  2. Non-professionals are people who self-publish but wouldn’t be able to get a book contract through a traditional publisher, large or small. There are valid reasons why most slush pile submissions are rejected. Sure, there are good finds in then slush pile now and then as there may be a rare find in the self-published. But I don’t want to search for them. Many self-published authors probably think they’re pretty good, but they’re adding crap to the heap. I remember a self-published science fiction novel selected for a Goodreads book club that was far from ready for readers. It was very very very bad.

  3. Greg, there are valid reasons why most slush pile submissions are rejected. There are also very valid reasons why some of them should be published. Whether this assists your workflow or not, you are simply saying that publishers decide quality. They do not. And there are plenty of other ways – discussion groups, ratings, and yes, even Goodreads – for filtering out the dross in self-publishing. There is no valid distinction between professional and non-professional writer, only between good and bad writer.

  4. Paul, professional publishers aren’t the key to quality — they print all sorts crap like Snooki Stackhouse and other mass media stuff. Or, to be fair, stuff not to my taste.

    The dozen or self-published books I have read haven’t been made ready for reading by refined writing, editing, or formatting. They ranged from incompetent — using grizzy for grisly — to poor writing style — a whole chapter where two out of every three sentences used a form of “to be” — to OK but could use a good editor and formatter. None were top notch; all seemed like they were done by amateur enthusiasts. Even Goodreads gave the grizzygrisly book a lot of five star reviews.

    I know how to avoid the Snooki style books from traditional publishers, but I have yet to find a self-published author worth a second glance. Maybe there are some out there. But is it worth the time searching when there are enough good books already available?

  5. I find Amazon’s “look inside” feature immensely helpful in deciding whether to buy (or even download for free) any book, but certainly self-published books. If it passes that test, the “download a free sample” feature comes in handy, because sometimes the first few pages are more polished than the rest of the book.

    As far as discoverability goes, certainly there are a lot of books out there. I think what many readers want to discover are reliable, consistent authors– writers they can trust to put out books they enjoy. Taste varies. Quality of writing is an issue, too, but “good” and “bad” often boil down to taste. There is nothing everyone loves.

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