In the wild world of publishing (both indie and traditional), the Holy Grail has always been finding an audience (or conversely, having an audience find you).
There are many tools out there today to help make this possible: Facebook, Twitter, Amazon. But nevertheless, climbing the mountain of "discoverability"--what blogger Jane Friedman says, "separates the few success stories from the hundreds of thousands of authors who self-publish their books each year"--remains a daunting and exhausting task.
One of the first things an author should consider is what audience they're trying to reach.
For a traditionally published author who has already captured the attention of an agent and publisher (and therefore a PR person and a larger distribution channel), their audience will include journalists and reviewers, people who can help them build visibility that will, in turn, attract more readers. Because they are traditionally pubbed, it will be easier for those authors to generate media attention and garner reviews. Subsequently, the audience they need to reach is smaller--kind of like getting enough people to fill the Bowery Ballroom.
The audience an indie author wants to capture is larger and more complicated. Reviewers and the media are still an important conduit to reaching more readers, but they are much more likely, even with the aid of a good PR person, to disregard an indie author's work. And if that author's work happens to take the form of a printed book, they'll also want to get the attention of the bookstore buyer. In other words, now you're talking more of a Madison Square Garden crowd than the Bowery.
Finally, there are the indie authors who see the success of their books as a potential stepping-stone to a traditional publishing deal. Their audience would now include potential agents and publishers along with readers, reviewers and the media. You almost have to be Justin Bieber or Springsteen to pull a crowd like that.
And while current wisdom holds that Facebook, Twitter and Amazon--all modern inventions--can help an indie author find the audience they need to become a virtual Bieber or Springsteen, I believe that it's usually the old-fashioned maxim that wins out: It's not what you know (or how many friends you have on Facebook); it's who you know (and/or who actually reads your book).
So when IndieReader decided to create the first annual "Discovery Awards," we thought long and hard about what we could do that could actually make a difference to an indie author. A cash prize? Nice, but you can't buy a connection. A gold sticker? Unless it says "Oprah's Book Club" on it, again, not much of a perk. But getting your book read by the top industry professionals, such as Jennifer Bergstrom, VP, EIC of Gallery Books, a division of Simon & Schuster; Clay Ezell, Kristyn Keene and Kari Stuart, agents at ICM; Jocelyn Kelley, partner at Kelley & Hall Publicity; author and marketing guru (AuthorBuzz.com) MJ Rose; Perry Crowe, editor at Kirkus Reviews; and Marilyn Dahl, book review editor for Shelf Awareness? That could potentially make the difference between a sell-out gig at Madison Square Garden and a half-filled room at the Bowery Ballroom.
We at IndieReader believe that indie authors do not--and should not--exist outside the publishing industry. If they have the talent and the smarts (all big "ifs"), then they have the ability to create the best of both worlds, for themselves and their readers. We're here to help.
More information can be found at http://indiereader.com/the-indiereader-discovery-awards-welcome/ .