#10: Get An Eye-Catching Cover
|Not to toot my own horn, or anything.|
As I said back in Don't Judge A Book By Its Cover (Even Though Most People Do), the front of your book is going to be someone's first impression of your work. Which is why it's so important to get eye-catching artwork, but also to make sure you pick the right typeface, that your layout is pleasing, and that your book generally looks like something you'd see on the shelf in a bookstore.
I get it, being an indie publisher is tough when you're strapped for cash and you can't throw a few C-notes at a talented artist to make an awesome painting of a cybernetic dragon fighting a flying longship. But whether you spend hours dragging websites like Morgue File and Pixabay looking for just the right image, or you take my advice in Looking For Cover Art? Check Out Drive Thru RPG! to find an arresting cover, this is the first hurdle you have to clear.
A picture is worth a thousand words, so ask if your book's cover would make someone stop scrolling to find out the rest of the story.
#9: Provide Your Readers With A Decent Preview
|Bait that hook early, and they won't stop biting!|
Most people can tell within the first couple of pages whether they're going to buy a book or not. In the old days this meant picking the book up off the shelf, and reading for a bit to see if the author's style and the story was to your taste. These days, though, we have the preview feature. So while readers can't flip to page 72 and randomly start reading on your digital preview, anyone with an Internet connection can get the first couple chapters of your book.
Make sure you buried a hook in there, and that it will tug hard on readers who lay their eyes on the page.
In a book of short stories like my steampunk noir collection New Avalon: Love and Loss in The City of Steam, front-load what you think are the best three stories to be sure they grab your reader by the lapels. If you have a novel, like my sword and sorcery tale Crier's Knife, then you need to make sure you've provided context for who your protagonist is, what issues they have to overcome, and what the hook of your story is. Offering glimpses of world-building is nice, too, but remember that it's the actors on stage that fill seats, not how pretty the backdrops are.
If you'd like to take a quick break to read my previews, don't worry, the rest of the list will be here when you get back.
Finished? Great! Moving on...
#8: Get Reviews
|Without hacking into Amazon's database, if possible.|
So the more people you have leaving their reviews, the more input your future readers will have to judge your work with.
That's not the only reason you want a big stack of reviews, though. As I pointed out back in How Many Book Reviews Do You Need Before Amazon Promotes You?, books with a lot of reviews also tend to show up in that magical, "You Might Also Like" window along the bottom of the screen. That increased exposure can provide you a big boost, and the more views, purchases, and reviews you have, the more and more your work will show up in other searches.
50 is generally the number people shoot for, but tweaks to the algorithm mean that you can never have too much activity, too many sales, or too many reviews. Also, remember, they don't all have to be good reviews, so encourage everyone who reads your book to leave their two cents. Friends, family members... people who read your blog... everyone.
#7: Have A Giveaway
|Everyone loves a deal!|
The only thing readers love more than books is free books! All you have to do is walk past the freebie table at any convention, and watch as the boxes of books placed on it vanish into the ether. New or used, sci-fi or fantasy, weird, strange, or not usually your type, people are a lot more willing to take a risk with their time if it means they aren't taking a risk with their money.
That's why it's a good idea to host a book giveaway or two. As I said in Do Book Giveaways Really Work? people are usually more willing to download a copy of a book they might not be totally sold on. It's a great chance to get your name in front of a lot of people, and it can drive up your reviews if you get lucky and a lot of people download your book. If your book is part of a series, then it can act as a try-before-you-buy kind of scenario, hooking new readers who will now buy the other four or five books to find out what happens to their favorite characters. You'll even see run-off attention on other, unrelated books since lots of readers browse by author.
And, of course, a lot of people still want hard copies of books they like. So while they may have downloaded the ebook free of charge, at least a few people will come back for a physical printing. This approach costs you nothing, either, so there's no reason not to at least try it.
#6: Cross Promote Your Book
|Hey, guys, did you hear that Trevor finally finished his book?|
All of us have something else that we do. We work in an office, we organize war gaming conventions, we're personal trainers for suburbanites, what have you. There is an audience who knows you in your other capacity, and if you have their interest in that other platform, then use that platform to big-up your signal.
I talked about this more in Cross-Promotion, Book Sales, and You, but if you run a blog, a social media page, a YouTube channel, etc. where you have dozens, hundreds, or thousands of followers, then you need to try to mobilize them to get their interest in your book. This is why if you scroll through any of my posts over on my gaming blog Improved Initiative, you'll notice that I try to mention my work from time to time. Because folks might have come there to read about fantasy roleplaying games, but getting them interested in a sword and sorcery novel is certainly within the same ballpark.
#5: Get A Trailer
Lots of people think that trailers are just for movies, but you might be surprised at the sort of traction you can get with an eye (or rather ear) grabbing trailer. As I pointed out in Does Your Book Have A Trailer? Here's 5 Reasons It Should, people tend to respond well to book trailers. They set a tone, engage a different sense, put your book in front of a new audience's ears, and they can be intriguing. Best of all, trailers tend to be relatively inexpensive to make. In fact, if you have a mic, some friends, access to sound effects, and some basic sound editing software, you can probably make your own trailer in an afternoon. And even if they don't go viral, it's one more avenue for you to engage new readers that you weren't using before.
Also, since I can't say this enough, big thanks to Dungeon Keeper Radio for putting my trailer together!
#4: Get An Audio Version Out There
|Sound check, 3... 2... 1...|
Audio books, to be fair, are not simple things to make. Even if you're an experienced reader, you need to get your takes right, put them in the right order, add whatever sound effects your production needs, etc. And if you need someone else to read, or you're going a full-cast style production, then you have got your work cut out for you.
However, audio books are no longer purely the realm of big publishers. With a small investment in some free software, and a halfway decent mic (I personally recommend the Samson Go Microphone) you can get this project up-and-running on your own. You can even distribute it via the Audio Creation Exchange, if you want to use Amazon's platform. Because while it's true that not everyone likes audio books, you'll instantly increase your audience to include folks who listen to books during their commute, the visually impaired, artists who need a story while they sketch, and a slew of other people who may not have the time, desire, or ability to read the old-fashioned way.
#3: Do Some Readings
|You're an entertainer, after all.|
Authors, by and large, aren't center-of-attention sorts of folks. However, there is nothing more punk rock than the ability to get up in front of a crowd, open your book, and within the space of a few pages have them all hanging on your every word. If you can do that, I guarantee you will have people with cash in hand ready to relieve you of a few spare copies of your book.
Whether you head down to your local coffee shop's open mic night, you arrange a reading with a library or a university, or you volunteer to read at a convention, these are all good ways to put yourself in front of a crowd, and to show them what you've got. I can personally vouch for this method, as after I read my short story Stray Cat Strut in the collection From A Cat's View at Windy Con in Chicago I suddenly found that I had no more copies left, but a lot of people who wanted me to sign their recently-acquired books.
People love cats, sure, but hearing the story read aloud got them to get off their chairs and get a copy. Especially since my time ran out just before I could reveal the twist ending of this hard-boiled cat story.
Lastly, if you really are that shy as an author, you can do digital readings and share them over social media. YouTube is a glorious platform, and while it's tough as hell to get paid on, it can spread your message far and wide if you're willing to make the content.
#2: Hand Sell
|It might seem like a nightmare, but trust me, it works.|
More writers have balked at the idea of physically selling their books than at any other stage of the process. They already put in all the time and effort to write the damn thing, now they have to sell it, too?
Well, yeah, if you want to make bank.
Trust me, it's not that hard. If you have a book that catches people's eyes, and you know how to start a conversation with passers by, you can usually get people to take a few books off your hands. Whether you snag a spot at a local flea market, you set up at a friend's garage sale, or you rent a booth at a convention, all you need is a pitch, a smile, and maybe a little help from the list Tips For Hand-Selling Your Book. Oh, and a Square credit card reader. You will definitely want one of those.
You can do it. I believe in you.
#1: Be Persistent
|Hey, did I tell you guys about my book?|
I said this not too long ago in Successful Authors Are Persistence Hunters, but it bears repeating. Barring some huge stroke of luck that taps into this week's zeitgeist, it isn't likely that you'll make one Facebook post, host one giveaway, or record one soundbite, and hundreds of thousands of sales will upend upon your head.
Don't get me wrong, that Internet lottery is totally possible. It just isn't likely.
So remember this when you only sell a handful of copies during the Saturday at con, you don't generate a lot of interest with your latest round of Facebook posts, or when your sales numbers drop and you feel like giving up. Pick yourself up, and talk to one more person. Send one more email to a reviewer. Add one more link into your next article.
Persistence hunters don't quit. Slow and steady wins out over frenetic and explosive every, single time.
That's all for this week's Businss of Writing post! It was a bit of a doozy, and I hope all you fine folks found it to be of use. For more work by yours truly, check out my Vocal archive, or head over to My Amazon Author Page where you can check out all my latest book releases!