Friday, April 25, 2014

Debra Holland: Self Publishing: Don't Forget The Basics

In the rush to jump on the self-publishing wagon, many new authors often neglect some basics. The advice to have your book professionally edited is so prevelant on the internet and in books on the topic, that it’s hard for anyone to miss that important tip. A good developmental edit AND a copy edit are important for the quality of the story. But before readers even get to the content of your book, they have to become hooked by your cover and blurb. And when they sample your story, they should see the book is perfectly formatted.

It’s not uncommon for new authors who've only been published for a few months to write to me (or to a Yahoo or Facebook group I’m in) and bewail their lack of sales, in spite of having put time and expense into marketing. When I look at their covers and blurbs, or read a sample of their book, I can immediately see their problem—the book isn't presented in a professional and engaging manner, thus turning away potential readers.

The book cover is often what first catches a reader’s attention. A common mistake I see is either the book cover doesn't look professional (as if it came from a traditional New York publishing house) OR it doesn't do a good job of conveying to the reader the genre or sub-genre of the book.

I recently had someone show me the covers for the first two books in her series and tell me how pretty her friends thought they were. I agreed they they were pretty, but I could also see they didn't match to indicate they were a series, nor did they convey the books were dark paranormal romance.

Spend some time looking at the successful books in your genre or sub-genre to see what the covers are like. Ask experienced self-published friends to give you feedback about your cover before you slap it on a book. Show your cover to readers and ask if they can guess the genre or sub-genre.

The blurb or product description is the next stumbling block for readers. Too often the authors throws in far too many names/characters and details of the story and may not do a good job of conveying the genre. When writing a blurb, the author should stick to describing the goal and conflict, as well as what’s at stake. Typos and mistakes will make your readers think your book will have the same problems.

Avoid using descriptions that will tell the reader what his or her experience will be--for example, words such as fast-paced, gripping tale, tear-jerker, awesome story. The place for those kinds of words are in quotes from reviewers before or after the blurb, i.e., “This book is a fast-paced, gripping tale that made me laugh and cry. An awesome story.” (Make sure to add the reviewer’s name and/or the review site to give the quote legitimacy.)

I once had an author write to me wondering why my books were so successful, and her’s weren't, especially since she was an English teacher with better qualifications than I had. However, when I read her blurb, I saw two errors and had a hard time understanding what the story was about. She obviously hadn't done the research on how to write a compelling product description, nor had anyone proof the blurb.

Once your book is formatted, check how it looks on a Kindle and other e-readers. A sample will show a reader not only the content of the story, but the formatting. Poor formatting makes a story look unprofessional and difficult to read. There have been times when I've downloaded a sample of a book, but the poor quality of the formatting stopped me from reading the content.

I’m sure those of you reading this blog have seen covers or product pages that turned you off to certain books. What are some of the things (besides cost) that keep you from buying a book?  Share your thoughts and I'll give away a digital copy of Sower of Dreams to one random commenter.

Debra Holland is a New York Times bestselling author of the Montana Sky Series, sweet historical Western romance, and The Gods' Dream Trilogy, fantasy romance.


Kandy Shepherd said...

Excellent advice Debra!

Unknown said...

Terrific advice, Debra! We have so many choices of books to read that a first impression will make or break a potential reader's decision. If a cover intrigues, it has a chance. But when you turn it around, that blurb better not be clunky or misleading, or give me too much that I won't need to read the book.

Dr. Debra Holland said...

Thanks, Kandy and Adela!