First Impressions Matter

The door opens and out walk two men. One is wearing a disheveled t-shirt, jeans, and well-worn sneakers. The other is dressed in nice slacks, a dress shirt, and loafers. Both are lawyers. Which one would you choose to represent you?

Most of us would pick the attorney with the professional appearance. Because, regardless of how much people like to say the opposite, appearance is important. Appearance signals care and attention, which sends the message to our brain that the person is competent.

Don’t underestimate a first impression. According to a 2011 study by Harvard Medical School and Massachusetts General Hospital, people assess a person’s competence and trustworthiness in a quarter of a second (250 milliseconds) based solely on how the person looks.

The same is true for your book. People judge your book based on its appearance. Often, they will decide, on appearance alone, whether your book is trustworthy and worth their time and money.

I recently received a handful of books from a well-known Christian vanity press (which shall remain unnamed). I was shocked to see that the books varied in quality and appearance with some having a distinctly unprofessional look based on industry standards. None of the books sported a back cover that met industry standards. These books did not carry a printed retail price or a BISAC code. The interior of one of the books looked like it was designed in the 1970s. Another’s interior sported poor margins with words running into the gutter.

I was saddened to see that a supposedly Christian self-publishing house was charging authors good money for books that were sub par in terms of meeting industry standards for interior layout and cover design. Producing shoddy books in the name of Christ sheds a poor light on Christianity.

Your book’s appearance is your foremost marketing tool. People who read books know what a book is supposed to look like based on all the industry-standard books they have consumed. If your book does not fit this standard, it will be judged and found lacking. In addition, as a Christian book, you want your book to reflect the glory of God. Having a professional-quality design is important in this pursuit.

Christian Small Publishers Association (CSPA) feels that this issue is so important that we have developed an on-demand seminar, How to Create a Professional-Looking Book, as well as a Checklist for Publishing a Professional-Looking Book to help our members publish books that meet industry standards and create a good first impression. With CSPA’s summer membership special of $120 for membership through December 2018, you can join now and get access to this great information to help you make sure your books send the message that they are competent and trustworthy.

People will make a quick judgment about your book based on its appearance. Make sure that your book’s appearance reflects favorably on its content. If you want to sell more books, readers must view your book as competent and trustworthy.

Related Posts:
Does Your Book Have an Expiration Date?
Do You Look Professional?
Are You Outdated?

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Photo courtesy of Alice Achterhof

Are You Using Subject Codes?

Have you ever read a book’s description and wondered whether the book was fiction or a true story? I have.

subject codes

Often, the description of a book, alone, may not clarify whether a book is a fiction or true story, whether the book is a Bible study or devotional, whether the book is a young adult novel or an adult novel. Enter Subject Codes.

The BISAC Subject Codes (also called Subject Headings) were created for books. Their purpose is to give anyone looking at a book—retailers, librarians, distributors, reviewers, and readers—a clear definition of a book’s content.

For consumers, these Subject Codes let them know what type of book they are looking at. Yes, they discovered the book in the fiction section of a bookstore or library, but is this book an historical fiction, a romance, or a mystery novel? For booksellers these Subject Codes tell them where to shelve the book in their store. Do they place the nonfiction book they hold in their hands under devotionals, biographies, or parenting?

BISAC Subject Codes are found on a book’s back cover, usually in the upper left-hand corner, but they can also be listed in the lower right-hand corner either above or below the EAN barcode. Traditional publishers all use them on their books. However, I have found that many independently published authors and small publishers do not include these subject codes on their books.

BISAC Subject Codes are administered by BISG, the Book Industry Study Group, which is a trade association that helps create standards for the book industry. The Codes are a list of industry-approved subject descriptors, which consist of two, three, or four levels of information such as:

  • RELIGION / Christian Church / Leadership
  • YOUNG ADULT FICTION / Fantasy / Contemporary
  • JUVENILE NONFICTION / Poetry / Humorous
  • FICTION / Christian / Historical

If you have not used BISAC Subject Codes on your books, plan to do so with future editions. You can include the BISAC Subject Codes for your books in your online descriptions as well as the back cover of your book. Using BISAC Subject Codes can provide the following benefits:

  • Enhance your current titles’ discoverability.
  • Improve your market intelligence.
  • Increase your selling potential.
  • Maintain visibility of back-list titles.

Access to the complete approved list of BISAC Subject Codes is free. They are also free to use. The Codes can be found on BISG’s website. The organization updates the codes regularly. They just recently added more than 500 new Codes.

Related Posts:
Did You Forget the Subject Headings?
A Marketing Snafu

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