He woke me at 2:30 in the early morning hours. My teenage son said he had a stomachache and felt nauseous. After about a half-hour, we decided he had the signs of appendicitis and rushed him to the emergency room.
Four hours and one ambulance ride later, the boy was being checked into the Children’s hospital. During admission, the nurse asked him if he would like a visit by the chaplain. Scared and nervous about his upcoming appendectomy, my son said yes.
Anesthesia, surgery, recovery, and finally checkout to go home followed. On the drive home, my son remarked that he was disappointed that the chaplain never came to pray for him.
Simply by asking the child if he would like a chaplain visit, the nurse set up the expectation in my son that a chaplain would come pray for him. She didn’t state, “If available, would you like a chaplain to visit you.” She simply asked if my son if he wanted a visit.
You, too, set up expectations in your readers. You may not even be aware of the expectations you construct. Your book’s title, the cover art, your back-cover copy, and even endorsements create expectations in the reader.
A couple years ago, a member author of Christian Small Publishers Association (CSPA) placed his book in CSPA’s books for bloggers review program, BookCrash. The book received mediocre reviews. Most of the reviews commented that the book was not quite what the reviewer expected.
The author was unhappy about this. He told me that the 100-word description that BookCrash allowed was not enough to convey to the reader what the book was about. He stated that if he had been allowed to write a longer description, reviewers would not have had a wrong expectation about the book.
I listened to his opinion. However, I believe the real problem was the title of the book. The title of this particular book set up a wrong expectation. Upon reading the title, I believed the book would provide a certain message. However, when I carefully read the description the author had written, it did not match the expectation the title raised for me.
Authors, choose your book’s title and cover art carefully. These are the first two things a reader considers when checking your book out. Both the title and cover art set up powerful expectations of what to expect from your book. Be sure that yours reflect the actual contents of your book.
Test your title and your cover art with friends and fans. Ask them what type of book they expect from the cover art and what expectation the title of your book raises in them. Make sure the title and cover art for your next book only raise expectations that you will meet.
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