Are You Paying Attention to Details?

“The difference between something good and something great is attention to detail.” ~Charles R. Swindoll

Attention to detail is important. Some people are better at details than others. Yet, Charles Swindoll nails it with this statement. If you want to have a great book, you must pay attention to the details.

I find that many independent authors don’t pay enough attention to details. Over the past few months, numerous books published by independent authors have poured into Christian Small Publishers Association’s (CSPA) office as nominations for the Christian Indie Awards were made.

What has caught my eye repeatedly, is the number of books whose back covers do not look industry standard. The front covers are generally well designed, but the design and informational elements on the back cover are lacking.

Now, I know that over half of all books are purchased online. I understand that when browsing online people do not pull a book off the shelf and look at the back cover—which, by the way, is one of the first few things a reader looks at when viewing a physical copy of a book. But, as an author, you will still have times where you are showcasing your book in person. Therefore, it is extremely important that attention to detail is given to both the front and back covers of your book.

A number of independently published books nominated for the Christian Indie Awards show up with just a few paragraphs of text on the back cover of the book along with an EAN barcode. Yes, this is acceptable, but it is a minimalist approach and does not mirror industry standard for books.

The failure of these authors to pay attention to details has resulted in their books lacking four important back cover design elements.

1. Sales Copy Designed to Attract the Eye

Simply having blocks of text on the back of a book is not good sales copy. People skim back covers instead of reading them. With no text or quotes that are designed to stand out or attract the eye, your book is less likely to sell itself.

2. Testimonial or Endorsement Quote

Books that lack testimonial or endorsements quotes on their back cover also fail to sell a reader on the book with one of the most powerful selling techniques—social proof. Social proof is simply the positive influence that is created when people find out that others are doing something or finding something worthwhile.

3. About the Author

While an “About the Author” is not necessary on the back cover of a book, it is another industry standard and helps sell a book.

4. BISAC Subject Headings

BISAC Subject Headings are put out by the Book Industry Study Group (BISG). These headings are industry standard for informing industry professionals (booksellers, librarians, distributors, etc.) and readers what category your book falls into. In other words, no one needs to wonder whether your story is fiction or nonfiction. The subject headings tell them. Industry standard books tote a BISAC Subject Heading on their back covers.

If you want a great book, you must pay attention to details. You don’t want someone to walk away from your book because they couldn’t get what it is about at a glance.

If you are unsure about what details you need to pay attention to, Christian Small Publishers Association (CSPA) has help for you. Our Members have access to the on-demand seminar, Create a Professional-Looking Book, as well as a downloadable Checklist for Publishing a Professional-Looking Book that includes everything you should include on your book’s front and back cover. Remember, your attention to detail will make the difference between your book being good or great.

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Photo courtesy of marcomagrini.

How to Stand Out from the Crowd

Do you remember these puzzles from your childhood (or maybe your kids’ childhood)? Which one is different?

Standing out from the crowd is important. With over one million self-published books produced every year, how do you stand out from the crowd?

The answer lies is not in drawing attention to yourself by standing out in an odd or strange way as in the above puzzle. Instead, you want to stand out in ways that are attractive and draw people to you and your book.

It’s not just your book that must stand out. Your marketing efforts also need to stand out in the crowd to attract attention.

After you have written a compelling book that is professionally edited and designed, your next step is to ensure that your marketing activities don’t just mimic what others are doing, but stand out from the crowd.

standing out from crowd

You can stand out from the crowd with the following three strategies:

1. Informative and Unique Content

Give away free content that ties into the theme of your book. This free content must also be unique and answer important questions or solve important problems your target audience faces. Share this content on your blog and in your social media posts. Offer some content in downloadable format for interested readers to receive in exchange for their email address. This helps build your email marketing database.

 2. Connect with Your Audience

Connection is about caring. We connect with others when we care about them. Care for your audience. Show up where these people hang out—be that on social media or in person. Talk to them. Rejoice when they rejoice, mourn when they mourn. Support their efforts and cheer them on. Most people crave authentic connection. Your audience will begin to trust you when they see that you are authentic.

3. Be Consistent

Many Indie authors start strong, but soon fizzle out. When results don’t roll in the way these authors expect, they turn their attention elsewhere. It takes at least a year to build a strong, loyal following. To stand out, you must show up consistently and add value to people’s lives.

In marketing and selling books, you want to be noticed in a good way, not because of appearing odd or strange. Show up, connect with your audience, and offer them great content. Stand out for the value you bring to people’s lives.

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But, Can You Sell It?

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Photo courtesy of Anton Belitskiy.

But, Can You Sell It?

“My story is perfect just the way it is.”

These words were spoken to me by an aspiring author. I was meeting with this lady on the request of a friend. This aspiring author had penned a lovely rhyming story for children aged three to six. She was seeking feedback and direction.

At the start of our meeting, the author informed me that she thought she should find herself a literary agent for the book. She asked me how she would go about finding one.
I let her know that I could give her information on finding a literary agent, but I could also save her some time by giving her some feedback on her story that would help her in securing the services of a literary agent. This is when she made the statement that her story was perfect.

I attempted to explain to this aspiring author, that while her story might be wonderful, a literary agent and a publisher look at potential books from a number of angles. One important thing they always consider is the sellability of a book. In other words, literary agents and publishers evaluate first and foremost whether people will buy the story or topic in the format presented.

To begin with, this author’s story was 1,600 words in length. I explained to her that this length was much too long for a picture book for her target age group. Therefore, for a literary agent to be willing to represent it, she would need to cut the story length.

This author then suggested that instead of one book, she would make it into a series of seven books. Again, I talked about the ability to sell a book. Selling one picture book is much easier than selling a set of seven picture books. Parents are more likely to invest in one book than in a set of seven.

Stuck on her original idea, this lady really did not want to change her story. Hence, she began to have the same thought as many authors: “Maybe I should just publish it myself.”

The truth of the matter is, sellability matters whether you publish a book yourself or someone else publishes the book.

Readers have expectations. They have expectations about how a picture book should read for their child’s age. They have expectations about the flow of a story. They have expectations about the layout of a book. A book needs to meet these expectations to sell well.

If you are publishing a book, ask yourself: Can I sell it? Will people buy it?

The answer to this makes all the difference.

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Are You Following the Five-Hour Rule?

Many an Indie author has lamented to me that they can’t do all the marketing tasks that full-time, best-selling authors do to promote their books. The simply do not have the time.

These Indie authors work a full-time job and then write and publish their books in the hours that they are not devoting to their job or family. Most feel pinched for time.

One of my suggestions to these authors is to implement the five-hour rule into their marketing plan. I suggest that they set aside an hour each work day (before or after work) to engage in marketing activities for their books.

Can five hours a week really make a difference?

I believe it can and so does Michael Simmons, co-founder of Empact, and the man who coined the five-hour rule.

Michael Simmons came up with the term after learning that, throughout Benjamin Franklin’s adult life, he consistently invested roughly an hour a day to learning.

Benjamin Franklin had to leave formal schooling at age 10 to become an apprentice to his father. Hence, most of his learning came through reading books.

Michael Simmons realized that the most successful people were the ones most likely to devote time to reading. After looking at other successful people like Bill Gates, Mark Zuckerberg, and Elon Musk who consistently read a book a week, Michael Simmons concluded:

“No matter how busy successful people are, they set aside at least an hour a day (or five hours a week) over their entire career for activities that can be classified as deliberate practice or learning.”

Similar to setting aside an hour a day to read and increase your knowledge, you can take just five hours a week and apply it to marketing activities.

Just like the five-hour rule reflects the very simple idea that, over time, the smartest and most successful people are the ones who are consistent and deliberate learners. So too, the most successful Indie authors are those that consistently and deliberately market their books.

One of the things I like about the five-hour rule is that it is manageable. Everyone can carve out an hour from their day to read a book or conduct deliberate marketing tasks.

I challenge you to apply the five-hour rule to your life for the next month and watch the difference it makes.

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Are You Ready to Give Up?

Sometimes I feel like quitting. I know I am not alone. We all have those days.

We all have days where we feel that what we have to say does not matter. Days where we are discouraged and wonder if our message is making any difference in the world. We all struggle at times feeling like all our hard work is for naught.

When this happens, I remind myself that God has called me to this task and I must continue until He tells me to stop. I remind myself that I that I will overcome and that better is coming as Revelation 3 says:

Behold, I come quickly: hold that fast which thou hast, that no man take thy crown. Him that overcometh will I make a pillar in the temple of my God, and he shall go no more out: and I will write upon him the name of my God, and the name of the city of my God, which is new Jerusalem, which cometh down out of heaven from my God: and I will write upon him my new name.

So often, we don’t see the results of our hard labor. Yet you never know, tomorrow might just be the day that everything comes together or you hear from a reader just how important your message was in her life.

If you are having one of those days where you feel like quitting, then read this poem is for you.

Don’t Quit
By John Greenleaf Whittier

When things go wrong, as they sometimes will,
When the road you’re trudging seems all uphill,
When the funds are low and the debts are high,
And you want to smile, but you have to sigh,

When care is pressing you down a bit—
Rest if you must, but don’t you quit.
Life is queer with its twists and turns,
As every one of us sometimes learns.

And many a fellow turns about
When he might have won had he stuck it out.
Don’t give up though the pace seems slow—
You may succeed with another blow.

Often the goal is nearer than
It seems to a faint and faltering man;
Often the struggler has given up
When he might have captured the victor’s cup;

And he learned too late when the night came down,
How close he was to the golden crown.
Success is failure turned inside out—
The silver tint in the clouds of doubt,

And you never can tell how close you are,
It might be near when it seems afar;
So, stick to the fight when you’re hardest hit—
It’s when things seem worst that you must not quit.

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