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.

Don’t Hobble Your Marketing Efforts

From time to time, I review books that are related to publishing or marketing of books. Sometimes an author requests that I review their book. Other times, I see a book that might benefit Indie authors or small publishers and ask for a review copy.

Every once in a while, I receive book that has been marked “Review Copy: Not for Sale”. I seriously dislike it when I receive a marred book. A book that is stained in such a manner stops with me. When a book is spoiled, I am not able to pass it along to someone else that could be blessed by it.

book marketing efforts

I believe that authors who mark their books “Review Copy: Not for Sale” hobble their own marketing efforts.

1. A book is a form of compensation for the reviewer’s time.

When you ask for people to review your book (e.g., beta readers, launch teams, influencers, and bloggers) and these people agree to do so, they are doing you a favor. Providing these individuals with a clean, unmarred copy of your book is a form of compensation for these reviewers’ time.

This is not a new idea. Way back in 1916, Publishers Weekly published an article titled “Review Copies and the Trade”. The article stated:

“In other words, the reviewer has a definite and valued place in the selling of books…. The reviewing periodicals are seldom financially able to pay the best reviewers what they are really worth; and by long custom of the craft, the latter have taken partial recompense in the review copies of the books being reviewed…. To see that the reviewer has for his own purposes the copy of the book reviewed seems to him no more than natural justice; and whether the reviewer chooses to keep the book himself or to sell it for what he can get for it seems to him his own affair.”

2. Every book sent out into the world is a marketing tool, not wasted money.

Many Indie authors mark their books “Review Copy: Not for Sale” because they don’t want others to profit off their books. In other words, these authors are afraid that their book will end up being sold as a used or new book by the review individual, cutting the author out of a profit. However, this is twisted thinking.

Whether a reviewer keeps the book, gifts the book to someone, or sells the book, the impact for the author is usually positive. Every book that goes out into the world is a marketing tool. Everyone who sees the book, buys the book, or reads the book has the potential to become a spokesperson for that book. If the reader loves the book, she tells her friends and family, leading to more sales.

Seeding the world with a few books to begin the word of mouth process should be part of every author’s marketing budget. This includes review copies given to readers.

3. Christian authors can operate on Kingdom economic principles.

As Christians, we are to be in the world, but not of the world. Yet, so often we forget this and act just like the world. When it comes to your books, remember Kingdom principles. Luke 6:38 records Jesus as saying:

“Give, and it will be given to you. A good measure, pressed down, shaken together and running over, will be poured into your lap. For with the measure you use, it will be measured to you.”

Ten, fifty, or a couple hundred books, however many you decide to give out, whether for a review, for marketing to bring awareness to your book, or just to bless someone, remember Kingdom truths. Your free book copies are not wasted in God’s Kingdom economics. It is God who directs the paths and sales of your books. Trust Him.

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Are Reviews Important?

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Photo courtesy of Manuel Sardo.

Persuasion in an Age of Information Overload

We live in an age of information overload. The average person is bombarded with more information than they can retain every day.

Information scientists have found that, in 2011, American’s took in five times as much information every day as they did in 1986 (think pre- and post-internet). This is equivalent to 174 newspapers. During just leisure time, the average person processes 34 gigabytes or 100,000 words every day.

In order to persuade readers to buy your books, you have to cut through information overload. Getting your book to stand out amidst a sea of competing messages can be daunting. To improve your ability to persuade people to buy your book, focus on these three elements.

1. Message

Your message must stand out and grab attention. For your book, this means the message you are delivering through your book’s title, subtitle, blurbs, and your opening paragraph.

Some studies suggest that about four in every 10 book buyers bought their latest book based on its message. This means that your book’s cover is tremendously important in converting browsers to buyers. It’s not just the design or cover art, its the whole makeup and feel of your cover that is important. It’s the message that your title and cover art combined send.

2. Repetition

Studies show that people need to be exposed to a new product seven to twelve times before they make a purchase decision. The same is true for your book. Repeat exposure is required to convert a browser to a buyer.

Interestingly, the higher the book’s price point, the more exposures are required. Even bargains require repeat exposures. A book priced under $2 through a daily deal discount email campaign needs an average of at least two exposures before a reader will purchase.

With digital marketing, repetition is achievable. Mentions of your book on blogs, social media, and in your email newsletter all help increase your ability to persuade your target audience to buy your book.

3. Availability

In an environment of information overload, we easily forget new information. Research shows that many consumers make near instant purchasing decisions based on their intuition. This means that the reader will attempt to make the purchase as soon as they decide.

If your book is not available where these people shop, they will move on to the next thing. This is why distribution is so important. A book needs to be available in as many outlets and channels as possible (not just on your website and Amazon). Distracted shoppers that cannot get what they want the moment they want it, move on.

The task of being heard amidst the noise of information overload seems daunting. Focus on your message, repetition of your message, and availability. Then watch what God will do.

Related Posts:
Distribution Is More Important than You Think
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Are You Using This to Build Your Author Platform?

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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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How to Improve Your Social Media Success

How much time do you spend on social media each day?

How much time should you spend to on social media for marketing purposes?

Every author struggles with knowing how much time to invest in social media. Social media is a time vortex. You can spend hours upon hours each week creating, publishing, monitoring and engaging with content on social media. The important question to ask yourself is whether you see a proportional return for the time you spend on social media.

 

Maybe you feel like you are wasting your time with social media. You are not having much engagement with your material and you are not seeing any return on your investment.

To ensure that you are not wasting your time on social media, first define your goal. Do you want:

  • To increase awareness of your books?
  • To increase engagement with a community of fans and readers?
  • To increase web traffic and book sales?

Know which one of these you want to focus on the most and then plan your strategy based on your goal.

Awareness

If you are looking for awareness on social media, then your goal is to post things that people will share. The more people share your content, the more people see you, increasing awareness. The type of posts that people are most likely to share are:

  • Entertaining
  • Inspiring
  • Storytelling
  • Educational

So, tailor your posts to these themes if you want to raise awareness.

Engagement

If you are seeking more engagement from your followers on social media, then tailor your posts to match those that people engage with the most. A recent study by Sprout Social showed the following:

  • 58% of people prefer visual content, specifically graphics, images and produced videos.
  • 90% of people are more likely to engage with company personality posts.
  • 50% of people are likely to engage with new product posts.
  • 31% are likely to engage with storytelling content.

Create posts that generate engagement. Ask questions, take polls, and share stories to encourage your fans and followers to comment on, react to, and even share your posts.

Web Traffic and Sales

To increase your web traffic and sales offer freebies that are available only through your website. Create incentives for people to come to your website in your posts. Use services like Pay with a Tweet that encourage people to get your freebie as well as share it wider on social media to increase your website traffic.

With as little as 30 minutes a day spent on social media, you can begin to see more success for your efforts as long as you stay focused and create content that engages people toward your goal.

Related Posts:
Are You Using Social Media Correctly?
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Is Social Media a Waste of Time?

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Photo courtesy of Alexa Suter.