There are a wide range of factors that come into play for achieving success as a self-published author. Obviously, the biggest is probably just plain old writing talent. Having a good story to tell is helpful too. An insightful group of beta readers, an understanding of the importance of proofreading and editing, an eye for cover design, the ability to write a kick ass book blurb and a knack for social media won’t hurt your cause either.
But there’s one other element that’s rarely talked about and, in my experience as a book blogger, is often ignored by many indie authors to their great detriment. Sadly, this aspect of authoring is actually quite simple and takes very little effort. Why so many authors overlook it is baffling to me. And if I’m being honest, it’s also a bit irritating to see so many otherwise talented people just shooting themselves in the foot by disregarding this one thing. So what is this mysterious key to self-publishing achievement? Read on and find out.
How bad author behavior can cost you fans and sales
If you're reading this because of the title, you might be disappointed. No, we don’t have pics of JK Rowling flashing the crowd in NOLA for Mardi Gras beads. Sorry we disappointed you. But if you’re an author or aspiring author who is interested in building AND keeping a fanbase, this might be the article for you.
Welcome to part 3 of our "Self-publishing mistakes killing your book sales" series. Check out parts 1 and 2 here and here. Now that we have that minor housekeeping out of the way, let's start the show.
Just about any profession has a phrase or two that people in those jobs hate. For a delivery driver, it may be “flat tire.” For a school principal, it might be “food fight”. For many self-published authors, the phrase “social media” seems to fill them with a stomach-churning sense of dread. Not because they’re unfamiliar with the various social media platforms (most people have a least tried Facebook or Twitter). But unless you happen to have a background in marketing or advertising, most people simply don’t have the knowledge or experience to use social media as a tool for marketing their book. Not to worry, the Knockin’ Books crew has folks with decades of experience in marketing, including a bestselling self-published author who knows a thing or two about how to get readers to click that all-important BUY button.
At some point, every self-published author gets to a point in their book writing and publishing process when they begin thinking about the cover. For many authors, it can be one of the most stressful parts of the entire process, even more so if it’s your first book. Despite the fact that most authors have seen thousands or even tens of thousands book covers over the course of their life, few have ever given any thought as to how they’re created. For many, facing the prospect of developing a visually pleasing book cover that will actually help sell books makes them feel like they fell out of the clueless tree and hit every stupid branch on the way down. No worries though, our buddies at Reedsy reached out awhile back to share a handy infographic that breaks down the entire book cover design process into seven easy steps. And, being the “givers” that we are, we decided to share it with you, our loyal readers. Enjoy.
Book cover design is a tricky business. First and foremost, the main goal of any well designed book cover is to grab the attention of its intended audience. If it doesn’t pull in eyeballs, it’s game over. Second, it should provide a general idea for the emotional tone and character of the story. Finally, a book cover should clearly communicate a minimum of two important pieces of information: the title and the name of the author. That's it, eye-catching, emotions and basic info. Sounds easy right? Yeah, not so much. If it were that easy, everyone would have great covers and I think we all know that's not true.
So how do you design a great cover? Well there are an infinite number of ways to achieve these goals but one of the most important tools in any book cover designer’s toolbox is typography. It’s also one of the most overlooked and misunderstood. Which is why we’re going to spend gift you a few valuable tips that will hopefully help turn your next cover into an eyeball magnet.
You know that best friend from high school or college? The one you hung out with everyday, who knew all your most embarrassing secrets (but liked you anyway) and the one who would do absolutely anything for you and you them? Well now that you’re an author, you have a BFF who is supremely loyal, super helpful and there for you 24/7/365. No, we’re not talking about your mom. We’re talking about Amazon. Trust us, they’re a whole lot more than just a humongous online store. They have an almost bottomless toolbox of services and programs designed to help authors promote their books to the millions and millions of Amazon customers worldwide.
But despite all their efforts, a surprising number of authors are giving Amazon the cold shoulder. They’re either unaware or don’t take advantage of all the creamy goodness Amazon is offering. Big mistake. Huge, even. But no worries. Amazon is totally chill. Even if you’ve been blowing them off, you can still swing by the author party. In fact, we’ll be your host for the evening. You ready for a guided tour of the palatial Amazon estate? Great, let’s get started.
I have a confession to make. My partner and I sometimes entertain ourselves by sharing hilariously bad self-published book covers. That may sound a bit mean-spirited, but trust me, if we actually wanted to be mean about it, we’d show you some of the covers so you could laugh right along with us. Then again, we probably don’t have to because if you’re an avid reader and/or author, you already know what we’re talking about. And sadly, it’s not just the covers that are craptastic. It’s book blurbs, review requests, author websites and social media posts. And that’s all before you consider the quality of the actual book.
Guest post by Joshua Jadon
When you write your book, you take the time to pour your heart and soul into it. You want everyone to see it and read it and love it just as much as you do. But that means putting some effort into other parts of the book as well. It’s not just about writing. It’s about editing and proofreading, selling it in the blurb and definitely about making the cover look appealing for potential readers. Having said that, there are so many cover creation options out there, many authors just don’t know what they should do. Some end up opting for something premade just because it’s easier.
Authors are as diverse of a group as you’ll find in almost any profession. Besides the normal gender, religious, ethnic and racial differences typically found in most groups, there’s also a wide range of writing styles and genre preferences. But the one thing we all have in common is the desire to sell more books. It’s the Holy Grail. It may not be the only reason we chose to write a book, but now that we have, it sure would be nice to have our baby go viral and sell like pretzels at a beer festival.
So, how exactly do you go about selling more books? Glad you asked. We’ve got five suggestions and one big secret we’ll reveal at the end (No peeking).
Now, I know what you’re thinking. “Self-published authors are no different than traditionally published authors! Why are you picking on my self-pubbed brothers and sister?” Honestly? Y’all might not like this, but self-published authors AREN’T just like traditionally published authors. You’re departments of one. You don’t have the support of publishing houses to fall back on. And because of the self-publishing stigma that exists today (be it fair or unfair), you have to be BETTER than traditionally published authors just to get noticed out there in the big, bad publishing world. And if you’re going to be better than Big 5 authors, you must not only be aware of the 7 deadly sins, but avoid them at all costs:
Goodreads is an author’s dream. It’s chock-full of book addicts just hoping to get their next quick fix, to find their next favorite author. Those readers just might be looking for your book. But sadly, some authors do their best to shoot themselves in the proverbial foot on Goodreads, alienating potential fans with preventable acts of douchebaggery and literary asshattery. With that in mind, here are the top 5 violations of readers’ Goodreads trust that can drag your book sales down into the muck, along with your good name:
Let’s face it. Book buyers pay attention to reviews. The more reviews you have, the more books you’ll sell. But getting your typical everyday hobby reader to write up a review is like convincing the folks here at Knockin’ Books to go camping: it just ain’t happening. That’s where book bloggers come in. They’re basically professional readers. Bloggers take their jobs very seriously, and they have impressive followings to show for their efforts.
But like little deer in the forest, bloggers scare easily, and some authors find it difficult to convince these elusive folks to read and review their work. Why is that? Are bloggers just grumpy bastards who like squashing the hopes and dreams of eager creative types? Maybe. Or...is it possible that you’ve unwittingly done something to piss them off? Never let it be said that we’re not givers, folks, because here are the top 7 things you might be doing as an author that are guaranteed to piss off book bloggers:
The road to becoming a published author is winding and long and emotional. We get it. It’s easy to stumble and lose your way. And if you’ve made a few mistakes along the way, hey, don’t worry about it. You’re in good company. The best thing you can do is learn from those mistakes, and share what you’ve learned so others can take heed. Here are a few of the top mistakes our authors discovered on their road to publication:
Guest post by Brett Halbleib
Check out this promotional blurb for a book called Half Way Home, by Hugh Howey:
Five hundred of us were sent to colonize this planet. Only fifty or so survived. We woke up fifteen years too early, we had only half our training, and they expected us to not only survive ... they expected us to conquer this place. The problem is, it isn’t safe here. We aren’t even safe from each other.
Do you want to keep reading? I do. And it took only 57 words to convince me. 57 words, that’s it. (The blurb is so good I’m concerned the book might be a letdown.) And whether your blurb is on
Amazon.com or the inside cover of your book, a good blurb is vital to your success. Other than perhaps your mom, no one is going spontaneously buy your book. You must convince them to.
THIS POST HAS BEEN UPDATED
Ever wonder why book bloggers have been turning down your review requests? It’s possible they’re just moody and mean and picking on you. It’s possible they’re grumpy and in a rejecting mood because of the price of the new Justin Cronin release. Or...and this might hurt to hear...it’s possible that you’re doing something (or multiple somethings) that’s causing reviewers to reject your book baby.