If you’re reading this, we’re assuming you’ve already asked yourself this most basic question: Did you write a book that people actually want to read? And if the answer is yes (which we’re sure it is), then here are some additional questions you might want to ponder:
How’s your cover?
Yeah, yeah, we know. You’re not supposed to judge a book by its cover. But sadly we all do it to some degree. People want to buy pretty books. That’s just the way it is. And if your second cousin’s brother designed your cover in Microsoft Publisher and no one is buying your book, maybe it's time to consider hiring a professional. (Unless your second cousin’s brother is indeed a professional with mad skills who just happens to work in Microsoft Publisher...then hey, no disrespect intended and maybe the problem isn’t your cover)
Now, I know as soon as we said “professional”, all some of you heard was “expensive”. But actually, you might be surprised. There are many freelance ebook cover designers out there that you can pay as much or as little as you’d like for a professional cover. In fact, many designers offer pre-made covers for extremely reasonable prices. You won’t have any trouble finding something you like out there.
How’s your editing/formatting?
You made a huge time investment in writing your novel. Why let sales dwindle because of poor editing and formatting?
Much like with your cover, failure to hire a professional editor/proofreader and formatter leaves you open to embarrassing errors that readers who’ve paid for a book will notice. (There are grammar Nazis everywhere who won’t hesitate to post “needs editing and formatting” reviews on Goodreads and Amazon. Seeing enough of those will make even the most laid back reader reconsider taking a chance on your book. )
Editors can be hired on a freelance basis for as little as $1 per page, and formatting services can be found for $40 for a 70,000-word novel. Trust us: the benefits of professional editing and formatting services greatly outweigh the costs.
How’s your price?
Traditional publishing houses set their own prices. But self-published authors? They can set their prices as high or low as they want. But you should consider this: will the market support the price you’ve chosen?
You can find whatever information you want online about pricing. Some sources say if you price your book at $0.99, people will assume it's terrible and not buy it. Others argue that if you are a self-published or debut author with no built-in following and set your price at $5.99-$11.99, no one will be willing to take a chance on your work. Who’s right?
Sadly, you’ll need to figure that one out on your own. We suggest experimenting a little. Try the $0.99 – $3.99 range and see how it goes. If it goes well, you can try going a little higher, then utilizing Amazon’s countdown deal tools. But at the end of the day, no one really knows what the best pricing strategy is for you. All authors and books are different, and what works for you might not work for another.
Got any reviews?
No matter what anyone says, reviews absolutely make a difference when readers are deciding whether or not they should give a new author a shot. And while we DO NOT support the practice of paying for reviews, it is acceptable (advisable, even) to ask for them. We recommend looking at other books in your genre that are similar to yours and see which bloggers have reviewed them. If see a blogger you respect, consider sending him/her a polite review request with an ARC in exchange for a review. (And note, that’s an HONEST review you’ll be asking for. It’s never OK to ask for a positive review.)
Having a decent number of reviews (more than 20 or so) will help readers feel validated in their buying decision. And you definitely want readers to feel good about buying your book.
How’s your social media presence?
Readers want to connect with their favorite authors, and authors should encourage such contact. And social media isn’t just about Twitter, Facebook and Instagram. If you don’t already, consider keeping a blog on your website. Join Goodreads with readers who share similar interests. And never spam everyone with self-promotion. We know it sounds overly simplistic, but just talk to readers. Find out what makes them tick. You might even learn a thing or two from them about writing and marketing your next book.
How’s your blurb?
Is your blurb roughly half the length of your entire novel and filled with enough character names and plot points to rival an episode of Game of Thrones on HBO? Well, sadly, what works for George RR Martin and the writers at HBO probably won’t work for you as a self-published author.
Your blurb should be short and punchy, ideally no longer than 200 or 300 words. You should only mention the main characters. And your plot shouldn’t be described in excruciating detail. The goal is to leave the readers wanting more. If the blurb isn’t concise or is confusing in any way, readers will pass on your book. Your blurb should grab them by the throat and force them to one-click your book. (Note: never actually grab a reader by the throat. That was just a metaphor. The authorities frown on violence of any kind against your readers. They’re picky that way.)
What about all you authors out there? Have anything additional to contribute? Leave some comments and help all your self-published brothers and sisters!