This post is for the writer who has made the decision to try self-publishing their novel, but hasn’t yet taken the plunge. Many people are put off at this stage by the figures – I looked it up and discovered the startling figure of 48.5 million books for sale on Amazon.
So how on earth do you think you are going to make your book stand out in that crowd?
Well, there are several steps you can take to give it the best possible chance, and at the same time, take on board that most of those 48.5 million books don’t have savvy authors willing to make the effort.
Sure, some do, and you will still be jostling for visibility in a fair sized pool, but it isn’t as bad as you might think if you get it right.
For starters, I’m going to assume you’ve written the best book you can, and that it’s been edited thoroughly. If you want to learn more about the essential steps of editing necessary to produce a great book, take a look at Dave Chesson’s post on the topic: https://kindlepreneur.com/types-of-editing/
I’m also going to assume you have either learned, or paid someone, to format your book ready for upload as a neat and professional-looking eBook and paperback to whichever platform you decide to sell it on.
So, once you’ve done these pre-sale steps to ensure you have a product worth marketing, how can you make it more visible to potential purchasers?
1. Get a great cover
Your cover is the first thing a potential reader will see. To quote the cliché, ‘Don’t judge a book by its cover’, the first thing you should do is to realise that’s exactly what your readers will do.
When a potential purchaser, browsing for their next read, sees your book in an ad, or on the list of books Amazon suggests they might like, or on a page full of books from a search they’ve done, the first thing they see is your book cover. In miniature. It’s called a ‘thumbnail’, and if everything isn’t really clear at that size, they will likely ignore it.
You have one chance to make a first impression, and your book cover is it.
If you are a cover designer, then hey, design it yourself. But most people need to invest in a cover designed by an artist who is experienced in creating book covers to get all the components right.
Don’t have much money? Many book cover designers create ‘premade’ covers – images they have put together without any input from an author, and often at bargain prices. You simply have your title and author name added to the existing artwork. There are tons of sites – just Google ‘Premade book covers’.
Want to invest a little more in yourself? Particularly if you are writing a series, in which case you will want themed covers for the set, find a book cover artist you like in your price range, and talk to them about what you want.
And what is it that you want?
You want a cover that screams your genre. DO NOT try for something original, I’m sorry, but readers won’t recognise it.
Take a look at the top 100 best sellers in your genre and note what’s on the covers, including the predominant colour schemes, and then do something similar.
Take a look at #1 in my epic fantasy series:
Clearly fantasy, yes? And each component is still clear enough at thumbnail size, the genre is obvious, and author and title clear.
Here’s the set, with clearly linked theme:
I know this approach sounds like you are going to blend into the crowd – the very thing you want to avoid – but this is tried, tested, and I assure you it is what works.
The job of your cover is to get the potential reader to click on it, and get taken to your book page. This is where you need to take Step #2.
2. Write a great blurb.
After clicking on your cover and being transported to your book’s sale page, the first thing the reader is going to do is to read your blurb, to see if your book interests them.
Blurb writing for many authors is much detested, but you can learn to do it!
A blurb is not a book description: it’s a selling tool. The goal is to make the reader excited about the book, so they go ahead and buy it. What you think is important about your book baby, probably won’t interest them. That can be hard to swallow, but if you want sales, you need to do this right.
If you follow the 4-point framework, you will be along the right lines:
- Introduce your main characters. One or two at most.
- Outline the story conflict.
- Establish the stakes.
- Tell the readers why the book is for them, and include a call to action.
Here’s the blurb for The Prince’s Man:
“What if the magic that could save your loved ones condemns you to death?
Rakish royal spy, Rustam Chalice, loves his life the way it is, so when the kingdom he serves is threatened from within, he leaps into action. To his dismay the spymaster prince teams him up with an untouchable aristocratic assassin. And to make matters worse, she’s the most beautiful woman in the Five Kingdoms.
Plunged into a desperate journey over the mountains, the mismatched pair struggle to survive deadly wildlife, the machinations of a spiteful god—and each other. When Rustam discovers he has magic of his own, he is forced to question his identity, his sanity, and his loyalty to his prince.
For in Tyr-en, all magic users are put to death.
The Prince’s Man is the first book in The Five Kingdoms epic fantasy series. If you like action, intrigue, and magic, spiced with a touch of romance, then you’ll love Deborah Jay’s vividly realised characters. Scroll up to buy The Prince’s Man now and lose yourself in this captivating fantasy adventure.”
3. Gather positive reviews
This bit is a little harder, but equally as important. Most potential purchasers look at the cover, and if they like that, read the blurb. If the blurb interests them, many will then take a look at the reviews as a final check to make sure they really want to buy the book, so it’s important to get decent reviews, and enough of them to give credibility to your book.
How do you go about this? Here are a few ideas:
The firsts thing a reader should see in your book, immediately after ‘The End’, is a polite request to leave a review. Something along these lines:
“Thank you so much for spending your time reading my words. If you liked what you read, would you please leave a short review on the site where you bought the book?
Just a few lines would be great!
Reviews are not only the highest compliment you can pay to an author, they also help other readers discover and make more informed choices about purchasing books in a crowded space.
Most readers have no idea how much help a review can be to an author, and a polite request such as this is not a vulgarity.
2. Use social media to ask. Best advice for authors is to pick a couple of the many social media arenas available, and focus on those. For me, it’s Facebook and my blog. Once you have followers, you will again be surprised at the success of putting out a plea for reviews occasionally. Again, friends and acquaintances, including those you connect with solely online, often don’t know how much an author appreciates reviews – so tell them.
Here’s an example of a meme, informing them of how much you appreciate their efforts:
Note: reviews by close friends and family members may well be rejected by Amazon as biased, so may not be the best thing to prioritise – your social media followers are where you want to focus your efforts.
3. Get involved in the book blog scene – make friends with book bloggers, follow their blogs and comment on posts. When you have established a relationship, and you know they review your type of book, politely ask if they would be interested in reviewing yours.
You can find compiled lists of book bloggers such as this one: https://blog.feedspot.com/fantasy_book_blogs/
Make it clear when you give someone a free copy of your book in return for a review, that you welcome an honest opinion. Sometimes you might not like it, but every review, positive and negative, has value, and Amazon has a way of finding out when someone gifts their book in return for a positive review only. You risk getting into Amazon prison that way, and you really don’t want to do that – they hold all the cards.
You can pay for a review, but only an editorial review by a professional reviewer or expert in the genre, and again, you must accept that review, even if it’s negative, so think hard before you spend money in this fashion.
Read more detail about getting reviews here: https://writersedit.com/self-publishing/5-top-tips-getting-indie-book-reviews/
And there you have it. 3 of the most important steps towards visibility for your novel, which will also be crucial to your ability to advertise it. More on that in a future post.
Questions and comments all welcome.