In this article, I’m going to give you five tips on how to get people to take your self-published book seriously. These tips are meant to help push your book to the best it can be, to offer insights into issues that might be plaguing your success, and to give tips on how to improve the way you market your book, as well as yourself.
As a writer and publication designer, I am a member of several LinkedIn and Facebook Author Groups. In one of the Facebook groups I’m a member of called Authors, there are select days where authors are allowed to share links to their books, cover designs, or links to their Facebook Pages.
I’m usually very busy, but I try to pick a few out of the onslaught of links that get posted in the comments to investigate. The decision for why I choose to check out a novel usually hinges on whether I find the cover interesting, either because it is good or because it is terrible.
Since the ebook revolution, there are more books available to the public than ever before. The unfortunate part about the ease of publishing is that the quality of the books produced has significantly diminished. The quality of your cover, your editing, and your marketing have a lot to do with the success of a book. To help people take your book more seriously, I’m going to list the ways you can improve your books appeal and reach a wider audience.
1. People Do Judge a Book By Its Cover
A well-designed book cover is your first chance at giving the reader a good impression of your work. You wouldn’t show up to work or a wedding half-naked or under-dressed, would you? You’re book cover, aside from writing and editing a book, is one of the most important tools to getting someone to take you seriously as an author.
If you created your book cover in MS Word or Paint, there is a pretty good chance that you should have someone redesign your cover and soon. If you took images from Google, that opens a host of Copyright issues and could potentially leave you liable for being sued. Also, not all graphic designers are of the same skill or talent. Perhaps you hired one that did not have the skills required to create a stellar cover that will entice readers to click the link to the book or peek behind the cover.
If you decide to do the cover yourself, remember to purchase your illustrations or photos from reputable stock sites. An affordable one that I like is depositphotos.com. If you find an illustration you really like on the internet, you have to email and ask the artist for permission to use that illustration. They may tell you no, or they may ask for compensation in the form of a flat fee or royalties from your book. Either way, get it in a contract so you are not liable for anything.
I’ve been designing book covers for the last seven years. If you’d like help with your book cover or advice on how it can be better, please contact me.
2. Quality Editing = Quality Book
“The first draft of anything is shit.” -Ernest Hemingway
The first draft of anything should not be published. The second draft should probably not be published, either. Perhaps even the third should have careful thought before proceeding further. Some books require complete rewrites and, even after that, they need several drafts to work out the kinks. Then, that book needs a thorough copyedit before hitting the market.
A published book with plot errors and consistency issues could potentially be looked over by the reader For some, the imagination has a nice way of smoothing some of those issues out. However, glaring grammatical errors and formatting issues can yank the reader out of the book faster than the speed of light, and it damages your credibility as a writer. The reader may not finish your book and, if they do, they may not buy anything else written by you.
An unedited book is unprofessional, reputation damaging, and potentially career ending for some writers.
Rely on your close friends to read your work and get their insights. If it helps, share this article I wrote about how your friends can read your work and not kill your spirit. After you’ve gotten your feedback and made your edits (or rewrites) you need a copyeditor to fine tune it and make a few passes to help work out those grammar and typo issues. I get it, editors are expensive. But, everyone knows at least one person talented with the English language, who speaks and writes well. Consider reaching out to them to have them do a once over your book. They may do it for free, or they may do it on the cheap. Even after that, consider budgeting for an editor. It is definitely worth the money spent if it means increased sales and protection against potential reputation-damaging errors.
3. Taking Images From Google Is Theft
Since I am a member of a lot of author groups, I see a lot of digital marketing materials with images taken from Google or some other search engine. Many writers do not understand that, just because it came freely through a search engine, doesn’t mean it is free to use. Many of the images taken from Google are Copyright protected and leave authors wide open to legal action.
Not only that, I’ve seen authors use images of well-known actors in their marketing. This is a HUGE no-no. You have to pay to use the image of an actor or actress, even if you cleverly photoshopped them into your high-fantasy background (that you may or may not have also taken from Google). This is the quickest way to get sued. The video game company that produces the Last of Us was sued by an actress simply because a character in the game had a likeness similar to hers.
Using stock photography and illustrations is the safest way to protect yourself against legal issues when promoting your book. There are a variety of royalty free stock photography sites out there. It is worth paying the money for the photography and illustrations, and much better than the alternative, which is taking the risk of being sued.
4. A Graphic Designer is Your Friend
Graphic Designers come in all shapes and sizes, so to speak. There are a variety of disciplines in graphic design that a designer might focus on. Some focus on the web, some focus on multimedia, some focus on print, and then there are some who focus only on publication design. There are cheap graphic designers, affordable graphic designers, and expensive graphic designers. There are graphic designers for every budget, and even the newest graphic designer is better than no graphic designer.
It is likely that, unless you happen to be both a graphic designer and a writer, you have no design experience at all. Retaining a graphic designer in some way is the next-level step to getting people to take your book seriously. They will provide you with a quality cover and quality materials to help market your book. They will help you look less self-published and more industry proven. In other words, they will help you fit in with the big league boys that have budgets, and you can easily find one that fits with yours, even if it is almost non-existent.
Reviews for your book give it credibility and help convince others that it is worth time and money. Good reviews are gained by people having a positive experience with your book, and should your book not follow the above criteria, it may mean that you’ll have less than satisfactory reviews (aside from the one’s friends and family will make on your behalf).
Let’s consider that your book meets all the above criteria. It has a stellar cover, it has been edited professionally (or close to professionally), the marketing materials do not violate any laws, and were created by a graphic designer to look professional and the materials are effective. The next step to having people take your book seriously is by garnering reviews for it.
There are a few ways to get reviews. There is the standard way of asking friends and family to read your work and leave them. You can reach out to book reviews and pitch the book to them in hopes that they will read and review it. There are book bloggers who read and review books.
Unfortunately, through some research, I’ve found that many book reviewers and bloggers will not accept manuscripts from self-published or small press published books. The reason? Quality. A lot of bad apples made it rough for the rest.
According to David Carnoy and his article, Self-publishing a book: 25 things you need to know, good self-published books are few and far between. Because technology has made it super easy to publish books, the entry level is low. There are no minimum requirements. You can put anything on paper, call it a book, and publish it. The people who do this have inundated book reviewers and book bloggers with poorly written books. David estimates that out of the hundreds of self-published books, only 5% are readable and only 1% are actually good. Those estimates aren’t backed by any scientific data, but with a number of book reviewers and book bloggers refusing to take indie published works, you have to suspect there is some merit there.
There are book reviewers and bloggers that specify in certain genres. It will take a good deal of research to find the book reviewer or blogger that compliments your work. It will take even more research to find one willing to review a self-published author.
Work on how you will pitch the book to them, consider putting together a small press kit that makes your book appealing to the right prospect. Be diligent. If one turns you down, move on to another.