In order to identify just what sells a book, it is helpful to focus on the concept of order; by looking at the sequential order of actions that result in a reader purchasing a book we get a feel for the mechanics, and their importance. This brief ‘point of entry’ explanation intends to inform/remind the author of the process.
This is the first thing that a potential reader will see. This is the first hurdle. Paradigm author, Russell Blake, sums this up perfectly:
“… A cover is a visual identification of your product’s genre, and should be as eye catching as possible, and consistent with other bestsellers in your space. It also needs to be professional. Gone are the days where you could screw around with Photoshop and hope for a win. That’s so 2012. Don’t kid yourself – the market has never been more competitive, and if you hamstring your product with an amateurish or clunky cover, you’re going to suck exhaust.
The cover is also extremely important in your ads, as in Amazon ads it’s basically got to sell the reader sufficiently so they’ll click on the ad to see the product page. The worse the cover, the fewer conversions from impressions to clicks. That simple…”
Sales Page Blurb:
Okay, so your cover has led the reader to your sales page. The next thing to do is arouse the reader’s interest and appetite; you will likely still be jetlagged after the whole writing and editing process, only to find that setting up a book sales page is quite involved – but you must dig deeper into your creative skills and give potential buyers something succinct or snappy that arouses further interest, rather than just throw out something scrappy for them to gnaw on.
From Russell Blake:
“…Your product description ain’t what you think it is. It’s not a synopsis of the story, or a way to introduce characters or story arcs — So what is it? — It’s ad copy, plain and simple. Words that will convince the reader that they need to buy the book. The fewer words used to achieve that, the better the copy.
An awesome blurb will sell more books, and can be measured in ad effectiveness, specifically in cost per click related to conversion into a sale. The better the blurb, the more clicks will convert into a purchase. The worse the blurb, the less they will convert…”
So the readers like the cover, and even if they have not read the blurb, most readers will then go on to peruse at least a few paragraphs of the opening of the book (as they also do in bookshops). The 'Read Sample' feature is very popular, and this gives you the opportunity to grab the reader’s interest and confidence with a well-formatted, immersing opening – if you clear this hurdle you are almost home.
As a retired developmental editor, my experience is that most book openings require at least a small amount of TLC. If I were an author nowadays, I’d certainly enlist a developmental editor to spruce up my opening chapter (even without an entire synopsis) or at the very least get a few writer friends to give me a bit of tough love, and suggest where to tighten it. The good thing is that, nowadays, editors often give a free sample edit on request, so you get their input and the option to employ them further.
As for the formatting, if you are not proficient in this art it can take long hours to learn the foibles and produce an ebook, with no guarantee it will be fully functional or a professional-looking job once uploaded. If you earn more than $5 per hour it makes sense to pay circa $50 for epub and Kindle formatting combined, and around the same for paperback interior design.
But if you are keen to learn the art there is no reason to be put off doing it yourself, providing you expect a few glitches along the way.
The ebook revolution has made it easy to upload a newly formatted book file to replace any existing versions you have up for sale that are not up to scratch or require new edits (I get quite a lot of back-number projects, and so can confirm its popularity).
Getting the ball rolling:
We are not there yet because the ball you are rolling will now roll into an insanely huge ball-pit, chock full of all the other hopeful balls vying for the readers’ attention. And tomorrow, a substantial load of new balls will cascade into this abyss. So sustained visibility is what you need to strive for, armed with your cover, your blurb, and the link to your sales page.
Author platforms can be useful, of course, but even a platform of 50,000 Twitter followers and/or 2,000 other social media friends will not provide that much traction (social media is also a vast ball-pit with millions of competing posts per hour rolling in).
Virtual Book Tours can be good for launches. Twitter Author Promotion services can be effective for introductory and sustained campaigns (but they need to have many hundreds of thousands of followers, and send out many tweets for clients per day to make a dent in the ever-expanding social media ball-pit).
Visibility. Visibility. Visibility. Once you get noticed you are already halfway there – if the other elements are neatly in place.
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