Covers and Blurbs and Their Marketability
*loud banging on door*
Who the devil is here? Oh, it is you all again. Really? What is that noise in the hallway? *looks outdoor* Okay, I know I said to bring friends, but I don't think I have enough room for all of them. Besides, there might be a slight gamma… *looks over shoulder*… naw, it should be alright, I think.
Alright, alright, come on in. I'll make coffee. Don't mind the mess and broken stuff, and please stop looking at my ripped jeans. I suck at making cut-offs, and I was… warm okay, and just ignore that humming noise and green glow from the hallway. It's of no concern, trust me.
Now that you are all seated and not judging me for my thick thighs. Let's talk about why you are here today.
A lot of you on Twitter, when I asked, wanted to know about my marketing for my books. This is not a small or straightforward topic and encompasses a VAST area and many hidden side streets. So, I will slowly every couple of weeks hit one of those areas, so this one blog post isn't 50,000 words long.
No, my skin doesn't have a green tinge to it. Are you even listening? Put your hand down; I'm not answering questions right now.
We have all heard that saying, "Don't judge a book by its cover." But most of us do. I know I do. I have run several polls and asked several questions on Twitter about it, and, yes, people judge a book by it's cover. About 93% by my last poll with over 1200 votes. So that gives a pretty good idea that a substantial portion of potential readers, do in fact, judge a book by its cover.
It is only natural that we do. We are, by all accounts, very visual creatures. And well, face it, in the world of books today, we scroll by dozens if not hundreds of book covers in our social media every single day. They start to blur and just go by… unless… they are catchy, they are well done, and stand out in some way. Then there is that pause of, "that looked good."
And that, my friends, is what we are looking for.
Is that moment, that pause, the intrigue enough to stop someone's scrolling on their ever so important journey of social media and check out that glorious book cover. YOUR book cover.
The cover IS your very first line of marketing your book. The very first, which damn near makes it the most essential tool in the long list of marketing assets you need to sell your book in the world today.
Let's face it. We know bad covers. We see them all the time. They also make us stop and scrunch up our faces or raise our brow and mutter, "WTF," and it seems there are more and more of them getting put out there of late. I know in the last two weeks, I have seen nearly thirty covers that literally hurt my very soul. You know the ones, the one's that look like a kid drew them, or that they were drawn by pencil crayons (this does not include children's books, of course, since that is the style you are looking for) or even the ones that are cut and pasted in photoshop and you can tell none of the layers blend, and it was hastily done and looks more like a high school collage on the inside of a locker door.
You know the ones I am talking about, and I am sorry if you are an author that has one. I wanted to post examples of these covers by I also don't want to throw under the bus or insult any authors because that is not the purpose. I am not attacking anyone or trying to be mean in any way. The fact that your book cover is your first line of marketing, it is in your best interest to ensure that it is the best representation of your book.
(I googled search bad covers, and this is what came up. These are some excellent examples that have already been thrown under the bus)
But not only your book. No, the cover goes beyond just representing your book. It represents you as an author, and potential readers judge that more harshly than you might realize. You could have the next greatest hit written in those pages, but if the cover is garbage, those words may never be read.
When a reader stumbles across a lousy cover, they usually keep scrolling. They automatically assume that if an author isn't willing to take the time, effort, and spend a few bucks on getting a half-decent cover for their book, then it is only to be expected that their writing ability will look very much the same. If you can't afford a cover, likely you couldn't afford to edit. If you can't be bothered to have a decent cover, then likely your story is going to be rubbish too.
These are the things that go through most people's minds. And in a world where it is hard enough even when you do have a great cover to sell books, this is a hurdle that can and should be avoided at all costs.
Now I get being an indie author can be a bit pricey when you start adding costs of cover art, editing, formatting, marketing, etc. And it can quickly add up, and a lot of us are scraping by paycheck to paycheck as is. I understand that. But there are many places online that you can find decent, even great book covers for reasonably cheap.
And not always the more you spend, the better the cover either. This website,
has tens of thousands of covers, some as cheap as $10. I have gotten several covers from this site (not for $10, mind you), but I can attest that the site is good as I have used it.
The thing is, if you want to attract readers and have a better chance of selling books, you do need to invest in your product. (The other saying, you got to spend money to make money, rings true in the indie author world often. But that doesn't mean you need a VAST budget of thousands of dollars. You can usually get a solid jump with a few hundred.)
If becoming an author and more so having the hope of becoming a successful author is a dream or goal of yours. Then spend the money and invest in a cover that will give your story the best chance at being seen by the most potential readers.
Here is a good thing to remember as well. If you are an indie author, you can change your cover anytime you want. So, if you are one of the unfortunate authors whose great story is hidden behind a cringe-worthy cover that is scaring away your readers, you can fix it anytime.
I see some of you have left. I'll try not to get upset… you wouldn't like me, I am upset *green skin rippling* calm James, calm… where are you going? No, you can't use the bathroom, sit down and drink your coffee. Plus, I know you just want to see what that green glow under the doorway down the hall is. I'm not stupid.
Now, where were we? Ah yes, we hit covers pretty well. I hope you are feeling good about that. Are you looking at your covers now, wondering if you are one of the authors I was talking about? Good, if you have doubts, ask. Post on your social media, ask people for 100% honesty. Find out for sure if you think you might have a dud cover. It's better to be bummed out for a short awhile learning you have a crap cover now than riding that cover out and losing out on sales and opportunity that could be lurking just beyond.
As I said, the cover is your first offensive strike in marketing. It will grab the reader's eyes, and if it does that, then comes the next most important part—your blurb. Your book write up. This is near neck and neck, as important as the cover. The cover enticed them enough to step closer. Now the blurb is where you need to truly shine. This can once again make or break a book sale. Often if a reader likes the blurb, they'll buy the book or take one more step and read the first few pages to see if they like the writing style.
But back to the blurb for now.
This seems to be the crux of many more authors than you can imagine. I actually enjoy writing them and do a pretty decent job on mine. And I'm not trying to brag or anything *shifty eyes*
I see on social media thousands of authors complaining about this. About not knowing what to write, or how to write them, how they can condense their story into a hundred words or so.
It can be challenging, but that challenge is a great exercise in your writing ability, and the reader will notice that, trust me.
The key I have found to writing a great blurb is not trying to condense the plot of an 80k book down to 200 or 300 words. That is damn near impossible. That will overwhelm you and make the task seem far more daunting than it needs to be.
Instead, just look at the main core of the story. The heart of it, if you will. Ask yourself,
"What is the number one reason my main character (or characters) has to do (this)?"
"What is the main hurdle that impedes them from being able to (that)?"
And the final question.
"What will happen if they can't achieve (this)?"
The key when writing those is to keep it simple and to the point. Then after you have the simple, straightforward version, you ask yourself.
"Now, how can I add a touch of hype and flavor to this?"
A little tweak here, an adverb there, sprinkle a few adjectives from up high and see where they land, and hopefully, you'll have something you don't hate.
It is always a good idea to get some opinions on it. Send it to a dozen people (who aren't yes men). I can't stress that enough, "Yes Men" are one of an author's biggest downfalls. Be them friends or family or even just strangers afraid to hurt your feelings you've talked to online. These people will tell you how great everything you do is without offering you any helpful criticism.
Criticism that'll be another blog post in the not so distant future.
No one great ever got far with "Yes Men," you need the truth, and sometimes that is hard to hear and sucks. But it's how we as authors improve and grow. And most importantly, how we fix our shortcomings on our blurb to make it stand out to readers.
Say you send it to ten people. You get four people that will tell you, "It's great!" and hopefully, the other six have something useful to say that might help you.
And keep in mind just because someone has an opinion about it doesn't mean they are right. Their opinion might not make sense at all and might be downright wrong. That's okay; just make sure you follow up with them. Ask why they see it or feel it that way. They might surprise you with what they perceived when they read it.
Hopefully, some of them have given you some insight into how to make that blurb that much better. That little extra you were missing that turns an okay blurb that will catch 30% of readers who come across it to catching 80% of readers who come across it.
Now, for a very good portion of readers, the cover and blurb are enough to convince them to buy the book or move on. But there is still a large percentage of readers who take that extra step (I am one of them), and if I like the blurb, I want to check out the first few pages of the book.
Now, this part comes entirely down to who you are as a writer. What your style is and how well you present it. This is an "it is what it is" factor. Either they will like it, or they won't. Don't lose sleep over it. You will never win them all, and your writing will never be for everyone. It's okay; there are enough readers out there to find your market.
These three things, Cover, Blurb, and the first few pages, are what I like to call the fishing technique.
The cover is the bait that attracts the reader to the hook.
The blurb is the hook that they bite on.
The first few pages are the struggle to get them into the boat without them getting away.
Now keep in mind this is just my opinion and what I have seen and learned over 14 years of doing this. It doesn't mean it is the only way; it doesn't mean other things won't work for some of you. That doesn't mean you have to listen to me at all. You are fully in control of what you do and how you do it. This is merely something to consider when publishing your first book or your tenth.
But that is all the time we have today as I need to go and buy new pants. Maybe get some sweatpants or spandex. A little stretch might help solve my problem. Erm… that problem being that I squat a lot of my quads are HUGE! Not that I am a mutant freak or anything.
indie author of the week