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
How I Started
Hot damn, you came back! Does that mean you didn't get bored with my intro post? Neat. And what's this? Did you bring a friend AND alcohol? I knew I liked you. Come on it and sit down. Just move all those red capes… why do I have a bunch of red capes… well, that is an excellent question… and I have a very…very good answer… I um… well I… I stole them from bullfighters… yes… yes, that sounds believable. Right, I was in Pamplona, Spain, the other day, just zipped right over and stole them from the bullfighting ring. So that's enough questions about that. Let's just forget it entirely.
Before I get too carried away in different writing, publishing, and marketing topics, I figure that I should give a little background info on who I am as an author. Where I started and how far I have come from that starting point. Because many people see only the present of where I am sitting now, which is fair and honest, a lot of what I am about to talk about, not many people know about me. I haven't told a lot of people the whole story from start to finish. A lot of what I did at the beginning was foolish and often shameful.
When I first started in this, I made mistakes… lots of mistakes… many mistakes… like needing a couple of big trucks to carry all these mistakes around. Slowly over the months, I will show you what mistakes I made and how I overcame them and got here to now. The Author James Fuller, you all know and hate… erm love. Or, in the very least, mildly tolerate.
Let me just finish sewing on this S to this blue spandex suit. No, no, it's not my suit *shifty eyes* I am just holding it…for a friend… it's for cosplay… really.
Anyways, moving on.
Okay, so it is 2021! But let me take you back in time. I could just fly around the earth really fast and reverse… erm… you know what, it's just more comfortable if you close your eyes and imagine. Imagine it is now 2007 when I technically published my first book.
As you all know, my first book is Fall of a King: The False Prince, but once upon a time, in a time long, long ago, it was called War of the Wizards: The Beginning. And like so many authors before and current, I thought it would be the next big thing. I thought I was king of turd author island with this book. I wrote a book; it's excellent; it's going to be hugely successful. Publishers will line up around the block to pick it up ad hand me piles of cash.
(cue hysterical laughter and some depressed crying)
First off, let me say, publishing today is not the same as publishing back in 2007. Back then, you still had to print off your manuscripts and snail-mail them to 90% of publishers. Also, there were only a handful of publishers for specific genres, and they were all pretty much in the big-name family, with very few small press like we have today. Many of them only had small windows each year to accept new works in specific genres. So, you really had to be on the ball and ready to go. Also, it could take two years before you ever heard back from them. And getting an agent??? Hahaha, getting an agent. Close to the same odds that you will come out rich from going to a casino.
It was also a horrible time when some people got together and created and pushed an appalling thing called vanity publishing. (it has been around for a while, but this was when it triggers big as a lot of new indie authors were popping up) A young, foolish… stupid… moronic… idiot… James, along with thousands of other early on writers, were fooled by such deceptive promises and the lure of fame and money, and oh how very simple they would make it for you.
I foolish fell trap to one such company called Authorhouse after growing tired of waiting to hear back from Tor (I know, right… go big or go home). And what lies vanity publishers will tell you.
"It's okay if a big-name publisher picks you up after publishing with us. You can cancel at any time, and it won't hurt your chances with them at all. (false, if you do get lucky enough an picked up, you will have to change your cover and title and often character names and more) It will help you build up your name now and help convince publishers to pick you up. (partly false, a lot of publishers want fresh, others want someone with a bit of name behind them already, author resume of sorts) And you could make it huge with us and never need Tor. You'll make more of a percentage of royalties with us. It'll just cost you $2000 to do it with us. But it's okay, that is a small amount for editing and putting it all together for you, and we will promote you like crazy."
The fucking lies they tell.
So young naïve… stupid… moronic… idiot... James said, sure. What is two grand to the hundreds of thousands of dollars I will be rolling in soon enough, right? Cause, you know, I wrote a book, and it is the best book ever. *rolling my eyes so far back right now I can almost see my past self… so close I could slap him. How I want to slap him…*
So, I signed with Authorhouse. I paid them a painful amount of money at the time. Cause let's face it, two grand isn't something most of us just have laying around the house that we can just throw away on a whim.
They took my manuscript and cover (that I already had made up because I had something specific I wanted… it was awful… you can see it… it's bad… please don't judge me) and put it together in paperback format. (Kindle and ebooks weren't a big thing yet, they were just starting)
Aaaaaaand Authorhouse did nothing with my book. They don't market shit for you, though they say they will. The places they "market" are just places other idiots like you who fell for vanity publishing look for their own book.
But, not one to be deterred, I pushed on. Fuck it. I wrote a book. It is a great book, and it is going to be huge. I just need to do a little groundwork and get it moving. How hard could marketing a book be? Is it the best book ever, right? A little push and it will build up momentum in a hurry, and BAM, I will doing book signings around the world and interviews on talk shows.
As we all know, marketing a book is hard.
It was actually less challenging back then than it is now. Back then, people didn't know as much, so when you told them you published a book and showed them a paperback, they assumed you were picked up by someone big and were basically famous. I abused that a few times, not going to lie.
So, I went around my city and convinced several bookstores to carry my book, several grocery stores to carry my book. Basically, anyone I could convince to order my books from my "publisher." I use that term with the most disrespect I can.
I set up a website, author pages and pushed my book online. I sold a few hundred books in about three months.
Then the real kicker came to me. One that has kicked and will always kick many of us… and hard... so very, very hard, with steel-toed boots on.
The first few reviews started trickling in.
"What is this, a rough draft?"
"Who edited this thing?"
I think you get the picture.
So, shocked and bewildered, I looked again, and yes, I found mistakes. I found an editor online just to glance at it. They were hundreds of errors still (keep in mind it is a 170k word book) SHIT!
On the phone with Authorhouse, WTF!
"Oh, we are sorry, our editor must have done a bad job. We will have him or another look at it again if you'd like."
I was pissed, crushed, and pulled the plug. I told them to get fucked, and canceled my contract. I tried to get a lawyer to help me get my money back… not a chance. It would have cost just as much to win my money back as I would have to pay my lawyer.
I was in a bad way about this. Really bad.
I abandoned writing.
I took my author dreams out to the trash and gave up.
How can I be the next big thing if I can fall for something so foolish as vanity publishing? How can I expect to be a real author if I get so easily duped that my book was "edited" when it clearly was not?
I am not a writer.
I am not an author.
I tried and failed.
The wounds were deep, and before I embarrassed myself further, I walked away and destroyed most evidence that I ever tried.
That's the way it went for years.
But you are a writer, and you know how our brains work. Can we really just 'walk away'?
Flash forward to 2012.
I pulled my head out of my butt. I stopped feeling sorry for myself. Licked my wounds (not the only ones I would give myself from foolishness in this publishing game, mind you. I carry many scars.)
I completely re-worked, re-wrote, and re-created War of the Wizards, and of course, I didn't want to be remembered as "that dumb author guy" or have any connection with that first failed attempt. So, I had a new cover created and gave it a new title.
I didn't want editing to come and bite me in the ass again, so I searched online and from a professional editing company. They were expensive; it cost me $1800 USD to edit my 170,000-word book. Whatever. It has to be edited correctly. I will spend this money, it will be done correctly, and then I can just forget about it and focus on marketing and writing more books. I will make this money back and the other two thousand back in no time.
At this time, Indie Authors were still being shit on by a lot of readers, traditional authors, and well anyone with something to lose in indie authors gaining ground. But it was getting easier to publish your books on your own with Amazon stepping up and setting up KDP and Createspace.
So, I leaped into self-publishing again and released book one to my epic fantasy series, Fall of a King: The False Prince, for the very first time… again.
(better cover, right? Not even its final form!)
Once more, I pushed marketing and pushed the book, and within a few months was selling well again as I worked on another series called Unforgivable.
And once more, bad editing came to bite me in the ass. I forget the name of the company as they went out of business after a few years. But I argued with them for months about it. I slandered their name all over the internet to the point they even threatened to sue me for Libel. I called them up and laughed over the phone at that after showing my lawyer my book and how it was, in fact, not edited to the standard they promised in their contract. I got a bit vindictive with it. I created new accounts on their website daily to leave nasty, bad reviews, over and over. I was angry. Very angry and didn't want anyone else to fall into this trap.
Needless to say, I fired them and found another, then another.
I will stop right there for a moment and explain something to give a little more clarity to what a HUGE problem that was back then and is even just as much now a problem for many indie authors.
There are a million and one people out there that will claim to be "editors." I have found most of them have no higher education than you or I in this regard. They think they know a few things about spelling, grammar, and punctuation because they can spot a few mistakes that they should be able to charge authors hundreds, sometimes thousands of dollars to "edit" their work. When in truth, they have no claim to that title and no business taking people's money when a lot of them do more damage than good.
Thousands of other authors and I have wasted money on "editors" and been made the fools of, not only because we thought our work was being correctly edited but also because we have hurt our reputation in the readers' eyes. And the start of the indie movement was horribly wounded because of this, and it still rings through the air of "Indie author… no thanks, they suck and never edit their work." You've all heard someone say that at some point.
I, myself, have gone through six editors over the years. And though I doubt my books will ever be "perfect" (I have never read a book that was), they are well edited, with minimal errors in them now. And yes, as I find the errors, I do try to correct them.
But back over a decade ago up no one foresaw this "editor" problem. This was fresh grounds authors were breaking into. Truthfully, I don't think anyone expected the indie publishing game to come as far as it has.
So, the takeaway here is to be careful with editors. Please do your research on them. Talk to other authors that have used them. Check out those books to see for yourself. Check out the reviews on those books to see if "editing" comes up. And make sure if you are deciding to use someone that they give you a sample of your work for you to see and compare. A proper editor will be more than willing to edit the first 5 to 10 pages of your novel to show you what they will be doing and how they will be doing it. If they aren't, then I would move on. (Just my advice to you.)
Alright, so, after a few more editor bumps in the road with book one. I figured I had a good one found (they were alright, and it was enough to get me on the right path), and it was time to get serious. Time to write more books and time to make it BIG! Cause I wrote a book, remember? And my book is better than every other book, right? That's how this works, isn't it?
I published two more books in 2012—Unforgivable 1 and 2.
I was on a roll. Facebook book promoting groups and pages were just starting to be created. Dropping your link on those put you in front of thousands of new eyes. And this was before seeing book links was annoying. This was back when someone saw a book link with a cover they liked; they bought it. In the early days, selling books was easier on social media. So, I didn't have a hard time building up a fast name for myself and selling very well.
Book review pages and blogs started popping up all over the place, and that was a great place to get seen. I was doing 2 or 3 of those a week for months. And selling the three books I had out at this time was going great.
My Facebook author pages had thousands of fans, the interaction was high, and I was on the right track and feeling great.
What could possibly go wrong at this point? I was on the right track to make it big. My dreams were like right there for the taking.
Que the big Six traditional publishers getting pissed at Amazon for giving indie authors an even playing field…
I am going to stop right there. Because the next part is a whole new world to jump into on my journey to where I am now so, I will save it for another post. Most of you don't know about this as Amazon, and the big six tried to keep it as hush-hush as possible. But those of us who were around back then saw what happened, and it was a blow in which indies have never truly been able to recover in the sense of an even playing field.
Alright, alright, get up and get out. I got to get to The Daily Planet, where I work.
Hey, come look out the window, it's a bird… it's a plane… it's…
Indie Author of the Week
Marie has always been a violent girl. She has no remorse for those she kills. Once she takes out her husband, she will have everything she has ever wanted. That is until the pool boy gets in her way. After she kills him, something strange happens. Psychopaths aren't supposed to feel guilt. She doesn't care about anyone. So why is her latest victim haunting her dreams?
Marie is the story of a stunning young woman who is forced to face her own heartlessness.
Well, I guess I should start this new blog off by introducing myself. As you may have guessed, I am Batman… no wait… forget that part… I said, forget it! Seriously, stop thinking about it! I am really author James Fuller. You’ll see my name all over this webpage. The guy who made it (who isn’t and never has been Batman) is kind of vain.
Like many of you, I have been writing for many years. For twelve of those last years, I have been writing books and publishing them. This is why we are here… I think… getting to the point of why we are here, I promise.
On my social media, I get asked dozens of questions a week from fans, readers, and most of all, other authors. Some who have been writing for years, others who are just starting out. Questions ranging from the writing process, editing, publishing, marketing, and everything in between.
I have always tried to answer those questions to the best of my ability. Though I don’t know everything, nor have I ever claimed to. I do know a lot. Learned from over a decade of trial and error.
The world of writing, publishing, and marketing is an organic beast. It is forever changing. What worked when I first started twelve years ago no longer works now. Even what used to work back then died off and now has come back and works again. And half the time, by the time you figure out what is working, it’s already changed on you. Fun times.
(here it comes)
So that will be the point of this blog as your intuition has likely led you to… your Batman-like intuition if you will…
This blog will be me discussing my experiences and knowledge of writing, publishing, marketing, and all that in-between.
Note what I just said!
That part is super important. More so because I will be talking about several “controversial” topics that many authors tend to get heated over. This is not the intention of these topics when I talk about them. They are informative pieces of what I know and have seen. You don’t have to agree, but always keep an open mind; you might learn something useful from it to apply to what you have found working for you. Knowledge is power.
I will be posting every Sunday. Most will be written blogs, but I might throw in a video blog, too, just to spice things up every now and then. I will also be featuring Indie Author books and links to the said book at the end of every blog. I am here to try and help other authors. This way, even if my words are garbage and of no help, maybe someone will sell a book at the end.
If you read the blogs and have topic suggestions, please feel free to leave a comment about it so I can add it to the list and get to it at some point for you. There is a lot to talk about, so if people request specific topics, I will know which ones to hit faster.
I don’t know about you, but I feel good about this. I hope you do too. That is if you are still reading this and haven’t abandoned me for Twitter or Facebook, and all I am doing is talking to myself now… I swear it gets better. So be sure to come back next Sunday, bring a friend or two and alcohol.
Now back to the Batcave… erm… I mean… store…
Indie Author of the week:
"The monster isn't beneath the bed. It is in the mirror swallowing at all the vile things it wants to say, choking on bile to make them go away."
Wayward priest Cris Corelli rids himself of the sacred collar and leaves town, boarding the midnight train with no destination in mind. Satan is following him - lurking in the shadows.
Corelli finds himself at an unassuming boarding house run by beautiful, yet tortured, Jules. She has her own secrets. They are the kind that echo in the mind, despite the screams that are meant to drown them.
On Thanksgiving Day, 1985, Cris and Jules are bonded by a senseless act of violence that brings the small town to its knees.
They indulge in drugs and alcohol to numb the pain, and together, they teeter on the edge of darkness.
What they don't yet know, is that Satan still lurks.
Warning: Dark themes throughout.