So, you self-published a book. Now, how do you get readers’ attention? Today’s market is glutted with possibilities. How do you get your book in front of potential customers, and how do you then convince them to buy?
The idea to keep in mind is value. People want an investment to pay off. In the case of a book, the investment isn’t just about money. Even if you sold your book for 99 cents, plenty of people wouldn’t buy it. Why? Because value is also about time. No one wants to waste their time on a bad book, and there’s certainly plenty available. So you need to convince readers that your book holds value in terms of both time and money, that it’s worth the investment necessary to read it.
The very first impression customers get of your book is visual, so hopefully you’ve invested in a professionally designed cover. It also needs to be professionally edited and formatted.
Why? If the book looks unprofessional, readers will presume the writing is amateurish as well. It doesn’t matter that the two things don’t actually reflect one another. The fact is people very strongly associate them, and you need to cater to that. Otherwise, you can lose out to a truly awful book that happens to have a catchy cover.
Catchy Amazon Listings
I’ve previously talked about how to perfect your book’s description on Amazon. Take those recommendations to heart. For example, Amazon initially displays only the first hundred words in your description, so put your best arguments first.
There’s also ways of making the text look catchier. HTML code can be used to bold and italicize words, create special headings, and more. That turns a sea of words into something visually interesting. It also helps highlight what will hopefully hook readers, with the rest of the text providing additional information to those interested in continuing to read.
Awards are a standard method of reflecting quality. An award means that a panel of knowledgeable people concluded your book was the best out of all the ones considered. That is not a small recommendation, and recommendations are a big part of selling your book.
There are a ton of different awards available. Wikipedia lists 60 awards just for science fiction and fantasy, for example. One of the tricks is to find an award that specifically addresses what you’re writing. Your science fiction book is much more likely to win a science fiction award than a general fiction award.
Getting a good book review works similarly to winning an award: a voice of authority says that your book is a good value. You can put an excerpt of that review on the book jacket or back cover, and you can include them in online listings such as on Amazon.
If you know someone in the book world, either a writer or critic, you can ask them directly if they’d be willing to write a review. One of my favorite authors, Jason Gurley, made a friend in a high place when he wrote his bestselling novel, Eleanor. This was Hugh Howey, a well-known indie-book writer. Gurley was able to use a quote from Howey that increased his validation a million times over: “Jason Gurley will be a household name one day.”
Imagine you’re considering Gurley’s book, not sure if it’s worth reading, and you see that review. Wouldn’t that entice you at least a little? Even more so if you’re already a fan of Howey? Again, convincing readers to buy your book can be all about recommendations.
Don’t know anyone who can review from a position of authority? Now things get a little harder. There are a variety of places that take free submissions such as Booklife from Publisher’s Weekly. However, they can be overwhelmed with requests and may only review a fraction of the manuscripts submitted. (Here’s another reason why your book should look professional: it improves your chance of getting reviewed.)
There’s also places such as Kirkus Reviews that do reviews for a price, and those prices can be steep. Kirkus charges $425 per book, for example. And there’s no guarantee they’ll provide a good review. They’ll provide what they feel is an honest and deserved review, positive or negative.
Which is why, ultimately, you have to have a quality piece of work. All of these ideas can help convince readers to buy by validating your work, but they only work if you have something of value to sell in the first place.