What are the biggest and most common mistakes that new self-publishers should avoid? We reached out to three successful authorpreneurs to get advice.

Writing might be the “easy” part

“The biggest mistake self-published authors make is not approaching book publishing as a business, says “Inspiration to Creation” coach Nina Amir. “Many writers don’t realize that when they decide to self-publish, they become publishers. They open a publishing house. They enter into this endeavor eagerly because they are told it will be easy to self-publish, and they are surprised that they can’t just write, and that there is more to it than expected. They must carve out time to manage a team of designers and editors, pay taxes, promote, manage their publishing business’s finances, manage book sales, and more.”

To avoid this problem, Amir advises that new authors “educate themselves on what indie publishing entails and approach self-publishing as a business. It’s also important to determine if they are cut out for self-publishing so they don’t get frustrated and give up.”

Holly Brady, former director of the Stanford University Publishing Course, agrees. She warns that no one can truly “self” publish. “You may be a terrific writer,” she says, “but how good are you at design? Can you put together a killer cover? How about the interior? Are you ready to format your Word doc so that it’s got sequenced page numbers, headers, a title page, a copyright page? And are you willing to learn about the publishing industry? Do you know what a BISAC category is? Or how to get an ISBN number?”

Brady offers this framework: “In truth, a savvy self-publisher is more like an independent filmmaker who gathers together a team of professionals in a creative endeavor. Those professionals apply their skills, bringing to life the filmmaker’s vision of the project. Think of yourself as the creative director of your own project, assess the skills you bring to the table, make a list of the skills you don’t have, and find people who can help you.”

No two paths are alike

Publishing consultant Anne Janzer warns, “New self-publishing authors risk being swamped by oceans of marketing and promotion advice. Ultimately,” she says, “you are the captain of your own ship, so approach promotion with that mindset. You know your core audience, your purpose in writing and publishing, and what you value. Filter advice through those objectives while maintaining a growth mindset.”

Though knowing thyself is a guidepost, Janzer also advises that authors “test, refine, and learn, remembering that the activities that contribute to long-term success are things like building relationships, writing great books, providing value, and being generous.”

Believing “The end” is really the end

“The most difficult part of self-publishing is not getting your book designed or uploaded through Createspace and Kindle. It may not even be writing the book,” warns Brady. “The toughest part of the process for most authors is the marketing because so many of us are introverts.”

Her advice? “As you finish your book and prepare to self-publish, keep a keen eye out for folks who know something about getting books into the hands of readers. Check out the blog posts of Jane Friedman, Joanna Penn, Penny Sansevieri, Frances Caballo, Nina Amir, and Shelley Hitz. And stop calling it marketing. What you’re really doing is building relationships around the content and ideas in your book. Go meet some like-minded people today.”

What other advice would you offer to new self-publishers? Let us know in the comments!

If 2017 is the year you plan to publish a book, resolve to take solid steps to get you there. Here are five suggestions to set yourself up for success. Ready? Go!

1. Measure yourself

Set up a concrete goal in order to hold yourself accountable to writing. Perhaps it’s a word count, perhaps it’s a defined block of time. But whatever you choose, quantify it. That way, a month from now you’ll be able to say, “wow, I wrote x thousands of words” in January, or “hey, I spent y number of hours doing nothing but writing”!

2. Define your writing strengths and weaknesses, then put them to work

Have an honest talk with yourself about what you’re good at and what needs improvement. Make a list. Then, see if you can put your strengths to work helping other writers. For example, if you’re skilled at editing, offer to edit someone else’s work. Maybe you’re skilled at character development. Join a writer’s group to see if someone there could use your input. Conversely, look at your weaknesses and evaluate how you can improve. Could your grammar use a brush-up? Take some courses or add some grammar books to your reading list.

3. Remember, all great writers are great readers

No one writes brilliantly in a vacuum. Constantly take in other authors’ works. And don’t just stick to your genre or subject matter. Branch out. If you’re writing non-fiction, reading novels is a fantastic way to absorb how to set a scene or make a character come to life. If you’re working on a novel, make a point to read magazine profiles or biographies and learn what observed traits, behaviors, or dialogue might benefit your fictional characters. Poetry is also a wonderful way to explore language and learn to write richly and concisely. Keeping a journal of well-written passages or new words that you learn will be a constant inspiration for your own work.

4. Set up a support network

Having a writing buddy or joining an author’s workshopping group not only creates a cheering section and an opportunity to network, but also pushes everyone to hold each other accountable to their goals. Meeting regularly will create weekly or monthly deadlines to create new drafts and make sure your work keeps moving forward. It may take time to build trust and create a rhythm in the group, so don’t worry if your first few meetings are bumpy. It’s all part of the process.

Your social media network is also useful to sticking to your resolutions. Announce your goals as you create them, and keep your friends apprised of your progress. It’s even okay to admit your shortfalls. Your fans will admire your honesty and inspire you to push ahead.

5. Keep a running list of clichés and no-nos

As you write, notice if you fall back on words or phrases that aren’t serving your work. Just in the process of writing this article, I’ve flagged words like great, very, and amazing. These words aren’t descriptive; they’re useless fluff. As you edit, use the find and replace function in your word processor to flag them. Also make note of any bad habits like overuse of the passive voice, run-on sentences, parenthetical asides, or my personal pet peeve: exclamation points. Avoid these habits l̶i̶k̶e̶ ̶t̶h̶e̶ ̶p̶l̶a̶g̶u̶e̶.

Last year, we ran a featured poll about success and failure of new year’s resolutions. See what 100 PickFu respondents said!

A book’s title is its calling card. It’s how a potential reader finds your book. It’s how a satisfied reader talks about it to a friend.

So when it’s time to dream up a book title, what must you consider? We turned to five experts on the topic, who shared these tips:

Word of Mouth

Word of mouth is still the number one reason readers buy books. If you want to maximize your sales and earnings as an author, you need to understand the word of mouth sales process. It all starts with your book title.

Every word of mouth sales process has three simple steps:

1. Memory
Your reader or fan must fall in love with your book and remember the book title so they can…

2. Share It
When a reader shares the title of your book with someone else online or in a conversation, they have to be able to not only remember the title of your book, but also be able to share it with others. After that, your new potential reader must be able to…

3. Find It
This is where a new potential reader goes online and searches for your book so they can buy it.

This whole process sounds really simple, but if any part of the process breaks down, you lose the sale.

If your readers can’t remember the title of your book because it’s long, confusing, or boring, they won’t be able to effectively share it with others.

If your book title is filled with homophones or archaic words, regular folks without a lot of time to waste and an Oxford dictionary on hand won’t be able to understand the title of your book, and they won’t be able to find your book either.

If a new potential reader types in the title of your book in Google or on Amazon and don’t see it in the search results, they won’t be able to find your book.

So, if you want to maximize word of mouth sales, it’s pretty simple: choose a book title that is memorable, repeatable and searchable. Choose a title that doesn’t have homophones, archaic words or confusing language.

tom-corson-knowles-photo-150x150– Tom Corson-Knowles

Tom Corson-Knowles is the internationally bestselling author of The Kindle Publishing Bible.  Tom is also the founder of EBookPublishingSchool.com, a free self-publishing training course for authors, and TCK Publishing, an independent book publisher specializing in publishing and marketing ebooks, print books and audiobooks online.

TCK Publishing

Stand Out

1. Do your research into the title — then stay away from “the pack”
Writing minds often think alike. I recently read a mystery entitled The Black Widow. I was talking about the book to a colleague but couldn’t remember the author’s name, so I went to Amazon.com to prompt me. Well, there are an awful lot of mysteries with some version of “black widow” in the title and many came up in search ahead of the one I’d read, which was by Wendy Corsi Staub. Staub is a bestselling author, and that book took a few minutes to locate — even when I knew what I was looking for. If you’re just starting out as an author or still trying to build an audience, a unique title will help distinguish you.

2. Use keywords, if possible
There are many factors involved in naming a book, but for non-fiction, having your important keywords in the title makes for better SEO.

3. “Front-load” the unique title
There’s a character limit on book inventory management systems, which sometimes truncates the book title. If your book is one of a series, make sure to put the title first. For example, say you’re writing a “men in uniform” romance series. You want Foot Soldier of Passion: Book 1 of The Heartfelt Uniform Trilogy vs. The Heartfelt Uniform Trilogy Book 1: Foot Soldier of Passion. In the latter case, the last part of the title might be cut off, making it harder for the store clerk to figure it out if, say, your potential buyer only remembers “foot soldier.”

4. Make it easy to pronounce
If at all possible, stay away from foreign words that aren’t already in the vernacular. Many people are shy about saying words they can’t pronounce and you really want to limit or eliminate any barrier to a potential reader asking for — or talking up — your book.

Valerie Peterson - blue jacket2– Valerie Peterson
The author of four books (and counting), for fifteen years, Valerie directed marketing departments for major book publishers. Over the course of her career, she has managed, touched and/or had a front-row-seat to nearly every part of the book publishing process — she understands the business side of book publishing and its “peculiarities.”
ValeriePeterson.net

Be Inclusive

Don’t try to be clever and come up with a title that has meaning that is hidden until the book is read. The title is not for someone who has already read the book – it’s there to entice someone to buy. It should speak clearly about the genre, preferably one of the words in the title (maybe the only word) should clearly identify its subject matter. So using words like ‘assassin’, ‘murder’, ‘love’, ‘conspiracy’, ‘countdown’ etc can instantly convey the book’s content. The title then starts to work as a sales tool. It’s hard of course, because you’ve poured your heart and soul into the book and you want a brilliant title that uses a clever play on words to subtly hint at the exciting denouement…however the reality is that a clunky title that screams ‘THRILLER’ is better for you. After all the reader will only appreciate the clever play on words AFTER they’ve bought and read the book.

speaking-engagement– Mark Dawson
Mark Dawson is an Amazon, US Today and Barnes & Noble best-selling author. He writes two thriller series, John Milton and Beatrix Rose as well as a Soho Noir series.  In addition Mark has developed best-selling online courses for independent authors, Facebook Ads for Authors and Self Publishing 101.
SelfPublishingFormula.com

 

Use Keywords

You can either write the book title based on keywords, or on branding and creativity.  It’s really up to you.

I do recommend putting keywords in your main book title when it is a natural fit.  Otherwise, you can put keywords in your subtitle.

What are keywords?  Keywords are phrases people use to search on Google or Amazon for your topic.  Therefore, I recommend doing keyword research on both Google and Amazon.

For Google, you can use their keyword planner tool. It is free to use, and a good way to see which keywords people are searching for the most on Google.  You will need to sign up for a free Google Adwords account to use it:  https://adwords.google.com/KeywordPlanner 

For Amazon, I recommend using the paid tool, Kindle Samurai.  It will give you a lot of helpful information on keywords potential readers are using on Amazon.  You can also use Amazon’s search bar to manually find keywords. 

My husband is the resident “branding expert,” and he helped me come up many of my creative book titles. However, when I use a creative title, I usually include keywords in my subtitle. 

For my book, Self-Publishing Books 101, I decided to put my keyword phrase “self-publishing books” in the main title instead.  If you want to rank well on Amazon and/or Google for a certain keyword, it is best to also include that keyword in your main book title.  It is really up to you. 

shelleyhitzauthor-header-new

– Shelley Hitz

As an author coach, book marketing strategist, and Christian entrepreneur; Shelley Hitz is on a mission to help you reach more people with your message.  She has coached thousands of authors through her books, training programs, online events, seminars, and more.

ShelleyHitz.com

 

Hire a Designer

A great cover can be the secret sauce that gives a book the oomph it needs to get discovered. But how do you get there?

I never recommend authors create their own covers. Never. Your book must look as professional and polished as those created by pros — so hire a graphic designer. It’s worth the effort. If you’re strapped for cash, try 99Designs or Crowdsource. There are plenty of talented designers looking for work.

And once you’ve settled on a designer, learn to speak her language. In my experience, you can talk to a designer all day, but unless you show her samples of what you like, she will seem deaf as a post. Designers are right-brain people: they understand images. So go onto Amazon and find some covers you like. Use an app such as Grab to take a digital picture of your favorites, and prepare a creative brief for your designer, explaining what you like about each cover.

Here are some things you might discuss:

1. Show your designer the color palettes you like. Note: I didn’t say “colors”; I said “color palettes.” You want to choose a palette with several colors that go together and that capture the mood of your book. You’ve written a thriller? Maybe dark colors. A business book? Maybe jewel tones. Stay away from white covers, which look terrific in a busy bookstore, but which disappear into the background on the Amazon page.

2. Decide whether you want the dominant element on your cover to be type (common for business books) or images (photos or graphics). Even when creating a cover that’s primarily type, look for small spot images or graphics you can use to suggest something about the content of your book.

3. Often, an image that captures your book is hard to find. Check what your competitors have done. Then peruse iStockphoto or another stock house to see what’s possible. For a fee, your designer will do a photo search for you, and frequently she will come up with a better idea than yours. She also knows how to manipulate photos, which can produce powerful and unique covers.

4. Find fonts you love and show them to your designer, but let her choose the fonts to use. Poor font choice is the most common error I see in self-published books.

5. Make your title big, because it’s going to appear postage-stamp size on the Amazon page, your primary selling location. Check to make sure it’s still readable in that small size.

6. Pay attention to the back cover, too. It should have a short descriptive paragraph about your book, a bio, and your (professionally produced) photo. People want to see who wrote this book. Also, a barcode is necessary, and your publishing imprint with the city, state, and website are helpful.

7. If you have testimonials, add a few at the top of the back cover. If you have a great one from a crackerjack reviewer, put that one at the top of your front cover. All the rest can go on the very first page of the book.

– Holly Brady

Holly Brady, former director of the Stanford University Publishing Course, works with serious writers who want to self-publish their books.

HollyBrady.com

Check out these posts for more tips on titling your book:

• From Working Title to Title That Works
• You’re Not Always Right: How to Succeed on Amazon
• How a Book Title Impacted Performance by 400%

Exactly who likes your product or design should never be a mystery to you. Knowing your audience means understanding their needs and desires, and knowing how best to address them.

On PickFu, you always know who answers your polls – each result includes a demographic breakdown of gender, age, income, ethnicity, and education level. But you can also target certain demographic groups so that only certain subsets of the population respond to your poll.

“Your audience gives you everything you need. They tell you. There is no director who can direct you like an audience.” – Fanny Brice

Mobile Device Platform

One of the most practical demographic segments PickFu offers is targeting iOS or Android users. If your app is only available on one platform, why poll those who couldn’t download it if they wanted to? This Android game wanted to see what users thought of a new mobile app icon. The poll encompassed Android users between the ages of 18 and 34:

app-icon-testing

PickFu also offers the ability to target Mobile Gamers.

Reading Preferences

Authors use PickFu extensively to test book titles, subtitles, cover designs, and blurbs. Knowing this, we created several categories on PickFu so that authors could better target readers. You can poll based on the type of reading (fiction or non-fiction) readers prefer, and the number of books they tend to read per month.

When writing effective book descriptions, a top tip is to use the first sentences of your blurb to hook a reader in. One author used PickFu to poll females who preferred fiction to gauge which opening sentences were more intriguing.

reader-poll

Vegetarianism

If your book is aimed at a niche market, why poll those outside that niche? One author whose cookbook included kosher vegetarian recipes polled 50 vegans and vegetarians. They overwhelmingly preferred the colorful, more poetic option over the straightforward title.

demographic-targeting-vegetarians

It would have even been possible to target only vegetarians of the Jewish faith on PickFu, though it would have taken longer to complete the poll. This author decided not to keep the focus that narrow. After all, the kosher recipes could still be enjoyed regardless of religious beliefs.

Income

When you’re launching a boutique product, it makes sense to ask opinions of those in your target market. This line of organic skincare products polled women who made over $60,000 to see which logo they preferred:

logo-poll

Age

Perhaps your product is aimed at the youth market. This upcoming line of streetwear wanted to see what males under the age of 50 thought of its logo design:

poll-young-males

These are just some of the ways the ability to laser-focus polls has helped our customers. Who is your main audience? Do they share certain traits? Are there even more segments that would be useful to you? Send your thoughts to us @PickFu!

It started with an idea. Then it turned into a manuscript. Maybe you used one of the eight tools we highlighted to write and edit that manuscript. Now it’s time to publish. How can you transform and format your text into an attractive, sellable e-book? Whether you’re a design pro or a design no, these five tools will help you create a stunning, professional layout for ePub and Kindle formats.

Pages

pages-epub-template

If you’re an iWork user, you’ve already got Pages on your Mac. The good folks at Apple provided a digital book template that exports to ePub. Simply open the template, adjust the typefaces for titles, subtitles, headers, subheads, and copy in paragraph styles, and export.

Jutoh

jutoh

Jutoh is more robust than a word processor such as Word or Pages, with a cover designer feature and a table of contents wizard. It also offers more formats to export your book, and you can add viewer applications to preview what your book will look like on various devices. There is a one-time fee for purchase, but Jutoh offers a demo version to try before you buy.

CreateSpace

createspace

CreateSpace is Amazon’s foray into publishing software. It offers free tools like Cover Creator, with access to 2,000 stock images, and Preview, where your friends and family can download an excerpt of your book in order to provide feedback. CreateSpace works for both printed and digital book formats. Amazon also offers file conversion, editing, and layout for a fee.

Blurb

blurb-plug-in

If you want to create your layout in Adobe InDesign, then Blurb is a plug-in to help you create both print and digital books and magazines. Templates are created automatically based on your book size and page count, including appropriate bleed, trim, and safety areas. Blurb offers a print-on-demand service and enables authors to sell books on the Blurb website.

Wordzworth

wordzworth

Not interested in designing or formatting your book yourself? Outsource it to Wordzworth, a team of designers who will create a cover (not from a template), typeset your text, and format your images to produce in print or on screen correctly. Each book receives a quote, which is payable in two installments — one at the beginning of the project, and the other at the end.

At its most basic, writing only requires a pen and paper. But these eight tools will help you take your writing further – from composition to grammar checking, from workshop groups to professional editing.

Google Docs

google-docs

Google Docs just might replace Microsoft Word, especially if you’re collaborating with co-authors or an editor. Everyone can access and edit a document in real-time, and there are chat features and comments to hammer out any sticking points. The real-time nature of Google Docs spares you the confusing process of emailing different versions back and forth, keeping everything centralized. Your work is stored in the cloud, meaning you can work on your book from any device when you’re on the go. Best of all, it’s free.

Scrivener

scrivintrolarge

For a more robust composition software, try Scrivener. It’s made specifically for writers, with features that break your manuscript into chapters or scenes and enables you to navigate between them easily. You can also import research, notes, and images. Once you’re finished, Scrivener can export your work into an e-book. Scrivener is $45, and offers a free 30-day trial.

Grammarly

grammarly

Grammarly is a browser extension that goes beyond simple spell-check. Whatever you’re writing (be it your book, a Facebook promotional post, an email), Grammarly examines it for grammar, punctuation, proper sentence structure, and word choice. It even checks for plagiarism. Grammarly is free with a paid option.

Inked Voices

inked-voices

Looking for critiques on your book? Inked Voices is a membership site where small writing groups gather to workshop and improve one another’s work. Founder Brooke McIntyre explains, “Writers can also get critiques from professional editors and writing teachers via the site. Once a writer launches his or her book, we support them by announcing their latest books in our newsletter and on social media.” Membership is $10 a month or $75 a year.

Hiring an Editor

If you’re looking for a freelance book editor or ghostwriter, you might look at sites including Upwork, Fiverr, iFreelance, and FreelanceWritingGigs.com. Your experience will vary based on the person or people you hire, but these boards are a good way to connect you to lots of available talent. They’re also a good place to shop for graphic designers for your book cover.

Next up: Tools to help you format your book! Stay tuned…

Self-publishing is a learn-as-you-go process. Authors must constantly adapt and try new tactics in order to get their books in front of the right audience. We asked experienced authors if there was a single thing they did that helped boost sales. Here’s their helpful advice.

Advertise to the right list, even if that list doesn’t look like it accepts advertising

When Naresh Vissa released his book Podcastnomics, he was disappointed with initial sales. “I did a couple of Reddit AMAs, was interviewed by some small print and broadcast media, and used social media to spread the word,” he said, but “my book still couldn’t crack 100 books sold. Fortunately, I found a targeted blog geared towards podcasters, contacted the administrator, and asked him if I could advertise to his mailing list for nearly $300. He said very few people contacted him to advertise and that he never even thought of accepting advertising.”

The blogger agreed to Naresh’s request and sent an e-mail to his list, teasing the book and recommending it as required reading for all podcasters. “Within 24 hours,” Naresh said, “I sold more than 90 copies of the book, and later that week, it climbed all the way to #1 in its primary category on Amazon’s bestseller list. I recouped my advertising expense with that one quick and simple send. And because it rose the charts, Amazon then started pushing my book out because they thought it would sell well moving forward… and it has. I’ve sold more than 4,000 copies of the book to date.”

Get smart with email drip marketing

David Brown, author of The PFB Diet book, managed to triple his sales by setting up a drip marketing sequence. “Instead of directing my readers directly to the book sales page,” he said, “I started directing them to my subscribe page, where they can instantly download a free sample chapter from my book. After downloading the sample chapter, they receive five follow-up emails over the next 5 days, and these emails offer further insight into how my diet works.” David remarked that even though “I have done a ton of things to optimize my sales figures,… this one change really stands out in terms of how little work it took to gain such a major boost.”

Repackage what has sold successfully before

Carey Heywood is a best-selling romance author, and has had success by bundling her already-published material into a boxset. “The investment is low since the material already exists,” she says. “The cost to create a bundle is mainly formatting, cover design, and advertising.” Simple as that!

Redesign the cover

Carey also recommends redesigning a book’s cover, a strategy she calls “a cost-effective way to bring new attention to an older book.” She is currently designing a new cover for her book Better. “Once I have my new cover,” she says, “I plan to promote it with a paid cover re-reveal blitz and a sale,” a strategy that worked well for her in the past.

cover-design-poll

Many authors also use PickFu to test cover designs and find the one that audiences find most appealing. Author Dennis J. Coughlin said, “I loved my PickFu experience. I used it for my book [Rain Down‘s] cover design and I found the results were extremely helpful. I was impressed by the speed of the voting and the fact that everyone left a detailed comment in addition to their vote.”

Have you found a simple trick that boosted your book’s sales? Let us know!

Some might say that writing is its own reward. But once you’ve put your book up for sale, sales can be an even better reward.

Many users turn to PickFu to test book titles and cover designs. But PickFu can help you hone a book’s description, too. Below are tips from self-published authors on what makes a book description sing — and how to get the cash register to ring.

Focus on Value to the Reader

You’ve reeled a potential reader in with a strong title and attractive book design. They’ve clicked on your description page. Now what?

Mihaela Lica Butler, author of the cookbook Vegan Romania and the children’s book Garden Super Hero Tales advises that authors tell the reader what’s in it for them.

“Generally speaking, value should be a strong focus,” she says, “and value comes in different forms.” Various means of conveying value may include the author’s expertise on the subject, the book’s affordability, content exclusivity (not being able to find the information within the book anywhere else), or features like recipes, interactive content, or illustrations and coloring pages.

In her description of Vegan Romania, Butler explains why a vegan diet isn’t traditionally associated with Romania, but how it plays an important part in daily life there.

Romania is little known for its vegan cuisine. In fact, Romanians enjoy meats more than anything else. Their traditional foods are usually rich in fats and spices. But in the countryside, people cannot always afford meat. They substitute animal fats with a wide variety of vegan ingredients. Vegan food is also enjoyed in all its diversity during several fasting seasons, especially during the 40 days of Lent.

In another sentence, Butler emphasizes that the book’s recipes “in their vast majority, are not available in English anywhere else.”

In just a few sentences, she has offered exclusive content and demonstrated her knowledge of the subject matter.

Pose a Question

Alina Adams, author of The Figure Skating Mystery Series, says “the best tip I have for writing strong book descriptions is to pose a question the reader desperately wants answered – but can’t unless they read the book.”

Adams set up her question with this intriguing book description:

At the World Figure Skating Championship, the Ladies’ Gold medal goes to Russia’s dour Xenia Trubin over America’s perky Erin Simpson thanks to the vote of one judge, who then promptly turns up dead.

Who killed Silvana Potenza? A skater? A coach? A fan? An official? A parent?

Emphasize Enhanced Content

Adams’s mystery series also includes professionally made videos of The Ice Theatre of NY as part of the story. “In my book description, I make sure to highlight this unique feature, and – this part is critical – explain exactly what that feature is and how it works. Enhanced ebooks are still so new, customers don’t expect them, and don’t exactly understand what they are. It is my job to make that clear – and enticing – in the book description.”

Think Like a Publisher

Richard Ridley, author of young adult series The Oz Chronicles, advises authors to approach their book description as marketing material, not literature. “You are not writing your book description as the author,” he says. “You are writing it as the publisher.”

“Making an impact on the reader is your principal concern. What will move the reader to want to know more about your book? What will motivate the reader to add your book to his or her cart? Write the book description with your head, not your heart.”

Consider Outsourcing It

The best tip in writing a book description may be not to write it all, but to have an objective third party, someone who isn’t as close to the work, write it for you.

This person might be your editor, a close friend, or you could even host a writing contest. Bryan Hutchinson, author of Writer’s Doubt, wrote that every time he created a version of his book’s description, “I didn’t say enough or I said too much. Alas, this is normal. The reality is the author is not usually the best person to write their own book’s description.”

Run a Test

Mark Edward, co-author of Catch Your Death, spent time meticulously combing over best-selling books and their descriptions. Employing some of the techniques he observed, he managed to double his sales.

Catherine Ryan Howard, self-published author of Distress Signals, added that “the ability to edit your book description… is a huge advantage self-publishers have over traditionally published books, which settle on a blurb quite early on that then gets passed along the lines to catalogues, retailers, etc. and to my knowledge, can’t be changed. But you can change yours as much as you like, and so continually experiment with what works and what doesn’t.”

Get the First Sentence Right

“Fear is contagious…”

This is the first line of Catch Your Death‘s description.

Edward says, “Your first line needs to encapsulate the whole book. It needs to draw people in, hit them where it feels good and make the hairs on the back of their neck stand up. Not easy – but worth spending time on.”

One way to do accomplish this is to test options on PickFu. See if in just a few words and without much context you can create a reaction. Ask a question such as, “Given these opening sentences of a book blurb, which would you want to know more about?” I ran that very poll:

Book Descriptions

Now that I’ve set the tone and have a better understanding of how audience members react, writing the rest of the description will flow from this first sentence.

What other tips for book descriptions would you include? What worked for your book? Let us know in the comments, or tweet us @PickFu!

Pamela Wilson and Jeff Goins host the Zero to Book podcast where Jeff, an established author, walks Pamela, a newer author, through the process of launching a book.

In this episode, the hosts discuss the importance of a book’s title. Jeff calls it a book’s most important marketing asset – more important than the content itself, at least in terms of marketing. A book’s title, after all, is the most succinct way to communicate what it’s about.

The title should be judged on its appeal to new readers. Your existing fan base might already be inclined to purchase your book, no matter what it’s called. But the title is the thing that could potentially entice or dissuade new customers to join the fold.

Jeff guides Pamela through a process for ideating and testing book titles, including using PickFu. He talks about our wide-reaching demographic pool of respondents (no, it’s not a room of interns in Soho – we’re in California, anyway). He also talks about how affordable — and even addictive — testing ideas can be.

“The results are sure to surprise you,” he says. We hope you agree.

Ready to give PickFu a try? Start here.

Mike Fishbein has self-published twelve books. “I used to think that I could just write a great book and publish it and then the sales would roll in,” he wrote in a blog post. “I was wrong.”

Mike’s most recent book, Your First Bestseller: How to Self-Publish a Successful Book on Amazon, became the top-seller in Direct Marketing.

So what changed?

Mike learned that it’s not enough to write a compelling book. The book has to be designed in such a way that readers will want to buy it. And that means having a well-crafted title and a stand-out cover.

For that, he turned to PickFu.

“I had a radical idea to use a 1970s-style motif for the title and cover,” Mike told us. After brainstorming many ideas, he was most excited to title his book Pimp Your Book: How to Self-Publish a Bestseller on Amazon. “I thought it would add character and be attention-grabbing, [but] when I tested it on PickFu, I learned that readers found it unappealing and tacky.”

testing-book-titles

Here are some actual responses:

  • I feel like “Pimp your…” is over done and a little bit dated now. It also implies a cheap way to do something, not a money saving or independent way to get something done.
  • Don’t think the title “Pimp my Book” is appropriate or appealing! Makes me think of hookers not book publishing!
  • I dont think using the word pimp in a book will attract people who are serious
  • I do not like option A’s use of the word “pimp” as it’s juvenile and offensive.

“The unfortunate truth,” Mike said, “is that my opinion is not always right. Fortunately, PickFu told me what my readers think, which is the most important opinion at the end of the day. Had I used my personal favorite title idea, instead of the one that tested better on PickFu, I’m not sure I would have had the same results.”

With his title decided on, Mike went to work with a graphic designer to create the book’s cover.

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“People see your cover in places like the ‘Customers Who Bought This Item Also Bought’ of related book pages, category bestseller lists, and search results,” he wrote. “Your cover, in addition to your title, will in part determine whether or not they click through to your book page.”

In the past, Mike made what he called the “rookie mistake” of hiring a designer on Fiverr and expecting great results. It took trial and error before finding a designer with whom he’s got a great working relationship. Today, Mike recommends designing at least two versions to split test. “Designers will likely charge more for that, but I believe it’s worth it.”

testing-book-covers

Mike discovered another benefit to using PickFu. “Previously I relied on my email list for feedback. I get great feedback from my email subscribers, but it’s hard to get a high volume of responses in a short amount of time. In addition, I’m limited to my existing subscribers as testers. PickFu enables me to get a large volume of feedback in a short amount of time from people that aren’t already on my email list.”

Mike’s book sold over 400 copies in the first ten days of its launch, and attributes some of his success with the tests he ran before publishing. “I would recommend PickFu because it’s easy to use and provides actionable feedback that’s both quantitative and qualitative. It enables you to see not only what cover or title is favored, but why it is favored.”

Have you had similar success as an author using PickFu? Tell us about it in the comments!

PS – We used PickFu to test the title of this article. See the results!