Writing a book - polishing your manuscript

How to market your book …

You might have written a brilliant book – but unless you can convince people to actually buy it, no-one will ever know. Whether your book has been taken on by a traditional publisher, is self-published, fiction or non-fiction, here we outline the key attributes any book MUST have… Writing a book - polishing your manuscript

A great title

Your title must say something relevant about your book. It must also be original, snappy and memorable. Research your title carefully. If another author has already taken it, then give that title a miss or tweak it so it is sufficiently different – otherwise your book will never be found properly on a Google search. If you started off with a title and then wrote your book, ask yourself is it still relevant? Does your book title convey the right message? We recently had someone apply for an author spot who’d for some reason given her book a religious title – the problem was it wasn’t religious at all. Sadly, the book title was so misleading that we were unable to give her a page on this site (and I’m afraid we were not the only ones – apparently she is now going to be changing her title completely.)

An eye-catching cover

The old adage might say not to judge a book by its cover – but we all do so. Even if your book will only be available as an internet download, the cover is of utmost importance. There is simply no excuse not to have a professional cover. These days you can browse professional photos and artwork to buy on the internet, often for under a fiver. A bright cover is more likely to appeal to more people. Again, try to ensure your cover is relevant to your book. What does it say about your book? Does your cover help sell your story and encourage readers to pick your book up for a look, or press that download button on Amazon…?

A super photo of the author

Readers want to know who is behind the book. A lovely photo of you IS important. Even if you are not photogenic, it can be worth getting a professional to take a flattering snap. It needn’t be your face full on – it might be a side angle or you at work. But it needs to convey something about you – something that makes people think you look interesting so your book must be interesting too…

A compelling author biography

Whether they are pitching their real life story to us in the hope we can sell it to a magazine or newspaper, or simply want to write a blog spot for this site, the biggest issue people overlook is giving enough information about themselves. In a nutshell, we invariably have to ask for that information. Yet what you do, who you are, your age and the way you present yourself are incredibly important. If you think there’s nothing special about you, then find something special. People want to feel you are modern, with-it, clever, witty and attractive – the sort of person they might hope they get sat next to at a dinner party. If you come over as drab, dull with nothing to say for yourself, there is a concern that will be the same about your novel… It’s not about selling your soul, but giving a reader enough info that they are intrigued by you.

A great ‘blurb’

Readers need to know what your book is about to know if they will be interested to read more. Again, your sell must be relevant and give enough away about the story to make someone want to know more – but of course it can’t give away the whole story. Write and rewrite your blurb until it is absolutely spot-on. Tell it how it is – if it is a true story, say so. If it is based on a true story then say that too. At the same time you need to pigeon-hole your novel. What genre is it? When people look for a book, they want to be able to narrow it down into a genre. This is how books are organised in shops and Amazon alike. What people don’t want is to pick up what they imagine is a feel good romance only to find it develops into some sort of supernatural horror and vice versa.

A fantastic first page

How do you buy a book? You might look at all of the above and then usually a reader will turn to the first page. Sadly, if a novel fails to deliver in the first paragraph, that is when the book is usually swiftly returned to the shelf. As well as a compelling first page, your first chapter should shine. Don’t forget people browsing Amazon are often invited to download a first chapter for free. If they like what they are reading, then they will actually buy the book. If they don’t, you have lost a sale. It’s no good saying, ‘my book gets better as you read on’. Yes, your writing might have steadily improved as you got through your novel, but no-one else will be bothered to get that far. Be honest with yourself – if subsequent chapters end up better than the first, then rewrite the first one …

An author website

To find out how a good author website should look, research others. You don’t have to be a computer whizz or do anything fancy – these days you can create a site for free using a platform such as Blogger or WordPress. If you are successful, you can transfer from a free platform to a paid-for website at a later date. Avoid calling your website after your book. What happens if you end up writing multiple novels? Will you have a different website for each one? It is far better to create a website under an umbrella name or your own name. Then you can create a different page for each book or different pages for events, a page for excerpts, a page to buy the book and so on. Avidly study your favourite author’s websites to see how to organise your own – and do not stray too far from the expected norm.

Connected Twitter and Facebook accounts

Essential for spreading the word about you. This way you can join up with like-minded people, speak to fans who purchase your book and have a way of getting people to actually visit your website and buy your book.

A marketing plan

It’s important to create a marketing plan and stick to a schedule. If you are self publishing, this needs to be the same as a traditionally published book. In fact even when authors do get their book published by a big publishing house, much of the marketing still falls to them. And even if your publisher is great at pushing your book, you might still find other ways to gain sales and publicity yourself that they don’t know about. You need to have your website, Twitter, and Facebook set in place for launch day. Preferably you are tweeting about your launch for a few weeks before. Your local book store should be approached about you doing a signing – are they able to give your book a little spot (many will champion local authors.) Press releases about your book (there are press release companies online that will send your release out for a small cost) should go out about a week before launch day, including to your local papers and radio stations. You should have a party for launch day – don’t forget to take lots of photos for your website! You then need to continue your marketing – this means blogging, tweeting, continuing to do signings, and writing for other sites such as this one to spread the word further.

Finally, it will be hard work. Don’t forget if you are self publishing your novel you are still up against traditionally published books – and they have whole teams of people to promote their authors. But promoting your book yourself can be just as successful. We have managed to gain self published authors or little-known authors double page spreads in magazines and newspapers. If you get the marketing right, then the book world can truly be your oyster!

Read more:

We are on the lookout for new authors for our Author Spot: Write for Us

Ten ways to gain publicity for your book

Is your publisher promoting your book properly?

Alison Smith-Squire

Alison Smith-Squire is a writer, journalist and media agent selling exclusive real life stories to newspapers, magazines and TV. She owns the sell my story website Featureworld.co.uk, which was set up to help ordinary people sell their stories to the press.

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