Think back to when you were a child opening your Christmas or Birthday presents. What mattered to you the most? Was it the packaging, or was it the content? If your preference was for the packaging, you need some serious one to one time with a psychiatrist!!!
As a typical example of packaging, the above cover for Matthew Wright’s – The New Zealand Wars – A Brief History, could hardly be said to be attractive to the eye. What sells the book to students of New Zealand’s history is its content and Wright’s reputation as a serious writer, not what the cover looks like.
I don’t know how many times I have to say it – forever it seems, but far too many of today’s writers become totally obsessed with relying on the literary equivalent of packaging, believing that somehow or other it will sell their book on its own, or at the very least make their book stand out from the crowd. Many times I see examples of an author desperate to bring their book(s) to the attention of potential readers, either by changing the cover or the title, or both. If the book failed to sell in the first place, no combination of fancy cover and title, original or new, will ever help.
I tried it once, never again. In my own case when my fantasy anthology wasn’t selling, I altered the title from Globular Van der Graff’s Goblin Tales for Adults to Goblin Tales. It still failed to sell even though the original version had received seventeen five star reviews like the following:-
“While I read this book, I must have thought at least a dozen or more times to myself, “This should be made into a movie.” The storyline is perfect for it. Magical characters. Battles of good vs evil. It has everything it would take to make another Lord of the Rings. I would see it in the movies and then buy the DVD.”
So you see, you are not alone. Even mid-listers like myself have our failures from time to time.
In light of this example and others, it appears that once again I need to restate what really matters when it comes to any book is not the packaging, but the book’s content. Unless your book holds a reader’s attention, it matters little that you have found a title that not too many others have also used, (bearing in mind that there is no such thing as an original title these days) which you think will appeal, and spent your hard earned money on having a cover created.
I can just hear book cover illustrators hackles rising at this point as they read this, but the simple fact is this; no matter how good a cover and title may be, unless the book’s content is up to scratch, you’re book will never sell!
If you are pinning your hopes on gaining regular readers by your book’s titles and covers, I would argue that you are deluding yourselves. While catchy titles and pretty pictures may appeal to some, mainly those who occasionally read something other than gutter press newspapers and glossy magazines for airheads, written by airheads, neither a book’s title nor its cover picture will sell your book to serious bibliophiles.
They couldn’t care less either about the cover, or the title. What the book contains within its pages is what interests them. That is what you should be concentrating all your efforts on. Its worth spending all of your time getting that right first. Any book wholly reliant on its title and cover to attract sales, is nothing more than mutton dressed as lamb; currently there are millions of examples on offer. The only time most of these shift any meaningful numbers is when their authors offer them for free, or as an online promotion on social media sites.
Is that the fate you had in mind for your book?
It is a fact that for a book to sell more than five copies, first of all it must be well written. In most cases it needs to be fast moving. It must have a good plot as well as a concise, well written ‘hook’ to even begin to pique the genuine bibliophile’s curiosity.
Everywhere you look on the internet these days, there are writer’s sites and blogs telling you that unless you have an appealing cover and title, your book will soon disappear from the public gaze. While that may be the case for most new writers, the reverse is true if you are a mid-lister. My own book sales back up what I’m saying.
Yes, that first book you published probably did need a cover and title to make it stand out from the rest at the time it was published. But once you have published several books, and by definition gained a loyal readership, they couldn’t care less about the cover and title. What matters to them is that you have built yourself a reputation for telling stories they enjoy. Consequently they look forward to reading your latest.
I would further argue that if you want to attract even more readers, get yourself a blog like this one. Don’t just constantly advertise your books on social media sites like Facebook, Pinterest, Linkedin and Twitter as many hopefuls do. Instead, regularly contribute to your blog about anything which interests you, giving your potential readers an insight into how you feel about all kinds of topics. As for advertising your books, do what I’ve done, add the links to the sites where they can find your books on your blog’s ‘About’ page.
What people really want to know about is you. By letting them glimpse your life through your blog posts, it helps them to realise that you are just another human being like them. As a sub-species of humanity, writers are not unapproachable. Instead we’re constantly thinking about and writing our current WIP, and blog posts like this one.
When it comes to your latest Work In Progress, why not do what I do. Produce ‘Progress Reports’ concerning it on your blog from time to time. By the time it is finally published, and always providing that your blog followers are anticipating reading it, in effect what you have done by providing those ‘Progress Reports’ is a bit of pre-publication advertising. My good friend, and fellow author, Robert Bauval, does exactly the same thing as I do, in his case on his webpage – http://robertbauval.co.uk/books.html with links to his blog and his books. As a consequence our readers are chomping at the bit, continually asking us when our latest book will be available for purchase.
Remember this as well – endless advertising of your books on any social media site is guaranteed to put off potential readers. It looks like just another case of sheer desperation on the part of the book’s author…