Does Your Book Suck … or Soar?

POSTED ON Dec 21, 2016

Judith Briles

Written by Judith Briles

Home > Blog > Self-Publishing, Cover Design, Editorial > Does Your Book Suck … or Soar?

Next month, I have the pleasure of coordinating the 4th Annual Publishing at Sea Cruise. Eight days in the sunny Caribbean in the often chilling temps that the U.S. experiences. This year, 44 awesome, unique, interesting-to-their-core authors will be venturing into a working, tax deductible, vacation.

Our group is abuzz because the cruise line has offered to sponsor/support a special book signing of our participants to all passengers and offer their books in the ship’s store … but there’s a string attached. It’s a big one for too many of the self-publishing crowd.

I had to supply a copy of each book that the authors wanted to sign/sell to our cruise contact, the “gatekeeper” final approval person. What would the book need to do to get the approval? She wanted to see for her eyes:

  1. Is the cover professional looking?
  2. Has the book been edited?
  3. Is the book offensive?

Numbers 1 and 2 shouldn’t be a problem—I had done my eyeball assessment as I opened each package from the various authors as they came in … it was the #3 that I held my breath when the box was all put together and forwarded to the cruise line. Offensive—one person’s definition of offensiveness may be the direct opposite of someone else’s. With a book that I had just completed shepherding, I knew that within, there were verbiage and descriptions peppered with what many could deem offensive. And a recent leadership book had what some could deem a tad spicy.

Because of the nature of each of the books … one from a very successful business executive and other from a formally successful Las Vegas escort service (before it was busted), I knew that because of “the language”) a few of the printers I use would turn the job down and therefore, I would seek a bid. The topic or the swearing would be offensive from prior conversations.

I suspect that I will get the green light for the books submitted. But what about yours? Will it get the green light from a book sponsor or buyer?

Is your book cover, the spine and the back cover professional looking?

  • Did you make the investment … and it is an investment … and have a cover done that is competitive with your genre?
  • Have you made a visit to a physical brick and mortar store and studied what is current and on the shelves?

That’s your competition—at least it was for the Publishing at Sea participants.

Why authors think that their DIY will be “the one” that is the “best” has always amused me. In the old days, when an author would proudly reveal his or her newly birthed book … I would verbally support them and offer encouragement. The conversation I would be having in my head may have had a totally different dialogue.

Today, I no longer keep my thoughts within if I’m asked for my opinion. The author gets it—sometimes glowing; sometimes with a: What were you thinking? … This cover is a disaster.

Yikes, it’s out of my mouth. The author may be hurt, pissed, curious or befuddled. Or not care. If I’m asked, I will respond—it’s what the blunt to the point of me does.

Book Readability Truthiness Time

Promise me … I won’t find a typo in the first 10 pages or a major grammar or boo-boo if I have your book. Editors who are unconnected to your family and do it for a living is what you need. And get this—if I had a room with a dozen editors in it, they would have a different take on many parts of the book. There are similarities but not exact duplications of what they would correct or alter.

Book Truthiness Time

Too many book covers suck. They have fallen down and can’t get up. Too many books are an editing mess.

So, how do you keep yourself … and possibly your book from spiraling down the drain?

Start by looking at covers that you have been presented as options.

  • Is it a plain Jane?
  • Is it vibrating with the title?
  • If there is an image, is it a grabber?
  • If there is a back cover sample … is it appealing?
  • Does it have a header?
  • How about visual breaks from text?
  • Is it readable?
  • Does it use keys words and phrases that connect title/them with the reader?

Get yourself to the nearest large book store. You are on a scouting mission. Look at all the new titles.

  • What are the fonts and sizes—what grabs your attention?
  • What about colors? Use of images?
  • What covers are vibrating –speak to you—look at both fiction and nonfiction covers.

Years ago, I was enjoying a cup of tea with Marcella Smith—at that time the voice and vision of the Small Press Division of Barnes & Noble. We were seating in a large booth, surrounded by the vendor’s massive display of book covers. As Marcella let her eyes travel around the booth several times, she started to jot notes. What was she doing—getting ready to put in an order—never reading the books, she judged them only by the cover. In talking with other book buyers, the universal response was, “I don’t have time to read a book—I buy by the cover and the 15 second pitch.”

Amazon Book Truthiness Time

According to BSIG, Amazon now sells over 70% of all print books in the U.S. and over 50% worldwide. You need to know what your book looks like on Amazon at the first visual take.
Shrink your cover samples before finalizing your OK. Why? Because millions of books are sold online—your cover needs to pop when viewed small.

The wise author-to-be immediately reduces the size of the cover to a minimum of 25 percent of original size. Have your designer send you a .jpg and start reducing its size. You will be competing with plenty of titles in your category—does yours shine? Or, does it become invisible in the sea of others?

Book Title Truthiness Time

Create a provocative cover and title. Both can help sell books and get people to pick yours up. Test it with your potential book buyers—not your family and close friends. Those who have the “pain” that your book will ease and solve.

Yes, it’s what’s in between the covers and on the sheets that count the most. But, and it’s a huge but, buyers judge a book by its cover as a first step. There are wonderful designers that don’t charge an arm and a leg to create a stellar cover that becomes the beacon … come to me reader/buyer … effect you want to create. There are editors that will make your words shine and can help you engage your reader at a level that you may not be able to.

Yes, books are judged by their covers. Readers are grumbling about all the errors they are seeing in books today. It’s the Book Truthiness of book marketing and selling. Book covers speak, are you listening? Your book readability speaks? Are you listening?

Is yours soaring … or does it suck?

Judith Briles

Written by
Judith Briles

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