SC POE'S INDIE E-BOOK SAMPLER, #21
UPDATED ON SATURDAY, 8/18/2012
You can write a great book. You can edit and format it perfectly. And then you can sink it with a sales pitch that actually pushes potential readers away. Keeps them from even opening your sample.
Not every writer is a brilliant marketer, or even a good one. But these are pitfalls any careful self-pubber can avoid.
1) A COVER THAT DOESN'T CONNECT
Cover design isn't pure art—it's mostly marketing. It's the poster for your book. Poe begs you (and your cover designer) to consider these points:
--Your cover should be similar to (but not plagiarize) current best-sellers in its genre.
--It should be true to the tone of the content (for humor, darkness, violence, horror, romance, etc.).
--Characters depicted on covers must match the age of the characters inside. (A surprising number of e-book covers make YA books look too childish.)
--The title (and, if possible, the author's name) must be clear and legible, even on the smallest smartphone screens. (Sadly, many experienced designers seem to forget this crucial rule.)
NOTE: Poe advises against using your favorite kid's artwork for your cover. The result may elicit coos from shoppers of a certain age. Everybody else (especially your target readers) will gag.
NOTE: Poe also recommends making sure your stock photo hasn't already been used for another cover in your genre. (There's one particular moody-teen-guy-in-hood stock photo that's already been used for several YA fantasy covers.)
2) A BLURB THAT'S BLAH (OR BALONEY)
--Make the blurb sharp and succinct. If the shopper needs to pull the drop-down button to finish it, you're already in trouble.
--Be sure to highlight the things that make your story different. Poe has lost count of fantasy novel blurbs that end with the blurry "and she enters a world she never dreamed existed." (The rule here is that if it applies to every other MC in fantasy fiction, from Alice to Harry and beyond, then it doesn't belong in the blurb.)
--Don't offer the moral or the theme. At least not in so many words. (Unless you wish to suggest that the lesson is supposed to compensate for otherwise weak content.)
--Don't review your own book. "This story will have your tots rolling on the floor. . . ." An author-publisher has virtually no credibility as a reviewer.
--Think hard before including a fulsome blurb from another e-author. If you do, make sure the blurber has real credibility, and that the blurb doesn't read like BFF Gush (see below).
3) AN AUTHOR PAGE THAT'S AMATEUR
--Use only photos and art that will appeal to your targeted readers. Corollary: Think hard before posting photos that might limit your appeal by advertising your age, gender, or convictions.
--Examine your author page for info that might define you as inexperienced ("I wrote this story for my niece, and she liked it better than Charlotte's Web, so. . . ."), unprofessional ("I'm a Nana who loves antiques, Irish setters, kayaking, and—when I can fit it in, LOL!—making up stories about the cute things my grandkids do. . . ."), unsuccessful ("after being rejected by twenty publishers. . . . "), or a whiner ("all my friends say this book should have been snapped up, but apparently editors have no faith in readers nowadays. . . .").
--Keep your page up-to-date. Poe is astounded at how often this rule is violated.
4) REVIEWS THAT AREN'T FOR REAL
Granted, the review section of your sales page is largely out of your control. But not completely. When you're starting out:
--Shun BFF Gush. Effusive reviews by your relatives and pals are transparent and can hurt more than they help—especially if they're all you've got.
--On the other extreme, avoid the blank review corner. Your challenge is to seed the page with a few supportive and believable reviews. If your beta-readers (surely you haven't published without running your ms past a few of those?) gave you written notes, you might ask them to post digested versions. Or you might scout prolific reviewers (from blogs or book-fan sites), and offer them a free ARC in exchange for a review.
IMPORTANT UPDATE: Poe recently learned that Kirkus will review Indie books for a fee of $425. You may use the review (or not) as you choose; you may also allow it to be published in the online edition of Kirkus.
NOTE: What if no beta or blog reviewers feel able to review your book positively? Think of bad reviews as saviors, not destroyers. Revising your self-pubbed ebook costs nothing but time. Grit your teeth, gird your loins, pull the book off the market for a while, and fix it.