Perhaps the greatest (and least exploited) marketing tool for your book is… the front and back of your book!
Many authors don’t pay close enough attention to the “stuff” in the front of the book’s beginning (including the cover), or after the book ends. But viewed from an author marketing perspective, having the right information at the opening and closing of your book will positively impact sales, both of this book and others you have (or will have) on offer!
First, envision that reader (or yourself) browsing through a bookstore. You pick up the book (usually attracted by its cover) and thumb through the pages. What makes you put that book back, or take it to the checkout counter?
A browsing reader, once they’ve picked up your book, will look at the first few pages, and the last few pages. What can you do as an author to make sure they don’t set it back down again?
Here again is where your author marketing begins long before that book is on the shelves!
Is Your Cover Covered?
The best rule of the cover game these days is, “think small.” Meaning, when you’re looking at those final cover options from your publisher or cover designer, view the images at the same size of those thumbprint size cover images you see on Amazon:
- Does the cover image stand out?
- Does it measure up against other popular covers in your genre?
- Is the book title easy to read?
- Is the author name visible?
- Is the graphic or image clear and indicative of the subject matter?
This is how your readers are viewing books, so make sure you’ll stand out in the pages of images a browsing reader may scroll through.
Then, conduct a similar exercise at the book store. Print your cover image the size it would be, take it to your local bookstore, set it up next to “the competition” and step a few feet away. Take a look at book spines in the book store where your book would be shelved as well. Will the spine of your book draw attention or get lost in the shuffle?
If you have a blurb from a best-selling author or VIP (more on this below), do include it on your front cover, as well as any awards your book has won. Shown at left is one example: Thanksgiving, a new release by Mary R. Arno, features on its cover both an image of the Faulkner gold medal she won, as well as a coveted quote by Huffington Post‘s Arianna Huffington!
Once you’ve narrowed down your choice to your top two or three options, share the covers on social media and ask fans, friends and family to vote on their favorite. Koehler Books does this for all their authors, encouraging them to share the contest and build early interest in an author’s work. (See image at right of recent vote for Chris Leibig’s upcoming release, Almost Mortal – the cover on the right won.)
Bountiful Book Blurbs
Pre-publication is also the time to think about soliciting some valuable book blurbs. Blurbs can come from:
- other authors (preferably in similar genres, and preferably better known authors),
- others with “street cred” in the same subject/category
- professional reviewers (i.e. Publishers Weekly, Kirkus Reviews, Chanticleer Reviews)
- media (i.e. New York Times, San Francisco Chronicle, Oprah Magazine)
If you’re writing legal thrillers, find other legal thriller authors to blurb your book. If you’re writing about politics, look for blurbs from other pundits, candidates, journalists or those holding office. If your book has regional appeal you might consider collecting blurbs from VIPs in that region (the local mayor for example, or owner of the city’s favorite hot spot). At right, authors Tom and Nancy Wise sought a front cover blurb by NYT bestseller Bennett Coles (Virtues of War) for their military-themed release.
This may seem elementary, but surprisingly some authors think “any old blurb” will do. Think of it this way: You see the toothpaste commercial that touts, “4 out of 5 dentists recommend…” Would it carry the same weight if the toothpaste was recommended by podiatrists?
Keep in mind that the folks blurbing your book will usually be kind enough to mention it in their circles once it’s published (especially if you’re also shouting about them). Thank them for their contribution; send them a signed copy when it’s published; and let them know how they can share it, and how you’ve been publicizing them, too.
Going after major authors or VIPs for blurbs? Beware of lead times! Don’t assume other authors will be able to read your book and furnish a blurb in 30 days. 90 days is a better window. You should assume we all struggle with deadlines; check back with that author or resource at least a couple weeks before the real deadline.
If you can collect three or four great blurbs, consider putting one on your front cover, and the rest on the back cover. If you can collect 5, 7 or more blurbs, pick one for the front cover, a couple for the back cover, and put a “Praise For…” page in the front matter of your book.
Don’t overlook putting your best blurbs on your author website, too, and sharing a quote here and there on your social media. At left, former FCC chair Al Sikes, whose book Culture Leads Leaders Follow releases this spring, has collected several VIP blurbs for his soon-to-be-released title.
Finally, keep in mind that book blurbs don’t just influence readers, they influence booksellers! A bookstore owner may take a closer look at your book based on its recommendations by other authors. It may affect where you’re placed on the shelf or how you’re recommended by the store to their customers.
Guide Your Readers to More
When I finish a book I love, I’m always hungry for more. If the author has provided a Readers Guide with book club questions, I’m thrilled. If the author has provided some of his/her own insights in that guide (what motivated her to write this book, what became most difficult in his writing, etc.) even better. If there’s a list at the end (as in the beginning) of other works of the author I should read, fantastic, I’m on it. And finally, if there’s a sneak peek of the author’s next work, I’m in heaven. Anything to not set that book down, not yet…
The point is to let your readers linger, long after they’ve finished your book. At a minimum, give your readers more in the form of inviting them to connect with you at your website, view an interview with you about the book on your YouTube channel, download the reader’s guide pdf from your page, and/or be added to your email list for a sneak peek of your next work.
Back matter is too often wasted marketing space, but careful pre-planning on your back matter can turn your one-time reader into a long-time fan.
This goes double for your digital book. Make sure every link is live. Include links to your website, the buy pages for your other work, your Goodreads author page, your Amazon page and your social media. Suggest pages readers may want to visit and where they can sign up for your email list.
By thinking through ALL the components of your book before you go to market, you’ll be armed with your best marketing tool of all: a book that shouts about itself and about you!
For additional important information and insights on the topics of front and back matter and book covers, we strongly suggest getting comfortable with each of these additional articles!