Category Archives: Marketing

Why, Yes, I DO Judge Books by Their Covers


For the past 10 years, I’ve nurtured a running list of soon-to-be-released books. These are books – in various genres – that have captured my attention for one reason or another. Often, the first thing about them that catches my eye is the cover art – that little thumbnail image that pops up right next to the title and author’s name.

At least once a week, I stalk the pages of Goodreads Giveaways, Amazon’s Coming Soon and Barnes and Nobles’ Coming Soon sites. I also follow several publishers and try to discover their publishing schedules. If only I could get a sneak peek at the catalogs they send to bookstores of the books to be published within the next year. That would be perfect!

But I digress. One reason I stalk for books is because I want to know – as early as possible – when my favorite authors (there are a lot of them!) will be releasing their next work(s). I also want to see the cover art. This is the most basic way I choose new authors/books. I judge books by their covers.

book-cover-art

Judging a book by its cover

We’ve all heard and/or read the proverb, “Don’t judge a book by its cover.” I’m not certain of the origin of that cliché, but I’ve learned to ignore it. (I think it mostly refers to prejudice against fellow human beings, anyway…in which case, DON’T DO THIS.) I DO judge a book by its cover.

If the cover catches my eye, next I’ll read the title, then the author’s name. If I’m still interested, I’ll read the synopsis. When I’m searching for a new author to read, the cover art is most important. It’s the first thing (other than the title) that will either grab my attention, or repel it.

Sometimes, even if I’m not attracted to the cover, I’ll pick up a book to read anyway…but only if it’s an author I’ve already read, or the title appeals to me. If it’s the former, I’ll give it a chance to enchant me. If it’s the latter, I’ll read the summary to see if that, coupled with the title, can help me get past the cover art. If so, then it’s a go. And hopefully, it won’t disappoint.

Sometimes this judgment pays off

To demonstrate the marketability of a book cover, here is a short list of books I’ve purchased in which the initial attraction for me was the cover art.

  • Malice: The Faithful and the Fallen, Book I by John Gwynne (I have since read the entire series. Phenomenal – a worthy successor to Game of Thrones series…without all the sex.)
  • Sword and Verse by Kathy MacMillan (Seems to be a stand-along novel that deserves at least one sequel.)
  • The Progeny by Tosca Lee (I’ve always been fascinated by the legend of Erzsebet Bathory de Ecsed, so almost anything having to do remotely with the legend appeals to me. This is an excellent contemporary thriller with ties to the infamous Erzsebet Bathory, and I count the days until the sequel is released.)
  • Nevernight by Jay Kristoff (I could not get into Jay’s Stormdancer series, try as I might. But this cover grabbed my attention when I first saw it – it’s mezmerizing. And the dustjacket summary sold me on it. I love pretty much everything about this book. Except that it ended. Another count-down-until-the-sequel-is-released series for me.)
  • The Queen of the Tearling by Erika Johansen (The original hardcover cover art is what attracted me. Not very fond of the covers of the sequels, but the original had already done its job, so I just ignored the covers and read the books.)

I would recommend these books – and their sequels – to anyone, especially if you’re a fan of the historical and fantasy genres. Even if you’re NOT a fan of historical and fantasy genres (how are we friends, again?), all of these books have at least one bada** female main or secondary character. I’m a great admirer of authors who can write strong, sympathetic (and sometimes UNsympathetic) bada** female characters.

And sometimes the covers just turn me off

Likewise, a list of books whose covers turned me off so much (and made me question the publishers’ and other readers’ tastes) that I didn’t even bother reading the summary to find out if it appealed to me…

  • Go Set a Watchman by Harper Lee (I didn’t read To Kill a Mockingbird. Had no interest in the first book, and the cover of this book has kept me uninterested. In fact, the cover of GSAW is rather irritating to look at, in my opinion.)
  • The Great Gatsby by F. Scott Fitzgerald (Maybe the original cover on a first edition would be attractive to me, but even so, I’m probably a lost cause as a reader. I know what the story is about, and it’s never tempted me. Never been much of a fan of the Jazz Age, either, so there’s that.)
  • One Hundred Years of Solitude by Gabriel Garcia Marquez (Again, maybe the original cover on a first edition would be attractive to me. I have actually attempted to read this book, based on the recommendation of others, but again, just cannot get into it. I love the title, but the cover art does not appeal to me – and frankly, neither does the story.)

 

Okay, so there’s another common theme with the books whose covers turned me off – most, if not all, of them are considered to be literary classics. As an avid reader, I’ve always been a little confused as to why the term “literary classics” makes me shudder and shy away. It may be due to all the “literary classics” students are assigned to read and report on for school. “Literary classics” seem to be large tomes that are heavy on narration and exposition, and light on action and drama. But then that may just be my ADHD talking.

How about you? Do you ever find yourself choosing a book based on its cover or title? Do you ever browse brick and mortar bookstores or sites like Goodreads.com searching for your next great read? Why or why not?

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Filed under ADHD, Book Covers, books, Fantasy, Life, Literature, Marketing, Reader, Reading, Real Life

This is Why Your Books Aren’t Selling: 4 Ways to Improve Now by @BadRedheadMedia


 Your Books Aren’t Selling

“My sales are awful, and I’ve done everything. I give up.” 

I heard this from three authors this week, and it’s not an uncommon sentiment right now. As an imprint director, book manager and book marketing consultant, my first questions are always:

  • What do you mean by everything?
  • How do you define “awful?”
  • What do you mean by ‘giving up?’

Let’s deconstruct four ways to improve on that!

1) What Is ‘Everything’ RE: Book Marketing?

Your definition of ‘everything’ and my definition are probably quite different. When I asked one of these authors what he’d done, he said he’d:

  • placed a few Facebook ads,
  • sent out a bunch of tweets during his free days,
  • placed a FreeBooksy promo (cost: $45). That’s about it.

To me, that’s barely scraping the bare minimum of ‘hardly anything,’ but in his mind, that’s more than he’d ever done! When I asked him what he had achieved in his marketing plan, he replied: what marketing plan?

I asked this author some of these questions, to which he answered, “no.” How about you:

  • Are you consistently on social media building relationships with readers, sharing great content, blogging and commenting on other bloggers’ sites?
  • Do you know what your keywords and branding are? 
  • Have you optimized all your social bios? Are your graphics high quality, hi-res, and consistent?
  • Growing your followings through targeted keywords? Not spamming links, but interacting and networking? 
  • Have you bought your domain, and optimized your website for SEO and SMO? Do you know your Alexa Ranking and Website grade?
  • Are you advertising?
  • Are you approaching book bloggers (politely) for reviews?
  • Participating in weekly Twitter chats and blog memes like #MondayBlogs and #LinkYourLife?
  • Do you belong to Facebook Groups where you can share ideas and partner up with other writers to promote each other? 
  • Do you regularly visit the Help Sections of all the social media channels to learn how to use them correctly? 

If the answer is no to any or all, you have work to do. You’re not doing everything, and you know it.

Again, not uncommon. Here’s the thing: art is work, to paraphrase Patti Smith. You’ve taken what, six months to two years to write your book, pouring your heart into this work. You’ve (hopefully) worked with a professional editor, graphic designer, formatter, and proofreader, and now that your book is live, you expect to sit back and watch the sales roll on in.

Wait, what?

2) Marketing Your Books is Not An Option

Why? Where does this outrageous expectation come from? I just do not get it. Writers are not dumb. Why do they think marketing is an option?

In what job in the world do you do zero work and make money?

A few tweets and an ad here and there does not create a consistent author platform, which is what this author needs — what every authors needs. This is how we meet readers, bloggers, and other influencers. This is how they find us, where the all-important word-of-mouth storm begins to swirl.

I suggested he rethink his author platform completely, create a robust marketing plan which he then implement, and lose the expectation that writing books is all about, and only about, selling books. One book will very, very rarely create an entire career for an author — and even those who do achieve those heights (Donna Tartt, The Secret History, Elizabeth Wurtzel, Prozac Nation) still go on to write more books, eventually.

I’ve worked with many authors who feel their job is only to write, and expect to do zero marketing; they feel that once they sign with a traditional or hybrid publisher, the publisher will do all their marketing for them. Big Fat Lie. The reason I have a business is because I have many traditionally published clients who are signed by those big publishers and guess what? They hire me to help them market and do their social media because their publisher does so very little marketing, if any, for them.

Do the work.

Photo source: Unsplash.com

Photo source: Unsplash.com

3) Define ‘Awful’ and Now Improve

One author sells twenty books every day and is upset because she used to sell fifty. One is distraught because she’s only selling five per day and she used to sell ten. Another has sold ten in six months. Your definition of awful is going to be different than anyone else’s, and depending on Amazon’s latest policy or algorithm change, awful can mean different things to different people.

It’s always good to keep an eye on your daily sales, but we can also become obsessed with it. My advice, take it or leave it from one who knows (I have five books out myself), is to check your sales once weekly — no more than that. This is enough to give you an idea of what’s happening during that period of time, analyze any trends, and adjust your marketing efforts. (If you are in the midst of a promotion however, feel free to check them more often, of course.)

4) Should You Ever ‘Give Up?’

  1. There is no ‘Sell By’ date on books anymore, really…especially eBooks. If you look at my third book, Broken Pieces, released in 2013, it’s currently in the #1 spot on Amazon’s paid Women’s Poetry list — and it’s been sitting pretty there since November for a few reasons you can read about here.

If you choose to give up, that’s ultimately your choice. I hear from authors all the damn time who give me every excuse as to why readers aren’t reading them, but when I ask them the questions in that list above, the answers are always ‘no, I haven’t done any of that, but…’

Oh, okay.

I can tell you this: as the director of the Gravity Imprint for Booktrope, the books that sell the most are where the authors are doing everything on that list above — they interact with readers, build their platform, generously share others’ posts and content, blog consistently, and have a clear, strong message. Take a look here at H.M. Jones, Lindsay Fischer and Lisa Douthit — their books are fabulous, all have built strong advocacy platforms (for postpartum depression, domestic abuse survivors and wellness, respectively), and they do the work. If you’d like to learn more about all the amazing Gravity authors, please visit our website!

Writing and marketing ourselves, our brand, goes hand in hand — it’s not one or the other. Writing more books will help gain you visibility, of course. The most successful authors are prolific, having at least five to ten books out — so keep at it. We are authors first. You don’t need a degree in marketing to market, just as you don’t need an MFA to write. You simply need to improve upon what you’re already doing.

It’s really not as difficult as some folks make it: step up, be smart, do the work.

***************************************

Rachel-Thompson1Rachel Thompson is the author of newly released Broken Places (one of IndieReader’s “Best of 2015” top books and 2015 Honorable Mention Winner in the San Francisco Book Festival), and the multi award-winning Broken Pieces, as well as two additional humor books, A Walk In The Snark and Mancode: Exposed. Rachel is published and represented by Booktrope.

She owns BadRedhead Media, creating effective social media and book marketing campaigns for authors. Her articles appear regularly in The Huffington PostThe San Francisco Book Review (BadRedhead Says…), 12Most.com, bitrebels.com, BookPromotion.com, IndieReader.com, and Self-Publishers Monthly.

Not just an advocate for sexual abuse survivors, Rachel is the creator and founder of the hashtag phenomenon #MondayBlogs and the live Twitter chat, #SexAbuseChat, co-hosted with certified therapist/survivor, Bobbi Parish. She is also the director of the Gravity Imprint for Booktrope, bringing stories of trauma and recovery (fiction and nonfiction) to life. Read more about the Gravity authors and their books here.

She hates walks in the rain, running out of coffee, and coconut. She lives in California with her family.

Award-winning bestsellers Broken Places, and Broken Pieces, Mancode: ExposedA Walk In The Snark (published by Booktrope)

Media consultant, Huffington Post Books blogger, creator #MondayBlogs #SexAbuseChat and #GravityChat on Twitter. 
 
Director, Gravity Imprint (stories of trauma and recovery), Booktrope 
Social Media Director, Authorbytes
Twitter – @RachelintheOC and @BadRedheadMedia 

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