Book Marketing: How the Cover of Your Self-published Book Influences Your Brand as an Indie Author

ALLi Partner Member Aimee Coveney provides a useful overview of the impact of a self-published book’s cover not only on its sales success but also on an important long-term consideration: the establishment and promotion of your brand as an indie author. What she has to say also holds true for books published by trade publishing houses. Over to Aimee…

Over the years as a cover designer, I have often spoken with authors about their brand, and on occasions I have received very quizzical looks, but it is in fact something that should be included early in your career plan as a writer.

A strong brand helps an author in the same way it helps any organisation: it gives your name recognition and helps to sell your work.

The significance of visual marketing and design is forever stronger within all industries, but with online portfolios making artists more accessible, the standard of book covers in self-publishing has hit an all-time high and subsequently increased competition for authors too.

What is an Author Brand Anyway?

The concept of an author brand is sometimes misunderstood, and it is a large topic to cover:

  • It’s not just about the genres you write in, it’s about how you represent yourself to the entire industry and create a recognisable and trusted name.
  • A brand is about how you want your audience to perceive you as a person and a professional.
  • A brand can create an umbrella for all you do, whether that’s working in different fields, or writing in different genres.

Why Book Cover Branding is Important

For new readers, your book cover is more often than not the first introduction to your brand and your work as a whole.

The average customer spends eight seconds looking at the front cover of a book and fifteen on the back.

Customers buying online may spend even less time than this, so you can see why a high standard of cover is so vital.

It’s important to ensure that your book cover not only visually represents your writing and the story it envelops, but also your brand, so that new readers have an idea of what your work will be like and existing readers can recognise books as yours.

Strongly branded book covers can also have a huge, positive impact on your chance on gaining media attention or getting bookstores interested in stocking your books – not always easy for self-published authors. You must remember that the industry is inundated with books every day. Bookstore buyers may not necessarily be opposed to self-published books, but they know all too well that it’s the cover and brand that sells and if that’s weak, then stocking it wouldn’t make business sense. Unfortunately the use of unprofessional covers can harm the reputation of the self-publishing sector.

In a study of booksellers’ assessments of publisher marketing efforts, 75% of 300 surveyed said that of all the elements of the book itself, the look and design of the cover was the most important.

The cover of a book is thus prime real estate for promoting a book and your brand.

How Effective Cover Branding Helps Reach Your Previous Readers

It’s important as an author to reach previous readers, and one way this is easily achieved is through a recognisable, branded design. If an author has received a good response from their previous work, they may assume that their next book will do equally well, if not better. But what if your readers do not recognise your latest book? The right visual connection on the cover will ensure they do. That recognition factor is vital, and it is what sells books every day.

The same can be said for booksellers. If they can easily identify from your covers that you are an author whose previous books sold well, they’re more likely to stock your books again. If the cover is not strongly branded, they may not remember your earlier books’ popularity.

What About Cover Redesigns?

That’s not to say that a redesign isn’t a good idea. If your design and brand is not up to standard, a complete brand overhaul can be a great piece of PR. Also, cover designs date quickly. The big publishing houses frequently issue new covers even for books that have been selling well under the old covers, so don’t feel that you must stick with the cover under which your book was launched. Changing covers can change the fortunes of a book entirely. (For more on this topic, see the related post at the foot of this page.)

Top Tips for Your Cover Branding

Brand identity is now more important than ever for authors, but it doesn’t have to be complex to be effective. Here are the essentials:

  • a strong, unique font for your author name and book title
  • similar illustrations or image styles for each book
  • consistent layout
  • similar use of colour

Next time you are working on a cover design, remember to ask yourself and a qualified focus group how it’s representing your brand as well as the individual book.

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Book Review – A Quiet Winter by Isabel Ashdown

28015181A Quiet Winter is one of those books you want to curl up with in front of a roaring fire during  cold months. Isabel Ashdown instantly absorbs and draws you into a vast mix of raw human emotion, and every time you feel that you know where it’s headed, Isabel pulls you in a new direction.

Sarah Ribbons, who has recently lost her father is in an ever sinking denial of grief. She can’t quite bring herself to move on and take that next step to recovery. Pushing those close to her away, she soon finds herself quite alone. That is until she meets Ed, a builder who encourages her to renovate her father’s cottage. Both have their own set of very different problems in life, and as each story is gradually revealed, the connection between reader and character strengthens.

Don’t be fooled though, this is not a predictable story, but what is does have is a great sense of satisfaction and reality.

Isabel’s writing is flawless, almost soothing and flows with utter ease. I look forward to reading many more of her books.

Having not been a great reader of short stories before, this may have just converted me. It was lovely to be able to easily read it within one sitting on a cosy night.

How to Use Book Trailers for Successful Book Marketing

Design consultant and ALLi Partner Member Aimee Coveney considers the benefits of video book trailers to promote self-published books, shares top tips on how to make them, and offers eight ways to put them to good use.

Video media is causing quite a stir in today’s book industry. Online promotion is highly effective in reaching a wide audience, and sharable media, such as videos, play a key role in gaining attention for many professionals. With that being the case, video media and, subsequently, book trailers have become increasingly popular amongst readers, authors and publishers. They are however, still held with some scepticism, many claiming they are simply ‘author bling’. This is due mostly to the amount of poorly produced examples there are, and the lack of knowledge in creating that buzz.

  • Some authors and readers feel strongly that book trailers invade on an otherwise traditional medium of words and imagination.
  • On the other hand, video is a proven method of marketing, and authors need to cater for all readers, both traditional and those that embrace the shift into a digital reading age.

What’s the Point of Book Trailers?

Book trailers bring your work to life in a way that many authors dream about during the writing process. With visual elements on the internet bringing in far more interaction than those websites without, book trailers can now play a huge role in your online platform.

The elements of your book trailer should be striking and professional. Images, video footage and music can be sourced online, although it is imperative to ensure they are appropriate for your work. Having a well-thought-out script, and putting these elements together effectively, is key. Having image and text appear one after the other can appear lacklustre and outdated. Smooth and creative effects are vital in creating a professional finish.

If you’re not able to employ a professional, ensure you watch other successful book or movie trailers to get a sense of how they are put together.

How Long Should a Book Trailer Be?

Duration is significant. Many authors are very passionate and have a lot that they wish to include. The longer the video, however, the less likely it is that people will watch to completion, and they may even lose interest. A length of between one and one and a half minutes is about right.

Eight Ways to Use Your Book Trailer

Once you have a completed book trailer. it is imperative to distribute it effectively. A professional should let you know if this is included in their service.

  • Uploading your video to Youtube is only the first step. When uploading, be sure to include keyword tags, a clear title and description  so that your video is easy to find.
  • Having your book trailer on your website home page can also increase the length of time visitors remain on your site by up to 88%.
  • Sharing via social media is also effective, as many of your existing readers will have already connected with you through these channels, and the shareable nature of videos makes it very easy for others to spread the word for you.
  • Keep it visible during promotion by pinning it to the top of your social media pages.
  • Amazon and Goodreeds will also allow you to upload a book trailer directly onto your author profile and book’s page, meaning you have further means to capture reader’s attention.
  • There are also book trailer dedicated websites including www.bookreels.com that drive traffic to specific genres.
  • You need to think strategically about placing the trailer on sites where your book-buyers frequent. If you have articles or a blog tour where you can increase the chances of your book trailer being seen and shared, be sure to let the site owners know that they can embed the book trailer to gather interest.
  • Lastly, if your existing books are available on Kindle, you can easily include a link to your book trailers at the end, tempting readers to immediately purchase the next in the series or your most recent offering.

A good book trailer should not tell the entire contents of the book. Instead it should create suspense and visually stimulate the reader, enticing them to make a purchase, or at the very least, keep them interested in your work in the future. This growth in book trailers is allowing authors to reach a widening audience, and keeping your name visible in an overcrowded market.

OVER TO YOU What’s your experience been of book trailers – good or bad? Do you have great tips to share? We’d love to know!

 

Article originally posted at http://www.selfpublishingadvice.org/how-to-use-book-trailers-for-successful-book-marketing/?platform=hootsuite

A Quote On Writing That I Just Had To Share

“If you want to write, if you want to create, you must be the most sublime fool that God ever turned out and sent rambling. You must write every single day of your life. You must read dreadful dumb books and glorious books, and let them wrestle in beautiful fights inside your head, vulgar one moment, brilliant the next. You must lurk in libraries and climb the stacks like ladders to sniff books like perfumes and wear books like hats upon your crazy heads. I wish you a wrestling match with your Creative Muse that will last a lifetime. I wish craziness and foolishness and madness upon you. May you live with hysteria, and out of it make fine stories — science fiction or otherwise. Which finally means, may you be in love every day for the next 20,000 days. And out of that love, remake a world.”

Ray Bradbury

15 Great and Easy Ways to Promote Your Book Online

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There is one question in the publishing universe that has, and always will linger on author’s minds; how to promote and sell more books. With the publishing world changing continuously, marketing has had to evolve very quickly alongside it, with the eBook meaning the most dramatic changes publishing has ever seen. Whereas before, books were printed, launched with a grand launch party and then left to sell of its own back until the print run was sold-out, eBooks will now stay ‘in-print’ for far longer, and therefore an author’s promotion needs to be longer lasting and more accessible.

Promotion can be expensive, and can out-date fairly quickly. This is why online promo is so popular with all authors, be it mainstream or self-publsihed. Not only can it reach a far wider audience than an author could ever hope to achieve in isolation, it is easily ‘updatable’. If you refuse to dive into the online marketing world, you are essentially cutting off the main artery to your audience.

That being said, here is a list of fantastic ideas to get your book promoted online. Some are an investment but a lot are free.

1. Build a Professional Author Website – not only can it be designed solely around you and your work, which means attracting your readers, but it acts as the central base for all online promotion to lead to, allowing you to gain your target audience’s attention and then sell sell sell.

2. Set Up Twitter & Facebook Accounts – you may dislike it or simply not understand it yet, but interacting with readers on social media is a sure-fire way to reach potential readers in real-time, giving them the most up-to-date information possible. Have a 24 hour giveaway competition, or perhaps your book is on special offer for a short time? Then this is the place to tell everyone about it.

3. Set Up a Blog – If writing is your passion, why not blog about it? Readers, other authors and the industry in general are all interested in your writing journey. You can blog about the process of writing, the topics in your books or general life as an author, giving your readers a ‘human touch’ to your work.

4. Goodreads Giveaway – A freebie is a great way to gain interest and reviews of your work. Doing a giveaway on Goodreads means gaining interest from a wider reading audience which you may not have access to on your own. You need to be approved as an author by Goodreads, but this is well worth the effort.

5. Interact on Social Media – Commenting and replying on posts that are related to the topics in your book, or on writing can be a great way to gain a reputation as an expert in your genre and industry.

6. Free Excerpts – Posting free extracts of your book online (on your website is ideal) can give readers a great taster of your work. Adding a link at the end of each extract to buy your book makes it incredibly easy for readers to buy the whole book there and then.

7. Book Trailer – Make or ask a professional to build a book trailer. Visual promotion is far more popular than any other in today’s market and can hold potential reader’s attention for longer than static content. When done properly, a book trailer can also create an impression of professionalism and can be used across many online platforms.

8. ‘How-to’ Videos – If your book has a theme or topic that can be discussed in depth, create some ‘how-to’ or discussion videos for readers who have finished your book,or to entice those who haven’t yet.

9. Newsletter Sign-up – Embed a newsletter sign-up form on your website so that interested readers can receive periodical emails with your latest news. Interestingly newsletters have gone out of fashion in recent years, with too many junk emails clogging up people’s inbox’s. However, your name appearing in their inbox from time to time (whether they open the email or not) is enough to create a strong familiarity, so when they are looking for a new book, they may just look you up.

10. Guest Blog Posts – Whether these are interviews or discussions on your latest book, ensure you include a link back to your website where readers can gain more information and the all important retail links.

11.  Website URL – As mentioned in the above point, adding your website address wherever possible will mean a far higher chance of potential readers buying your book. Place a link to your website in your email signature too, along with any awards, nominations or other ‘selling’ statuses. The more places your website is listed online, the better your SEO (Search Engine Optimism) will also become.

12. Reader Photos – Ask readers to send you photos of them reading your book. This can create a lot of fun competition. I have seen images of people reading on the edge of mountains, in pools or hanging from trees! This can be a great piece of promo for children’s authors. Once you have these you can post the best on social media and your website. Perhaps run a competition for the best photo?

13. Taster Readings – There were days when readers would gather in a library or bookshop for an author reading, but this is not always possible for every author. Why not create videos/podcasts of yourself reading taster sections of your book that you can display online.

14. Run a Virtual Book Tour – Just like guest blogging, you can run a virtual book tour, enabling you to get your book infront of readers across the world. Find and agree with half a dozen to a dozen blogs or websites that are happy to receive you, to discuss your books. Offering exclusives, such as giveaways, question and answer sessions or free excerpts can entice readers to ‘follow’ you across the internet from website to website – just remember to mention where you’ll be appearing next either on your website, or if they are happy to do so, the end of each guest tour post.

15.  Online Campaigning – Create a hum around your book. If it’s personal, which others may benefit from reading, whether your book or from listening to your journey, ensure you tell everyone about it. I know many authors who write to conquer depression, or write about illness that either they or their family has suffered in order to just get through the day. Some may call it the ‘sob-story’ tactic, but I call it giving a voice to your personal battles or those of others.

Obviously not everyone can manage all of these, but concentrating on just a few can show you a significant difference in not only sales (although they are important) but to general interest in your work. Try them out and let us all know how you get on!

Using Your Author Website to the Full – Part One

On behalf of myself and the entire team who put together The Self Publishing Conference 2014, I would like to thank any of you who attended. It was a brilliant day and we have all received a huge influx of positive feedback.

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As promised in my last session of the day, How to Use Your Author Website to the Full, I am blogging some of the points we discussed in a series of posts. We got through most of them, but with all of you taking part, you will know we run over by half an hour. At least you were enjoying it and taking away lots of useful tips!

I spoke about why an author needed a website in my first session of the day, which I have blogged about previously. Once you have a website as an author, there is a myth that it will just work and pull in thousands of new sales. To some extent it will work, but as with anything, people (most importantly readers) will need to know it is there to benefit from any sort of promotion, and this takes some time and effort. If your website isn’t pulling in as much attention as you hoped, here are a few elements you may wish to check your doing correctly.

 

Is Your Design Working?

The first question to ask yourself is whether your design is working. A website design, and in fact all elements of your book promotion should appeal to your reader in the same way your book cover needs to. It needs to be branded, professional and targeted to your market audience. Lack of branding can confuse a reader to believing they haven’t come to the correct website and lack of professionalism can damage your author image. It may be that if they see a badly edited or designed website, this may reflect onto your writing and books. If you put them off with your design, you are going to lose their attention very quickly. Professionalism creates a sense of legitimacy.

If you feel your design isn’t as professional as other authors that write in your genre, spend a little time on some design research. It is likely that as an author, you read in the genre you write, so take some time out to browse popular authors to see what they are offering from their websites, and how their design is pulling in your readers.

Another question I come across a lot is authors who write books in two genres. Do you really need two websites for each market? The answer depends really on what the genres are. If they compliment each-other, then it’s possible that you will be offering books to readers that read both styles; for example historical fiction and historical non-fiction. However if your books are polar opposites (I’ve seen websites offering sweet historical romances and modern erotica), then you need to consider using separate sites. You want to avoid deterring readers at all costs. You also need to ensure that your brand is represented, and it may be that this isn’t consistent over your two different genres.

Remember, statistically you have three seconds to convince your website visitor to stay on your website. I will give you a few tips on how to do this, other than having the correct design, in a later post.

 

Is Your Content Working?

After looking at the design, you will want to concentrate on exactly what your author website contains. Is your existing content offering visitors something they are looking for? As I just mentioned, it’s down to the three second rule. You need to immediately let you visitor know they are in the right place (design), where you want them to go (content and design) and how to get there (content). 

Assuming you have covered the first point of design, you then need to let them know what you want them to do. You can do this by ensuring your content is clear and not overwhelming. Your book/s should have prominence, with an immediate link to ‘find out more’ and purchase links. You also need to provide a clear navigation to other pages. This can be done through a menu, making sure the links are clear and concise. Don’t name your pages with quirky titles – you may know what it means, but you readers may not. In other words, the page that contains information on your books, should be labelled in your menu as ‘Books’, NOT ‘My Library’, ‘My World’ or ‘Offerings’. Keep it simple, so that people can easily navigate around your website. You will also want to ensure that any references in your text to your book are linked to the Book page. That way, if people are reading, they don’t need to scroll to the top of the page to find the menu again. I know this sounds particularly lazy, but any encouragement is essential.

When it comes to the amount of content you provide in your website, this can vary enormously between author’s websites. Some have thousands of words on each page, which quite frankly, unless you’re JK Rowling, people aren’t going to read or take that much of an interest. You want them to read your book, not pages and pages of content on your website. Remember that your website is ultimately a selling tool, and a place for current readers to find out more about you and your other works. People get very bored, very easily, so keep what you write shorter (around two to three paragraphs is ideal) in order to keep their attention. I will be talking about exactly which content you want on each page in a later post (exactly so as not to overwhelm you…and keep you coming back – I do practice what I preach!).

It’s not just the amount of content you need to consider though, you will also want to consider the quality. Does your website offer something that readers can’t find anywhere else? People love to believe they have found something exclusive, so offer just that on your website. For example 43% of readers agree that they will return to a website if it offers free short stories from an author they like, and 33% admit to wanting a free sample chapter prior to buying a book. Both these can be offered on your website.

Another way to bring people back to your website is via Newsletters and Blogs. If you have the time, you can spend a short while on a daily, weekly or monthly basis writing a few hundred words to let your followers know that you have something new to offer them, some news to share, or an interesting discussion on the topic of your work. It is important again not to overwhelm them with too much information, or too frequently. A newsletter does provide visibility, but people will all too quickly delete a newsletter emailed to them without reading it if it lands in their inbox too often. A blog on the other hand allows them to drop in when they have the time. There are obvious advantages to both, and some authors will use both for assurance that they’re reaching as many readers as possible.

I will reiterate the point that if you keep your website updated (no reader enjoys an out-of-date website), then you have more reasons to pull in visitors to your website. And of course, a website is one of the best promotional tools, which you can update as often as needed, so take advantage of it! It doesn’t need to take very long, but can have a big effect.

I hope this initial lot of information has been useful. I will update you with the next section of ideas and tips to offer your readers in the next post, so watch this space! If you want to get updates of when these will appear, follow this blog or keep an eye on my Twitter and Google+ feeds. You can of course also find some information at www.authordesignstudio.com or email me at contact@authordesignstudio.com

 

Until next time,

Aimee 

Book Review – Country Loving by Cathy Woodman

Country Loving is the first of Cathy Woodman’s books I have read, but it certainly won’t be the last. I was swept away by the charm of this book and genuinely surprised by the twists and turns along the way. I’m usually pretty good at predicting a storyline, so it was a pleasant surprise to be shocked by the emerging plot! Something that is difficult to come by in a lot of books in today’s market and something I thoroughly enjoyed reading.

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The cover is marketed to appeal to those familiar with chicklit fiction, but this story has a painful realism to it, as well as the hints of country charm that are planted naturally throughout the story. Cathy has done a superb job of mixing a ‘real life’ crisis with all the charm of the countryside in Spring!

Stevie, the main character, is a country girl at heart, but has been hurt by her past and escaped to become a ‘townie’ in London. It’s not until she is forced to return to the country home, Nettlebed Farm, that she realises where she truly belongs. However, to save her beloved farm, hard sacrifices must be made. When her own life becomes increasingly complicated, it becomes an ever increasing struggle to put this book down! You will find yourself speed reading to find out what Stevie will decide and how her life, and that of the farm, will end up.

I am slightly disappointed, but only because this book has now ended! I’m already looking forward to reading another of Cathy’s books.