The Science Behind Book Covers

Book Cover Design
Pic from ClipArt.co

Though things have changed a bit over the past decade, there are still indie authors who refuse to take their book covers seriously.  I still see book covers that look terrible or don’t fit their genre and the sad thing is, some authors are still designing their own covers.  Some do it out of necessity, while others are just plain cheap and stubborn.  Ask any cover designer and they will tell you that there is a science behind what they do.  There are trends to consider as well as standard formats.  We all know what a typical romance novel cover looks like, but imagine if someone tried to use that same format for a mystery.  It would probably get mocked.  In fact, there are several websites and blogs that do just that.

Color Me A Bestseller

Consumers don’t have time or the cash to evaluate an unproven product but they do judge the packaging.  In fact when it comes to color many corporations pay good money for data as to which colors to use in their product packaging.  Colors are so important that they can make a product look trustworthy or shoddy.

In a study done by Joe Hallock, the least favorite color by both men and women is orange because it was said to look cheap.  The most favorite color by both genders was blue, because it’s said to represent authority, truth, and tranquility.  That could explain why Facebook, Twitter, and Tumblr all use blue in their logos and web design.  Here are the top 5 colors favored by customers:

  • Blue (Authority, Integrity, Peace, Tranquility)
  • Green (Freshness, Earthiness)
  • Purple (Luxury, Spirituality)
  • Red (Love, Passion, Danger)
  • Black (Formality, Death, Rebellion)

When it comes to unexpressive colors like black, white and grey men tolerated these better than women.  However when it came to tints (a mixture of colors), women preferred softer colors like pastels while men preferred brighter ones.  This makes sense because the romance genre is filled with pinks, lavenders, and baby blues while the mystery genre is dominated by gray, red and black.

Faces Are Just As Important

It’s been proven by science that ads which feature attractive people sell more and that’s because beautiful faces excite a part of our brain which bypasses the parts for reason and logic.  (Think low risk impulse buys.)  Advertisers have known for generations that consumers can be subconsciously trained to buy something they don’t necessarily need.  So if you were thinking that all those romance covers with attractive people in sexy poses is cheesy, you’re wrong, it’s classic advertising.  This is why indie authors should study the books in their genre and see how they’re packaged.  Usually there is a pattern and if you can crack that code, you’ll have a competitive edge.

Genre Specific Trends

Every genre has its trends and some of them have endured for decades while others like the YA girl in a fancy dress have come and gone.  Here is a small list of trends in the four main genres, I only listed successful indie authors.

Romance:  What is typical for the romance genre is an attractive couple embracing or kissing but there is also a lot symbolism of romance like hearts, flowers and beautiful scenery.

Authors to study: S.C. Stephens, H.M. Ward, and Jessica Hawkins.

Mystery:  One thing that most mystery novels have in common are their dark backgrounds with bright forefronts or fonts.  Another thing included was usually a person in action as well as weapons, and urban surroundings.

Authors to study:  Mark Dawson, Chris Simms and Liliana Hart

YA:  The most common theme was an attractive female looking sad or indifferent.  Another popular theme was a female in a romantic pose with a male like a romance novel.  The color scheme often include pastel tints like lavenders, blues and pinks.

Authors to study:  Kristy Moseley, Shelly Crane, and Tarryn Fisher

Sci-Fi: The obvious thing you’ll notice about sci-fi covers are the backgrounds of outer space with spaceships.  However there are covers with models in warrior poses or in space suits ready for action.  The colors schemes are often dark backgrounds with bright forefront images.

Authors to study: Hugh Howey, Bella Forrest, and Michael Anderle.

Following Your Gut

A few years ago, bestselling indie author H.M. Ward, wrote a blog post discussing how her personal preferences almost tanked her book’s sales.  In the post she gives an example of how her original artsy, cover for Scandalous didn’t sell much.  After investigating, she realized something and that is you can’t give people what YOU want.  Trends and standard formats exist for a reason, it’s what the readers are responding to.  It’s been said, that people tell you what they want all the time and all you really have to do is listen.  So save yourself the stress and listen when readers talk.

In Closing…

I hope this post helps as you go searching for a book cover, it’s in no way meant to be a list of commandments, it’s just a guide to help you figure out what’s best for your book.  Many authors find cover design overwhelming and confusing, which can lead to them giving creative control to someone who doesn’t understand publishing.  Remember, just because it’s pretty, doesn’t mean it’s marketable.

Book Marketing Techniques That Don’t Work Anymore

Book Marketing
Pic via Pixabay

Over the past 10 years, publishing has evolved into a very profitable business with the 5 biggest publishers reporting a profit margin of 10%.  And according to Author Earnings, in 2015, self-published authors had taken 33% of the ebook market.  However the tables were turned in 2016, when self-published authors lost a little bit of their grip on the ebook market not to mention several major publishing companies actually reporting losses.  So now it’s more important than ever that we indie authors spend our time and money where it matters most.

Things will only continue to change as the market ebbs and flows and we indie authors need to be able to adapt no matter the disruptions to the market.  What worked in 2007, won’t necessarily fly in 2017, so I compiled a list of just a few of the things that used to be marketing truths but are now myths.

Post An Eye-Catching Photo With Social Media Posts

The old advice on social media was to post a nice text quote along with a photo and it worked pretty well.  Now the advice is to write your quote directly on the image itself because when you share a post sometimes the original text gets lost or relegated to tiny font at the bottom.

For example:

Pinterest

james-patterson-pinterest

Facebook

james-patterson-fb

 

Banner Ads

Back in the day, banner ads were the way to get your product noticed but now with ad blockers, nobody even sees them anymore.  Today, the click through rate of a banner ad is around 0.1% down from 50% in 2000.  Sadly places like Goodreads, offer banner ads in their expensive marketing package which can cost anywhere between $6,000 and up.  However most indie authors agree that the best places to advertise books are in discount newsletters like; BookBub, Bargain Booksy and Free Kindle Books & Tips.

Perma 99 Cents

A few years ago the advice was to lower your price as much as humanly possible which is what tons of indie authors did.  As you have already guessed, this doesn’t work anymore, the new advice is to try price pulsing.  That’s where you lower your price for a limited time and then set it back to a more reasonable one.  The feelings are mixed, many say you have to promote the lower prices but if you’re selling a book at 99 cents, promotion may not be wise if you’re on a low budget or just low on time.

Black Hat Marketing

This means anything shady like buying reviews or even buying your own book in bulk.  It’s one of the oldest tricks in the marketing business but with technology most people can easily spot a fake.  Not long ago, U.S. President Donald Trump was busted buying his own books during his campaign.  Also, several Christian ministers were found to have contracted a service that promises to help authors get on the bestsellers list by buying large quantities of the author’s book.  They might have gotten away with it too if they hadn’t used money from their own congregation to do it.

Same goes with social media, a few celebrities were busted buying fans a few years back and were exposed by a major media outlet.  To make a long story short, your money is better spent advertising or hiring a good book publicist.

You Need To Be Everywhere on Social Media

It’s old advice that’s still being repeated and it’s just not true and never really was.  Your goal on social media is to build a community which means conversations and engagement.  You can’t do that everywhere because you only have 24 hours in any given day.  So it would be wise to just pick one or a few social media sites where your audience is going to be and set up shop there.  If your book is for young adults try sites like; Snap Chat, Instagram or Tumblr, and if it’s adults you’re targeting, try Facebook, Twitter and Youtube.

Spamming Works

For those business owners who are too lazy to build their own email lists there are services who are more than willing to sell you email addresses.  Sadly, these people aren’t interested in your book and sending unsolicited emails goes against the CAN-SPAM Act which can result in a fine of $16,000.  Also, it’ll get you banned from email marketing services like Mail Chimp or AWeber.  As if that weren’t bad enough, according to law enforcement and online security firms, the average spam campaign is often a front for organized crime which is why most email filters send these emails straight to the trash bin.

I would be remiss if I didn’t address the few books out there that list so called promotional groups on Facebook and Goodreads.  I’ve personally tested them and found them to be a complete  waste of time.  If you look closely at these groups, you’ll discover that they’re nothing but spam pages with author after author dropping links and yelling “Buy my book!”  This is pointless unless, your book is for authors who desperately need to learn about marketing books. 😉

So What Does Work?

Funny enough, it’s common sense that will help you sell a book successfully.  No tricks, just hard work and persistence, oh yeah, and time.

  • Write a book people want to read
  • Edit professionally
  • Get a nice (industry standard) book cover
  • Start building your platform.
  • Invest in your education: Take courses and read books on marketing, publishing and editing.
  • Join a network of professional authors, there are Facebook and LinkedIn groups as well as websites like The Alliance of Independent Authors (ALLi) who help educate and support self-published authors.

In Closing…

There will be more changes on the horizon in 2017, that’s inevitable but that doesn’t have to be a scary thing.  Instead of seeing self-publishing as a disadvantage see it for the opportunity that it really is.  As more and more indie success stories become common place, it will light the fire in some of us to go beyond what we’ve ever imagined.  So until next time, here’s to a creative and profitable 2017 to indie authors everywhere!

5311059950_6da084de1c_z
By Leland Francisco

Selling Your Foreign Licensing Rights: What Authors Need To Know

 

Amanda Hocking's Watersong books

Last week, I discussed how to get your self-published book translated using various techniques from hiring contractors to using a royalty splitting website. Today I’ll talk about the next logical step in this journey and that is selling your foreign rights to a publisher. Yes, you can sell your book’s rights whether they be digital or print to a publisher in another country.  Sounds cool huh?  Seeing our books being sold at  store overseas is the dream of many authors.

There are several options that self-published authors have, you can find an agent who can sell it for you, or you can try to do it on your own.  But before I begin, I have one very important question…

Have You Exploited All Your English Rights?

Did you know you can sell the English rights of your book to publishers in other countries? Just as English language music and movies are sold all over the world, so are English language books. So before you go and get knee deep in translations of your work, make sure you’ve exploited all of your licensing rights. If it’s possible to sell your book’s English rights to a German publisher, why not?  In fact, you can sell those rights to publishers in every country on the planet.

Unfortunately, many traditionally published authors stop with selling their U.S. or U.K. rights and that’s absurd.  There are many publishers in other countries that would love to do business with you so what are you waiting for?

Can I Still Shop Around My Book To Agents and Publishers?

Yes, if you’re upfront with your agent/editor there shouldn’t be any conflict. However, you must be specific as to what you’re actually selling them. If you’re selling only U.S. English rights you must make sure that’s in your contract. This is important because many authors are finding publishers doing what’s called a rights grab where a publishing company tries to buy up all your book’s licensing rights without paying you adequately for them.  Sadly, there are many stories of authors who have mistakenly sold all of their book’s rights for a few bucks and that’s just wrong.  A book publisher has no business owning the movies rights to your book!
Here are a just few ways you can license a book:

• Digital (Ebooks)
• Print (Paperback and hardcover)
• Foreign language versions
• Audio
• Movie
• Merchandise (T-shirts, toys, posters, etc.)

Agents

Unfortunately, in some countries it’s necessary to have an agent if you want to be published with a legitimate publishing company. There are some literary agencies that specialize in foreign rights sales and are happy to help you for a percentage of your royalties.  Some of these agents subcontract other agents overseas with whom they split a fee with if a property sells.  There are also literary agencies who prefer to deal directly with publishers.

Doing it DIY Style

Recently, several websites have popped up that cater to matching publishers with authors. The most popular ones with indie authors are Pubmatch and IPR License. IPR License has a yearly fee of $79, while Pubmatch, has both free and paid services.

Both sites are relatively new, IPR License was launched in 2012, while Pubmatch was created in 2009 and is co-owned by Publisher’s Weekly.  So neither site has been around for a long period of time.

However, I have yet to find any decent reviews or testimonials from either site. There are no Hugh Howey’s or Colleen Hoovers that have emerged from these places. But that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t try, I just wouldn’t shell out money for the paid services. Go free and check out the site for yourself then, decide what’s best for your book.

So there you have it, a complicate subject explained as simply as possible. If you have any experience with Pubmatch or IPR License please tell us about it in the comments section. Lord knows, I’d like to know if anyone is having any success.

Getting Sponsorship for Your Self-Published Book Part 2

Sponsorship
Image via Pixabay

Last week, I explained the concept of using a sponsor to help you launch a book so if you missed it, here it is.  Today, I’ll explain the details of how to get a sponsor.

Things You’ll Need to Get Started

A proposal letter is essential, because companies need to know the who, and why of your pitch.  Most authors are already familiar with query and pitch letters so this shouldn’t be too difficult.  You need to convince them that your project is a worthy cause and how they’ll benefit from helping you out.  Keep in mind, they NEED to benefit, or no deal!

How to Target a Sponsor

Depending on what kind of book you have, you will want to choose your sponsor carefully.  For example, you don’t want a beer company sponsoring you if your book is about alcoholism.  Nobody will take you seriously.  Make a long list and I do mean long, because you’ll get a lot of No’s before you get one yes.

Following The Money

The internet is an awesome resource for information, back in the day, you would have to shoot a proposal letter through the mail and wait weeks, if not months, for a response.  But today, most major corporations have websites with a sponsor’s tab, here’s AT&T’s:

If they don’t have a sponsor’s or advertiser’s page then, check out their media kit, or their contact us link.  When contacting them, mention the event or project that you would like them to sponsor, but don’t do a hard sell yet.  This proposal is just an introduction, for example:

Dear Major Corp,

The month of May is national literacy month and the literacy rate in our city is 88% which is outrageous for an industrialized nation.  On May 2nd, I and several other authors plan to start the first Adult Literacy Book Festival at Louis Patton Mall.

We plan on giving out 500 books to those less fortunate and we also have several short story contests planned for the inner city youth of our area.  The winner will win $200 and will be featured on our website.

In attendance will be Sue Jones from Channel 3 six o’clock news and John Doe from the John Doe morning radio show on 106.5 F.M.

If your business would like to participate, and sponsor our authors please check out our website here: OurFakeBookFestivaldotcom

Sincerely,

Struggling Author

Ask them to check out your blog, or website where you’ll conveniently have a page mentioning the details of your proposal.

But don’t limit your research to the internet, check your local paper and magazines then go the business and employment sections to see which companies are being featured.  These companies are doing well and need coverage, that’s why they’re in the paper.  You’ll likely get the names of business owners, CEO’s and people in the marketing department.  Good, if you want to personalize that proposal letter.

A Word of Advice to Newbies:

If you’re a newbie, try a local event and a local business that is doing well.  Trust me, unless you have media training, you will make mistakes.  It’s wise to make those mistakes small, in the local realm, rather than a national stage.  I’ve done plenty of podcasts where authors are sorely unprepared, and nervous.  Sometimes, they don’t have blurbs for their book and stammer their way through the interview even though, we give them a copy of the questions before hand!  There are shows where time is running short, or another guest drops out.  So it’s nice to have a brief blurb as well as an extended version just in case.  You’ll learn this in the little leagues.

This is important, because if this one sponsorship is a success, then you can guarantee you’ll have others in the future with bigger and better sponsors.

Getting Sponsorship for Your Self-Published Book

instagram_42216ba10e
Image via Pixabay

This article was written in 2012, if you want the updated version please go to:  Old School vs New School Crowdfunding: Which One Should Authors Consider and  Affiliate Marketing for Indie Authors to get more info on how to get money for publishing.

Getting a Sponsor Your Book Part 1

When thinking of sponsorships we immediately think of charities, athletes, or musicians, but authors can also use sponsors to launch their books.  Several months ago, I talked about how you could get others to pay for your self-publishing expenses through crowd funding and today, I would like to expound a little further.  Launching a book is expensive and most publishing companies won’t lift a finger to help with the expenses.  That’s where a sponsor can save the day or your career!

What You Need

Start with a business plan that is realistic for the launching of your book.  What are your goals both short and long term?  If you’re self-published, how much money did you spend on editing, marketing, printing etc?  How much will you need to sell in order to break even?  Now, how much can you sell realistically?

You can’t skip this step, because your sponsor will want to know what you’ll do to make this a success.  Nobody will put money in a sinking ship!  Besides, if you don’t know the details about your own business, why would they trust you with theirs?

What Can a Sponsor Do for You?

Many authors have used sponsors to get into book festivals, fundraisers, and even start book tours they otherwise wouldn’t have been able to.  In cases like this, an author puts information about a company’s product, or service on their signing tables, or by even putting company logos on their book.  In exchange, the author gets free travel and accommodations which isn’t a bad deal.  So, if you always wanted a booth at that giant book fair in New York, this might be your ticket there.

What Can You Really Offer?

Most companies want visibility, they want media coverage, and buzz from this arrangement.  You’ll have to provide eyes and ears for their product or marketing campaign.  Can you realistically do this?

In most cases, a sponsor is using you to do a grass roots campaign in a town or community.  Usually, somewhere they haven’t reached.  They don’t expect you to sell zillions of their products, but they do want a serious effort.  That possibly means blogging about them, or doing interviews where you just happen to mention them.  If you can’t provide that, then sponsorship isn’t for you!

The Artistic Hustle

The trick with a sponsorship, is remembering to promote your book while, promoting a product that you may, or may not be passionate about.  Celebrities do it all the time, just ask Snookie, or Lady Gaga.

Even with all her success, Lady Gaga’s record company is not going to pitch in a dime for her concert tours which is how she makes her money.  Why?  Because the record company won’t get a big enough cut to validate the risk.  People get sick, bad weather happens, controversy arises and they can easily get left in the cold.  The record AND publishing industry make their money selling books and music, not by promoting their artists!

This isn’t unusual, in the 17th and 18th centuries, painters often were sponsored by wealthy families and in return, they would paint their portraits for free.  Sound familiar?  Your struggles aren’t unusual, and are actually quite normal.  That starving artist image had to come from somewhere right?

In part 2, I’ll explain how to approach a sponsor.