Category Archives: Marketing

Five Steps to Write Back Cover Copy For Your Book

The purpose of back cover copy is to sell your book. It’s essentially ad copy, a pitch to entice people to read your book. You must hook the reader, telling them enough to intrigue them without revealing too much.

If your book will be self-published, you need to write the back cover copy yourself. If you’re going with a traditional publisher, then they’ll do it for you, right? Usually, but who knows your book better than you? Who has the most at stake? You.

That’s why you should write your back cover copy. But writing it for your own book is hard. Although it’s only a couple hundred words, it takes hours to do a good job; don’t rush it. It is an art.

Here are five steps to writing back cover copy:

1) Research:

  • Start at a bookstore or library. Focusing on either fiction or nonfiction, according to what type of book you wrote, study the back cover blurb on lots of books. Note what you like and don’t like. What causes you to want to read the book? What turns you off? Also notice layouts. Some back covers have an author photo or graphic. Others include short endorsements. These elements leave less space for your blurb, resulting in 150 to 300 words to pitch your book.
  • Next, analyze back cover copy of books you’ve read. Compare what the back cover proclaims to what’s in the book. This provides insight into honing your message and hooking the reader.
  • Then, consider back cover copy of books that will compete against yours, especially the successful ones. This will help you home in on what you need to include in yours.

2) Brainstorm: With your research in hand block out time to brainstorm. Record every idea. Don’t evaluate; just write. For nonfiction, you may get ideas from your thesis sentence, introduction, or conclusion. For all books, consider your elevator pitch.

3) Write and Rewrite: Pick the best ideas and write your first draft. Work on a couple of different angles. Over time, rework these ideas, polishing them into back cover gems.

4) Seek Input: Ask trusted friends (who will give you honest feedback) what they think. How do they react? Would your pitch entice them to read your book? Don’t apply everything everyone tells you; discern which advice to follow.

5) Test Your Results: After applying their input, take the best two blurbs and ask people which one they prefer. This will be your back cover copy. (Save the other versions, content you didn’t use, and your brainstorming session. You will need it later for something else.)

Have you ever written back cover copy? What struggles or advice can you share?

Peter DeHaan is an author, publisher, and editor. He gives back to the writing community through this blog. Get insider info from his monthly newsletter. Sign up today!

Seven Tips to Get a Headshot You Can Use

Last week I asked, “Do you have a professional headshot?” and urged you to take care of this now and not put it off. Here are seven tips to have a successful photoshoot, many of which I learned the hard way:

  1. Hire a professional: A friend with an expensive camera won’t do; a professional photographer with experience taking headshots is essential; ask to see their portfolio before committing.
  2. Envision the results: What look do you want to achieve? Will it be professional or casual, an inside setting or outdoors, playful or pensive?
  3. Plan extensively: This includes hair, wardrobe changes, possible props (a pen, coffee cup, glasses), setting (a desk, table, park bench, trees), and ideas for poses. If you see author photos you like, show these to the photographer and discuss how they apply to you.
  4. Prepare to pay: In my experience, cost tracked directly to quality and usability. Yet we must also balance this expense with our budget. As a starting point, expect to pay at least a few hundred dollars, likely more. Consider the cost of senior pictures; our author headshots are more important.
  5. Trust the photographer: A professional will likely twist and contort our body into the most uncomfortable and awkward positions, but usually, the results are good. Be compliant, willing, and flexible; do what they say. Go with it and don’t object; they know what they’re doing. However…
  6. Know when to say no: When a photographer asked me to remove my glasses, I objected. If I’m not sleeping, I’m wearing my glasses. I never take them off, don’t twirl them, or push them onto my head. A shot without glasses may look good to someone who doesn’t know me, but it won’t be me. If I show up at a book signing wearing glasses but my book and publicity shots don’t include them, readers will feel the disconnect.
  7. Relax and smile: It takes a while for a photographer to coax some usable shots out of my non-accommodating self. Knowing that I mentally prepare to be as easy to photograph as I possibly can. (When they say, “Ooh, these are some really great shots,” I know they’re actually trying to loosen me up.)

With proper planning, having a headshot taken can be an enjoyable time and produce great results. Then we can enjoy the process and expect great photos.

Peter DeHaan is an author, publisher, and editor. He gives back to the writing community through this blog. Get insider info from his monthly newsletter. Sign up today!

Do You Have a Professional Headshot?

In “Every Author Needs a Bio,” I said the best time to write our author bio is now,before we need it. The same holds true in getting a professional headshot. Not only will we need one for our book jacket, but we’ll also need one prior to publication for PR, marketing, online profiles, promotion, and even business cards.

Don’t put this off until the last minute because a good headshot requires planning: finding an experienced photographer, scheduling the photoshoot, locating the right setting, determining what look we want to achieve, and fine-tuning our appearances, such as hair, makeup (for the ladies, but maybe men, too—seriously), clothes, and accessories. While a great photographer may help guide these decisions, many will not; they’ll set a date and start clicking.

Twice, I’ve tapped a friend with a nice camera. Although the results were good, they weren’t good enough for a book cover—both in terms of the quality of the picture (resolution, lighting, and background) and the quality of the pose. While I did use them for social media, websites, and other nonessential situations, they weren’t acceptable for professional marketing.

Three times I’ve hired professional photographers. The results directly related to cost. The one that charged the highest sitting fee produced the most usable shots. These photos had the quality to appear on a book jacket. I used her pictures for several years, but with a change of glasses and a few more gray hairs, I eventually had to update them.

The second photographer, at half the price, produced a couple of usable shots. I used one for my websites, business cards, and book proposals, even for an e-book, but it wasn’t quite good enough for a printed book.

The third photographer, the cheapest of the three, produced no usable pictures. I wasted my money and time. (She did do a few retakes, which I used for online publicity shots.)

Give some thought to having a professional photo taken; next week I’ll share seven pointers in getting the most out of your photoshoot.

Peter DeHaan is an author, publisher, and editor. He gives back to the writing community through this blog. Get insider info from his monthly newsletter. Sign up today!

Every Author Needs a Bio

Your book is going to need an author bio. The best time to write your bio is before you need it. That means you should start now. (See “Why You Should Write Your Author Bio Now.”)

For a short piece, writing our own bio (that is, a concise autobiography) can be confoundingly frustrating. One challenge is that our bio is about us, a topic we’re intimately familiar with, having much more information then we have room to share. How do we condense a lifetime into a few hundred words?

Next is the task of making it interesting to readers—in a couple of sentences. Last is figuring out a way to let readers know our qualifications without sounding as if we’re bragging. Also, our author’s bio is written in the third person. For writers used to the first person, switching to third adds another complication.

Start by doing some recon at your local library or bookstore. Go to the section that will contain your future book and start reading the author’s bios on the back cover or inside flap. Look for patterns: the flow, what’s included, and what’s not.

Notice the writing style. Is it formal, playful, informative, academic, light? Which tone resonates best with you? Also, estimate the number of words. Bios can range from fifty words up to a couple hundred. What length are the ones you like most?

A great bio – and we all need a really great bio—is seldom penned in one sitting. It needs time to age, for it to ruminate as we seek to make it better, honing in on the essential message we wish to convey about who we are.

I’ve been working on mine for a year and am still not satisfied. Though I hope you find success quicker, I suggest you start working on yours today! Don’t make your author bio an afterthought you throw together at the last moment.

Peter DeHaan is an author, publisher, and editor. He gives back to the writing community through this blog. Get insider info from his monthly newsletter. Sign up today!

The Author Brand: As an Author, You are Your Brand

Many authors are uncomfortable with the idea of branding themselves. I know I was. But the reality is that as authors, we are our brand. Yes, there are some exceptions, but they are rare.

And before you decide to become one of those exceptions, ask yourself this one critical question: “If I create a brand for my writing, am I content to write about that brand for the rest of my life?” If you can’t make that commitment or change your mind, then be aware that all your efforts to build and promote that brand will be wasted. But if we brand ourselves, it can follow us, whatever we write in the future.

Whether you brand yourself as an author or decide to build a brand around a topic, series, or field, there is an art to building a brand. These articles from Article Weekly will help you get started as you consider building your author brand:

I hope you find these articles helpful in building your author brand!

Peter DeHaan is an author, publisher, and editor. He gives back to the writing community through this blog. Get insider info from his monthly newsletter. Sign up today!

Capture Email Addresses

A key to using your website as a book-selling, platform-building tool is to capture email addresses. You will use these email addresses to regularly communicate with your followers, such as through a monthly newsletter. Keep them up-to-date on your writing and share interesting or helpful content. Then, when your book is ready, let them know. They will be more likely to read your email because you have been in regular contact with them.

Offer Them Something: You can just ask for email addresses, but most people won’t share this information without receiving something in return, such as a free e-book or a subscription to your newsletter.

Provide Assurance: For those who may waiver, assure them you won’t misuse their email address. Let them know you will not share it in any way with anyone else, that you will not spam them with irrelevant content, and that they can unsubscribe at any time.

Follow Through: Provide what you promised (a free book or newsletter), when you promised (either right away or each month), and do what you promised (don’t share their email address or spam them; honor unsubscribes).

Logistics: When they give you their email address, have them sign up directly through your email platform. (I use MailChimp.) It will automatically handle the verification (that is, the double opt-in procedure), handle unsubscribes, and maintain the database. Use the final step in the sign-up process to provide a link to your e-book or incentive.

Example: You may have noticed, that I’m not following my own advice on this site, but I am doing it on my main website and blog. So check that out as an example – and feel free to sign-up for my newsletter and get my free e-book!

Peter DeHaan is an author, publisher, and editor. He gives back to the writing community through this blog. Get insider info from his monthly newsletter. Sign up today!

Less is More in Website Design

In my post The First Step in Building Your Platform I laid out a number of recommendations for a website, as the foundation for a book-promoting platform. The first three were to make our sites responsive to mobile devices, remove the clutter, and delete slow plugins. In short, embrace the concept that less is more.

Minimalist designs are in; including every possible item on one page is out.

As more and more people access websites from smartphones, we want to make it easy for them to find what they want, access it quickly, and not introduce needless delays. By showing them less, we give them more.

A few years ago, I hired a website designer to provide a fresh and up-to-date look for my main website. Although pleased with the results, even from the beginning it felt a bit cluttered. Last month, I unveiled a new look for the site, embracing the less is more mantra. As a bonus, I retained all key information and simplified the navigation. Although I’ll never proclaim it as finished, I like what I see.

Peter DeHaan is an author, publisher, and editor. He gives back to the writing community through this blog. Get insider info from his monthly newsletter. Sign up today!

The Third Key of Book Publishing is Marketing

There are three facets of book publishing: writing the book, producing the book, and promoting the book. This final step of marketing is one that most authors would just as soon skip. But if people are to read what we write, we must promote our work.

Here are some articles about marketing to help with the task of book promotion. Though these offer generic marketing instructions, the principles are applicable to authors and publishers. As you read them, think about your book as a business.

These articles from Article Weekly will help get us started:

This list is just a start, but it will help us to just that: get started.

Peter DeHaan is an author, publisher, and editor. He gives back to the writing community through this blog. Get insider info from his monthly newsletter. Sign up today!

Six Pointers about Book Promotion

The new reality in book publishing is that authors need to promote their own books. This is true for both self-published and traditionally published authors. Yes, traditional publishers may make some efforts to market your book, but the bulk of the work falls to the author; publishers expect this, and writers need to accept this.

Here are some thoughts about book marketing and promotion:

1) You Must Promote: As I covered in the introduction, authors must promote their books if they are to realize any degree of success. Accept this reality, and embrace it. Now the issue becomes how.

2) Follow What Others Have Done: Seek out other authors like you: others writing in your genre and at the same point in their career. Look at what worked for them, and emulate it. These things may also work for you. However, keep in mind two thoughts: 1) Only copy what worked; don’t copy what didn’t (it’s amazing how often people actually do this); 2) Don’t mimic an author who writes in a different genre or who is better known than you; their techniques may not apply to your situation.

3) Beware Wary of Courses: We gravitate towards success. When a best-selling author offers to share with you—often for a price—the exact steps he or she took to promote their book, ask two questions: 1) Is their situation the same as yours? 2) Have they done this more than once? This isn’t to imply that all book promotion courses are bad, but if the instructor hasn’t done this over and over for multiple authors, it’s more likely that their experience is more a factor of fate and not something that you can replicate. There are exceptions – but not often.

4) Make a Plan: As the saying goes, “Failure to plan is planning to fail.” When it comes to marketing your book, don’t wing it. You must have a plan and you must execute it with precision.

5) Follow Your Heart: Sometimes you need to do what’s right for you and not follow conventional advice. If one method of book promotion will suck the life out of you, then avoid it. Don’t pursue a mismatched marketing plan that will leave you dry and wanting to abandon your art. Though this may mean fewer sales, it will also make for a happier you.

6) Individual Results May Vary: What worked for one author in one situation will work differently for you. Promoting books can be turned into a formula but success cannot. Success is part effort, part plan, part circumstances, and part providence.

By approaching the marketing of your book with an informed perspective and realistic expectations, promoting your book can be less taxing and more productive.

What concerns you most about promoting your book?

Peter DeHaan is an author, publisher, and editor. He gives back to the writing community through this blog. Get insider info from his monthly newsletter. Sign up today!