3 Tips to Help You Deal with Returns
FACT: The average return rate in the book industry is almost 30 percent—and it’s close to 40 percent for mass merchandisers like Wal-Mart and Costco.
Behold the Publisher’s Paradox: One of the best ways to increase book sales is to roll out big supplies supported by big publicity. One of the best ways to reduce book returns is to aim for steady, consistent sales and to be conservative with supply. Can these two truths find a way to coexist, to live together in peace, harmony, and net profits? The honest answer is . . . well, let’s just say it’s tough. To better understand the relationship between targeted promotions and returns, let’s take a brief look at the buying process.
National retail and wholesale book buyers use computer programs to evaluate recent demand and automatically generate new orders based on a simple mathematical algorithm. Spikes in sales that coincide with targeted publicity campaigns cause these computer programs to inflate orders in the weeks that follow a campaign’s conclusion—even though demand may have returned to normal levels. The result is overstocked shelves and, later, returns.
What to do:
(1) Sequence your promotional campaigns to sustain the steadiest demand possible in a given region.
(2) Understand that this return phenomenon is largely a function of a “dumb” computerized buying process, and adjust your forecasts, budgets, and mental expectations accordingly. Returns are an unhappy fact of life in the book industry, but they don’t have to catch you by surprise.
(3) Always inform your distributor of publicity plans and media hits so they can manage the supply of books as efficiently as possible.
Trackback URL for this post:http://www.greenleafbookgroup.com/trackback/1965
Who Moved My Cheese?, Rich Dad, Poor Dad, Chicken Soup for the Soul—their covers make self-respecting graphic designers cringe, yet they have astronomical sales. It’s common sense that attractive covers invite book shoppers and ugly covers repel them— so why do these unsightly titles consistently outsell their better-looking shelfmates? (And why do their creators keep producing similar-looking books?)
The simple answer is that, in a hypercompetitive, overcrowded market, branding trumps beauty.
What Is a Branded Book?
What exactly is a “branded” book? Well, a successful brand must be
- easily recognizable,
- and distinct from its competition.
But branding is more than a look based on a typeface, a color combination, or a trim size. These are merely symbols of a solid brand. In essence, branding is a perception. A branded book is perceived as having something special that nothing else can offer. When someone who knows the Chicken Soup brand walks into a bookstore to purchase an inspirational book for her teenager, she doesn't say, "Can you tell me where I might find an inspirational book for my teenager?" She says, "Do you have a Chicken Soup book for teenagers?"
A brand is an implied promise to the consumer that they'll consistently receive a particular experience. This is why publishers don't like authors to change their writing styles or cover designs too much, because change might upset the consumer who feels that the author’s brand hasn't delivered. This is especially true for nonfiction and genre fiction. Think of Sue Grafton’s A Is for Alibi series—even if you only saw R Is for Ricochet, you’d immediately know B through Q were also available, all with the same suspense trademarks. And you’d know what you’d expect them to look like.
A consistent look tells the consumer that your new book has the same or more merit than your previous book. But that still leaves us with the question of why so many successfully branded books look so bad.
How Ugly Books Are Born
The typical scenario goes like this: Author writes book. Book becomes huge seller. Book goes into reprint many, many times, keeping the same cover for recognizability’s sake. Author writes second book. To capitalize on the success of her first book, she and her designer develop a similar cover. By this time, trends have changed, and the original cover and title are out of date.
But that doesn’t really matter. Or, more accurately, it doesn’t matter as much as the brand equity the first book has gained over the ensuing years. The look and title may not be attractive by the day’s standards, but they are familiar and capitalize on consumer loyalty. The publishers aren’t relying on the cover to attract a consumer—they’re using it to remind the consumer.
That’s why so many “ugly” books are installments in powerful, consistent series—because the customer remembers and recommends the first book and associates it with the following books. If the first book doesn’t build a significant base, the design is much less likely to be repeated, and there’s little danger of it going out of date.
Why Their Brands Won’t Work for You
Many people see the ways brands work for well-known series and decide that’s the look they want for their books, too. But your book’s content is original, and it deserves a cover tailor-made to market its unique message. Imitation is not branding. Nor is it a sound strategy for marketing a book in an overcrowded industry. A copycat cover may do more harm than good by making a book indistinguishable from its competition.
Do what the bestsellers did: Take a great book, give it a unique look, and never disappoint your customers. Take the lead and soon enough others will want to copy you.
How to Brand Your Book
STEP 1: Create a great product.
STEP 2: Figure out what makes your brand unique and stick to it.
STEP 3: Be consistent in marketing your brand. All aspects of your brand need to communicate one core message. Your book’s content and visuals need to back that message up.
STEP 4: Deliver on the brand. Consumers are fickle. If you disappoint them, you'll lose them. Whatever your brand image, make sure that it signifies quality.
STEP 5: Continue to evaluate, build, and refine your brand. The only way you'll know you're doing it right is by the success you achieve. Trends come and go. Amend your look only when what you have in the bookstore is inconsistent with your brand.
Trackback URL for this post:http://www.greenleafbookgroup.com/trackback/1962
Rick Warren could not have anticipated the success of The Purpose-Driven Life, his Christian life manual that is closing in on a record-breaking 25 million copies sold. So widespread is the phenomenon of the book that Warren, head of a massive empire of followers, is now well on his way to creating what he calls the first “Purpose-Driven nation” by reforming Rwanda from the top down.
Maybe you won’t get to be head of your own small African country, but by tapping into the same market as Rick Warren, you may be able to see a book with the right themes blossom. According to the American Association of Publishers, the religious book market grew at a rate of 8.5 percent per year between 1997 and 2004, and Christian titles are still breaking into the mainstream and flying off shelves.
Here are some steps that can take you and your book down the straight-and-narrow path to success:
Get a Christian Code. (This has nothing to do with Dan Brown, by the way.) Labeling your book with a Christian Product Category (CPC) code will make smaller Christian retailers more eager to stock your book. These codes used to consist of a super category, primary category, and sub-category printed just above and right-justified with the bar code (e.g., GENERAL INTEREST / OTHER RELIGIONS / CULTS). Recently, the Christian Retail Solutions Committee (CRSC) approved the new BISAC code list, which now integrates CPC codes into this industry-wide cataloging system. The industry hopes the new codes will both simplify inventory management for independent Christian retailers and facilitate integration of Christian titles into mainstream bookstores. Many found the old CPC listings confusing and redundant; accordingly, 20 percent have been altered in some way and 10 percent have been eliminated in the merge with BISAC codes. Changes take effect January 2007.
Fit in. There’s no rule that says your book has to cite a certain number of New Testament verses to be sold in Christian stores. CPC codes actually make room for quite a wide variety of topics (Romance, Action/Thrillers, Westerns, Personal Growth, Time Management, and my personal favorite, Whodunits). That said, emphasizing Christian elements that aren’t there is exploitative and strongly discouraged.
Spread the Word. Networking works wonders in the Christian community. Any chance to join relevant organizations or write for denominational publications can increase your name recognition among Christian consumers and get you closer to distribution through Christian channels. Attend the annual Christian Booksellers Association (CBA) conference and make contacts. Speak to church groups. The Christian community will be eager to evangelize about a good book that fits their worldview.
Join the Club. It’s a big draw to Christian bookstores, such as the 124-store LifeWay chain, if you happen to be with a distributor affiliated with the CBA. The CBA is pretty selective about who it works with, but you can have your trade distributor submit your book to Spring Arbor, a division of Ingram which carries Christian titles, to be CBA flagged. You may need to mark relevant passages to help them decide. Once you’re flagged, you will be part of a list from which most Christian bookstores order inventory. You can also try submitting your book to local Christian stores; LifeWay has a program through which you can give a title to a regional manager to be considered for local store placement. Make sure no child labor or breaches of Fair Labor Standards Act were involved in the manufacturing of your product before submitting it to LifeWay and other stores; this is one of the things they check out before accepting a title.
Getting your book into Christian outlets can be the catalyst that helps it succeed. Interested browsers come to topical stores like these for the wide selection and a confidence that all the merchandise has been preapproved by like-minded people. A Barna Research Group study identified Protestant senior pastors as one of the most active book-buying segments of the population, typically purchasing twenty books per year, or quadruple the amount purchased by the average book buyer—and the majority preferred to shop at exclusively Christian stores. Pastor recommendation can really help a book take off, and the practice of using books as church curriculum can create buzz of biblical proportions (a big player in the “Purpose-Driven” craze).
The Christian shopper is part of an active book-buying niche; demand for Christian books is steady and strong. Learning to position your book correctly can help open it up to a vast, involved, and interconnected audience. And that’s good news for everyone.
Trackback URL for this post:http://www.greenleafbookgroup.com/trackback/1960
Picture the worst English teacher you ever had. The one who made you diagram sentences and say "May I" instead of "Can I" and never, ever laughed, even if you packed five vocabulary words into one demonstration sentence. The one who made you read The Scarlet Letter. The one who told you that everything you wrote from that moment forward had to have an introduction, three body paragraphs, and a conclusion to sum up your claims, preferably beginning, “In conclusion . . .”
How would you like to break some rules you learned in that class? What if it turned out that you never really needed to follow them in the first place?
Here are some of the lies your English teacher may have told you—grammar “rules” that are simply myths perpetuated through hearsay and folklore and transmitted to generations of students. Let the deception stop with you.
- You can begin a sentence with “and” or “but.” There’s no reason not to. You shouldn’t begin all of your sentences with “and” or “but,” but if it sounds right, don’t fight it.
- You can end a sentence with a preposition—“with,” “to,” “for,” “against,” any of them. The idea that you shouldn’t end a sentence with a preposition comes from the fact that you shouldn’t in Latin. English is not Latin. In many of the most natural and simple constructions in English, a preposition falls at the end of the sentence. Don’t let a dead language complicate what’s not complicated.
- You can split an infinitive. Some poor misguided souls try to follow this rule, even to the point of phrases like “to go boldly where no one has gone before,” or “to reach home finally,” instead of “to boldly go” and “to finally reach.” Don’t let this so-called correct construction make your sentences weak and awkward.
Now that you know the truth, one quick reminder: these techniques are best used in moderation, just like other constructions. But don’t let misinformation from your youth stilt your prose and cripple your sentences. For invigorating, natural writing, unlearn these silly superstitions and rediscover how to write what sounds right. It’s a freeing experience—and with no Gorgon of Grammar breathing down your neck, it’ll be much easier this time around.
Trackback URL for this post:http://www.greenleafbookgroup.com/trackback/1948
Contributed by Jane Atkinson
How do you turn your success as an author into a speaking career? Here are 8 simple tips to make the transition painless and profitable.
1. Find Out Who Will Pay
First, you need to consider whether someone will pay for the information or expertise you have to offer. People offering kudos on spyour book is great for confidence and book sales, but when they offer to pay you to speak to their organizations, you know you’re onto something.
Whether your topic is motivational, inspirational, or based on a business expertise, you need to do your homework to make sure your topic is one that the marketplace values—and, more important, will pay to hear. But while content is immensely important, style is usually what differentiates you from the crowd and will increase your fee quickly. Consider your style. Are your technique and presentation strong enough to make you a pro?
Once you’ve done your research and know you are ready to enter the speaking industry, follow the tips in the rest of this article to get started.
2. Make Freebies Count
Get out and speak to anyone who will listen—for free—but only for a set period of time. The best way to turn a free speech into paid engagements is to ask the audience for help from the platform. I call it the “help me speech.” It’s two simple sentences that you can include right before the closing of your speech: “As you can see I am passionate about this topic. If you know of any company or association that could benefit from this material, please hand me your business card before you leave.” That’s it. Then use those business cards to follow up and build a database for future marketing.
I remember my first job as an agent in the speaking industry. My speaker handed me a stack of cards she had acquired through her help me speech. I spent three months working through that pile, and it filled her schedule for the next three years.
3. Develop a Killer Speech
A killer speech is the best form of marketing. No flashy brochure, no innovative postcard, no cutesy giveaway can top it. Audiences will remember a great speech that motivated or moved them. Focus more time and energy on having a great speech in the first three years of your professional career. You will increase your odds of success dramatically.
4. Broadcast Your Credibility
Put together a bio that will establish you as an expert in your field. (Being an author is definitely a plus.) It needs to establish why clients should hire you over all the other speakers they might consider. You’ll want to position yourself as an expert first and a speaker second. Brian Palmer of National Speakers Bureau in Chicago says, “Clients don’t want to hire speakers; they want to hire smart people who happen to speak.”
5. Develop Professional Marketing Materials
In order to get booked, you’ll need to develop materials to promote your services. A website is your first priority. Print materials may not be necessary, depending on your market. Many speakers start with basic websites that allow visitors to see exactly what they do, whom they do it for, and how they do it. Always test your marketing materials with prospective clients before launching them. Ask this question: “Would this piece make you want to hire me?”
6. Establish an Appropriate Fee
Establish a speaking fee and post it on the wall of your office. You don’t want to be pulling a number out of the air every time you have a conversation with a prospective client. In order to set a fee, do some market research. Ask other speakers for advice—and ask clients, too. Remember, the client is paying for the twenty years of experience that goes into your speech, not the sixty minutes that you actually speak.
Fees are truly a state of mind. I once worked for a very successful motivational speaker. When I started working with him, he was earning $2,500 per speech. We set some goals and decided we wanted to aim for $10,000 per speech. While he agreed at the time, I found out five years later that he thought I was dreaming. But he set his mind on the goal and there was no stopping him. Today, that speaker earns more than $1,000,000 per year in speaking fees.
Just like books, speaking requires a sales and marketing strategy. Define your target market, start making the calls, and send your website link or marketing materials to people who could hire you. The key to your success is going to be consistency and clarity. Touching the same group of people four times a year could pay off handsomely down the road.
8. Match Client Needs, Don’t Sell
When talking to prospective clients, your goal is to see if your service matches their needs. It helps to have some sales skills, but knowing that you won’t always be right for every client can alleviate some jitters you might have about cold calling. Be clear on the value you offer before picking up the phone.
A good technique to keep you focused is to post a list of the values you bring to organizations. For example:
- I provide a strategy for increasing sales.
- My strategy covers three areas that are integral to selling success: authenticity, integrity, and value.
- My average client’s ROI (return on investment) is a 25 percent increase in customer loyalty.
Starting any new business is a tricky venture, and small business skills, such as strategic planning and cash flow management, are required. But knowing that you have a killer speech and a valuable message to offer the world, and marketing that message correctly, will help you move down the path of becoming a handsomely paid professional speaker.
Jane Atkinson has been helping speakers catapult their businesses for more than 15 years. She has worked as a business manager for several high-profile speakers/authors, such as Vince Poscente, Joe Calloway, and boxing legend Sugar Ray Leonard. Jane was also the vice president of International Speakers Bureau in Dallas. Her new book, The Wealthy Speaker: The Proven Formula for Building Your Successful Speaking Business, is available at www.SpeakerLauncher.com.
Trackback URL for this post:http://www.greenleafbookgroup.com/trackback/1947
If you want your book to be a contender, don’t underestimate the importance of your cover—more than any other single factor, it determines whether or not your book sells. The average consumer spends just eight seconds looking at a front cover; consider that your book's "standing eight count." Printing technology gives a cover a potent visual punch. Read on to find out how you can use special effects in sharp, non-tacky ways that will make consumers see stars all the way to the cash register:
Embossing is the process by which a die is used to raise an area of paper to create letterforms, shapes, and textures. There are several types of embossing, including sculptured, multilevel, chiseled, platform, and dome.
- Lightweight Use: Use embossing to emphasize the title.
- Welterweight Use: Emboss images to give them dimension. Or try embossing the edges of faux stickers for a more realistic look.
- Combination Punch: Combine embossing with foil stamping to give a more "finished" look to the foil. (Using foil stamping and embossing together is called “stamp and bump” in printer jargon.)
- Don’t emboss spines or back covers. Embossing really only packs a punch on the front cover.
- If possible, only emboss areas that are close together. This reduces the size of the embossing dye and consequently reduces the printing cost.
Hall of Fame: The Loch by Steve Alten (the title, monster, paddle and boat are embossed)
The foil stamping process covers paper with a super thin, flexible sheet of metal. The foil comes in a range of colors and levels of sheen. Mirror foils are the most reflective, while dusted foils are more subdued, and nonmetallic foils offer shiny solid colors that look a little like plastic. The foil is carried on a plastic sheet and during the printing process, stamping separates the foil from the plastic and makes it adhere to the paper.
- Lightweight Use: Use it to emphasize the title. Foil can also be used in decorative elements.
- Welterweight Use: Printing ink over foil is a very dramatic effect. "Ink on foil" can be done on a small area or over the entire cover. For more information about ink on foil, check out Cutting Edge Technology Guaranteed to Make Your Book Cover Pop.
- Heavyweight Use: Foil stamp the entire cover and print on top of the ink.
- When using foil over the entire cover, use opaque white ink to cover the foil in specific areas where you don't want the foil to show (for example the area for the ISBN barcode).
- Foil stamping is the most effective way to achieve a metallic look on uncoated paper. Do not use metallic inks on uncoated paper stocks. The rough texture of the paper absorbs the ink and eliminates the metallic look.
Holographic (or diffraction) foils have a "rainbow" or patterned light reflection.
- Heavyweight Use Only: Use holographic foils with caution. Holographic foils can overwhelm a design and look tacky fast! However, used in the right way, they can be show-stoppers.
Uncoated Specialty Stocks
Uncoated paper is usually rough to the touch and is manufactured in a great variety of finishes, colors, and weights.
- Use uncoated papers to create eco-friendly, historical, literary, journalistic, or nostalgic looks.
- Use a photographic texture that mimics a textured or antiqued paper to get the specialty paper look without the cost (example: Season of the Snake by Claire Davis).
- Due to its rough and absorbent surface, uncoated paper becomes dirty more easily than a coated paper. If you opt for a white or light-colored cover design on uncoated paper, be prepared for more damaged/returned books. (Note: That didn’t stop Blink!)
- Remember, metallic inks on uncoated paper lose a lot of their sheen. Opt for foil stamping instead.
Follow these guidelines and your contender will have more than just a fighting chance.
For more information about printing technology, see Cutting Edge Technology Guaranteed to Make Your Book Cover Pop.
Trackback URL for this post:http://www.greenleafbookgroup.com/trackback/1945
Public relations, or PR, plays an integral role in the success of any author trying to increase book sales and visibility in the marketplace. No longer the ugly stepsister to advertising, PR has changed its image and is on the rise. For the budget-conscious author, PR is usually the most cost-effective solution for maximum market penetration. Use the tools below to keep your money in your pocket and your book on the shelf:
1. Online Alternatives
Everyone has a story to tell, a message to promote, and a product to push—and they’re using online media sources to do their bidding. If you aren’t blogging, vlogging, podcasting, or even Googling yourself on a regular basis, then you need to jump on the bandwagon. Americans create an average of fifty thousand blogs a day. That means every twenty-four hours your competitor may be creating a blog to sell his or her message.
The Internet provides a way to promote your message on a global scale, with the ability to reach an unprecedented percentage of the population. According to Redbooks.com, Coca-Cola spends approximately $2.16 billion a year on traditional advertising around the world. New Line Cinema spent less than .5 percent of that amount to promote its new movie Snakes on a Plane. Starting in January of 2006, New Line Cinema started blogging about their new movie and has created a huge cult following. Consumers have since created external blogs and podcasts, all for a movie that will not be released until August and that no one has seen. This same pre-release hype can be applied to authors. Use the popularity of online alternatives to promote your book before the release date. Start a blog and get your blogging friends to write about your book. If Snakes on a Plane can get a cult following, maybe your book can, too.
2. Wham! It’s WOM!
If you follow trends in fashion and retail, then why not follow trends in the world of PR and marketing? Leading the pack of new trendy services offered by marketing and PR agencies is Word of Mouth, or WOM, promotions. WOM starts by eliciting the help of others, often called WOM agents, to spread positive buzz about your product, ultimately leading to the creation of brand ambassadors. How often have you read a book because a friend personally thought you would enjoy it? Probably more times than you can remember. Creating brand ambassadors will help spread the message of your book through your personal network and the networks of your ambassadors. The eMarketer/WOMMA report stated that 43 percent of marketers plan on conducting WOM campaigns in 2006. Companies such as Microsoft, Volkswagen, and Best Buy have all integrated WOM initiatives into their traditional media campaigns. Entire marketing agencies are dedicated to creating WOM promotions by making WOM agents available for purchase, just like media space. Instead of spending money on agency-created WOM agents, create your own. If you look, you probably already have brand ambassadors. Try checking with your parents, friends, and siblings; they have to like your work, so use that to your advantage.
3. Get Branded
J.K. Rowling. Dan Brown. Both authors represent two of the most powerful brands in publishing. Books, movies, video games, and cross-promotional products are all things associated with them. Creating brands raises positive awareness with any product, service, or message and helps in the creation of positive brand ambassadors. Our culture is built on branding—what’s hot and what’s not. Make yourself part of the hot list and create a brand image that is memorable and lasting. Find where you want your position to be in the marketplace and develop a brand position statement. This way, people will talk about you in the light you want them to when you’re not around.
All of these tools run the gamut of prices. If you’re budget conscious, hire an experienced freelancer to help you. If you have money to spend, hire a full-service agency. It will be more expensive with similar results, but agencies have their own brand awareness and respect in the market. If you want more information about the world of PR, I recommend Full Frontal PR by Richard Laermer and The Fall of Advertising and the Rise of PR by Al Ries and Laura Ries. These books offer great insight into the modern world of PR.
Trackback URL for this post:http://www.greenleafbookgroup.com/trackback/1943
1. Flaunt a big platform.
Size matters in our industry because a big platform is one of the few things that can minimize the risk all publishers and distributors assume when they pick up a new title. In the book trade, a platform is defined as any means that can be used to reach readers directly and pull significant sales. An author with a big platform may have a syndicated column in popular publications, a speaking network that reaches tens of thousands of people every year, a database of newsletter subscribers, or a large base of clients or contacts that can guarantee a notable number of sales. Platforms not only ensure a base number of sales, but also give books word of mouth power that keep sales through other channels moving faster and for longer periods of time. When you submit a proposal to an agent, publisher, or distributor, be sure to highlight your current platform and what you plan to do to make it even more powerful. This should be a huge part of your proposal—it is the number one way to attract interest.
2. Get people to watch.
Open your mind, even if you’re an introverted writer. Since media coverage can propel books onto bestseller lists and into mass public consciousness overnight, agents, publishers, and distributors are looking for media savvy authors with big publicity plans. Let me be more specific: radio interviews are fine, but we want authors with good publicists who have big contacts and a clear plan to land solid reviews and print features, as well as big, national television hits. When you create a proposal for an agent, publisher, or distributor, consider offering details. Specify which publicist or PR firm you plan to hire, budget details, and strategy information: What are your primary media targets? Will you tour? What are your strongest media hooks?
3. Show me your “marketing” package.
Come on, don’t be shy. To sell books into our key accounts, publishers and distributors need strong support for every title, so let us see what you’ve got. Three simple ways to prove that your book has a hungry market waiting for it are to (1) cite comp titles—books that are similar to yours—with wild sales and loyal readers, (2) offer a notable marketing budget in support of the publishers and distributors’ efforts, and (3) propose a marketing plan that is diverse. At the end of the day, even the most connected publicist is at the mercy of reviewers, producers, and reporters to get exposure for your book. Build in some guaranteed results: maybe an online marketing campaign that includes Google Ads and banner advertising on sites that reach your target market, animated book trailers (like movie trailers) to be distributed via email and broadcast in alternative outlets such as airplanes or movie theaters, or creative seeding campaigns to generate pre-publication buzz.
You may have noticed that all three turn-ons relate to marketing. That’s no coincidence. Though most unagented proposals focus almost exclusively on content, marketing is the best way for writers to attract agents, publishers, and distributors, and it is often the element that determines whether or not you get a contract. These three tips assume, of course, that your book is marketable. Publishers and distributors operate in a consolidated industry with an oversupply and underdemand for its products, so we are looking for books that will sell big numbers in a mass-market retail environment. To compete, we need books that will get readers’ attention, and often it comes down to the marketability of the content and the author. When you position yourself in your book proposal, keep this in mind and you just might get lucky.
Trackback URL for this post:http://www.greenleafbookgroup.com/trackback/1941
A good fisherman knows that the way to catch a fish is with the right bait, and a good author knows the way to catch a reader is with a great cover. When reviewing concepts with your book designer, be sure to consider my TOP 4 tips that will have your book reeling in readers by the boatload. But first, make sure you’re fishing in the right pond.
When I start a new project I almost always take a trip to the bookstore and spend some time browsing whatever genre I’m designing for. A good cover design needs to fit in and stand out. I make a point to study the new releases. This keeps me on the forefront of trends in the genre, but I also make sure to browse the entire section, to see what trends have lasted over time. Identifying lasting trends is important because it helps me understand what readers expect on a cover. For example, in the mystery/thriller section, some trends include: typography (big and bold), imagery (often a simple object, or a blurred person or scene), color palette (bold, often dark), technology (lots of embossing and ink on foil). Once I identify trends in the genre I think, “How can I create a cover that fits in this group, but stands out as the best?”
Typography is a huge contributor to the overall look and tone of a design. The style, color, and size of typeface you use to communicate the title of your book influences how the reader interprets it. Spend some time exploring type combinations until you achieve the tone you wish to get across to readers. For flap copy, make sure the font is very legible. Remember, you want it to be easy for this fish to bite. If you choose a typeface that is too serifed, too condensed, too scripty, or too screamy, you are preventing your reader from learning about your product—a definite no-no.
In the interest of good flow and balance, I try to keep it down to three typefaces on a cover. There are always exceptions to good rules, but generally a cover using more than three varieties of type can be chaotic and disconnected. For my projects I need a good serif, a sans serif, and sometimes a display font. When choosing a typeface, study the shape of the letters and think about the colors used on the cover. What emotions do they evoke? How do the shapes relate to the content? Is your chosen typeface too masculine or too feminine? Do the edges of the letters taper or are they bold and blocky? All of these factors can affect the tone and mood for readers. I love the new design for Tolstoy’s Anna Karenina. The typography is soft but strong, and works well with the image. This new design makes me want to chuck my old, beat-up copy and buy the classic all over again.
Finding the perfect image is rarely easy. If an original photo shoot is not an option, stock photography is a great resource for designers. Stock image research works best after you have an idea, but sometimes browsing stock sites helps you explore your concept even further by tossing an image into your search results that makes you see your subject in an entirely new way. Some of my favorite stock sites are gettyimages.com for traditional rights-managed and royalty-free stock photography and illustrations, veer.com for trendier and eclectic images, and istockphoto.com for super low-priced, royalty-free photography and illustrations. Many of istock’s images need work before they are cover-ready, but they are a good start and you can’t beat the price.
3. Spine Design
The spine is an often forgotten part of the book cover, but for most books on the shelf it is the only way to lure in potential readers. The spine should be clearly readable from several feet away. It should also be interesting. When a spine contains an intriguing image, color combination, or type treatment, it is more likely to hook a reader into picking your book off the shelf: the first step to victory. I especially like spines that are a continuation of an image from the cover. I always want to know what the rest of the image looks like, so I pick up the book. One way to discern whether your spine makes the cut is to fold your cover and look at it on a bookshelf. James Frey’s A Million Little Pieces, despite all the bad press, has an artful spine design. Everyone remembers the sprinkle-covered hand reaching out across the cover, but when only the spine is visible, the image is sliced beyond recognition, luring the reader into picking it up. The title could be more legible, but the memorable image communicates the designer’s intent, ties the front and back covers together, and is colorful enough to catch a reader’s eye.
Printing technology is that extra pop that attracts your catch. Some common technologies are specialty papers, embossing, using a combination of matte and glossy areas on your cover, and foil stamping. My favorite new technology is printing ink on top of a foil stamp. The foil adds a metallic appeal that is much more dramatic than metallic ink, and the technology allows designers to manipulate the look by printing ink on top of the metallic parts of the cover. Using technologies in fun and innovative ways can really light up your design and communicate your message more clearly.
Don’t let your potential reader be the one that got away. Follow these design tips, and your sales numbers won’t be fish stories.
Trackback URL for this post:http://www.greenleafbookgroup.com/trackback/1938
What’s all the buzz about? Hopefully it’s your book, and it probably is—if your book happens to be about buzz. “Buzz,” or “word-of-mouth marketing” as it is now defined, has become all the rage in book marketing. Publicity is SO yesterday—so 2005. Today’s book marketers are focused on word-of-mouth promotion campaigns to blast books onto bestseller lists, break sales records, and build loyal fan bases for authors.
If by some miracle you haven’t been smothered by the hype surrounding word-of-mouth marketing, here’s the skinny:
“Buzz” or “word-of-mouth” marketing is the exchange between people about a product, place, service, or company. For example, a friend tells you about a great new restaurant she went to last night and recommends you try it. Since your tastes are similar, you are more likely to go on her recommendation than you are to trust the ad you saw in the local paper for the same restaurant.
At one time or another we have all “buzzed” about something to people we know—and sometimes to people we’ve just met. Book marketers have picked up on this, and now all big promotion plans include buzz marketing strategies.
Ready to accept that brown is the new black and buzz is the new Oprah, but not sure where to start or what to do?
The key is to begin at a grassroots level and enlist people you know to pass the word and make an impact.
- Start a seeding campaign. Send out your book to friends and contacts who would like the subject matter, and offer incentives for them to buy copies for others.
- Speak up. Book speaking gigs with every organization you’re involved with and any group that could benefit from your message.
- Use the Internet! Establish an online presence. Start a blog, or advertise on other book or subject-related blogs and websites.
- Send an email blast to your database introducing your book. If you don’t have a database, start one by developing a weekly email newsletter and building a subscription base on your website or at speaking and networking events.
- Look into buzz marketing companies that can help you develop your campaign, such as bzzagent.com. (In the case of this particular company, you need deep pockets for their services and we have heard mixed reviews on their results, but it may be worth exploring.)
Has the recent buzz hype been a bit overwhelming? You bet. In fact, in the tradition of “Bennifer” and “Brangelina,” we even considered dubbing the hooplah “Buzzarketing” or “Muzz.” But, ultimately, we came to respect the power of word-of-mouth marketing and appreciate that at least when our industry over-hypes a trend, it’s something that is smart and effective.
TIP: You don’t have to be a marketing expert to start your buzz campaign. If you need a little extra help or some good ideas, we highly recommend reading The Anatomy of Buzz by Emanuel Rosen. Rosen’s book offers strategies for creating and sustaining word-of-mouth campaigns. Another good one is Buzz Marketing by Mark Hughes, the founder of bzzagent.com.