We have all heard the phrase “Never judge a book by its cover”, the point being that we should look a little deeper than just face value, however, at the same time we know that advertising (and this is what your book cover is) works. The leading brands in every avenue of industry spend a great deal of time and effort in creating advertising that speaks, and most importantly, relates to their audience, that connection is what can help to give the consumer the motivation in selecting their product (pricing is also a factor, but in a market where prices are similar, your advertising is what will make the decision for the buyer).
When you look at the publishing world and especially that of self-publishing, it is clear to see that the online bookshelves are saturated with indie publications. Bowker shows the amount of self-publishing titles have grown from 1.2 million to 1.6 million per year (this equates to over 4300 books being published every day), these numbers are astonishing.
With the massive increase in books being published the competition for any new or existing author is now vast, to think that on the day you publish your book, there will be another 4300+ titles also hitting the online bookstores. If you haven’t considered competition, maybe you should.
Choice is of course great for all of us as consumers, you can be sat in your pjs on the couch and in a second have downloaded a great book to read (I know I do this all the time), but when you scan through Amazon’s book store (making sure that you have narrowed the field a little with ratings and genre), you have an endless choice of books, and the very first thing that will grab your attention will be the cover.
If the cover looks unprofessional, rushed and as though corners have been cut, what do you think people will think of the book’s interior content?
When you go into a supermarket there’s a reason why people don’t buy odd shaped or blemished fruit and vegetables, we assume that if it looks odd then it’s going to be odd on the inside too, the growers and supermarkets know this, which is why everything looks highly manicured. We are all biased based upon the presentation of nearly everything, research shows that we make a lasting opinion of someone new within seven seconds of meeting them, further research indicates that this opinion starts to form within a tenth of a second. The point being, we judge what we view very quickly.
How you present your book will have an effect upon an audience, yes, the ratings will also help, but there are many other books available with five star ratings and great looking covers, so to compete effectively you should ensure that your book’s cover also looks professional and fitting for your chosen genre.
Along with a professional book cover design you should ensure that the title, subtitle, and blurb also hook your reader into wanting to know more about the book. A great title combined with an appealing subtitle will intrigue the reader, these two elements are important in selling the book and should be considered thoroughly before deciding upon. The same goes for the blurb, it has the job of further selling the book (now that they have it in their hands), you can learn more in our article on writing a great blurb.
Remember, we judge so much on first impressions, your book will be no different, so in an age of massive choice, give your book the advantage it deserves.
If you are trying to get your book published through the more traditional means of an established publishing house, you may find it incredibly hard to get it read by an editor if you’re ‘going it alone’. Most publishers rely upon literary agents bringing them manuscripts, these agents will have developed relationships within the publishing world, have specialized within just several specific genres, have their fingers on the pulse of current trends and understand how to best shape a book for an audience.
So, finding and working with a literary agent will give you a massive advantage when publishing your book, it will help in giving a clear path to not only polishing your work to its most professional version, but also with opening doors to the relevant parties who can make it a success.
Understanding you need an agent is one thing, getting one (a good one that is) is another.
The good news is that agents do in fact need authors, without authors they wouldn’t have a job of course, however, most agents get inundated with emails, letters and manuscripts from hundreds of authors every day, so you have a lot of competition even in getting an agent to represent you.
But first, you need to find an agent
You may or may not already know people within the publishing world, so you might want to ask those you do know if they have any contacts or recommendations. However, if you don’t get any luck here, don’t worry, there are other ways to find agents.
Firstly, you could try several publications which are more dedicated towards the publishing industry, books such as Jeff Herman’s Guide to Book Publishers, Editors and Literary Agents, Writer’s Market and/or Guide to Literary Agents both by Robert Lee Brewer are certainly good places to start.
There are also many websites which will give you the details of agents, sites such http://aaronline.org/, https://www.publishersmarketplace.com/ and also https://agentquery.com/default.aspx are three sites which have used by many authors and are certainly worth taking a look at.
Many agents also attend book and literary festivals along with writer’s conferences, these are great environments for authors and are well worth going to (even if you’re not looking for an agent), however, it should give the chance to meet with an agent or listen to a talk given by one, this information is invaluable.
You can also look in books which are in your own genre, many will have details within their acknowledgements section, some will list their agents.
Social media is another way to find agents, it can also help give an understanding of their personalities and which would fit your style of writing best.
Once you have a list of agents who are relevant to your genre, you need to start reaching out to them.
But first things first, before you reach out to anyone, your book has to be finished and highly polished, if you send a manuscript (or chapters of one) which are incomplete, in need of editing and full of typos, your chance of success will be zero.
So, before you do anything, get your book edited, proofread, and refined to its absolute best.
Check each agent you plan to contact to ensure that you are doing so via their preferred method, for example, if they only except applications by email, don’t then send a 500 page manuscript printed on letter sized paper through the mail.
You should then send a query letter, this needs to be professional and be a one page pitch for you and your book, you’ll also need to include a synopsis for your novel which should be no more than one or two pages in length. For non-fiction, these synopses are a little more in-depth and should be more substantial in length.
You should also include a chapter of your book, for fiction it is recommended that you send the first chapter, with nonfiction you can send any.
Please remember that most agents will not accept a full manuscript being sent to them at first, send a query letter with samples, when in doubt, always refer to the agent’s own submission guidelines.
Be prepared for rejection, the best authors in the world have had to deal with this, it is normal, however, if you have sent out hundreds of applications/query letters and you’re still not getting anything back, you may want to go to your editor (or a new one) and get it reevaluated for any additional revisions it may need.
Book cover designers.