Your book is complete... but is it?
Now that you have finished your first draft, you’ll want to go back and edit what you’ve written, and at first this can seem like an overwhelming and very daunting task. This is where procrastination can set it, ‘I’ll do it next week…….’ many will say, and the book sits in a file on your laptop, its launch date creeping further and further away.
But it shouldn’t be this way, fine tuning your manuscript is vital if you want to succeed, many authors will use the services of a professional editor (we even know authors who use multiple editors in order to polish their book prior to launch), the main thing is that your manuscript should be edited once you have stopped writing.
As mentioned, many authors will use an editor, and some will do it themselves, it is of course recommended that you get a fresh set of eyes to look at your book in a constructive manner (this is where an editor would really help), but you can edit yourself, you need to be objective and to some degree separate yourself from the obvious personal connection to the book, but if you really want to do it yourself, here are some tips to try and make it a little easier.
Break it down in to smaller pieces
If you intend to sit down and edit the book in one continuous go you may well struggle, break the process down into reviewing/editing one chapter at a time, you will need to pay attention to the overall outline of the narrative, plot & structure, but focusing in on one section of the book makes it a great deal easier to see where changes should be made.
Check your editing
Once you have made any edits make sure you go back and review them properly, in most cases this is worth leaving until the following day, you should give it some time and then re-read what you have just edited, you’ll find that with the element of time your edits will either stand up or you’ll see where you should tweak further.
Scrutinize your content
The process of editing isn’t just about checking for spelling and grammar errors, editing your book is about checking the overall story and ensuring that it makes sense too, so you should ask some questions of the book while working on the edit.
The first and obvious one is… does it make sense or do the plot and subplots go off at crazy tangents that add nothing to the overall narrative of the book?
Are your characters believable? Will your readers be able to connect with them on a real level? Great books have characters who have depth to them, the readers can connect and relate, will they do the same with yours?
Check the structure of your sentences for length, if they are too long (or too short) it can make the reading of your book disjointed or cumbersome, it’s always good to review a couple of best sellers within your genre to obtain an idea of how the big publishing houses prepare their books prior to working on yours.
Look for overused words and phrases within your manuscript, it can be easy (especially when writing a book over a long period of time) to use the same phrase over and over again, this should become obvious when you’re editing and something you should look to adjust within the edit itself.
Get someone else to read your book
Having another person read your book in an objective and unbiased manner is incredibly helpful for the editing process, even if you ask them to read the edited chapters as you complete them (so you don’t swamp your reviewer). The other person’s perspective on your work will help to find elements you may have missed that need adjusting.
Writing a blurb for a book of fiction is something that can take you days or even weeks to fine tune, it will become a selling point for your book and as such it’s vital to get right, but there is a fine line between what you should add and what you should leave out.
You also need to consider the length of the text, how much should you write? It’s tempting to try to say as much as you possibly can, but this can lead to a blurb which is close to 400 words and ends up never being read by those browsing for their next paperback.
So, here are our top tips on what you should consider when writing a blurb for your book (fiction):
One – Research
Before you start to write anything, look at the best sellers within your own genre and see how they’ve laid out their back pages, you’ll tend to find that they are concise, not over-bearing and designed to hook the reader. By looking at these best sellers you’ll get an idea of what your reader will expect to see along with a formula for what works.
Two – Genre & Details
The cover should make it clear what the genre is, but so too should your blurb, you need to reference the theme and genre of the book so that your readers know if it’s right for them. Try not to compare your book to others and never outright say how amazing it is either, for many readers ‘bragging’ is a huge turn-off.
Three – The Protagonist
Introduce your protagonist and give the reader an idea of who they are and what’s happening to them, of course don’t give any spoilers away but you should write so that the reader wants to know more about them and their story.
Four – The Hook
Every blurb for fiction needs a hook, this should describe an element within the book which draws in the reader and makes them want to find out more, you should try to avoid clichés and of course never give anything away. The hook can describe the challenge for the protagonist, their goals, conflicts etc. but it needs to add drama, this will become what is essentially a ‘sales-pitch’ for your book, so take your time with it.
Five – Size matters
You’ll normally over-write with your first attempt at a blurb (and this is fine), you need to spell out what the story is and hook your reader in to wanting to know more, but as we mentioned earlier, it shouldn’t be 400+ words. A good size for a blurb should be around 250 – 300 words in total.
Also think about whether you want to add a short bio and author profile image, if you do, you’ll need to consider the amount of room you’ll have for every element upon the back page, the image and bio will reduce the amount of room you have for your blurb, you can also consider having this within the pages of the book too, the ‘About the Author’ section normally appears towards the end of the book itself.
Six – Quotes
Many authors soft-launch their books at first, this enables them to get copies out to friends, family and reviewers, after a couple of months they’re able to collect reviews that they can then quote upon the back page of the book.
Depending upon how much other copy you have on the back page, you should be able to add a couple of quotes, these are a great way to show to your reader why your book is worth purchasing.
Seven – Bio and Profile image
If you do decide to have a short bio upon the back page (and not within the book itself), keep it short and relevant, you are not writing a resume. Your readers will want to know a little about who you are, if you have published before, if you have a website/social media, a rough idea as to where you’re based (obviously do not put your address here) and some of your relevant interests. It should give your readers a small insight into the author but not your life story.
With the profile image, keep it professional and do NOT use a selfie taken from a cellphone, the image should be taken in portrait and needs to be 300dpi in resolution.
Your book cover design will become the face of your work and as such will always play a very important role, it gives the viewer an immediate idea as to the contents and whether or not they’re going to look any further.
So, understanding this purpose (more than it just looking pretty) is important to you as an author, if you want your book to be taken seriously and ultimately sell, then you need to understand that its advertising, presentation and design will need to be both professional and able to compete within the market.
Most serious authors get this, knowing that their competition is vast and full of big name publishing houses (as well as indie authors) leads them to adopt a professional approach to the launch of their publication. There are close to 2,000 books published every day in the US alone, so without a focused plan you may find it challenging to get people to see your new book.
But the basics of having a great cover to begin with is a must, when faced with masses of competition you can’t cut corners and expect to gain a huge audience. Now this doesn’t necessarily mean you have to spend thousands upon a book cover design, and some authors do create their own, but unless you have the talent to create something that you’d expect to see in your local Barnes & Noble store, it’s best to get a professional to create one for you.
So, what should you look for with a professional book cover?
Well first you need to think about what it is you want for the cover, what do other books within your genre look like? Who are the big name authors within your genre and how do theirs look? Once you know what your competition looks like you should have a better idea as to how you should approach your own book.
This is important as it will help you find a design team which can match your expectations, every design service will have examples of previous book covers upon their website, this will show quite clearly if they would be a good match for you and your book.
Sometimes you may find a designer that you like but don’t see examples close to your own ideas upon the website, it’s always worth just getting in touch and asking if they have ever done something similar and if so, if they could send some examples. We have completed hundreds of covers over the years and only have a small portion of them upon our own website (it can make websites too cumbersome for use, especially for mobile devices).
Also ask to see examples of previous covers as they appear on Amazon or other online book stores, you should find out if they’ve created for the main publishers such as KDP, Ingram Spark, Lulu, Smashwords, Nook, B&N etc.
Along with the cover you should look at revisions offered within the service, drafts offered and any promotional designs which may or may not come with the service, promotional designs such as banners, 3Ds, posters, GIFs and so on are also very useful in the ongoing promotion of your book.
So, how much should you pay?
This will vary from service to service, some charging prices up to $1500 (depending upon the complexity and designs offered), but on average most covers and advertising comes in at around the $600 mark, you can spend less, but again, it does depend upon what your book needs and how much promotional designs you may need.
But regardless of how much you spend upon a book cover, the most important thing to remember is to give your book the best chance possible, making it look professional and taking a proactive approach to advertising and promotion will give you the best chance of making sales.
Now that you have your book cover completed, the formatting done and all edits finalized, your book should be looking great and ready to publish, but have you thought about your brand as an indie author?
You may be thinking ‘well, that’s for the big sellers who have a large publishing house behind them, right?’
Not really, it is true that most big name authors will normally have a large advertising budget to spend, and they will have a ‘brand/style/image’ which is consistent across every platform they’re represented upon, but this is not something that’s exclusive to those within the best sellers lists.
In advertising your book, image is everything, having a consistent image/brand across every touch point your potential reader will see is important.
As an indie author your competition will be those best sellers, if you present an image of something which looks home-made or amateur, then the viewers will make the same assumption about the contents of your book and your proficiency as an author.
So, making sure that your cover and the content you post online through social media, blogs or your own website looks professional and consistent is crucial.
Here are our five tips on things you can do right now to help with your brand/image as an author.
Understand that in order to be successful and achieve the results that you may not currently have, you will need to do something different to what you are currently doing. Look, if you want change, YOU need to change yourself and your process first.
Look at your current social media pages, are they personal or set up separately for you as an author? Most PR agencies and publishers will tell you to separate the two, keep your personal pages away from your author profile, this will enable you to present a consistent image as an author to your readers.
Again, look at your on-line touch points, blog, website, social media, do they look like they belong to the same person? Or do you have different images, colors, profile photos etc.? Your social media, blog and website should all show a consistent image, one that lets the viewer know that they are on your page.
Post regularly, be consistent with your standards and be visual, most social media is focused upon the visual (just look at how big Instagram is), so don’t just post huge chunks of text (as no one’s going to read it). Use professional images, banners and photographs that will grab the attention of your viewer.
Don’t cut corners, you can get great banners, profile icons and advertising made to represent your brand very reasonably, look at what the most successful authors are doing on their websites and social media pages, look to them for inspiration.
With a small amount of effort, you can project a unified image across all of your touch points on-line, it all goes towards presenting a professional image of you as an author and that your books are something the public should take seriously.
Book cover designers.