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How to Make Your Book Look Important

In publishing, fake it till you make it work.

Sarah Hoyt


December 14, 2013 - 11:00 am
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Just like when setting out to claim your kingdom it's important to look like a princess, when setting out to look for bestsellerdom, it's important to look like a bestseller.

Just like when setting out to claim your kingdom it’s important to look like a princess, when setting out to look for bestsellerdom, it’s important to look like a bestseller.

Selling your Writing in 13 Weeks, Week 10

Yes, I know, it sounds like I’m always saying more or less the same thing: “you have to give the impression that you are traditionally published if you want to really sell.”

Unfortunately, this is true.  The public still views traditionally published books as better.  Though there is an interesting effect happening, maybe because I’ve talked so much about indie publishing, in that some of my fans are contacting me about typos and issues with my traditionally published books, forcing me to say “well, there’s nothing I can do about it now.”

But in general, you want to look like the traditionally published books in your sub-genre.  (Minus the typos – which frankly happen in any publishing, and, yes, will happen to you too.)

Only you don’t want to look like just any books in that subgenre.

Look, in the bad old days the publishing houses had to limit their resources. This meant that most of the books got thrown out into that big, cold world with barely enough work put into it to look decent and professional.

For instance, at a panel at a con, a friend and I were discussing her just-accepted book with the two editors who, supposedly at least, worked on it, and it became obvious to us they’d only read the proposal and never the completed manuscript.

This is because my friend’s book was a second novel, and had been slated to be released with as little support and fanfare as possible.

Now, you’ve gone out and got yourself a publishing house name, and you have a publishing house webpage (don’t do what I do, and forget to update it/not settle on a theme for months on end) and you – frankly – look professional.

So… are you going to just release your book out there, with minimal work/support, like any other mid-list book?

I can hear you protesting now.  “But Sarah, you say, I am a shoe-string operation with exactly one editor and one writer.”

Yes, of course, and we will talk about compromises you can and have to make, but there are also things you can do to make it look like the book is “high list” and important to the house.

“But I can’t make all my books look high list!” you say.

Um… why not?

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You know, I have no intention of ever publishing anything. But I find I read these articles because Sara's just so much fun to read.

"Other things that help are quotes or “teaser” sentences on the cover – you know something that relates to the story: “He was a man without a past; She was a woman without a future.” That sort of thing."

51 weeks ago
51 weeks ago Link To Comment
I think people would be surprised how many starting artists are out there and on the net and would be more than happy to have the resume of a book cover for a minimal fee.

I myself am surprised how many covers these days are static shots of people essentially doing nothing. More action. I have no interest in people holding lanterns or staring at me.

In regard to that subject, and also diversity and white-washing covers, if there is a static cover of an Asian woman as opposed to an action cover like Rowena's art on the old Devil Wives of Li Fong, it is the difference in a 2 second glance between mistaking something for National Geographic and genre SFF. It is not racism but a question of marketing. Again, more action.

Since typography is its own art form requiring years of study, default to conservative type. If you use italics or weird typefaces and at any time make your decision based on "It looks cool," it's probably not. Typography tells a story. If you don't know that story - default. One of the greatest examples of typography selling tone and story is the Ace PB editions of Edgar Rice Burroughs. Don't use italics unless you know exactly why, which will be the vast minority of the time if you do know why. To be safe, just don't use them.

Stare at the thousands of '50s and '80s paperback covers on flickr for a lesson in typography. You will absorb those lessons - they were pros and artists in their own right.

And ummmm... more action.
1 year ago
1 year ago Link To Comment
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