Don’t Just Throw Your Book Out There (Why not?)

Cross Your Fingers

The Temptation

Joe’s muse inspired him with a great idea for a book. Thus, Joe sat down at his computer for several months, typing up his story. Now he’s ready to publish it.

Sure, he’d love to have a fantastic cover, excellent editing, and effective marketing. However, Joe is self-publishing, has no budget, doesn’t have artistic or photography skills, and doesn’t know anything about marketing.

Like many authors, Joe doesn’t feel a need to perfect these things. For one, he doesn’t see how he can afford to hire anyone. For another, he has no idea if his book would sell; he’d loathe to waste months more time and money he doesn’t have only to see a trickle of sales.

It occurs to Joe that he could publish the book as it is now and the cover, editing, and marketing can wait until later. If the book sells well, then he can afford these things, and then he won’t even need the marketing; and if the book doesn’t sell, he will be glad he didn’t waste more time and money.

Putting the book out there will give Joe some initial feedback, help him build a fan base, allow him to test the market, and provide some extra income that he can really use.

Everything seems to suggest that Joe should publish as soon as possible. This will also relieve a great deal of stress that had built up while he was writing the book, and which became nearly intolerable when he started to learn the publishing ropes.

The Problem

There are a few important points that Joe hasn’t considered (or perhaps he has considered them, but either ignored them or convinced himself that they don’t matter):

  • Sales rank. It’s really challenging to overcome a slow start. The history of no sales factors strongly into the sales rank (which weighs sales from the past day, week, and month). Sales rank quickly climbs to the millions with no sales, then when the book does sell, it rises quickly. In contrast, when a book sells frequently with its launch, its sales rank climbs much more slowly when it doesn’t sell. It’s much easier to keep sales consistent when they start out well than it is to generate sells after a very slow start.
  • Reviews. If the book needs significant editing, formatting, storyline, character development, or writing help, this may be reflected in critical reviews. You can revise the book later, but any negative reviews are there to stay. With only a few reviews, if any are bad, it can hurt the book’s prospects for sales, which makes it challenging to get new reviews to offset the bad one. Perfecting the book before publishing and marketing it effectively can inspire helpful early reviews.
  • Discovery. There are millions of books out there. People need to discover your book before they can buy it. Early sales, customers also bought lists, reviews, and bestseller lists improve a book’s exposure. Perfecting the content and pre-marketing can greatly help with this.
  • New release. When a book first appears on Amazon, customers are more likely to discover it by using the Last 30 Days or Last 90 Days filters. If your book is in its best condition and effectively marketed prior to publishing, you can take full advantage of this. If instead you wait until you realize that the book isn’t selling, you’ve missed this golden opportunity.
  • Image. You only get one chance to make a first impression. If people check out new releases in your genre and discover your book only to think, “Ugh,” they probably won’t click on it months down the line after it’s been revamped, and they may have already told their friends not to bother with your book. It’s important, yet challenging, to successfully brand the image of the book and author. Strive to brand a positive, professional image from the beginning.
  • Satisfaction. Customers are investing time, and possibly money, to read your book. With this investment comes a set of expectations. Whether your book merits reading, recommendations, or criticism largely depends on how well the experience satisfies customers. A quality book with good packaging improves the chances that the book will be read and that some readers will recommend it to others. A book with problems discourages sales and encourages a disproportionate number of critical reviews.

To make matters worse, Joe is aware of a few famous authors who improved their covers or editing later, and eventually found success. Unfortunately, Joe isn’t thinking of the millions of books that struggled to begin with and never overcame this.

It’s really challenging to succeed as an author when you put your best foot forward in the beginning. Making it even tougher on yourself isn’t the best plan.

Whether you just throw the book out there or fight to get it ready for publication can significantly impact the fate of your book.

The Solution

Authors who don’t have money do have time. We all know that time is money. There is also an abundance of free resources to help authors publish and market their books, along with a community of authors who like to help others.

For those who do have a little money, there are many low-cost services to explore.

It’s not the lack of resources or help that’s the problem, nor the expense. The problem is the choice to get the book out there when it’s not quite ready to succeed.

(I’m not talking about the perfectionist whose book is already extremely well-edited and has a great cover, or who keeps bouncing back and forth between ideas because none of them seem good enough. I’m talking about the majority who know deep down that they really need help with cover design, editing, or marketing, but can’t figure out what to do about it.)

Here are some things you can do to give your book its best chance of success:

  • Get the content publishing-ready. Give customers a quality product that they will enjoy, not something they will have to settle for; some customers won’t settle. You can put extra time into editing and formatting. You can find affordable ways to get many other eyes to read your book.
  • Find a way to get a cover that will attract the target audience. It needs to be visually appealing, but that’s not sufficient. It must signify your precise subgenre and content. This has a significant impact on whether or not people who see your thumbnail will check out your product page or pass. If your target audience favors your thumbnail among others in your subgenre, you have a distinct advantage.
  • Research and master the art of preparing a concise blurb that will inspire interest from your specific target audience. The cover, blurb, and Look Inside are your only salesmen at the point-of-sale. Make these inspire sales, not deter them. Study the product pages of top-selling books in your genre, especially those that are selling well without the benefit of the publisher’s or author’s name.
  • Seek feedback on your cover, blurb, title, Look Inside, and book before you publish. At a minimum, you should recruit friends, family, acquaintances, coworkers, and your online followers and connections. Ideally, you would also get feedback from your specific target audience. This not only helps you perfect your book, it helps you create buzz, too.
  • Setup a blog and social media pages several months before you publish. For one, you’ll have content already there when fans check out the websites listed on your About the Author page. For another, you’ll already have a following when you launch your book. A fraction of your followers will show support with a few reblogs or retweets, some likes, a couple of sales, and maybe even a couple of reviews. You’ll also have valuable connections that may come in handy for author interviews, blog reviews, advice, support, and inspiration (since you’ll see firsthand what others are doing). When readers check out your newly published book, they’ll see that you’ve already established yourself.
  • Generate buzz for your book weeks before its release date. Get people talking about your book online and in person. Feedback and your online following can help with this. Find bloggers and websites with traffic from your specific target audience where you might get reviews, interviews, or publish an article; allow ample time for consideration. Search for Facebook author groups in your genre. Explore free and low-cost advertising options for a short-term promotional sale and learn how to do this effectively. Interact with people in your target audience and let your passion show.
  • Find your target audience, interact online and in person, and make a favorable impression. Let them discover that you’re an author. Seek readings, signings, seminars, conferences, media exposure, websites where they hang out, and other ways to engage your target audience. Personal interactions are an asset to the indie author, who has the time and passion to offer this personal service. Use it.
  • Research effective free and low-cost marketing strategies. Consider which are most likely to help you reach your specific target audience and provide the greatest benefits relative to the costs (which include both time and money). However, also realize that some things that may not lead to many immediate sales may have a significant indirect benefit like helping you look like a complete, professional author.

The better your book is, the more seriously you’ll put effort into the book’s launch and success, and the more confidence you’ll show in your work and marketing.

No Guarantees

There is a risk; there are no guarantees that your book will succeed. Not all book ideas have the potential to sell well. There are some books that don’t sell well, where there isn’t much that could change the fate of the book. A very rare book will succeed with so-so packaging and marketing; the vast majority need effective packaging, marketing, and content.

However, there are very many books that are close, but no cigar, where a little help could go a long way. Maybe the cover or blurb are attracting the wrong audience. Maybe something in the Look Inside is deterring sales. Maybe customers are checking the book out, but are reluctant to try a book with a sales rank in the millions.

Can you remember shopping for a product when you were on the verge of making the purchase, where you were having a tough time deciding? Even a small thing could decide it one way or the other.

If the customer is viewing your product page, that customer is interested. He or she is deciding. The content and packaging will make or break the sale. Your cover, blurb, Look Inside, reviews, author photo, biography, and categories are the only marketing you have at the point-of-sale.

Do you believe that you have a marketable book, that there is a significant audience that will truly enjoy it? Do you think it’s good enough that many people will recommend it to others? Then you have to go for it and give your book its best chance.

Research books similar to yours to see what the prospects are. If there are books like yours selling well, and you can honestly see yours competing with those (make lists of things that those books and your book have going for and against them), then some extra tender-loving care before you publish may make a big difference down the road.

By perfecting your book, you will be happiest with it and so will your readers. You will be proud to share it. You will know it’s a worthy product, regardless of its fate. If you give your book its best chance of succeeding, you won’t have any nagging doubts about what you might have done better.


Joe is a purely fictional character invented solely for the purpose of illustration. Any resemblance to any actual author is purely coincidental.

Free resources

I started this blog to provide free help with writing, publishing, and marketing. You can find many free articles, by clicking one of the following links:

Chris McMullen, Author of A Detailed Guide to Self-Publishing with Amazon and Other Online Booksellers

Follow me at WordPress, find my author page on Facebook, or connect with me through Twitter.

4 comments on “Don’t Just Throw Your Book Out There (Why not?)

  1. Hi, there! I was browsing through blogs and came across this entry. Anyway, thank you very much for sharing this – very informative and useful. I’ll be bookmarking this for future reference.🙂

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