Sunday, 8 December 2013

Book Cover Design: 4 Corner Stones for Positioning with Book Covers

Your book cover is the first impression you make on a potential reader. One cover, one chance. 
Book covers are an essential marketing tool which should position your book in your reader's mind at a single glance. We can also usually tell which genre a book belongs to simply by its cover. Seems like a tall order for a single image design?

Maybe, but that also means that if you get it right you can set your book apart.

Here are four corner stones you should keep in mind when starting out on your cover design:

     1. Let potential readers know that they are purchasing quality literary content

A sleezy or poorly designed cover will hardly inspire confidence in a reader that the content is any more professional.

     2Design with your reader in mind

Your design has to appeal to your segment of readers and not only to you. Look at how covers in your chosen genre are normally designed and try to replicate the basic concept. By replicate I mean for example looking at the general balance of headline font size in comparison with the rest of the text you wish to see on your cover. Other elements you should study are the image choice - does it hint at the story unfolding in the page? -, imagery type and the position of the author name. To make your life even easier concentrate on the bestselling titles within your target genre. 

     3. Stand out among other covers in your target market segment while not completely departing from the general genre look and feel

While you might have success by absolutely departing from the general genre look and feel in your design, there are smaller tweaks you can add to give your design a unique touch.

Here are several ideas on how you can make your book stand out:
1. Add a catchy line from your blurb on your cover. Two lines at most.
2. Add a compelling endorsement. The shorter and snappier, the better.
3. Add a circle badge which emphasises a unique selling point (USP), like:
    - a book comparison reference; e.g.:"For Twillight Lovers"
    - a reference to a bonus inside; e.g.: "Sneak Peek of Dan Brown's Angels and Demons"
    - a bestseller stamp (once you landed on a bestseller list)

4. Make your cover design interactive

Why not give your readers the opportunity to choose the final cover design. Narrow your creative choices down to three versions you like, introduce them on one of your channels (e.g.: blog, facebook, twitter...) and give people the option to vote on their favourite. You can even offer a free give away in return for submitting a vote. This also has the additional benefit of actively reaching out to your reader base before you actually launch. 

Bonus Tip for eBook Covers: Keep your ebook thumbnail images clean

If your eBook thumbnail is too busy it will be drowned out in the search as potential readers browse categories. In an online search, setting readers are most attracted by colours, a clean structure and clear font which translates well into the tiny space of a thumbnail. Too much text will make the small thumbnails too busy and keep your book cover from popping on the page.          

For further tips, here are a few great websites and articles that will help you figure out which cover direction will best fit your book positioning and how you can get to a great cover design:

A behind the scenes look on the cover creation process

Great websites to get inspired by current bestselling covers in different genres

Book Cover Design by The Creative Penn
A blog post with recommended cover designers

Good tips on what to focus on for ebook covers in particular

Sunday, 10 November 2013

Price Positioning: Doing Prices the Right Way

Insights on how to research prices for your target segment and genre

Once you have figured out your target reader segment and your genre, you should dive into which price segment you want to compete in. Beyond that you should start having an eye out for when other authors and retailers in general discount products and to what purpose.  This will be relevant for your long-term pricing strategy. Today, however, we will concentrate on defining a base price for your ebook.

Searching for your base price

Your base price will be your regular book price in your home market, e.g.: the US. Doing price research will give you a valuable insight into the market you are launching your book into. There are four simple steps you can take to figure out your base price.

1) Find a price range for your genre

This doesn't have to be too sophisticated and can be as simple as looking at the first ten books shown in your target genre category by two online ebook retailers. I picked Smashwords and Amazon, simply because I do most of my book shopping there.

At Smashwords for example the first 10 books shown to me in the fantasy category are prices between 0.99$ and 4.95$ with the first 3 having a price of 0.99$. At Amazon the ten first titles range between 3.58$ and 12.86$ and all of them are currently discounted. 

2) Compare book prices across retailers

For Step 2, take 2-4 titles from the list of 10 titles you got at one of the retailers in Step 1 and compare what the same title costs at the other retailer. 

In my case The Door by Erin Bartels was the first title on Smashwords at 0.99$. At Amazon I found it priced at 1.16$.

Digging into the detail pages for the particular book on both retailer websites showed me that The Door is actually a short story of only approx. 5.800 words and 0.99$ is a pre-release discount price on Smashwords. 

Important note: Amazon, Apple and Barnes & Nobles require authors to sell their ebooks at the same price across platforms. Which doesn't mean you can leverage different platforms through smart discounting later on.

3) Get prices for comparable titles


As a third step it is a good idea to have a look at titles similar to your own for a final gauge on your base price. If you are still in search of those titles I would recommend having a look at the bestseller list for your chosen genre. Ignore industry bestsellers for this exercise and instead have a look at titles who within the genre will cluster the closest around your own title post-launch.

E.g.: if you are planning on launching a post-apocalyptic novel in the Sci-fi and fantasy genre, try and find titles occupying that space within the category instead of looking for elvin fantasy epics.

4) Define your base price

Once you have your ranges from the three previous steps eliminate discount prices and consider that the lower range of your choice spectrum should still allow for you to discount reasonably in the future. 

The range I hit on in my example of a hypothetical post-apocalyptic title was 2.99$ - 5.38$ for same length titles in a similar genre niche. To land on a final price, I decided to further segment by cover and blurb quality. I dismissed unprofessional covers and looked for concise blurbs. This gave me an optimal base price of 4.29$ for my hypothetical novel.

Which final criteria decide your base price is a personal choice. You might even decide to go with your gut on your first book. One thing is for certain: like with anything else, you will learn a lot about pricing as you go.

Base Price vs. Launch Price

For your book launch you might have to make your first price decision, if you don't plan to go out the door with your base price. Technically, you could go both ways: either offer your book at a discount for the first days, weeks, months, maybe even for free for a time. Or you could go out the gate at a higher price and later lower your price to the base you landed on. This is a personal decision and should definitely be a consideration in your launch planing.

Figured out your base price?

Now that you have your base price, what is your launch price going to be? Share your ideas, opinions and comments below.

Best of luck in your pricing journey!

Recommended Articles:

Sunday, 27 October 2013

An Essential Lesson in Online Book Distribution

While online book distribution is not directly related to book positioning, it is an essential pre-requisite in order to be able even to act upon your positioning. The essential lesson here is that:
  • Addressing your identified target segment without having your distribution plan mapped out can make your communication less effective.
Firstly, if you can inform your target readers from the beginning on where and when they will be able to get your new ebook, you can save yourself the hassle of having to retouch communications and save your future customers time in having to search for the information in later launch news bulletins. 
Secondly, your online distribution plan will determine how much of your targeted reader community has the potential to be activated. After all, if an ebook I am interested is not available in the format I need, it is unlikely that I will purchase a copy.

Thirdly, knowledge of which distribution channels you will focus on and their individual policies should in turn inform your pricing and marketing strategy. Will you price the book evenly across channels? Will you discount in all channels at the same time or at different points in time?

 However, before we dive too deep into pricing strategy, let's take a look at different distribution options for your ebook.

Direct Sale Vendors


Three of the biggest ebook distributors currently in the market are Kindle Direct Publishing, Nook Press and iTunes Connect. They are the e-punlishing arm of Amazon, Barnes&Nobles and Apple, respectively. All three of these Direct Sale Vendors have a device platform (tablets, e-readers) attached, through which you can easily offer ebooks to millions of readers around the world. Publishing through their platforms also assures that readers owning any of these companies' devices will have easy access to your ebook. 

Beside these three big players there is another major player that has made a name for themselves in indie publishing industry: Smashwords. Smashwords will round out your distribution portfolio of direct sale vendors nicely making publishing to further device platforms like Kobo, Sony, etc. a one-stop task through their platform.

Direct sale vendors offer their services and platforms in exchange for a portion of your book's list price. This system allows authors more control over their book distribution and marketing than ever before, while at the same time keeping it in the best interest of the direct sale vendor to facilitate you in turning your book into a marketing success. 

Free online book distribution


If your goal is to make your book available for free the best address currently is Wattpad. This social writing platform allows you to publish your work chapter by chapter and your readers to subscribe to your individual publications or you as an author. Some established authors like Marian Keyes have actually started to use Wattpad for reader engagement by making free samples or companion pieces to their full-length works available. 

Self-distribution through your author website


Another great option to distribute your own book is to make it available directly through your author website. A personal website is essential and should ideally serve as a one-stop-shop for readers concerning everything related to your publications and author brand. It allows you to reach readers that don't have access to the platforms above or who would have to pay additional fees because they do not reside in the main markets where Apple, Barnes&Noble, etc are operating. On top of that, your personal store takes out the middlemen and leaves you with higher royalities. 

When you feel ready to take this steps here are some useful articles and resources on the topic:

Online Store Builders:

Bonus: Recommended Print-On-Demand Services


If you are already a successful online author with an ebook bestseller, you might be interested in making your book available for readers who continue to prefer paperback formats. 
Platforms like CreateSpace and allow authors to print their works while also hooking them up with a network of booksellers as well as online shoppers.

I personally prefer CreateSpace as it is more flexible and does not ask for an upfront investment. Instead your books are printed according to number of orders coming in. Additionally, CreateSpace provides free distribution in return for part of your book's list price similar to the ebook publishing model. Finally, there is an option to use a customisable CreateSpace eStore on your own website to even let readers coming through your website benefit from the distribution services of Amazon. 

Last piece of advice...


If you are a new author, I recommend that you take your time to build your distribution network. Don't feel like you need to be everywhere at once and on the very first day. Put together a plan and communicate the roll-out schedule clearly to your target readers. People are usually understanding if you let them know that you are working hard on making your works as easily accessible as possible.

You can even use a staggered distribution roll-out as a way to let readers celebrate several "mini-book launches" with you: simple turn the addition of a new distribution channel into an  event by e.g. engaging your readers through social media or offering initial, short-term discounts on newly launched platforms.

Do you know where you will distribute your book first?


Have you figured out your distribution plan?
Share your experience, troubles and tribulations with different distributors in the comments. What is your publishing story?

Good luck with the distribution of your ebooks :)

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Thursday, 3 October 2013

How to Assign your Book to the Right Genre

Getting the genre right further narrows down your target market and ensures that your book messaging addresses the right audience of readers 

Figuring out which genre and in particular which subgroup of that genre your book fits into is another way to further narrow down your target market. Assigning your book to the right genre type means you can finetune your choice of channel for reader interaction and engagement.

With the book market rapidly expanding traditional genre terms like romance, suspense, adventure etc. have turned into umbrellas spanning a host of sub-categories. Sci-fi is not just sci-fi anymore, but contains adventure, apocalyptic, post-apocalyptic and alternate reality works with off-planet settings. The list could go on, but I think you catch my drift. 

So how do you figure out which genre your book really belongs to?

1. Get a good overview of what genre types are out there

If you already have a distributor in mind you might just want to have a look at their book section. Take a look at how they segment and label their genres. Otherwise, start out with a simple list of genres from Wikipedia and work from there by matching descriptions for different genres. 
Genre lists:

2. Ask your beta-readers and friends to categorise your book

Sometimes gauging where your book fits best can be hard. You might have started out wanting to address readers of a certain genre, but as your story developped you might have landed somewhere else. More than once I have found myself in denial of which genre my book fits best into, just because I stubbornly wanted to cling to my first idea. 

Luckily beta readers and family can help give you a reality check there. While at times hard to take, your change in perspective will be rewarded when it results in you actually approaching the right group of potential readers. On top of that, the right group of readers will be happy that you make their book available to them, while the readers in the initially mis-assigned genre will thank you for reducing thrash in their preferred channels. In the end, it is a win-win for all sides. 

3. Search for similar books to match your own work to

If you have a hunch where your book might fit best, surf the books already assigned to the genre. The goal is to find similar books to your own. Goodreads, Amazon or Smashwords are greats place to get an overview of which type of novels are assigned to certain genres.  Don't forget to take notes of the ones that do match up closely to your own book in plot or storytelling style. That information will come in handy later, when you sit down to write your blurb.

Tip: Check out the list of ebook vendors featured for titles on Goodreads. A full list of possible vendors right there.

I have my genre. What now?

Genre Channel-Tuning and Positioning Lodestones

Now that you have decided on a genre, you can look into what you can learn from other authors and readers already active in the associated channels. 

1. Learn from genre success stories

Make sure to take a look at bestseller lists for the genre you've chosen and see if you can get some ideas for pricing, book cover, blurb style, author bio, etc. Try to find elements that work for the bestselling titles in the genre. Also keep track of information that you would like to have as a reader, but can't find in the book information you are browsing. You will surely find some good lodestones for your own book presentation and positioning within that genre. 

2. Identify genre-specific communities

Goodreads and Wattpad are good starting points to get an idea of readers favourite haunts. Look at reader comments for books in the genre you are interested in, try reaching out to other readers for advise. If you are active on Twitter or Facebook see what a simple search of the genre name will bring up. 

3. Get active in genre-specific communities

I believe this one is pretty self-explanatory. Once you have completed your research into genre channels get active. Try and get involved in discussions, comment threads and activities within the communities that you would like to address later in your marketing. You will learn a lot about what your future readers are looking for. 

This, in turn, can:
  • help refine your reader profile, 
  • give you an idea on how to best present your book (title, cover, format),
  • build early credibility with potential readers by showing interest in a certain genre,
  • inform you which channels are the most frequented by your target segment.
It might even help you decide when the best time for your book launch is. Maybe it is not the best idea to launch your suspense novel on the weekend the next Dan Brown hits the shelves?

For more on genre and book marketing...

Figured it out?

Which genre does your book fit into? Have you discovered any great communities and their favourite channels? Share your thoughts in the comments below. Good Luck!

Monday, 16 September 2013

Market Segmentation: 4 Dimensions to Find Your Target Segment

Would a 43-year-old, single investment banker from Brazil be interested in a German children's book?
Do you think he is the reader you should address with "Barnie's Adventures in Playschool"?

Hardly likely. That's were market segmentation for your book comes in.

The benefit of segmenting the book market and identifying your target segment/audience is to ultimately address the right readers. In order to make your final target market more tangible, you can formulate your target segment description in the form of a reader profile. 

Since our time and resources for marketing are limited as a writer, we should invest them into reaching out to the readers that best fit our writer's profile. After all, we would rather be writing than chasing after readers that won't even be interested in what we have to offer. 

On that note, are you ready to figure out the target segment for your book and formulate a reader profile for your book? Let's get to it. :)

How do I segment the market to identify my target group?

Marketers generally use 4 dimensions (demographic, geographic, behavioural and psycho-demographic) to identify the people most likely to buy their products. 

I put together the following matrix of questions to make it easier for you to identify the correct reading audience for your book. Please, pick out the questions you find most relevant (at least 3 out of each) and start taking notes.

  • What age, gender, nationality, race or ethnicity of your readers?
  • What is their job? Are they employed or independent?
  • Which generation do they belong to? Baby boomers? Gen X? Millenials/Gen Y?
  • What is their education level? High school diploma? Apprenticeship? College degree?
  • What is their relationship status? Single? Married? Divorced? 
  • Do they have kids? How old are the kids?
  • What is their religion? What are their political affiliations?
  • What is their income? Based on their income how much are they likely to spend on books?
  • In which country do your readers live?
  • Are there regional differences within the country?
  • Are their cultural differences? 
  • What language do they speak?
  • What is the climate like? Equatorial? Mediterranean?
  • Do they have seasons? Northern vs. Southern hemisphere?
  • How many books do your readers read in a month?
  • Are they familiar the genre of your book?
  • When, where and how do they read your books?
    • In the evening? On their way to work? On vacation?
    • In one sitting? In several installments?
    • As paperback? Hardcover? eBook?
    • On a tablet, e-reader or on their mobile?
  • Do they buy books based on content or based on price?
  • How willing are they to buy your book?
    • Do they already know your authorbrand?
    • Did they purchase any of your previous books/ the first book in a series or trilogy of yours?
  • What emotional and attitudional affiliations do your readers have? (e.g.: nerds, emo, scifiers)
  • What lifestyle do they lead?
  • What social class do your readers belong to? Lower, middle, upper?
  • What are your readers’ sctivitie, interest, opinions (AIOs)?
  • What are their goals, beliefs, habits and values?

How to create a reader profile


Once you have gathered your answers on a host of the questions above summarise them in a single paragraph. The trick is to use you answers like attributes you would normally attach to a character description. This paragraph on a character will become the reader profile for your book and should guide any future marketing decisions.

I wrote an example reader profile for a guide on self-development for professional women (no clue where that came from, but I don't question my muse in these things):

My target readers are single, middle to upper class female professionals, aged 24-35. They are ambitious, fashionable, career-oriented and health conscious. They look for challenges also in their personal life and are eclectic in their reading habits, enjoying a light chick lit novel as a time-out, planning their fitness programme with a HowTo Guide and but futhering their knowledge with non-fiction books focused on business, historical and political topics. Being mobile, they prefer the ebook format and mostly read in smaller installments on the go. Online they are most active on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and Linked In. They are price conscious when it comes to leisure reading, but willing to spend a buck on a non-fiction book.

If you feel like you reader profile is still too vague after the first round of answers, just go back and try to incorporate the answers to a few more questions.

Voila, by formulating your reader profile you now know your target market segment and can let that knowledge inform the next steps in your book position plan. 

Other Useful Articles and Texts on Reader Profiles and Segmentation

Did you figure out your target segment?

What is your reader profile? How did your reader profile help you with your book marketing plan?

Please share your thoughts below in the comments