Sunday, 28 July 2013

Book Packaging: 5 Tips On Framing The Reading Experience

The right packaging of your book can shape a reader's perception of your main story as well as his overall reading experience. This entry will hopefully give you a few ideas on what to look out for in your book packaging, either for a more informed discussion with your publisher or to get your self-published book off on the right foot.

Goals for your book packaging should be:
  • to catch the readers attention from the shelf
  • to tease the reader with a well-written blurb
  • to allow easy navigation of your story
  • to give the reader the opportunity to discover additional information
From the time when they first spy your book on the shelf, whether in the form of a print book or an e-book, your readers should have an easy time finding out what the book is about, navigating to your story/to different chapters and discovering more about you as the author, book extras and recommended further reading. 

If you get the following tips right, the likelihood that a reader will enjoy reading your book will be higher. Reader satisfaction again can fuel book recommendations or reviews. As I mentioned in my last blog entry on 70:30 Book Marketing, a reader's recommendation is the strongest endorsement you can get as an author. 

On to my 5 tips on book packaging then. Please note that sometimes my tips might only apply to either e-books or print books. Some tips of these might seem obvious, but believe me authors and even a few publishers get them wrong more often than you would expect.

1. Make sure that your book is formatted correctly. 

A badly formatted book can make reading it a chore and break the reading flow. The best way to make sure that your book is probably formatted is by engaging a professional editor. They will typeset your manuscript, check spelling, look out for correct punctuation, set paragraphs correctly and assure that dialogue flows properly. If you do not have a professional editor you should take the time to make sure that you have beta readers reading your manuscript with an eye for each one of these aspects. Additionally, you yourself should have several editing rounds, using each round to read your story through a different lense.   

For other aspects you should look out for when formatting have a look at this blog entry on book formatting by The Fast Fingers - Book Marketing Service. 

2. Make sure your new chapters start on a new page and can be easily navigated to.

This is another simple formatting tip that I mostly see done wrong with self-published e-books. Having your manuscript run as one big narrative with a paragraph break for chapter breaks will not bring you much reader love, unless you make it a mark of your novel structure like Jack Kerouac in his novel On the Road. But that is rather the exception than the rule. In general, people like to take their reading breaks between chapters. When they aren't already confronted with the next chapter on the same page the last one ended, it makes the cut easier and cleaner for them.

Another small formatting tip that will help make navigation easier is a properly formatted table of content at the beginning. In print versions it should indicate page numbers for readers to easily jump back and ahead ( this is even more relevant for non-fiction books where the reading flow is not always sequential). In e-books, navigation can be made even easier by including a linked table of content that allows readers to jump to the chapters they wish to start from or return to.

3. Set the right expectations about the book in your blurb.

You need to make sure that your reader is not disappointed by your actual story by promising too much in your blurb. Your blurb often gives reader's their first real impression of what they will find inside the cover. Be concise, honest and build tension with your blurb. Your reader should be curious after reading it and eager to dive into your story. 

Genuine endorsements from initial reviewers or other authors are always a nice touch to frame your blurb. Be warned though, writing a blurb most of the times is much harder than actually typing down your novel. Its a paragraph that needs to capture the essence of your stories conflict and give a good impression of your characters.

If you are close with your beta readers you might ask them to try their hand at a blurb and see how they would summarise your novel. It is a good way to get different perspectives before trying to type up your blurb. It is also fun to exchange the different attempts in a small get-together, if you have the chance :)

4. Make sure you have a clean, professional-looking cover design.

Let's be honest we do judge a book by its cover most of the time. We can tell apart a trashy romance novel from a science book a mile away. If we are embarrassed by the cover design or judge it to be low quality it is unlikely, that we will pull the book off the shelf to investigate further. Unless we are shopping for bargains under our price pain threshold. Then we tend to be more tolerant and happy to experiment.

Nevertheless, a bad cover design set low expectations for the content. If you are on a budget and maybe even in a hurry, how willing would you be willing to risk your money and time on a book where the cover causes your eyebrow to tick upward in scepticism? Yet the cover is what needs to grab the attention of your potential readers first and should entice them to pull down the book or click through to the description in an online store. 

An extra tip for e-books, make sure that you keep in mind the size of online icons when designing your book covers. Simpler designs, less busy in details are often a better bet online. crowded covers can hurt people's eyes when they are only 160 px x160 px or less.

5. Use the end of your manuscript and your appendix to give readers the opportunity to discover something new about you, your story, your other works or books you like 
  • Include acknowledgements as well as a short note on your experience writing the novel
  • Include sneak peeks of book #2 in a series or your other works starting with a short blurb + chapter 1 
  • Include a sneak peek of a book by another author in the same genre that you read and can recommend (if you are both indie authors, maybe they can do the same for you)
  • Include a blog link at the end to give your readers the opportunity to discover more online  (e.g.: bonus scenes/take outs, short stories in the same universe that explore secondary plot string, first chapters of Book # 2 in a series, sweep stakes for holidays, date/location list of activities connected to the book)
  • In print versions, think about using QR codes to easily redirect readers to your website for extras
Ready to get started on packaging your book? Any other great tips you can think of and would like to share?

I wish you all the best on presenting your book in the right light and capturing the attention of new readers. Good luck!

Sunday, 21 July 2013

70:30 Book Marketing Formula

This is going to be my first entry in a series that will focus on how you can engage your readers before, during and after a book release. However, first I should probably explain my headline.

Not long ago a colleague asked me how I weighted book marketing in comparison to actual content? My answer: 70% book marketing and 30% actual content. This holds especially true, if you are publishing for the first time and you are only at the beginning of building your readership.

To clarify a bit further, under book marketing I understand more than just shouting about your new release on your blog, FB, twitter accounts and activating your friends as rave reviewers. Marketing nowadays isn't about forcefully selling what you think someone needs by packaging your message in superlatives, it is much more about engaging your potential readers on as many platforms and in as many ways as possible. Your number one concern has to be your future reader and their experience, not how many copies of your book you can sell in a month, six months or even a year. 70% of our book's success will depend on how you go about communicating and interacting with your readers when you first publish. Or even better, way before your actual release date.

The other 30%, your actual book, should send your readers on a journey, and if you have done your job right as a writer, then they will buy into your world. 

Why should I still focus on content when marketing is more important? 

Because those 30% content are just as crucial as getting the marketing right, whether you plan on publishing a series or merely a one-shot novel. Additionally, having great content and loving the finished product of your writing will make the 70% marketing challenge easier on you and your readers. Talking about something you don't believe to be 100% where you want it to be will feel dishonest and most likely result in hesitation when you need to convince others to read your book. Doubts about your writing can't hold you back when marketing. Once you are finished with editing and packaging your book, it is full steam ahead to let everyone know what is coming their way. You have to be your book's biggest fan and be the first in the chain to recommend it to your future readers. The time for tweaking is past at that point. That train has left the station :)

Why does content still matter if people have already bought the book thanks to my marketing?
Good content will cement your reputation as a credible writer. Marketing means setting a reader's expectation of what they will find inside the cover. Bad content will not impress your readers and definitely not breed loyalty. Building trust and delivering on promises is important in any long-term relationship and you want to keep your readers. So you better make sure that your book lives up to what you promise when approaching potential readers. In case of a series the content of book # 1 should leave readers wanting to know what the characters will face next, while with a one volume plot, they will hopefully look out for your next work. 
Another important factor which is anchored in the 30% content is word of mouth. If a reader loves your book, they are much more likely to talk to their friends about it or leave a review, without you having to beg them to do so. Someone recommending a book to a friend is the strongest endorsement you can get as an author. 

Yet before anyone will pick up your book to read it, you will have to reach out to them and let them know that it's there for their enjoyment. That's where we come circling back to book marketing or platform engagement. So what should you do to catch your future readers on the right foot? That's what I will be talking about in my upcoming posts which will touch upon the following topics:

Do you think 70:30 is a fair assessment? Thoughts?

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Sunday, 14 July 2013

Note-taking: Capture Your Ideas anywhere, anytime

Ever been frustrated because you forgot an idea before you could write it down? 

I absolutely hate when I lose great ideas, because I don't have a notebook and pen handy. Inspiration is like a spark of energy and the message it carries is at its most vivid the moment it strikes. In that moment I can feel, smell, taste and emote an idea the best, the words flowing of my writer's tongue at their most potent. So, I got in the habit of taking notes. Getting into the habit implying here, that it took some effort and time to readjust myself to the practice (in other words, sometimes I got more annoyed over taking notes than forgetting an idea. It was worth it though.)

Here are some of the tools I now use to make sure that all my ideas are captured. If you are not capturing all ideas yet, maybe you can find the right method for you here.

Traditional Note-taking Tools


Journals & Notebooks

The trick to these being handy is to place them in strategic locations in your flat and even your car. I have one next to my bed, one on the kitchen counter, one on my computer desk and, if I owned a car, I would have one in my glove compartment (just make sure you don't stop in the middle of the road to record your ideas).

If you are working on multiple stories or you just love cataloguing then you can section your notebooks by novel, character, or any other topic you can think of. That way your ideas will be more accessible when you come back to them at a later date.

Mobile Note-taking Tools

Modern technology can help out a lot with archiving ideas and re-organising them to our needs. I am an absolute fan of mobile apps with a synching function. They really help me leverage the limited writing time I have between a full-time job, friends and travels. Here are my favourites. Maybe one will strike you as the perfect solution for your own note-taking on the go.


OneNote and Evernote

Both OneNote and Evernote are organisation and filing programmes that come with an app family for nearly all operating systems on the market. Since the apps between themselves have the ability to synch across devices, I can access these programmes through any of the devices I have the most handy at the time. Also, I don't need WiFi 24/7 just to take notes. The apps will make sure they are up to date as soon as they can connect. I have had times were I took notes on my tablet on a bus ride, added a different idea to my collection via my Windows phone and finally fleshed out a scene when I was back home on my PC. I didn't even have to retype my notes from three different sheets of paper into one consolidated one. It was easy copy and paste. 

Evernote even has a neat voice recording function. On days when my fingers are too lazy to type, I put my ideas down on "tape" instead and attach the voice note right to one of my Evernote notebooks. Windows Media Player plays them back to me without fuzz (although sometimes hearing my own voice kinda ruins the moment. I am definitely not RJ material! At least not yet...)

OneNote , on the other hand, has been a lifesaver at work. In a high pressure job where prioritisation and efficiency is key, proper note-taking is essential. And the fact that OneNote also allows you to share notebooks with other users is a real time saver. This function might be especially helpful if you are co-authoring.

In case you are interested in starting to download either of these apps, click on the respective names in the paragraph headline. Also, here are two great articles to get you started on using them:

OneNote Intro by Microsoft
Evernote Intro by lifehacker

Recently I have discovered Pinterest. While this is not necessarily a note-taking tool, I am including it here, because I am using it that way. Similar to my notebooks, I have opened boards for the different novels I am currently working or plotting on (Example). I realised that pinterest is great for creative inspirational and emotive collections which provide visual cues to my writing. They help me dive back into my worlds more easily, give my character descriptions more depths and even boost my motivation for getting my story to paper. Nothing spurs me on more than seeing elements of a new world clicking together on a Pinterest board. Try it out if you haven't. I can guarantee you, you won't be disappointed, especially if you are a visual type like me.

That's it for today. I hope there was something here that might help you keep all your ideas in future. Anything missing? Do you have another way of taking notes that I didn't mention here, but which might help others along?

P.S.: The Microsoft bias was not intentional. Just happen to be locked in that universe. For iOS/Apple- and Android-Users I can still definitely recommend Evernote and Pinterest :)

Sunday, 7 July 2013

Rebooting Chameleon Ink

Hi everyone, 

I did my first 10 k run this morning. I honestly never thought that I would ever take part in a running event, much less make it through. Now I feel like I can take on anything...We will see how long that feeling lasts. Probably until tomorrow when I will be hardly able to move. Ouch! But my sore muscles and prospective murderous Monday are not the point of this post. 

As you probably noticed I gave the block a revamp in the last few days. Now that I have more time again to blog and am ready to reboot Chameleon Ink, I felt like it needed a do-over. What do you think of the new design? Do you like the new logo? I fiddled with picmonkey for a day to get it to this point.

What can you expect to find here in the next few months?

1) Weekly blog updates on book marketing, writing and blogging

I hope that this blog will become a platform to share ideas, exchange tips and to learn from my readers. I absolutely love the doors the internet and online publishing has opened for indie authors. As an online marketing manager by profession, I am also constantly exposed to new trends in the industry and discover new opportunities for authors to get their ideas and work out there. 
      Additionally, I am a huge fan of the fact that readers can be more and more involved already in the early stages of the writing process. You are a fantastic sounding board for ideas, a great cheering club and valuable advisors on which directions you might want me to go next. So I will try to share my own two cents on my views about writing, blogging and book marketing and hope to hear what you would like me to take on next. (Hopefully not a marathon. Not sure I can pull of 40k :) )  

2) Recommended article of the week

I have been reading up on several topics over the last months. This resulted in a list of interesting blogs on writing. I also continue to try out recommended reading by friends and stumble upon good magazines here and there. I will share personal favourites once a week. Maybe there is something which will catch your attention, too. You can check out my first recommendation to the right or click here. It is an article with tips on how authors can use twitter to better connect with their readers.

3) Tweets on any number of topics related to writing

Watch out for writing prompts, personal writing updates and anything else I stumble upon. You can find me on twitter under or follow me by clicking the button in the right-hand column.

I hope that you will enjoy yourself and join me on my journey. If you have any ideas, questions, complaints, request on topics I should look into or simple feedback, don't hesitate to drop me a line at

You can expect my first post sometime next week. I am still undecided which topic on my long list I will tackle first, so this first one will be a surprise.

I am really excited for what lies ahead,