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!

1 comment :

  1. I can only emphasize point 1 again : P Formatting and proofreading is very important - some of the 'stupid' mistakes I recently found in books made it seem like the author didn't put enough effort into the book itself and into making it perfect and an enjoyable read.