It’s obviously not only a bad idea, but also an illegal one, to steal a writer’s words, but copying their book marketing techniques is not only perfectly fine but how the pros do it. If you are getting ready to publish your book, it's wise to “borrow” from successful authors, all of which have mastered at least these four things.
Cover Your Tracks
Have you ever noticed how thrillers often display a silhouette of a man on the book cover? Or vampire book covers almost always have lots of red and black, and, of course, a gothic font? And what's an erotic book without jewelry? Need more proof? Check out Twilight by Stephenie Meyer and Winter by Marissa Meyer—not only do these Meyer’s share a last name, the covers to their YA books are almost identical!
What design tips should you be “borrowing” for your book? Here’s a few to keep in mind:
Romance covers are obviously all about love; the traditional approach is to show two people connecting—an embrace, a kiss, or even a stare. That's not to say you can't go solo, however. Many romance covers will feature the protagonist of the book giving clues about what the book is about—a shirtless cowboy, a daydreaming housewife, or a woman in a Victorian gown and seductive pose.
Fantasy and science fiction books will commonly reimagine one of their scenes on the cover; they tend to be the most dramatic and exciting book covers of any genre.
Thrillers and mystery give the impression that something is horribly wrong—a character is being chased or is running from something. The point is to create something that looks mysterious and makes the reader curious about what's going on.
Show Don’t Tell
The cover is the first thing a reader sees when they pick up a book in a store or look a book up online, so it’s obviously important to make them good. But people don’t often buy books solely on covers—they like to read what it’s about. The cover is the hook, but the book description is what will sell it—don’t think of it like a summary: think of it like an advertisement. So how do you write a description that sells?
The one golden rule for all great descriptions: they’re edited! Don’t just proofread your description. Have several people proofread it and give feedback!
Think the first line of your book is the most important? The first line of your description is even more important: pull your reader in and make them want more.
I’ve heard a lot of writers say, “I can’t explain what my book is about in just a paragraph.” If that’s you, then it’s time to take a long hard look at your book. Think of it like this: you get into an elevator and in front of you is a Hollywood producer who tells you that he’s looking to buy books to turn into movies, and he wants to know what yours is about. But here’s the catch: he gets off on the next floor. So if you can’t give him the 10 second sound bite, then you’ve missed your opportunity. Readers have to know what they’re getting into. You have to be able to tell your reader what your book's about in a soundbite.
The Key To Book Discovery
Unless you are a bestselling author and have thousands on your mailing list, then you have to think hard about how readers will discover you. Both Amazon and Google have predictive autofill boxes. What does that mean? It means when you start typing something, it will start guessing what you’ll type next—so type slow! Let’s say you are writing a book about being on a Paleo diet; when you type Paleo, it will start showing you common terms people have searched for with “paleo”—for instance paleo diet, paleo cooking, paleo desserts. People are already searching for those terms, so they’re all good ones to consider. But are they perfect? The key to good keywords is matching something people are searching for and something that doesn’t return an overwhelming amount of results. Lots of people will search for “mystery books,” for instance, but if there’s 700,000 other books with that keyword, then people will have a hard time finding yours in particular, so think about keywords that are used, but not overused, meaning keywords that are more specific to your content but not so specific that you too severely limit the amount of people searching for it.
One final key ingredient to selling your book: finding the right category or BISAC subject. There’s a few things you should consider as you think of subjects:
Don’t think broadly. Is your book a mystery? Great! So are thousands of others, but mystery has lots of sub-genres. Find the one that more specifically matches yours.
When in doubt, “borrow” from others; go to your favorite online retailer and look up a few of your favorite bestselling books that are similar to yours; in the product description, most retailers will show the categories those books rank in.
Successful authors understand the importance of these four book marketing and book discovery techniques, and you'd be wise to copy them. Think about where you see books in person and online and consider how you could get your book similar placement. Consider times when you're truly struck by a book; what is it about that book or the book marketing that most impressed you? You’ve put all your energy into writing your book; now just copy the formula that thousands of other authors have used to make sure it succeeds!