How to Hook Your Readers and Increase Your Book Sales
Welcome to our weekly guest column by the Book Mentor and author of the bestselling novel of The Torah Codes, Ezra Barany. He offers indie novelists important tips, entirely under our control, to help us increase book sales.
A lot of indie authors think that as long as they write a well-written novel, their book will become successful and they’ll make a million bucks in the first month and they can buy a ranch. The reality is that there are tons of great self-published books out there that aren’t making any sales. That’s because there are two ways people decide to buy a book. Two approaches. And if you just focus on the often neglected approach, your sales will increase by leaps and bounds!
Approach #1 – Word of Mouth
Indeed, one of the two approaches does require your novel to be well-written. That way, after people read it, they’ll tell all their friends how you’re the cat’s knees, the bee’s pajamas, and so on. Word of mouth and word of mouse (internet referrals) are the best way to keep the momentum of your book sales going.
Now on to approach #2 – The Book’s Looks
In order for your readers to tell their friends about your book, they need to read it first! The question is, why would they pick up your book in the first place?
The often skipped piece of creating a book is hooking the reader and reeling her in, making it marketable.
Perhaps the biggest reason a reader will buy a book is because it’s been recommended by a friend. To satisfy those buyers, write a good book. Something worthwhile mentioning to friends. And if no one has read it to recommend it (yet), here is the seven-step process for how readers buy an unknown book:
1. The Title – If the title is a phrase often searched in Google and Amazon search engines like my bestseller The Torah Codes, it’s a good title. Make it easy to find your book by title alone. My next book will probably be called The 36 Righteous even though The 36 sounds better. I chose the longer title because that’s what people seeking information about the 36 righteous plug into the search engines.
2. The Cover – The cover must convey the experience the reader can expect to have reading your book. Not the story, the experience. If it’s a thriller, show a running person or moving train. If it’s a mystery, show a smoking gun or chalk outlines of a dead body. If it’s a romance, show a shirtless man holding a woman in his arms. And don’t skimp on the art. Covers sell books. Make sure yours looks professional.
3. Reviews – Displayed on the front cover, on the back, readers eat up reviews. Make sure you have at least three total and keep them short, punchy, and informative. On Amazon, start your online description with these.
4. The Blurb – The blurb on the back cover or in the description of your book is often the next part viewed by the book browser. Here’s where you summarize the story, the conflict, the overall question the book raises about the protagonist(s). Make sure to use key words and phrases your readers would use to look up the features that your genre of book is in. (Here’s a post that mentions how to write a powerful book blurb.)
5. Readability – After admiring the title, cover, reviews and description, the book browser often checks inside to see if the book is comfortable to read. Is it a large enough font? Are the margins wide enough? Is the spacing between lines big enough? For ebooks, they might check a free sample to see if the ebook version was laid out well or are the chapters all mushed into one, that sort of thing.
6. The First Sentence – If the inside of the book looks readable, your browser might then read the first sentence. The purpose of the first sentence is to convey the overall tone of the book and to have the reader long to know what follows. That first sentence is the one that lets your readers know what your writing style is like so they’ll want to keep reading. For me, it took me months to be satisfied with a good first sentence for The Torah Codes. I ended up with: “Digging up a corpse buried underneath a busy sidewalk creates all sorts of problems.”
7. The First Paragraph – Have the first paragraph amp up the power of the first sentence. Show who the character is, raise the stakes with the plot, make the reader love where the story might go and love the idea of spending time with the character(s). The first paragraph should be among the best paragraphs in your entire book.
Bonus Step! Make It Easy to Buy – At this point, your potential reader may be convinced that your book could be enjoyable. But if she has to join a club, fill out forms, email friends, or buy a ranch just to buy your book, she’s going to skip it. Making sure your book is available in places your reader likely frequents is key to setting up those one-click buy opportunities, and helping you get sales.
A marketer once told me the purpose of the title on a website is to get them to read the subtitle. The purpose of the subtitle is to get them to read the first sentence. The purpose of the first sentence is to get them to read the second sentence, and so on. Similarly, the purpose of the title is to get them to look at the cover, the purpose of the cover is to get them to read the reviews or, skipping the reviews, read the book description, etc.
If you have these seven parts in place, your self-published book will be found, coveted, and bought by enough people to spread the word about how great your book is. But still don’t expect a million dollars in the first month. That ranch will have to wait.
Book marketing mentor, Ezra Barany is the author of the award-winning bestseller, The Torah Codes. Contact Ezra today to begin the conversation on how he can help you now via Facebook, Twitter, or contact him through this blog, or email: EZRA at THETORAHCODES dot COM.