SHINE ON SELF-PUBLISHED AUTHORS SERIES – DARLENE JONES

100-0059_IMG (1)I hunch over the computer writing and rewriting. I’ve completed three novels and have a start on a fourth. I’ve sent out queries for the first three. The pile of rejection letters grows. I shred them all and decide on yet another conference. My books deserve a reading audience.

At the Willamette Writers’ Conference we hear much rumbling about self-publishing. We’re told that the Big Six are (at that time) publishing only 55% of books available to readers. Advances are miniscule or non-existent. Marketing? Forget it. It’s do it yourself. And, says one speaker, “I pitched my author’s novel to 35 publishers before we got a sale. That was followed by a year of rewrites.” I groan. “His book is out next week. It’s been a two year process.” Two years!? “Publish yourself,” she says. “It’ll take you a couple of months.”

We agonized during the drive home. Self-publish? Oh, but the stigma. Our pitches were successful, so should we wait to hear from those agents and then decide? What to do? What to do?

Response from agent number one—rejection.  But, hey she’s actually given some feedback. Two whole paragraphs. This could be good. Nope! Her comments, which are cut and paste judging by the font variations, indicate a rewrite is needed. My heart might be found somewhere under my desk chair, or maybe in the sub-basement of my building.

I open the next email which is from my writing buddy. She’s received a rejection from the same agent. Two different genres and two very different writing styles. Both professionally copy-edited. Here’s where the cake is iced. The rejections are identical except for our names.

Stigma be damned. Self-publishing here we come.

I publish my four books using Kindle Direct, Smashwords, and Createspace, all three of which are great to work with. Now, on to the selling.

I’ve chosen my titles carefully, had the book covers professionally designed, blogged, and built a website. I’m using social media in preparation for the big launch and sales campaign.

What else? Oh yes, the blurb. This just may be the hardest part of all.

In the years that I’ve been writing and promoting my books, I’ve come to the conclusion that readers aren’t particularly interested in author interviews, or author bios, or book excerpts—at least not initially. I think readers, attracted by a cover or title want a quick book description that will entice them to download the sample.

So, if my theory is right, what constitutes a great book description? The blurbs below come from emails I’ve received –some from well-known publishing houses. I’ve made no changes to the descriptions other than deleting author names, book titles, and character names to preserve anonymity.

  1. “In this #1 New York Times bestselling e-book, Z, an experienced foster carer, is pressured into taking Y as a new placement. Y’s challenging behavior has seen off five carers in four months but X decides to take her on to protect her from being placed in an institution.”
  2. “The sensational New York Times bestseller from X, is a gift for readers, an enchanting, luminous novel about the accidents, both big and small, that affect our choice of friend, lover, and spouse.”
  3. “X has discovered the perfect gift for her daughter’s twenty-fifty birthday: an ideal husband. Y, however, is fed up with her mother’s endless matchmaking and grading of available Iranian American bachelors.”
  4. “Z is a fast-paced mystery with a likable protagonist and an intricately woven narrative brimming with bizarre yet believable twists. The first in a series, the book expertly lays the groundwork for X, amateur sleuth, and her love interest, FBI Agent Y. X becomes involved in the investigation of the murder of a summer intern at the limestone mine X manages near Z, Colorado (a breathtaking setting that unwittingly becomes an accessory to crime).”
  5. “This anthology of punchy short stories will grab your heart and your wallet and give them a good shake. The stories are set in the turbulent times of the post Global Financial Crisis world. Intriguing and at times twisted, these tales delve behind the facades of modern life to uncover the real struggles, hopes and dreams of ordinary people. Hopeful, insightful and at times humorous, Y is an engaging and thought-provoking work for our times.”
  6. “In May 2000, X is a cocky, adventurous young man who sees the world as his playground. But when the college senior, days from graduation, enters an abandoned mine, he discovers the price of reckless curiosity. He emerges in May 1941 with a cell phone he can’t use, money he can’t spend, and little but his wits to guide his way. Stuck in the age of Whirlaway, swing dancing, and a peacetime draft, X begins a new life as the nation drifts toward war. With the help of his 21-year-old trailblazing grandmother and her friends, he finds his place in a world he knew only from movies and books.”
  7. “Our world is being judged and we remain unaware. In a world filled with people, X is uniquely alone. The tiny glowing sparks filling her mind, representing the people around her, confirm it. Clueless regarding the reason behind her sight and her place in the world, X struggles to find an explanation. A chance encounter leads her closer to answers she’s struggled to find, and into a hidden society where fur is optional.”
  8. “It’s a mother’s worst nightmare: When X’s daughter suffers an unspeakable trauma, she whisks her away to a safe house where they begin the difficult journey to recovery. With over 100 five-star reviews on Amazon, a “thought-provoking and insightfully entertaining” tale.”
  9. “A USA Today bestselling author weaves a fun holiday romance with a “clever premise” (Booklist). When X finds herself catapulted to a future Christmas morning, will she be able reunite with her beloved husband and expected child?”
  10. “This deeply poignant bestseller charts the journey of two wildly different families united by their love for one young girl. As adoptee X searches for her place in the world, her relatives encounter love and loss across two continents. Written with “compassion and uncanny perception.”

If none of these are particularly enticing to the reader, it’s a clear sign that the author needs to improve on the blurb. How?

  • Think of your blurb as an advertisement.
  • Keep your sentences short and compact.
  • Focus on the conflict in your book.
  • Talk about two or three characters only.
  • Don’t include details that are better left in the novel.
  • Ask a question that the reader wants an answer to.

Attracted by the blurb, the reader downloads a sample. The final decision is made after reading the first few chapters. Either the reader is irrevocably hooked and buys the book immediately or they know it’s a no go and deletes the sample. For some books, the reader may still be undecided after the sample. That’s when they likely go to the reviews, if they haven’t already read them, to help them decide.

Marketing is a tough road, but I persist. I publish a book of snippets from my life. I post blogs and I work on a new novel—a departure from the sci-fi romance that has kept me enthralled for years.  After all, writing is what it’s all about.

AgfaPhoto

Website: www.emandyves.com

Blog: http://emandyves.wordpress.com

7 Comments

  1. kiel says:

    Plato and Socrates never had the luxury of fancy publishers, yet they go on to live in our times. Don’t feel untoward to self publishing. Publish!

    Like

  2. The only thing good about going with a traditional publisher is the prestige, and I can live without that. Almost everything else about self-publishing is a bonus. We have more control over our own work and we get a more fair portion of the profits.

    Like

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