I’m going to continue with my marketing posts for another week. Those of you working feverishly on your NaNoWriMo books and looking for any guidance on how to write more faster… well, what can I say? Fifteen minutes thinking through what you’re going to write can mean all the difference (unnecessary plug here for A Writer’s Journal where you can easily track what you wrote today and what you’ll be writing next).

So, as you all know from last week’s post, I’ve been working on upping my marketing game. Oddly enough, two blog posts came my way this past week, and both were really interesting because they addressed what makes a reader give a new author a try.

With the millions of books out in the world today and hundreds being added every single day, what is it, exactly, that makes someone buy your book?

Yes, they’ve got to see it first, and just getting it in front of their eyes can be tricky. According to a Bookbub blog post (you should read their blog, it’s full of really useful stuff!), most people find books to read through recommendations.

Of course, the most followed recommendations are through word of mouth—a friend telling someone that this book by So-and-So was soooo good and they’ve got to read it! They also trust sources like Bookbub (the blog post actually puts that first, but I think their data might be a little skewed), and other online book newsletters. But people will also follow the recommendations of people they don’t know or only sorta-kinda know like their “friends” on social media or an author’s recommendation.  (I can’t tell you how many times I’ve clicked for more information when I get an email from Bookbub saying Famous Author has recommended this book! I want to know what they’re reading and recommending.)

What’s interesting that the weight of a recommendation from an author is stronger than that of people they’re friends with on social media. However, if your reader is part of a book club either online or in real life, you can be sure that they’ll get a lot of good recommendations for books there, and those sorts of groups are definitely listened to more than an ordinary post.

All right, so someone recommends a book to a friend, or they see it listed in a newsletter or an ad pops up in their newsfeed. What’s the very first thing people look at?

Right, your book cover!

Your book cover is your number one marketing tool.

We’re told not a judge a book by its cover, but guess what… we do anyway!

It is that cover that is going to make someone click on your ad send them searching at their favorite online bookstore.

This is great! You have invested a lot of time and money and, hopefully, the help of a professional book cover designer in creating the most beautiful and/or enticing cover. It oozes information about the genre of the book and teases the reader with hints of what the book is about. Yay! Good job!

But wait, have you looked at the covers of other books in your genre? How does yours stand up to theirs? And have you ever noticed that there are trends in book covers? You know why. Because people tend to copy the style of the cover of a top-selling book.

I’ve noticed recently that there have been a number of historical romances with original art instead of photographs. It’s an interesting trend. For a while, a lot of covers were lush with flowing material. Before that, it was the half-naked clutch (two people in each other’s arms on their way or already in bed)–well, that one’s been popular in romance forever.

It’s not always a bad idea to see what’s selling and copy the concept of the covers of the books at the top of the charts. If it works for them, it could work for you too.

Oh, by the way, according to Barbara Linn Probst in this post on Jane Friedman’s blog, it’s not just your cover, it’s your title too! Make sure it’s a good one! Take a look and see what other books have the same title. See what potential readers are going to see if they simply type your title into a search engine.

So, what’s the next thing that potential readers are going to look at once you’ve hooked them with your fantastic cover? Your enticing book description, naturally!

That description had better give a really good tease (not a full outline) about your protagonist, who they are and what they want. What is it that’s stopping them from getting that? Where the excitement in the book? What is it about your book that’s going to make a reader say, “Ooooh, I’ve got to read this!”.

Oddly enough, even though many people will continue on down the sales page, the information below that book description is just not going to be as useful in selling your book. Yes, many people read book reviews, but just as many dismiss them as biased. That glowing review that the author paid $400 to Kirkus to get isn’t going to make any more difference than the two lines typed up by Joe Kindle. And even though I get really excited when one of my books wins a contest (A Hand for the Duke just did), it’s not going to make much of a difference to a potential reader. They just don’t care.

So, the takeaway, as you’ve guessed, is to make sure your titles and covers are absolutely the best they can be. That’s where you should spend your advertising dollars.

If you want to check out the new covers I just got made for my Storm Series, you can see them here. I’m quite happy with them, but please don’t hesitate to tell me what you think!