6. Make a promise. Bigger is better, as long as you deliver.
Sunday, June 26, 2016
WHAT’S UP FRONT COUNTS: DEDICATION, TABLE OF CONTENTS, ACKNOWLEDGMENTS, FOREWORD, PREFACE
“This is dedicated to the one I love…” so began a popular song a few decades ago. That opening line caught the listener’s attention, and your Dedication page can likewise capture your reader’s notice.
Judy Axtell dedicated But…at What Cost, her memoir-plus-political-tract, “To Frederick Douglass and his deep understanding of human nature and freedom,” celebrating a great African-American and alerting her readers that she is not the stereotype they have when they think of conservatives.
The dedication of my Ting and I: A Memoir of Love, Courage, and Devotion goes:
Offered with love to Tina Su Cooper, the light of my life
Love one another, but make not a bond of love:
Let it rather be a moving sea between the shores of your souls.
Give your hearts, but not into each other’s keeping
For only the hand of Life can contain your hearts.
–Khalil Gibran, The Prophet
All that we love deeply becomes part of us.
From the dedication, the reader knows immediately that this is a story about a deep and long-lasting love that has endured, among other things, long separation.
The dedication to Kidnapped Twice: Then Betrayed and Abused, by Mary E. Seaman and myself, is simply, “To those who care deeply about the treatment of the least powerful among us: our children, our pets, and our wildlife.” It tells you a lot, favorably, about Mary right away.
One more example: novelist Mark Hazard (2015) dedicates his Corus and the Case of the Chaos: A Detective Mystery, “For Rudy. Best dog ever.” It does not necessarily indicate Hazard lacks friends and family. Rather, it sets up the novel’s theme: a master detective struggling with depression triggered by the death of his beloved dog.
Your Table of Contents can pique the reader’s interest, help the reader know what to expect, make it easy to find material within the book if there is no index, and often will show up in brief descriptions of the book, such as Amazon’s Inside the Book feature.
Your Acknowledgments give you the opportunity to thank those who have contributed to your life and to your book. What a nice way to thank them! Whom you praise may add to your credibility and gravitas.
The Foreword should be written by someone who likes what you have written, says so, and has credibility because of position and accomplishments.
Your Preface lets you tell your readers why you wrote the book and why it is likely to be of value to them.
Not all books will have all these elements, but most should.
With these out of the way, we move on to your Introduction.
WRITING A COMPELLING NONFICTION INTRODUCTION
We’ll explore some options for your introduction, which options will be different for the different nonfiction genres.
First, “how to” book introductions are discussed.
Given that the popular topics of health, wealth, and personal relationships are all susceptible to the “how to” treatment, this approach covers a lot of ground. After the introduction, you will go into much more detail on why and how. Memoirs need a different approach, discussed after this.
8 Steps to a Compelling “How To” Book Introduction
This is based on an excellent Amazon Kindle ebook, Book Launch, by highly successful writer and publisher Chandler Bolt and co-author J. Roper. The book is subtitled “How to write, market, and self-publish your first bestseller in 3 months or less AND use it to start and grow a six-figure income.” Modest claims rarely sell books.
Bolt notes that number-one bookseller amazon.com gives the first 10% of the book in its “Inside the Book” feature, so your Table of Contents and your Introduction need to grab the reader.
Here are Bolt’s eight steps:
1. Identify the problem. Let the reader know what problem you will be solving.
2. Present the solution briefly. Your book will show how to solve the problem by….
3. Reassert your credibility. Tell who you are and why you wrote the book and why your advice should be trusted.
4. Restate the benefits. Tell reader what they will get, again, in more detail.
5. Give them proof. Tell some stories, briefly.
6. Make a promise. Bigger is better, as long as you deliver.
6. Make a promise. Bigger is better, as long as you deliver.
7. Warn against waiting. If they wait, they may lose out on benefits.
8. Get them to start reading immediately. Read it now, to be ready whenever.
Chandler Bolt’s book is packed with useful information and serves as an effective advertisement for his training program: www.self-publishingschool.com. Adria Goldman Gross and I used this outline to introduce our book (Gross and Cooper, 2015) on reducing medical billing and re-imbursement errors.
Writing a Riveting Introduction to Your Memoir
If you need some introductory material, perhaps it is best to place it in your preface. The introduction to your memoir should be something dramatic, something to engage the reader, probably a crisis in your life of some sort. Ideally, the reader would have to go farther in the book to find the resolution of the crisis, so this first introductory material ends with a natural cliff-hanger.
You are going to follow this crisis section with a description of what led up to the crisis. After that, describe the resolution, if any, and the lessons to be learned from your experience. You may choose to include added material, such as references that will be of help to the reader.
Excerpted from my recent opus, Write Your Book with Me, published by Outskirts Press and available through OP and online booksellers such as amazon.com and bn.com. See also my site http://WriteYourBookWithMe.com.
Sunday, June 19, 2016
Here I quote and paraphrase indie author Rayne Hall (2015), who has written about the 20 elements she believes may hinder your book from selling or may help it sell. First, you need an effective cover:
Most book purchases – ebooks or print – happen online. The reader browsing sites sees a dozen or more books displayed on the page. Her eye scans over them, and unless one catches her attention, she clicks ‘next’…. Your book cover has a fraction of a second to arrest the eye.
- What else? For one thing symmetrical designs, where the left side is essentially the mirror image of the right side, are not as attention-getting as asymmetrical designs. Hall gives several graphic examples, and it is clear that the more complex asymmetrical designs tend to be more eye-catching.
- Although you are not likely to do your own cover designing, it is good to know some basic principles. For example, Hall recommends dividing the front cover region into thirds, left and right, top and bottom, a pattern similar to the # or tic-tac-toe pattern. Arrange to have the main graphic element be off-center. Align the author name to one side and book title to another. “If possible, arrange the title on one of the two horizontal lines, and an arresting part of the picture where two lines cross.”
- Especially for online sales, where the cover is seen as a little “thumbnail,” simplicity is preferable to complexity, as much detail will be lost anyway.
- People get our attention. “A character attracts the eye more than a landscape or an object. A portrait or half-body character (from the waist up) typically gets more attention than a full-body figure.” If consistent with your genre, use a single figure or object.
- Because of the size reduction for online display, much text will be hard to read unless the font size is quite large. Title and author, two elements, are generally better than three or four. If you’re not famous, making your name particularly large will not likely fool most potential buyers, however.
- Make sure that your cover signals the reader what genre it represents. Look at other competitor covers to get a good general idea. Beware getting stock photos or illustrations already used by other book covers, as this can confuse the reader, perhaps annoying her.
Ebook maven Karia (2015) joins the chorus of those who stress the importance of an attractive cover. He changed one of his and tripled his sales rate by doing so. Actually, he got an artist to do it, as he warns “Don’t Do It Yourself!” That does not keep him from having opinions about what works, however:
· Title: large, so as to be readable when in Amazon thumbnail
· Contrasting colors: for legibility
· Visual simplicity: again, consider what the “thumbnail” will look like
Karia joins others who recommend fiverr.com as a source for book-cover designers. Have several do several, then select one. You should search for images on shutterstock.com to indicate what you are seeking. He gives detailed advice on working with these graphic artists. “Remember that your cover is one of the most important parts of your book.”
Why, then, did I originally choose a plain cover for this book, WYBWM? The three paperback options my publisher offers that I was considering include various features, only some of which I care about. A plain cover with its big title and my name is part of the $400 package. Next more expensive, at about $700, would include a picture on the cover, and most of my writers get this one or the next more expensive at about $1000 that includes an artistic cover. Being married, I am spending not just “my” money, but “our” money, and I hate to waste it. The book may become popular, but may merely become a “thick business card.” I can handle only a limited number of new writing partners, anyway. If I make WYBWM into blog pieces or videos, the original cover won’t mean much. Finally, one would like to think, perhaps foolishly, that his book is bought for its contents not its cover. Oh, no, extinguish the ego!
Why did I finally go with the cover you see here, costing hundreds of dollars more than the simplest choice? It was too beautiful to resist. I hoped the readers would agree.
Excerpted from Write Your Book with Me, published by Outskirts Press and available from OP as well as online booksellers like amazon.com, where today (06.19.16) both the ebook and the paperback are on sale for under $1.
My writing-coaching-editing site is http://WriteYourBookWithMe.com.
Hall, R. (2015). Why does my book not sell? 20 simple fixes.
St Leonards, UK: Scimitar Press.
Karia, A. (2015). How to write a non-fiction Kindle ebook in 15 days, Self-Published. Amazon ebook.
Sunday, June 12, 2016
CHOOSING YOUR NONFICTION TITLE
Authors understand that getting people to read our books is almost like seduction: we lure them in with a good-looking cover, capture their interest with our title, then we tell our story.
Let’s say you have chosen to write a nonfiction book. You have picked your topic. Next, you’ll want to have a working title, one that you may change in the future, but something that allows you to refer to the book comfortably.
Taking some time and effort to choose your title makes sense. This will help guide the direction of your writing. If you find later on that you have strayed, you can then decide whether to change the title or to bring your writing back in line with your original idea.
As you will see in what follows, there are some sound suggestions for developing a title that will help your book reach its audience. You’ll be balancing between what is creative and what is clear. In some cases your title may be a bit mysterious, but you will choose to clarify with a subtitle.
Your book’s formal title may be different from the “nickname” you started with, your working title. No problem.
Writing coach Kristen Eckstein (2013) has written a fine short book, a bargain on amazon.com at $0.99 for the Kindle version: AUTHOR’S QUICK GUIDE to Creating a Killer Non-fiction Book Title, one of her series of GUIDES. I’ll summarize some of it here, and explore how it applied to my own memoir, but I also encourage you to buy her book.
I titled my memoir of our 50-year-long interracial marriage Ting and I: A Memoir of Love, Courage, and Devotion. Let’s analyze this in the light of Ms. Eckstein’s prescriptions:
1. The primary title is Ting and I. Unless you are well-known, you are advised to keep your title short, five words or less. Done. Who is “Ting”? My wife, born Su Tingting. “Ting” added a touch of mystery, a good thing, and perhaps echoed the familiar movie The King and I, another good thing. It sounded foreign, which is exotic to some and attractive, but off-putting to others, so the result is mixed. Women buy more books than men, so it would have been nice if this suggested that “Ting” is indeed a woman, but it doesn’t. Can’t win ‘em all.
2. My Ting and I’s subtitle is A Memoir of Love, Courage, and Devotion. It tells you what kind of book it is, a memoir, which is good. Check. It does not exactly indicate what benefit the reader will get, though some might enjoy reading about love, courage, and devotion, and some may even be inspired.
3. The title does not indicate how to do something, and How To is a favorite category for book buyers. Perhaps reading the book will show you how a very lovable person (my wife, Tina) behaves, but the title and sub-title don’t indicate that. Oh, well.
4. The title lacks numbers, which are often very attention-getting: 7 Habits of Highly Effective People, One-Minute Manager, 50 Shades of Grey. A number is specific, almost a promise.
5. The title and subtitle were not chosen for Search Engine Optimization [SEO], but sometimes one should do so. You can find lots of material on SEO, but you will have a real challenge to stand out, unless you have picked a very small niche.
Karen Eckstein’s handy GUIDE includes a link to her coaching site, UltimateBookCoach.com, and a link for a free set of instructions, “The 50 Ultimate Book Titles Template,” with suggestions for creating your own killer, ultimate, maximally effective title. Hmm, “The 50 Ultimate…” seems like she took her own advice.
For fiction titles, you have more latitude, but some of the same rules apply. Moby Dick? The Sun Also Rises? Tender is the Night? To Kill a Mockingbird? Could you guess their themes? Talent trumps titles.
Ebook success Karia (2105) gives the following advice, prefer:
· Short title with explanatory sub-title
· Keywords likely to be used in searches
· Title that indicates benefits
· Title that raises curiosity
I think Ting and I: A Memoir of Love, Courage, and Devotion, fell short on promising benefits. How to Manage Nursing Care at Home, seems to fit all the above except “curiosity.”
Karia (2015) cites Craig Valentine’s book World Class Speaking, for this mnemonic summary, EDGE, for benefits:
· Esteem (more): gain prestige, confidence
· Do more: improve your abilities and performance
· Gain more: money, friends, time…
· Enjoy more: be happier, worry less
Your title should offer some of the above. Ask others for their suggestions. If you have a significant Social Media following (Twitter, Facebook, email), you can try “A/B comparisons,” soliciting votes on which title (A or B) they prefer. You can spend money on Facebook ads and make A/B comparisons with Click-throughs or Likes as the metric. Later on here, I discuss my generally successful experience with Facebook ads.
Excerpted from my most recent opus, Write Your Book with Me, published by Outskirts Press, available from OP, amazon.com, bn.com, and other online booksellers. Free ebook offered at my site, http://WriteYourBookwithMe.com.
Today, I downloaded an ebook with a near-perfect title: M.A. Grant's The Coaching Secret: The Ugly Truth. Pithy. People love secrets and myth-busting.
Saturday, June 4, 2016
NONFICTION BOOKS: THE TRUTH, APPROXIMATELY
Books, even the best ones, only approximate reality. Not all details can be included. Not all details are correct. Even so, the nonfiction book author tries to include the important aspects and get these right. Ideally, the sources for the “facts” will be made clear, allowing some checking by skeptical readers and allowing others to follow up and get more information.
Experts have been shown to be wrong with surprising frequency (see David H. Freedman’s 2010 book Wrong), so you will be in good company if some of what you write turns out not to be correct. Try to keep that to a minimum!
CHOOSING YOUR NONFICTION NICHE
In his How to Write a Non-Fiction Kindle eBook in 15 Days, Karia (2015) recommends you first explore your interests and knowledge:
· What do I know well?
· What am I interested in?
· What could I research effectively?
· What experts can I access easily?
For Write Your Book with Me, I knew how to write, had written and published a lot, am interested in writing, and the Internet gives lots of opportunities for obtaining more information, as does amazon.com. I accessed the experts through their books. For my memoir, Ting and I, the answers were clear: I knew our life. For a third book, How to Manage Nursing Care at Home, I had over a decade of experience and co-authored it with Diane R. Beggin, a very smart and articulate Registered Nurse who had even more experience along with the requisite professional training and credentials. For a fourth book, SOLVED! Curing Your Medical Insurance Problems, I had a co-author who was an expert in the field, and I supplied some personal experience plus coaching and editing.
But will anyone buy it? I didn’t care much about sales with my memoir, as it was largely a gift to my wife and my family and friends. I hoped this book on writing would be popular and helpful, but at least it would be useful for my writing students / clients, and it serves as a thick business card. One author claimed that books are the best business cards on Earth. Still, one would like to go beyond handing them out.
Karia (2015) and others recommend using amazon.com to explore what is selling and where the opportunities are. He recommends noting the books that have sales ranks of 20,000 or less (where lower means more sales). A book of his that was ranked near 10,000 was selling 200 to 300 ebooks per month. A book ranking near 200,000 would be selling about one-twentieth as many per month. He notes, “If you can’t find at least three books with that low sales rank [10.000], it means there isn’t much demand for your topic.” Move on, unless you don’t care about sales. Karia also recommends checking with udemy.com to see what courses are most popular.
Next, focus on “narrowing your niche.” My title here, Write Your Book with Me, is probably too broad. “Memoir” rather than “Book” would have been better, but it would not have reflected the title of my web site and narrowed the book’s scope greatly. “Bestseller” would have been even more attractive, but I cannot really promise that. “First Book” would have narrowed the field and indicated that I was going to help newbies who were not likely to get published by traditional publishers. Our How to Manage Nursing Care at Home seems both needed and manageable, though. Watch for it on the bestsellers lists…if there’s nothing better to watch on TV.
More market research can be obtained by reviewing the Amazon reviews of the books you might have written.
Excerpted from my magnum opus, Write Your Book with Me, available from online booksellers, including amazon.com, bn.com, and its publisher, Outskirts Press. The 200-page paperback and the ebook formats are currently about $1 at amazon.com, and the truly intrepid and parsimonious can get the ebook free at WriteYourBookwithMe.com.