3 Steps to a Sale? - Debbie Bennett

When it comes to ebooks, unless you sell by reputation, it’s often accepted that there’s an order of things by which people might be persuaded to buy your book. Impress your potential reader with all 3 and you’ll likely have a sale:

1.       Cover
2.       Blurb
3.       Sample

A cover is what generally first attracts the reader.  For my first attempt at my first ebook,  Hamelin’s Child, I didn’t have a clue. I had a lovely image designed by a talented friend of mine which worked well as a big image but not so well at thumbnail  (Pete also did the cover for my short story collection, Maniac, which works beautifully and I absolutely love).

I subbed Hamelin’s Child to Criminal-E - an interview/review site run by crime writer, agent & editor Al Guthrie. Al kindly told me the cover didn’t work, but he introduced me to his designer JT Lindroos and held my hand through the design process, providing masses of valuable input for which I am very grateful. The end result captures the book perfectly. I also used JT for my YA fantasy Edge of Dreams and the design of this cover is all his idea. Now that I understand the importance of getting everything to work in balance – the image, the font, the layout and spacing – I’ll always pay for a cover designed by an expert. After all, if I devote a huge chuck of my life to writing a book, why wouldn’t I devote as much effort to its cover?

The burb for an ebook is the digital equivalent of what you’d read on the back of a paperback in a bookshop. Its purpose is to make you want to read the book. It’s not a synopsis and you don’t want to give away key plot points, but you do need to introduce your main character and set up a problem for them. What’s at stake for your character? Who or what is standing in their way? You need something that will make your reader just have to open the book to find out what happens.

The blurb for Hamelin’s Child starts with the same first sentence as the novel. It’s a bit of a marmite sentence – readers either love it or hate it – but believe me every word has been carefully chosen for maximum impact. It’s a smack-you-between-the-eyes line. Fortunately I’m on about 80%/20% on the love/hate ratio …

Blurbs are not easy. You need to convey the “essence” of the book, give the reader a flavour of your voice and in such a short amount of space, that’s an incredibly hard thing to do.

After the blurb, if you can get your reader to click on the Look Inside feature, or download a sample for kindle, you’re almost home and dry. And here, the key thing is to build on what you’ve set up so far. And make it perfect. I’ve lost count of the number of ebooks I’ve sampled where the first page contains a spelling mistake or a homophone or a grammatical error – and you’ve lost me as a reader instantly. If you don’t care enough about your book to edit it, why should I care enough to read it? There is no excuse. Really there isn’t.

The sample provided by amazon, smashwords etc  is a set % of the total book. Some platforms let you decide the %. The trick here is to not pad the front of your book with quotes, reviews and other junk. I once downloaded a kindle sample where – after the copyright stuff, some reviews, details of what else the author had written etc – I got precisely one paragraph of the novel. I didn’t buy it. If you’re clever though, you’ll see where your sample cuts off and adjust accordingly, so that the reader gets enough to whet their appetite and judge your writing, but the sample ends on a cliffhanger …


Kathleen Jones said…
Yes, title and cover are really important - I know how much as I'm struggling to do mine! How on earth do you get the essence of a book in an image? Sometimes it's easy, sometimes not. Peirene Press have opted for a recognisable publisher's imprint, rather like the old Penguins. That gets round it, but it does rely on the reputation of the press or the author.
I usually buy on the first few pages - if I'm not hooked by the sample, I don't buy the book. Thanks for making some really important points Debbie.
Ann Evans said…
A thought provoking post Debbie, and a good point about not having too much 'padding' at the start so the reader can get straight into their story extract - and hopefully buy.

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