Your backlist: remodel without a visit to a plastic surgeon or Home Depot.
by Ruth Harris
No, I’m certainly not sending you to the plastic surgeon. Even though maybe, just possibly your bio/book page could use — shall we say? — a nip and tuck. (Nothing personal. Just sayin.)
And I’m not recommending a visit to Home Depot, either, even if the paint is chipped, the faucets leak, and the appliances date from circa 1940.
As you no doubt know, plastic surgeons have long wait lists — and won’t pick up a scalpel without a prior application of beaucoup bucks.
As you also know, home renovation tends to be expensive, time consuming, nerve wracking — and possibly the Number One cause of divorce. (And, in extreme cases, murder?)
Unlike plastic surgery or home improvement, Author Refresh, Rehab and Repair does not require snooty doctors, vast sums of money, unreliable contractors, MIA electricians, no-show plumbers or, in desperate cases, consultations with expensive marriage counsellors.
Fortunately for us, there are lots of free and/or relatively low-cost DIY ways for us to approach the challenges faced by authors confronting the realities of a publishing career — meh covers, messed up epub and mobi files, a lacklustre author bio, an uninspiring author photo, off-target categories or clueless keywords.
Cover Rehab for your Backlist Titles
- Covers a little tired? Sort of run-down around the edges?
- Your cover is the first thing your prospective readers sees and we all know it must seduce, enchant, shout, whisper come hither. Or bludgeon the reader into clicking the buy link. (Oooops, I didn’t mean that. Did I?)
- Seriously, has it been a while since you’ve really looked at your cover? Does your cover align with current trends in your genre? Possibly it could be brighter (or darker) or the font could be improved? Maybe the art is a bit passé?
- Maybe your cover was a DIY job, you have some design skills, and it’s not all that bad. But what if it could use a bit of touching up? Canva is there to help for FREE.
- What if the DIY effort you sent out into the world when you were starting out…looks like a DIY job? Could you use a redo from a pro designer? Would the pop in new sales be worthwhile?
- Spending time researching cover designers who specialize in your genre might be an excellent investment. Putting a pro on the case might make a pleasant difference in your bottom line.
Nip and Tuck your Backlist Blurbs: Sell the Sizzle, not the Plot!
- The blurb is like the “Coming Attraction” or trailer for a movie. Are your backlist blurbs genre-appropriate, short, snappy, and irresistible.? The blurb is absolutely not the place to explain the plot!
- The point is that everyone is pressed for time and prospective buyers don’t really read blurbs. They skim them. You have a few seconds to make the sale. Make sure your blurb does the mostest with the quickest by using great headlines, well chosen itals and bolding, a great wind-up tease.
- If your blurb could use a refresh, check the blurbs of the top selling books in your genre for ideas. Make a list of the words and phrases that appeal to readers of your genre and then refer to that list when you refresh/revise your blurb.
- Refer to your elevator pitch — you do have a great one, don’t you? — and recycle all the work you put into it to goose up your blurb.
- Use short paragraphs and short sentences. No blocks of text, OK? (Unless you want a ticket straight to writer dungeon.)
- Make sure there’s plenty of white space. Use short words and short sentences to grab your reader’s attention.
- Remember that Amazon shows only the first few line of your blurb. Make sure every word in that short space counts!
- Friend-of-the-blog Dave Chesson, has given us a super-handy and super easy-to-use FREE tool that automagically converts your blurb into html. You write your blurb in the top window, then highlight & click the buttons to format it the way you want. When finished, click “Generate My Code” et voilà. All ready to copy/paste.
- If you hate writing blurbs — and it shows — by all means hire a blurb expert to do the job and get it done right.
Update That Author Bio: Just the Facts, Plus some Personality.
- If you’ve won any awards or prizes or hit bestsellers lists, be sure to add that info to refresh your bio.
- Mention your dog, cat or the cute family of ducks that hang out on a nearby pond.
- Anne offers great advice in her post about the do’s and don’ts of author bios.
- If this is your first attempt at an author bio, check out Anne’s guidance about how to write an author bio even if you don’t feel like an author…yet.
- For more even more inspiration, Diana Urban at BookBub looks at 35 stand-out author bios in genres ranging from fantasy and sci fi to romance to Christian Fiction to horror and beyond. Diana points out specifically what makes each profile stand out.
Backlist Upkeep and Maintenance
- With the advent of epublishing, books have become subject to revision — even after publication.
- No longer do authors have to live with old decisions and lousy reviews — not when a better idea for a new ending or a snappier beginning comes along. Don’t like it? Could do better? Just change it!
- A backlist title might profit from a new edit now that you’ve had time away from it and can review it with a fresh eye. Or, even if it’s been edited the first time around, a re-edit.
- Could your backlist book’s *Look Inside* be polished and buffed? Checked for typos? The formatting A+? Are the characters well drawn? The setting intriguing? Here’s Anne on how to write a first chapter and me on tips and fixes for first chapter blues.
- No matter what genre you write, your first sentence must be a seduction. It can be in the form of an invitation. A declaration. A tease. A promise. A jolt. A shock. To get you going, here are some inspiring first lines.
Tech Help for your Backlist File Renovations
- Creating and formatting attractive mobi, epub and POD files has become cheaper and easier. Vanished are the days when writers had to hire professional formatters and pay them again when typos and other fixes had to be made. Using any of the methods listed below make fixing errant typos a snap. Ditto swapping in a new, improved blurb, author bio or adding a newly published book to your back matter.
- Scrivener (Mac and PC) includes a generous FREE trial, costs $45, although you can often find codes on the internet. Scrivener offers user-friendly ways to make your book upload-ready, and has simplified their Compile feature to make it easier to use.
- Vellum (~$200 to ~250, Mac only) creates beautiful digital and print files, adds store links to make purchasing easy for readers, creates box sets with a few keystrokes, offers a FREE trial and is well worth the $ if you plan to publish regularly. (PC users can access Vellum via macincloud.com.)
- With attractive templates to choose from, Draft 2 Digital outputs files that work with any eReader app or device on the market. You can use D2D’s FREE formatting tool to make professional quality mobi, epub and POD files even if you don’t plan to publish via D2D!
- Jutoh — $40 for Mac and PC — outputs high quality digital and PDF for print files in all current formats. You can even import your old epub files directly into Jutoh for editing, revising, or updating.
- MS Word style ninjas can export epub/mobi files directly.
- Mac Pages also formats into digital book formats.
Author Photo Facelift
- Need a facelift? Avoid the pricey plastic surgeon! Post a new, more flattering photo instead.
- Replace a casual snapshot with a pro portrait? Or vice versa?
- Your photo’s fine but what about adding one or two more photos? Using a photo of you at the beach? Why not add one at your desk? Or with your dog (or cat)?
- A new or additional photo or two is a quick, easy way to add eye appeal and personality to your book page.
Refresh Categories, Keywords and Search Phrases for your Backlist.
- Amazon continually adds categories. Did you know that there are now 16,000+ Amazon Categories? Here’s Dave Chesson again on how to pick the best ones for your book.
- Without getting deep into the thickets of SEO, here’s a list of 25 of the Best, FREE Keyword Research Tools (2019 Edition).
- For more help, this FREE Keyword Research, Organization & Optimization Page also can help you choose the best keywords for each book.
- Marketing gurus disagree but, based on solid experimentation and data research, Dave Chesson answers your questions about deciding on the most effective Kindle keywords: Use all 50 characters? Or not?
- To start with category basics, KDP offers guidelines about how to use and choose categories plus some do’s and don’ts.
- This article offers a clear, how-to approach to hunting down the best categories for your books.
Buy the Miraculous, Instant Magic Secret to Success!…Not
Really? Come on! Get your head out of your…the clouds.
No marketing BS, no gauzy promises or romantic fantasies peddled here. Every Sunday Anne and I admit our mistakes, celebrate our triumphs, and share what we have learned over years as writers and publishers. We are not selling pricey courses, expensive services, or hyping pie-in-the-sky results.
Our goal is to make the ups and downs of writing and publishing real to newcomers and experienced authors.
The point of this post is to highlight doable, down-to-earth ways authors can use the advantages of self-publishing to help themselves and their books. Step by step, little by little — in fact, just like writing a book itself — paying attention to the everyday basics can add up to a satisfying career.
So keep it real, use what makes sense to you, dump the rest, and keep on keeping on!
by Ruth Harris (@RuthHarrisBooks) October 27, 2019
Power Outage Notice:
BOOK OF THE WEEK
HUSBANDS AND LOVERS (Park Avenue Series, Book #2)—The Married Woman—Once a shy wallflower, Carlys Webber marries multimillionaire Kirk Arnold. When Kirk changes from a loving husband to an angry stranger, will Carlys risk her precious marriage for a few moments of stolen passion with the irresistibly handsome and sensuous architect, George Kouras?
The Single Woman—Fashion world superstar, Jade Mullen survives deception and divorce. She vows never to be betrayed again but what will she do when her devoted lover, architect George Kouras, asks her the one question she doesn’t want to answer?
The Husband—Kirk Arnold struggles to forget the dark secrets of his tormented past. He achieves one dazzling success after another but will he succumb to the tragedy that destroyed his family and will Carlys pay the price?
The Lover—George Kouras rises from humble beginnings to the top of his profession. He and Jade fall madly in love and think they have discovered a new way to live happily ever after, but what will she do when she finds out about George and Carlys?
Set in the glittering world of fashion and in high-powered executive suites, in run-down houses, ethnic neighborhoods and sedate suburbs, Husbands and Lovers is about men and women losing—and finding themselves—in the gritty 1970s and glitzy 1980s. “Steamy and fast-paced, you will be spellbound.”–Cosmopolitan
The Tucson Festival of Books Prizes. 3 prizes of $1,000 each for poetry, fiction, and creative nonfiction. Winners can take part in a panel at the Tucson Festival of Books and attend a workshop on the University of Arizona campus in March 2020. Submit 5 poems, a short story, essay, or excerpt from a novel or memoir of up to 5,000 words. $20 fee. Deadline October 31.
The John Steinbeck Award. for short fiction. Fee $20 . Submit short fiction up to 5000 words. Prize $1000 plus publication in Reed Magazine. Deadline November 1.
DISQUIET LITERARY PRIZE $15 ENTRY FEE. For writing in any genre, by a writer who has not yet published more than one book. 3 winners will be published in Granta.com (fiction), NinthLetter.com (nonfiction) or The Common (poetry). Grand prize winner gets a full scholarship, accommodations, and travel stipend to attend the tenth annual DISQUIET International Literary Program in Lisbon (June 21 – July 3, 2020.) Deadline January 3, 2020.
31 Magazines Accepting Poetry Submissions this month. Many are paying markets. Vetted by Authors Publish.
7 PUBLISHERS FOR MEMOIRS! You don’t need an agent. From the good folks at Authors Publish