7 Oversights that Send Readers Away – Part II - Indie Pub It
Every indie author who has published at least one title is already aware of the obvious things they should be getting right if they don’t want to look like amateurs or, worse, unreadable. Elements such as line editing, decent covers, good blurbs and cover descriptions and a decent amount of reviews are all no-brainers that you must master.
But there are seven other things you might overlook in your relief to have the book out there, that can help drive potential readers away.
This is the second part of a series, 7 Oversights that Send Readers Away.
In Part I, I discussed:
Omitting series information at the back of the book.
Not giving your readers a reason to buy now.
You can read Part I here.
3. Not updating the book regularly.
Updating, repackaging, blowing off the dust…these are ideas that are unique to indie publishing, because our books remain on the virtual shelves forever.
They’re also brand new concepts.
Legacy publishers only have to worry about six months or perhaps a year at most. They design print runs to provide just enough copies for that period and figure that if the book takes off, they can issue an updated edition and reprint, later. As most books end up with minimal sales and their covers torn off after a month or two, the idea of “updating” a current edition just doesn’t exist in traditional publishing practices. For this reason they very rarely, if ever, update their ebook editions.
As indie publishing has only been (barely) mainstream for a few years, even indie authors are only slowly becoming aware of the need to update regularly. Yet we can do this fairly easily in comparison to legacy behemoths and that gives us a huge advantage in the marketplace.
There are trends in covers, genres, book product descriptions. For example, two years ago, a woman wielding a sword or a knife and wearing boots was featured on every urban fantasy out there. Those sword-wielding heroine are hard to find now…except on the older books.
Another example is product description. Even only a year ago, authors would stuff their subtitles with keywords and the product description, too. Now, that practice has ceased. Production descriptions still have keywords, but they are more organic. Keyword stuffing subtitles is being actively discouraged by booksellers (even if the keyword phrase is on your covers – I speak from experience), so any book that still has a keyword-rich sub-title is one that hasn’t been updated for a while.
Readers won’t look at these subtle signals and think “this book is old!”, but subconsciously, they will notice and their wariness will rise, as they wonder if the story is going to be as neglected as the package.
Branding practices grow steadily more sophisticated, especially as indie authors learn their trade more thoroughly. A book that you published even six months ago may have looked shiny and cutting-edge then…it may not look that great now, lined up against all the newer books in your genre.
For that reason, you should aim to review each book you have published at least once a year and update the packaging as needed.
There are other occasions that should generate product reviews, including the end of a series (re-issue new covers across the series and make a fuss about it, while you’re doing it), winning a significant award (new cover with the award mentioned), hitting the NYT or USA Today best seller lists (new cover, new bio, tell everyone!).
It’s not just the cover and product description that can go out of date while your back is turned. The meta data at the front and end of the book will relentless date itself if you don’t stay vigilant—especially if you are adding series information to your product description and linking to the next book in the series. (You absolutely should be doing this – see last month’s post, link above.)
If you’re also adding a complete list of books that you have released (also a good idea), that list will have to be maintained, too. If you’re linking each book title in that list to its buy-page on the bookseller site, then keeping the lists updated (one for each bookseller!) becomes a major chore.
You might be wondering why anyone would bother if it’s such a pain. Create a timeless book without links or series data that grows stale, and send readers to your website instead.
Except readers will rarely click through to your site. Marketers know that a 1% response rate to calls for action is average. Average. That means only one out of every hundred readers reading your book will head over to your website to learn what else you’ve done.
Put the information in your books. It takes time and as the number of books you’ve published grow, it can become a Sisyphean task unless you jump on it early and build systems for keeping your books updated.
At the time of this post’s publication, my sixtieth book will have just been released. When you reach these sorts of numbers, something that is relatively simple when you only have one or two books, like reviewing and updating your books every year, becomes a huge project. I currently take a few hours each week to review one book a week. At that rate, each book is reviewed once every fifteen months or so. As the number of books I have out there increases, I will have to increase the rate of reviewing, possibly to two books a week, just so they don’t build too much dust in between reviews. I have a review schedule and a long checklist of things to review for each book.
Every time I do one of these reviews I squirm, because there is always something in the book that is out of date or just looks old. It is interesting how often the link to the next book in the series is wrong or even missing. Gremlins are everywhere.
Readers may not consciously think “oh, this book looks old,” or that “the meta data is all wrong!” It’s worst than that: they will simply drift to some other author’s books, because you haven’t given them working links or information about what they should be reading next, or your packaging leaves them with the subconscious impression that the book is a one-off that you have forgotten about…and so should they.
Update your books regularly. It’s worth the effort to avoid sending your readers away.
More next month!
Tracy Cooper-Posey writes vampire romance series and hot romantic suspense. She has been nominated for five CAPAs including Favourite Author, and won the Emma Darcy Award. After a decade of legacy publishing, she switched to indie publishing has released over 55 indie titles to date. Her indie books have made her an Amazon #1 Best Selling Author and have been nominated four times for Book of the Year. Byzantine Heartbreak won the title in 2012. Faring Soul was awarded a SFR Galaxy Award in 2015. Tracy has been a national magazine editor and for a decade she taught romance writing at MacEwan University. An Australian, she lives in Edmonton, Canada with her husband, a former professional wrestler, where she moved in 1996 after meeting him on-line. Her website can be found at http://TracyCooperPosey.com.