You have a book idea, a manuscript, or a book soon to be published, and you have no idea what to do next. First of all, you want to keep some things in mind up front. You should write about something you know and are interested in. If you couldnít care less, it will be reflected in your book. Second, it helps if you write about something that is in demand---something people like or care about. If you write a book about the Care and Feeding of Pet Snails, youíre not likely to get many sales no matter how much you promote it.
It is true that people often literally judge a book by its cover. So, better shell out the bucks for a professional, custom-designed book cover. Try out different titles on family and friends. Ask which title would grab them enough that they'd pick up the book and maybe want to buy it. Also, for non-fiction, use a sub-title that clearly presents what the book is about. Create the right mood with the colors on your cover---if your book is about a racy topic, choose bright colors, if itís a business "how-to" use more subdued, dignified colors. Suggest nice graphics but donít go for a cover thatís so graphic, potential readers hardly notice the title and sub-title. If you have any experience or credentials, include them in your brief bio on the back cover of the book and maybe in your book preface.
Be wary of publishers that hit you with a hard sell for their manuscript-editing service. They can easily charge $500-3000 for editing your manuscript, even after youíve already paid someone to do so. If youíre far from a skilled writer, you know your manuscript is a mess, and/or youíre not too hot at grammar and spelling, then you might consider hiring an editor. But maybe you know someone who would do it for significantly less than the publisher.
Your publisher may offer quite a few different publicity options for your book. You need to be smart in which ones you select. A press release may not be very effective unless the publisher is targeting the release specifically at markets and media outlets that care about what youíve written. For example, unless your autobiography is unbelievably sensational or moving, general media contacts will not particularly care about publicizing it. Many publishers offer to sell you egotistical junk like posters of your book, bookmarks, business cards, and postcards. Maybe I shouldnít call the stuff junk; if you are a born salesperson, maybe you can enthusiastically disperse those bookmarks to enough people to create a real buzz about your book---maybe even a buying frenzy. However, after the initial excitement, items like these often end up buried in a drawer of your desk.
Donít get too excited if your publisher offers to send publicity about your book to 25,000 bookstores. Bookstores rarely seek books published by PODs, partly because they cannot return copies that do not sell. You can pay some PODs $300-500 to make it possible for bookstores to return unsold copies. But before you shell out the $500, question the publisher closely about how many of their authors have sold significant numbers of books through bookstores. If itís a rare occurrence, you might not want to invest the money. You may also want to question your publisher regarding what obstacles must be overcome before public libraries would seriously consider ordering your book.
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