The First C is Content.
It goes without saying that the content is the most important part of the book. What’s in your book and how it’s laid out is just as important, if not more important, than every other facet of it. Some may argue whether the content or the cover is most important. The cover will definitely capture someone’s attention and make them want to pick it up, but if the content doesn’t engage the reader and keep them engaged, then you don’t have a chance.
First of all, if you’re writing a book, then understand that your fans don’t want to read about you. If you’re trying to use a book to position yourself as an authority, then the most important parts about you are in the author’s about section. Authors who write entire books that are just about themselves tend not to sell as well unless they already have a massive following. If you’re writing on a topic that you’re considered to be an expert in, you can raise your expert status by doing enough research on other people and books in your field, and use relevant stories and ideas in your book that go beyond you as an example. Talking about other people raises your credibility to your reader.
The second thing is the format of your book. Professional books follow very specific formats. There are very, very specific format guidelines that need to be present. If you don’t have your books set up properly and it’s not formatted properly, it just won’t be accepted into bookstores. Make sure there’s lots of space in the gutter of the book, which is the space between two pages when the book is open. Make sure you know the difference between the nuances of publishing a fiction and a nonfiction book. Fiction books should follow the hero’s journey. The Hero’s journey is that classic structure which involves a hero going on an adventure, and in a decisive crisis wins a victory, and then comes home changed or transformed. A great example is Star Wars, with the hero being Luke Skywalker.
In a fiction book, you can start a new chapter wherever it lies. You typically don’t put blank pages in a fiction book. For non-fiction books, however, your chapters all need to start on the right side of the book. They need to be numbered appropriately, with a table of contents at the beginning. There should be an introduction to your book, and then afterward and a proper table, and an index in the back with footnotes that cite your sources. A great editor can help you with that. But, the bottom line is, make sure that you get a proper layout done and that your book has gone through a proper format review.
It makes all the difference in the world.
So why is this stuff so important?
It’s all about the experience of the reader. Studies of readers’ subconscious responses show that they enjoy reading more in a fiction book if there are no blank pages, along with everything else we’ve talked about. For an example of a book that follows these content guidelines, just go to the New York Times bestseller list, and check out any of the top 10 books in any category. No book will make it onto the bestsellers list unless it’s properly formatted.
The next step is to make sure that when you’re reviewing your book after you’ve written it and it’s been through editorial, make sure that everything you start, you finish. The same way people get distracted and off track while speaking, you can get off track while writing, and forget to come back to something you started. It happens all the time in less-than-perfect books, where the author didn’t have the right teams supporting them, and the book was published with a thought that the author started but didn’t finish. If that happens even once in a book, it is damaging, so make sure that you have somebody else check your work who is not attached to the emotion of the work. In other words, don’t have your wife check your work. Don’t have your kids check your work, don’t have your friends or your English teacher from high school check your work. Get a professional to check your work.
Make sure the book is properly registered. A bookstore is not going to let you be there unless the book is properly registered. And what does that mean? Obviously, you need an ISBN, which is a number assigned specifically to the book. It’s essentially a serial number. In addition to that, the Federal Library of Congress has registration numbers for every book that’s sent to their archives. A bookstore will not accept the book from a new author unless it’s registered in the Library of Congress. If you get your book published through companies like Amazon’s Create Space or Author Solutions or Lulu, they won’t help you to register your book in the Library of Congress.
If you’re trying to determine what is great quality content, then go find the top 10 authors in your space and read everything that they’ve written. Those are the authors whose books are the most appealing to the public, who sell the most copies, and so there’s something about the content of those books that sells. Maybe it’s the stories that they’ve written. Maybe it’s the references they’ve made, maybe it’s the edifying of other people that they’ve done, but you should read those books. This will give you a feel for the way your book needs to be written and presented to the market. And if you’re already published, still do it. Still, go out and buy the top 10 books from authors that are considered to be the world’s elite in your space, because if you’re going to become better than them, you need to know what the starting line is. You need to know what their quality of writing is.
Finally, your only job is to get the thoughts out of your head and onto paper. You’re not expected to be a literary expert. Once you’re finished writing, it doesn’t matter how good you think it is. You need to spend the money to hire a great editor. It’s their job to make the book readable. Don’t be afraid to ask for references from your editor. Find other works that they’ve already worked on so you can get a feel for the quality of writing that they do. Find successful professional book editors and make sure that they’ve edited lots of books in your space.
The Second C is The Cover
Your cover is crucially important. If you get your book onto the bookshelves, it’s going to be on a shelf with hundreds of other books in the same subject, and your cover is what will make your book stand out.
The first point for cover design is to follow the trends. This is another opportunity to look at the covers of the top books in your genre, and you should be able to identify some popular trends. These trends are popular for a reason; they’re eye-catching and pleasing to readers. Follow the trends, find out what’s popular and what’s working, and design to those strengths.
Number two, leave your picture off of the front cover. The only time that you should consider putting your face on the cover is if you’ve got a Superbowl trophy in your hand or an Oscar on your mantle. If you’re an A-list celebrity or an iconic figure, then you can get away with it.
Bookstores also want to see endorsements. If you take a look at any great book, you’re going to see endorsements on the cover. So who’s a great person to endorse your book? In the perfect scenario, it’s somebody besides the people who already know about you. But if that’s not possible, the best thing you can do is join a community of first-time authors, where you can read each other’s work and write endorsements for each other.
Next, let’s talk about pricing. The bookstores are looking for very specific pricing structures and they want to see that all books fit into the same categories. Don’t try and go around modern pricing. Remember that the secret to making a full-time income as an author is quantity. And once you start selling lots of books, you can start adding in other products to help you make money with your books, such as speaking engagements or products. So the pricing on your book is incredibly important. Make sure that you stay in line with other books of the same quality.
The Third C is Credibility
Credibility is really important when we are determining the saleability of the book. And there’s a couple of quick questions that we need to go over in order to determine your credibility and increase it, if necessary.
Number one, why are you qualified to write your book? What’s your background? What is your expertise, and how are you properly portraying that expertise in your written work? Your “about the author” section of your book needs to be properly written so that it speaks to your credibility. Your endorsements are going to help position you properly in terms of credibility. You want somebody who picks up your book to instantly know that you are credible and qualified to be writing that book.
The Fourth C is The Community
If you get the content done properly, the right cover for your book and the right credibility added into your book, then all that’s left is to go out there and share the book. You’ll build a community because of it.
If you want to build a big community, be relevant. Make sure that your content is timely, and that it’s on point to relieve some pain for your audience. If you’re writing nonfiction or personal development, or even fiction for that matter, it’s only designed to do one of two things. It’s designed to educate or entertain. Educate is normally nonfiction, and entertain is normally fiction, but regardless of which one it is, both are designed to relieve pain.
You’re going to give people what they want and when you do that and are relevant and answer questions and educate and entertain, people are going to be attracted to you.