Get smart advice: Consultations and Advice in Actions

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One thing is always good advice: get insights from those who have gone before us.

I mentioned yesterday that I do consultations for authors who have questions or want to get feedback/improve sales, clicks, marketability, etc. I’ve often found it helpful to get feedback… not always does it need to be mine, however. One of the most valuable things I’ve taken from author conferences is public reviews/manuscript critiques from industry pros of attendees’ works. I take the relevant info and apply it to my own works and have learned a lot.

Here is a sample critique…

Having checked out your amazon author profile, I get the feeling that we write a lot of the same kinds of things, so hopefully my advice points you in the right direction (better sales and more clicks… I did coach one fantasy author into a big 5 publishing author, but there was a significant amount of luck involved.)

First, let’s talk about having something in place for readers to engage with. I assume you have an email list/newsletter that releases at least monthly? It should also be set up for automation and onboarding (when someone signs up, your service provider automatically sends them a few scheduled emails that are tailored to read as if you wrote the new subscriber a personalized message.) My go to manual on this is Tammi Labrecque’s Newsletter Ninja books.

Another book I highly recommend is Craig Martelle’s Release Strategies… I’m not saying an author needs to use “rapid release” guidelines as he seems to suggest, but there’s a lot of raw data and numbers in the book that has made me at least think about how strategizing my release intersects with my newsletter.

The other book I would recommend (though there are many out there) is Brian Meeks’ Mastering Amazon Descriptions which talks about copyrighting and the purpose of hooks, descriptions, blurbs, etc. and how they are different.

Finally, I will point you to my blog: https://authorchristopherdschmitz.wordpress.com/
there are a few articles there you may find helpful, especially about growing email lists and using storyorigin, bookfunnel, etc. Here’s your most relevant article, https://authorchristopherdschmitz.wordpress.com/2020/01/14/why-is-my-mailing-list-not-growing/

Let’s talk about your cover on Demon Tamer. It’s very dark… I know that Frank Franz and Boris Vallejo did lots of very dark covers, but there’s had a certain level of intricacy and focus that still drew in the eye. Content wise, the character looks like a barbarian, not a roman as the blurb suggests, and there’s also a dragon on it… is this a demon story or a high fantasy?  Also, your title is dim and off center meaning it doesn’t mean industry standards (and I REALLY really really hate the 3d dragon that is superimposed… every other indie with a fantasy novel uses it because it’s on a free stockart website. But never mix 3d rendered art with other art styles.) The best thing you could do is hire an artist from fiverr to get a decent cover for $80-140. That is the single greatest thing you can do right now to increase clicks.

You’ll never get professional results without professional art.  never use art by friends, because then you feel obligated to use it, and when it under-performs it makes you look like a bad guy for making professional changes. I consulted for one guy’s series that sounded great, but his covers were made his teenage kids and so he refused to change them. The fact is, he will never sell many copies because people will assume the interior content is not professional if the outside is not.

Sidenote, I recommend you change the verbiage from Volume 1 to Book 1. A volume is a book, but sometimes its books. It’s fine for now, but if you are writing in a series you may decide you want to structure/arrange stories differently in the future.

Once you have clicks, you need a real tight description. Your back cover of the physical book has a description that you pasted to the description for your amazon review. It’s what most people do who don’t know any better.  But here’s my philosophy on books.

  1. I assume my books are awesome and that someone will love it if they pick up a copy (which means I had better have done a good job as a story teller and actually gotten the book properly edited!)
  2. They will never read the book if they do not have it, so I must give them every reason to take it (and even then, +80% of people with a free copy will not ready it simply because it has no value… when the book cost them nothing to acquire, it will remain a very low priority to actually read it.) All obstacles to purchase/resistance should be minimized.
  3. The purpose of the cover is to engage the eye and create initial interest, not to communicate details from the story (if you can do both, excellent.) The one thing from your story it must communicate is the genre. At a casual glance, a consumer should not know if your book is an independent/self-pub title or a traditional pubbed book. (this is why industry standards + high quality are a must).
  4. If the cover passes muster you must have an engaging description/hook. The purpose of the amazon/kobo/smashwords description is make a consumer buy the book. If they purchase it, you can assume they’ll read it, but descriptions are the elevator pitch and the “ask for sale.”
  5. Back covers and longer form summaries are acceptable (still only about 350 words) which should have part of your strong hook from the description and a light/no-spoiler summary.
  6. Finally, you should have a killer opening and first page of your story. It must grab a reader immediately (especially the first sentence. I typically write about 4-5 drafts of a story, a few extra revisions on Ch1, and the first sentence and paragraph even more than that.)

Using those guidelines, you should revisit your back cover. It almost fits into this model, but it’s in all capital letters. Stylistically, that’s fine, except that your character fights with Diosmed (pretty sure that’s a demon name?) in all caps, I couldn’t see the first letter as a proper noun and I initially thought it was a spelling error and had to re-read the sentence. That’s resistance to the sale. Also, when I first looked up your book, I came to your paperback listing (I much prefer physical books). Your kindle stub is formatted properly, but the paperback is not (just one giant glob of text.) Seeing your kindle stub, though, I see you know how to do the formatting, so you’re headed in the right direction and will want to get on that.

You will also want to break up that TLDR description on the paperback by moving the reviews to the “editorial reviews” section of the book (in amazon author central).

Regarding your description and blurbs, I recommend using only familiar words—or words that become familiar given the context. Using the above, instead of Diosmed, I would say “the demonic Diosmed” so the reader understands. You don’t want readers to have to consult a dictionary to read a blurb. They won’t do it; they will simply choose not to buy the book. You should also set the stakes for the book. You tell us your MC’s abilities and talk about conflict, but that doesn’t tell us enough.

You can use the same description for the amazon listing as your reader magnet page. I noticed they were different, though you might rethink giving away the book at this stage (thinking back to release strategies.) You might want to wait to give away book 1 until book 2 is out so that readers will buy the second installment. Optionally, you could write a short story prequel with your main character or make the reader magnet only a sample or portion.

Here is your description

The Demons persecute him. The Romans chase him. His heart does not falter.

The spathae collide, the foci of the arena burn with an intense red fire, the bodies of the fallen lie on the ground between the blood and the dust. Damian finds himself in a hellish battle from which he cannot escape.

In front of the screaming crowd, gladiators and demonic beasts fight with great ferocity and the ancient power that Damian holds within him manifests itself in that precise moment. His memories are clouded and the dagger he holds in his hands gives him the strength to fight and rediscover his secret past.

The Roman legionaries had captured him by deception. But why? What does the Emperor Constantine want from him?

Here is how I would rewrite it

Damian sees Demons.
A Roman Legion is in pursuit.
Emperor Constantine wants his head.

Forced to fight in the arena, Damian finds himself in a hellish battle from which he cannot escape. Not all of his opponents are human.

Damian has always known there was something different about him, though he cannot remember his past or what secrets his mystic dagger holds. He only knows battle, fire, and pain. The Roman soldiers captured him and forced him to fight in the pits, and now XYZ.

Now, with XYZ doing ABC, if he cannot [accomplish task] before [time limit], [stakes (XYZ happens, Damian will never do XYZ, etc.)]

Buy now and begin a journey 2,000 years in the making.

The spathae and foci are $10 words. Just drop them entirely, they will confuse readers rather than intrigue them. I think you’ll find the above has better success. Remember, it’s not just what you know, but engaging with readers based on what they know. You have to hook them before they know the rest of the story.

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