Tuesday, May 13, 2014

What Authors Need to Know: Book Disappointments

It has happened to all of us: we buy a book, eagerly anticipating a great read, and discover after the first chapter or two that it’s not one we care to finish. Off it goes to the used bookstore, or to delete-land, if it's an e-book.

While reading is most certainly a matter of taste, those of us who write books hope for many satisfied readers and few disappointments. Here, a few tips for authors to help make sure your satisfied readers outnumber those who trade off your books before they’ve finished reading.

·         While your book description needs to get readers excited about reading what’s inside, make sure your enthusiasm doesn’t result in overreach. Recently, I came upon a newly released book deemed in its description to be a “classic.” That’s a tall order for a brand new author to fill.
·         Likewise, the cover needs to promise what’s best about the book and nothing more. Keep in mind this fundamental of the marketplace: negative news has ten times the reach of positive news. When you disappoint readers, the effects can be far-reaching.
·         Consider your price points. The more we pay, the more value we expect, and the greater our disappointment if the book doesn’t meet our expectations.
·         Readers are often disappointed when an author’s next book doesn’t rise to the level of the previous title. Some of this has to do with branding—in general, readers want to know what they can expect of a particular author, while the author herself might want to expand beyond a particular niche. More often, it has to do with the time the author invests in her work. As agent Susan Golomb points out in a recent interview with Poets & Writers, an author’s first book often results from years and years of crafting and development, while subsequent titles are pumped out every couple of years (unless you’re Donna Tartt). This effect is even more pronounced among authors who independently publish, as the latest “wisdom” says that the best thing you can do to build a readership is to keep pumping out books. In truth, you will only build a following if your books are consistently good.
·         Need it be said? Make sure you book is absolutely the best it can be. That means revision, unbiased beta readers, more revision, attention to macro and micro-editing, proofreading, professional design and formatting—in short, a book that gives you reason to feel proud, and a book that readers will want to keep on their shelves (virtual or otherwise) long after they’ve finished reading.