By Stephanie Chandler
Writing an entire manuscript in preparation for publishing a book is a huge accomplishment, and one that is worthy of celebration. But, before you send your manuscript off to your publisher (or printer), there are several ways you can improve the overall professionalism and maximize reader engagement.
Bonus Downloads –When you sell your book through retailers, you have no way of knowing who your readers are, unless you give them a reason to connect with you. One of the most effective ways to connect with readers is to offer them one or more bonus downloads they can access by registering with an email address. This creates a win-win situation since readers appreciate extra value, and you get to grow your mailing list and stay connected with them.
Bonus downloads can include a variety of content:
- Formatted spreadsheets
- Worksheets and workbook-style exercises
- Detailed charts and graphs featured or referenced in the book
- Lists of resources
- Videos, recordings, or other educational content
- Sample chapter from your next book
Bonus items can also include access to a private group on LinkedIn or Facebook, links to training materials, or discounts off products and services.
For example, in the book Atomic Habits, author James Clear offers more than a dozen downloadable resources readers can access, including a cheat sheet for his proprietary habit process, a habit “scorecard,” a habit stacking template, and a habit tracking sheet. The bonuses are attractive to readers, enhance the value in the book, and undoubtedly help to build Clear’s mailing list.
To set up your bonus content offer, you’ll need to create a registration page on your website or with a free tool like Google Forms. Be sure to mention bonuses several times throughout your book.
Blank Page Fillers – When book pages are typeset, chapters always begin on a right-side page. This inevitably leaves books with some blank left-side pages. While there is nothing wrong with a few blank pages in a book, you can also consider this prime real estate.
Instead of leaving pages blank, provide your typesetter with a list of blank page fillers, which can include quick tips, inspiring quotes, reminders to download the bonus content, cartoons, info-graphics, or anything else that can enhance the reader experience.
Reviews – One of the best ways to inspire book sales is to ensure your book has as many reader reviews as possible. Consider asking your readers to write a review. You might be surprised how the simple act of asking can produce results. This is a great item to add to your blank page fillers for your typesetter. Include a simple note like this:
Are you enjoying this book? One of the best ways to thank an author is to post a review online.
Line Art – Give the pages in your book some personality by including one or more line-art images in the chapter headings. For example, if your book is a memoir based on the years you lived on a private island, you could provide your typesetter with a line-art drawing of a palm tree to be placed in your chapter headings or next to call-out quotes in the book.
Don’t overdo it—line art shouldn’t be used heavily or distract from the text in your book. However, a few well-placed and right-sized images can give your book some extra flair. Purchase the rights to use line-art images through sites like 123RF.com or istockphoto.com.
Back Cover Copy – The back of a paperback book, or the inside left flap of a hardcover book, is where the book description is featured. This is the copy that helps a reader decide to buy your book, so it should be enticing. For prescriptive nonfiction, the copy should describe the benefits for readers. How will the book improve readers lives in some way? For a memoir, historical guide, or other non-prescriptive nonfiction book, the copy should help readers relate to the book and inspire them to purchase.
Read the copy from similar books to get ideas for how to format yours. This description is often copied into online sales channels for your book, so it is imperative that it helps to sell the book. You may want to work with a professional copywriter to achieve the best results possible.
Author Bios – There are two places where you can feature your author biography:
- Back cover – A brief, single paragraph featuring your most relevant experience as it relates to your book. Be sure to include your website address, too.
- Final pages – Include an extended bio at the end of your book. This can feature less formal information, like mentions of your family, pets, where you live, or where you like to vacation. Show some personality! Also, make it easy for readers to connect with you by listing your website address and social media links. You could include an email address if you want readers to contact you, or they can locate contact information through your website.
Sales Pitch – If your book ties in with any products or services you offer, or you’ve authored previous books, don’t be afraid to mention them at the end of your book. (You can also mention products and services throughout your book, as long as it’s relevant and not overly self-promotional.) Make it easy for readers to work with you by explaining what you do and how you can help them. A satisfied reader wants to know more about the author and his/her offerings, so take full advantage of this opportunity.
Author Photos – Your back-cover photo should be a high-resolution close-up of your face, ideally taken by a professional photographer. It’s important to note that you must get written permission from a photographer to use the photo in a book, even a if it’s a photo of you! The photographer’s work becomes their intellectual property, so always get signed permissions. You can also include one or more photos with your extended bio in the final pages of the book.
Endorsements – While endorsements aren’t required, they can certainly enhance the professionalism of a book. An endorsement is a brief recommendation for a book—typically just a few sentences. Ideally, endorsements should come from fellow authors in your genre, especially those with some notoriety.
Don’t be afraid to ask for endorsements. Even well-known authors understand the value of getting their names in front of readers. This can be accomplished by sending a brief email request.
Power Tip: Many authors read their own social media mail messages (so do celebrities and all kinds of performers!). If you can’t find a direct email address, try sending a message through LinkedIn mail, Facebook mail, or another social media outlet.
You can print the best endorsements on your book jacket. If you collect more than will fit on your cover, list them in the opening pages of the book. Multiple endorsements can add credibility, especially for a new author.
Stephanie Chandler is the author of several books including The Nonfiction Book Publishing Plan: The Professional Guide to Profitable Self-Publishing and The Nonfiction Book Marketing Plan: Online and Offline Promotion Strategies to Build Your Audience and Sell More Books. Stephanie is also founder and CEO of the Nonfiction Authors Association, a vibrant community for writers, and the Nonfiction Writers Conference, a traditional writers’ conference experienced conducted entirely online. A frequent speaker at business events and on the radio, she has been featured in Entrepreneur, BusinessWeek, and Wired magazine.