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How to Build Success into Your Non-Fiction Book

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On the self-publishing journey, there’s the production of your book and there’s the marketing of your book. Two separate things, right?

Nope!

How you create your book will have an impact on your marketing efforts. If you miss an important registration detail, fail to follow an industry norm or make it difficult for readers to find you, your marketing becomes that much more difficult.

While producing a great book doesn’t automatically guarantee sales success, a book with sloppy production values is hobbled right out of the gate. Here are some tips for building success into your book from the beginning.

Spend time on the title
Coming up with a great title isn’t easy, but it’s worth working on. Too many first-time authors try cramming a 25-word synopsis of their book into the title. They end up with titles that are insufferably long, hard to understand and impossible to remember. Yawn. Titles are usually very short, sometimes just one or two catchy words. The subtitle then picks up the job of describing the book in a bit more detail—but still use only five to eight words or so.

Hire a professional designer
People really do judge a book by its cover, even when it’s just a thumbnail. Whether people are browsing a shelf at their local bookstore or clicking through Amazon.com, whether they spy a copy of your book on a friend’s coffee table or reach your website from a tweet, the first they’ll see of your book is the cover. So much rests on the image your cover conveys that it’s foolish to risk a poor impression. Hire an experienced professional to design it. Can’t afford it? You can’t afford not to.

Register your book
Every book needs an ISBN. (Without one, you can’t even sell through Amazon.) Also register your book with your national library, whether that’s the Library of Congress or the National Library of Canada, and invest in having Cataloguing-in-Publication data created. These registrations ensure your book looks professional and is discoverable.

Remember the formula: If p, then e
Despite what you may read, print books aren’t in danger of disappearing anytime soon. Plus, print books still work best as gifts or client premiums; having something tangible to hand out is crucial to making the right impression. So it makes sense, most of the time, to plan on a print edition. Just don’t overlook e-books altogether. It’s so easy and inexpensive to spin off an electronic edition from print files that it should be an automatic part of every author’s publishing process. The more ways people can access your book, the greater the chance of a sale.

Edit your book well
Editing is last on the list, not because it’s least important, but because it supports everything else. You can have an outstanding title, a kick-ass cover and multiple available formats, but if people read your book and find the content stinks, you won’t go far.

  • Fill your non-fiction book with helpful information, not promotional copy. People don’t want to pay money to read a long brochure.
  • Keep it tight. If you can tell readers how to solve a problem in 200 pages instead of 300 pages, do it. If you can explain the topic in 100 pages, consider a shorter format, like a Kindle Single. Avoid padding just to hit a page count.
  • Watch your stale date. A book is no small project so it’s best to create a product you can sell for years to come. As much as you can, avoid information that changes frequently. Instead, focus on timeless principles and point people to your website for information that needs regular updating.
  • Hire a professional editor. In fact, hire a couple. At Highspot, we employ up to four different editors on each book because we know that fresh eyes at every stage of the process—from developmental editing through copyediting and printer’s proofs—help us catch more mistakes.

When self-publishing, it pays to think about your book like a traditional publisher: how can you get the best return on your investment? In a hypercompetitive market, give your book a fighting chance with top-notch production values, then market it as the great product you know it be.

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