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Thursday, November 29, 2018

Friday Focus

Today we thank Holly Dunn for this article. Holly is the author of Moth Picture Book

What makes a successful book?

A successful book has three pillars: content, design and marketing. Each of these will be covered in detail, and it is useful to keep the three pillars in mind as you go through the process of preparing your manuscript for commercial distribution.


The content of your book doesn’t refer only to the words you’ve written. It includes the topic you’re writing on and how popular it might be, the way you’ve written the book, and how well you’ve had it edited. Since it can be difficult to see the value in your own work objectively, it is essential to hire people to help you, such as editors, and get feedback from others, such as beta readers and other authors, before publishing. You can present the book in the best possible way with beautiful typesetting and design, and you can tell the entire world about it, but if the book is poorly written or about a subject no one is interested in, then it simply won’t do very well. Even if it does sell, customers may feel as though they have been short-changed if the quality of the content doesn’t match the presentation.


Your book needs to be presented at the highest standard if you want it to succeed. Design includes the cover, interior (typesetting and layout), back and spine, the physical paper and card stock it is printed on, and any additional finishing techniques like foiling, embossing or laminating. The blurb (back cover copy) also falls under this section, as it is one of the first opportunities that many readers will have to form an impression of your book, and the second feature they encounter after the cover. Design is all about attracting the right audience to your book. Knowing your audience and what they like is important information to bring to your designer.


Marketing is how people find out about your book, and how you communicate its value to them. There are many different ways to do this. A well-written and useful book that has been beautifully designed is no good unless it gets in front of the right people. The recipe for success is a well-written and valuable book with a great design that gets seen and read by the right people. If your book isn’t succeeding, you can be certain it is because one or more of these three elements is missing. To achieve the best result, you should begin marketing your book, or at least start to establish an online presence as an author, while you’re still writing it. This is why the marketing chapter of this book comes before those on editing and design.

With these principles in mind, you’ll need to evaluate whether or not you’re ready to self-publish. First, you’ll need a great book. This is the hardest part, but fortunately it is the part you have the most control over. This book assumes you already have a manuscript. Your manuscript’s success is very much reliant upon its quality. Remember the first point:
You can present the book in the best possible way, and tell the entire world about it, but if the book is poorly written or about a subject no one is interested in, then it simply won’t sell.
So how do you determine if your book is any good? Well first of all, you read. You read other authors’ books. You read all sorts of different genres. You read great books and poorly written ones, and you analyse what the great ones have that the poor ones don’t. You get others to read your book and you listen to their feedback. Treat it as an ever-changing piece of work, and adapt where necessary. Hire a professional editor, listen to what they have to say, and take it on board.
If your book needs improvement and you’re not quite ready to hire an editor, try joining a writing group. Being around other writers, especially those who are better than you, can help to improve your writing. Reading your work out loud to an audience allows you to identify which sections you’re happy with and which sound awkward. If you don’t have any local writing groups, try looking online. You might be able to find a group more specific to your genre. Another constructive step you could take to improve your writing is doing a course, either in your local area or online. Subscription sites like Skillshare have hundreds of classes on writing as well as other skills, such as social media marketing, that will be useful on your self-publishing journey. Bookshops and libraries are common places to find local writing workshops.

This is an extract from Independent Publishing in New Zealand (978-0-9951155-0-7) by HL Kennedy, scheduled for release early 2019.

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