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Does This Book Make Me Look Fat?

By Justin Branch

After spending years carefully crafting your manuscript, it’s tough to subject it to the judging eyes of others. Typically, the first round of reviews brings mostly positive feedback: Family and friends will read your work and be impressed by your tenacity and hard work. You’ll probably enjoy an ego-stroke or two when they ask for autographed copies, looking forward to having a published author as a friend or relative.

The next round may be a little tougher. Industry people won’t candy-coat their opinions, and you may receive feedback that’s less than rosy. Take the good with the bad when it comes to criticism of your book, remembering to appreciate fresh perspectives that may illuminate problems you couldn’t see before. No matter how it may feel at times, most people don’t enjoy raking you over the coals–they just want to know if this is a book they can sell.

So what matters to these book people as they evaluate your work with an objective critical eye? Here are six factors they’ll always look at:

  • Platform: How many people already know you and want the information you are selling? Do you have a preexisting base of consumers for your book?
  • Content: Fancy design work and a big publicity push will sell books for a few months, but continued sales rely on word-of-mouth advertising. Word-of-mouth advertising, in turn, relies on quality content that readers will find interesting over a span of time.
  • Marketing: How will you persuade people to run to the bookstore and buy your book?
  • Genre: Is the material appropriate for current trends in the genre? Will it stand out among other books of its type?
  • Design: Books are always judged by their cover. Click on the Design & Production tab for all kinds of great info.
  • Price point: Price the item appropriately for its genre, length, and trim size. You may think a consumer will not mind paying an extra buck for your book, but bookstore buyers purchasing large quantities of the book will mind that extra dollar very much.

At the end of the day, no one can predict how a book will do. The unknowns are scary but inevitable. Make sure the variables you can control are all working for you so you’re in the best position to face the unforeseen. Don’t be discouraged if someone says “no,” and don’t be offended by criticism. Learn what you can and keep pushing forward. This is the entertainment industry after all, and for its author, a book is a bit like a lottery ticket.

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