How Book Marketing is Like Flirting, Dating, and Getting Engaged

By Rebecca Waters

You’ve written a book. You may have a publisher or agent. You may have decided to publish the book yourself. Whatever path you take, there are marketing decisions you will make that will help or hinder book sales.

This post examines stuff not in your book. It is a look at the cover: the front and back of your book. It describes marketing in terms of what people see when they pick up the book or scroll through a pile of possible reads on Amazon or Goodreads. This is often your first contact with readers outside your mom and a close circle of friends.

How Marketing is Like Flirting, Dating and Getting Engaged by Rebecca Waters

Marketing is like flirting

Your smile catches the eye of that certain someone. Remember? In the same way, the book cover and title catches the eye of the reader.
–Rebecca Waters

Let’s start with the front cover. You have a say in your book cover. Take a look at best-selling books in your genre. What elements do they have in common? What do you like about the covers? Once you have researched your genre, sketch out a few ideas. You need not be an artist to capture your thoughts. Do the best you can and label the parts. Your publisher will run a few ideas by you, but it’s good to have researched your genre and considered a few ideas yourself.

If you are indie publishing, make sure your cover is a high-resolution image. You can hire a graphic artist or use an online tool such as Canva to create your book cover. I used a high-resolution photo and a free template on Canva to create the cover for the Marketing You and Your Writing 101.

Make sure the picture on the front matches the content. Check the lettering against the background color and image. You don’t want the title to get “lost in the clouds” or be hidden in the trees. Be sure to try the title out on the image you’ve selected before publishing. For my first novel, the publisher sent me the cover photos separate from the title. I was disappointed when I realized the title didn’t stand out on the print version of my book.

The title is another way to catch the interest of potential readers. Although traditional publishers have the right to change the title of your book, careful research of the title you propose will help you land on a successful name for your book.

There are trends in titles. For instance, a few years ago it was popular to include numbers. We see trends from time-to-time in one-word titles. Again, look to your genre to see what sells. And, of course, make sure your title connects with your content. Examine your book carefully for phrases or themes you may weave into the name of the book. Good marketing means being aware of what other products are doing too. 

Marketing is like dating

Dating is that time in a relationship when you get to know the other person. It is that period of time when you make a decision about whether or not to continue seeing one another. You want your reader to want you…okay, you want them to want your book… but it still is a relationship you want to foster. If you were successful in the flirting stage, your potential reader has turned the book over or in the case of Amazon, started reading the book blurb to see if they want to pursue this relationship. Marketing is much like this. 

Draft a compelling book blurb. If you have written a nonfiction work, tell how your book differs from other books. If you write fiction, give enough of the story to grab the reader’s attention. Draw on the premise statement you used for your book proposal. Read the blurbs of popular authors in your genre. You will get a feel for how much info you need to include.

Remember that “boring” date? He or she was yammering on and on about something you would have preferred to learn on your own? You don’t want to make that mistake. Keep your book blurb short and intriguing. This is the book description. Save talking about yourself for the author bio or in the case of Amazon, the Author Page.

Want more tips? Check out Rebecca’s newest book, Designing A Business Plan for Writers.

This leads us to another facet of the dating stage –getting to know the object of your affection. Make sure your “about the author” paragraph is an accurate portrayal of you without all the details of your life. Make it fun and interesting. Include your credentials if you are writing nonfiction. Offer other writing successes for both fiction and nonfiction works. Your potential reader likes to know enough about your past to see if you might be a good match. And while we’re at it, look closely at the bio you offer on other platforms such as Twitter, Facebook, or Instagram. While they don’t need to be exactly the same in form, the information should be consistent and send out the same vibe. We simply don’t like dating someone with multiple personalities!

The headshot. Make sure you have a professional headshot for the back cover of your book. You’ll use this same picture for your author page on Amazon and for your social media accounts.

“DO NOT USE A SELFIE.”–Rebecca Waters

If you can’t find a good deal for a professional photo with all digital rights, at the very least have a friend with a good camera take several pictures of you and see if you can use one of those. Crop out the tree coming out of your head and the man standing in the background making faces.

I have a friend who uses a picture of him standing by the Ganges River. His wife took the photo. It’s a good shot. Moreover, because his book is about his work with various indigenous people groups of India, it gives the book credibility.

One other word of advice: Make sure your headshot is current. Don’t try to fool those readers and followers you are still that young brunette if indeed you had that picture made ten years ago.

Once, I was invited to a panel of writers at a library celebration in Kentucky. I was pretty excited since there were several well-known authors on the panel with me. I couldn’t wait for one of my favorite writers to arrive. Imagine my surprise when I realized the gray-headed woman at the next table was the woman I had followed and read for years. She had to be seventy-years-old. The picture on her books and blog were taken at least thirty years ago.

“Portraying yourself as you were in an old photo is not like taking off your make-up with that special someone around. It’s more like removing a mask.”
— Rebecca Waters

Marketing is like getting engaged

This is it –that dream come true moment. A guy gives a girl a diamond ring. Your reader gives you a sale. And if you deliver what you promised, it could be a relationship that lasts forever.


Rebecca Williams WatersRebecca Waters’ freelance work has resulted in articles for Chicken Soup for the Soul, the Lookout Magazine, The Christian Communicator, Church Libraries, and Home Health Aide Digest. Prior to publishing her first novel, Breathing on Her Own, Rebecca was a college professor and speaker on the Ohio Writing Project circuit. Author of Breathing on Her Own (2014) Snag the bookLearn more! Visit my site & Read my blog  Let’s connect! Follow me on Twitter & Like me on Facebook.

About Katharine Grubb

Katharine Grubb has mastered the art of freewriting because she wrote her first novel in 10 minute increments. There are probably easier ways to write a book, but with homeschooling her five children, she’ll take what she can get. Her latest book, Write A Novel In 10 Minutes A Day was just released and is available on Amazon.com She lives in Massachusetts and blogs at www.10minutenovelists.com.

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