Making a Book Stand Out: What Helps the Most?

Among the millions of books out there, is there anything that can help a book stand out from all the others? A great cover? An incredible internet presence? A superb tag line? Stellar writing?

As I’ve considered all the things that are helping to sell my debut book, I’ve tried to narrow down what has been the most beneficial so far. Here are just a few things:

*ARC’s (Advanced Reading Copies): My publisher sent out numerous ARC’s to strategic industry personnel—particularly book chain buyers who decide which books to purchase and promote. The ARC’s were a way to introduce my book to the book-buying community and to elicit their interest. The buyer from LifeWay Bookstores read the ARC and liked my book enough to feature it on the cover of latest LifeWay flier and also spotlight it as a “Buyers Choice.”

*Influencers: My publisher also mailed out a limited number free books to those who were willing to read The Preacher’s Bride and help “influence” others to read it. Those influencers have been spreading buzz in many different ways including writing reviews, promoting the book to friends, tweeting about it, hosting me for interviews, etc.

*Publisher’s Sales Team: Bethany House, a division of Baker Publishing, has an excellent sales force. They’ve worked hard over the years to establish connections with stores and are able to get Bethany House books into many different places, including most of the major book chains, as well as Walmart and Sam’s Club. The more shelf space our books get, the more recognition they can garner.

*Publisher’s Marketing Team: For all the negativity unleashed against publishers for their diminished marketing efforts for authors, I can honestly say the team at Bethany House has made incredible efforts to promote my book in too many ways to recount in this post. Perhaps the smaller the house, the smaller the marketing budget. Obviously the closer we get to the self-publishing side of the spectrum, the more marketing the author must shoulder.

*Strong web presence: I’m not convinced yet that my web presence has made much of a difference in selling more of my books. It’s made a difference to me personally and professionally, and perhaps there are those who bought my book because they met me online (and I appreciate it!). But has it helped me sell significantly more books than another author who may not have a web presence? I’m not sure. Time will tell.

*Appealing book cover: The design team at Bethany House did a fantastic job on my cover. It looks Amish (even though it’s not). And bonnet books are still really popular. Enough said.

Our publishers can market our books and so can we. We can use every gimmick known to man to draw attention to our books. We can giveaway ipads, books, and gift cards. As much as all of these things may initially generate interest, we need to have something that will keep the ongoing attention.

And the one thing that can consistently win over readers is a COMPELLING STORY. We need to give our readers something to fall in love with, something to genuinely get excited about, something they’ll WANT to share with others.

It’s like opening a new restaurant. We can advertise all over town, start a lot of buzz, and perhaps even throw a big opening party and invite everyone in town. But what’s really going to make the difference in the success of our restaurant? All the marketing? Or the food we’re serving? If what we dish up is mediocre, lukewarm, re-hashed, or unoriginal, then all the initial hoopla isn’t going to sustain our restaurant.

And the same is true of our books. It’s what’s between the pages, what we’re serving to the reader, that matters the most.

Michael Hyatt, CEO of Thomas Nelson Publishers, said it well last week in his post, “Great Product is the New Marketing.” He said if writers want a shot at best seller then: “Start with a compelling topic or story. This will win over great writing every time. I am not saying it’s either/or. It should be both/and. But if you don’t have the right idea, no amount of polish will save it.”

So, maybe we’re not shooting for the best-seller list. But most of us DO want to have a successful publication experience in one form or another (and perhaps the definition of success will vary for each of us). Whatever the case, the longer I travel down the publication road, the more I realize the truth to Michael Hyatt’s statement. A compelling story is critical in today’s saturated market.

What do you think? Do you think a compelling story is the key to a book rising to the top? Or do you think it has more to do with marketing efforts? Or is it both?

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