How Not to Sell Your Book (Lessons From Fanboy)

Fanboy Expo is a local Con, and if you head to the back rows, you’ll see dozens of self-published science fiction authors–and learn how not to sell your books.

If you’re going to self-publish, you have to know how to sell and market your books. No one else is going to do it for you. Even if you’re not self-publishing, knowing how to sell your book is still critical when pitching to agents and publishers.

So what were these writers doing wrong?

The first mistake I noticed was opening with a comparison: “The book is like a cross between The Hobbit and The Hunger Games.

Not only does this make your book sound unoriginal but it doesn’t really say much. From this description, I still don’t really know what this book is about. I can makes some inferences on the genre and tone but nothing beyond that.

The other mistake people made was to start by describing the world.

“Okay, so my story is a fantasy, and it’s got this hugely complex world, I mean there’s so much. Let me tell you about all the races: we’ve got elves, and dwarfs, and also these demon imp things. Oh, and all of them have the ability to time travel but only during certain parts of the day and…”

Introducing your setting is fine if it’s critical to the story, but you can’t just ramble on about it. A much better way to sell your book is with a logline.

A logline is a one sentence description introducing the main character, his goal, and the conflict. It’s similar to a blurb on the back of a book or movie. For instance, here’s the logline for Rear Window:

A wheelchair bound photographer spies on his neighbors from his apartment window and becomes convinced one of them has committed murder.

Now that makes me want to watch the movie. We’re told so much in just a few words. We’re introduced to the setting, conflict, and genre. It makes the reader curious. Has the main character actually seen a murder? Will he be able to prove it?

Here’s another example from The Shawshank Redemption:

Two imprisoned men bond over a number of years, finding solace and eventual redemption through acts of common decency.

It can be difficult to boil your story down into such a short synopsis but it’s crucial if you want to catch the reader’s attention.

Think about the main conflict of your story. What’s your protagonist trying to accomplish? What stands in his or her way? Remember: keep it short.

If the person buying your book is interested, you’ll be able to give the more information, but only after they’re hooked.

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