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WSJ logoThis past weekend, the Wall Street Journal, ran an article titled, Don’t Burn Your Books—Print Is Here to Stay, with the subtitle, The e-book had its moment, but sales are slowing. Readers still want to turn those crisp, bound pages.

I was fascinated to see such a claim because a year ago I did an interview and predicted that e-book growth would slow and print would still be a significant part of book purchases. The reporter was actually quite surprised and even said he disagreed with me. Now I admit my claim was not based on exhaustive research or statistics, but rather observing my habits and other readers who I know. Yes I do read e-books, but for me, certain books were best experienced in print. So while I have downloaded a number of books, I have also continued to purchase print books.

The author of this essay, Nicholas Carr, was basing his claims on more substantial evidence than his own reading habits, but offer some compelling arguments. Here is a quick summary.

  1. A Pew Research Center survey released last month showed that the percentage of adults who have read an e-book rose modestly over the past year, from 16% to 23%. But it also revealed that fully 89% of regular book readers said that they had read at least one printed book during the preceding 12 months. Only 30% reported reading even a single e-book in the past year.
  2. The Association of American Publishers reported that the annual growth rate for e-book sales fell abruptly during 2012, to about 34%. That’s still a healthy clip, but it is a sharp decline from the triple-digit growth rates of the preceding four years.
  3. A 2012 survey by Bowker Market Research revealed that just 16% of Americans have actually purchased an e-book and that a whopping 59% say they have “no interest” in buying one.
  4. From the start, e-book purchases have skewed disproportionately toward fiction, with novels representing close to two-thirds of sales. Digital best-seller lists are dominated in particular by genre novels, like thrillers and romances.
  5. E-books, may turn out to be just another format—an even lighter-weight, more disposable paperback. That would fit with the discovery that once people start buying digital books, they don’t necessarily stop buying printed ones. In fact, according to Pew, nearly 90% of e-book readers continue to read physical volumes. The two forms seem to serve different purposes.

    Print books seem to be holding their own in many genre.

    Print books seem to be holding their own in many genre.

Only time will tell what formats will dominate, but if you read the full article and read the comments, you will see this topic creates some spirited debate. The most important implication for me is that authors should not abandon print as they think about going to market unless they are publishing very specific genre fiction books. Print should still be part of your go-to-market strategy.

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Even with the growth of ebooks, book covers are still an important issue for authors to consider.  So I asked some book designers I respect to offer some keys to creating a great cover for print and digital formats. Here are six simple things you can do to make sure your cover stands out from the rest.

Pick something to be the focal point. On the cover to the right, type and image are too similar in size.

Pick something to be the focal point. On the cover to the right, type and image are too similar in size.

  1. Do your research. Sounds simple, but it is the important first step. Go to a local bookstore. Observe the customers. See what books stand out on the shelves. Do thesame thing online and on e-readers.  Also, pay attention to the thumbnails. Some designs work well on a bookshelf, but don’t work as a thumbnail.
  2. Pay attention to your genre. You don’t have to do a cookie-cutter cover, but you should look at the best covers in your genre. Notice any common elements and trends. Pay attention to the images being used.
  3. Pick a focal point. Everything can’t be important. So you need to decide whether the typography or the image is going to be the focal point. When they are similar in size or the amount of visual space they occupy, it can hinder the eye from being drawing to the cover.
  4. Image matters. Make sure you choose an image that is relevant for your genre but that is also eye-catching. Avoid cliche or what I call, computer desktop imagery. Also, one striking image is almost always better than a collection of images. Collections typically violate point three.
  5. Check the thumbnail. Once you have a cover you like, make sure you reduce it down in size and see what it will look like as a thumbnail. The rise of e-books has made the thumbnail more important as you think about designing your cover
  6. Choose your colors carefully. If you are publishing in the US, colors convey a message in themselves. Here is a general guideline as to what colors communicate.
  • Red – High Energy, powerful, passionate, excited, strong, sexy, fast, dangerous.
  • Blue – Male, Cool, conservative, trustful, reliable, safe.
  • Yellow — Warm, bright, cheerful, sunny, cheerful, happy
  • Orange – Warm, playful, vibrant, bold.
  • Green — Natural, fresh, cool, organic, abundant.
  • Purple — Royal, spiritual, dignified
  • Pink – Feminine, soft, sweet, nurturing, secure, gentle.
  • White — Pure, clean, bright, virginal, youthful, mild.
  • Black — Sophisticated, elegant, seductive, mysterious
  • Gold – Expensive, prestigious, affluent
  • Silver – Cold, prestigious, scientific, clinical

Crafting a well written manuscript is the most important task of an author, but making sure the cover is inviting, eye-catching and relevant is an equally important job. Using these tips will help you make sure you have a cover that is as good as your book deserves. What other tips do you have for creating a great cover? Use the comments features to share your ideas.

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time-magazine-logoIn the December 10th issue of Time magazine, reporter Andrew Rice wrote a lengthy article on self publishing under the title, The 99 cent Best Seller. The full article is only available to subscribers, but I thought there were some very interesting points made in the article that support many of the things I have been saying for years. 

So if you don’t subscribe and didn’t see the article, I thought I would highlight four key things I took away from the article.

  1. Self publishing is no longer the last option.  Rice makes the statement that, “In the book business self publishing used to be considered an act of desperation” Then he goes on to say how that is no longer the case. In fact, some of the most savvy authors are looking at self publishing as their first option, not their last.
  2. Self published titles are no longer excluded from the review lists. According to Rice, “Self published titles now regularly appear on the New York Times ebook best seller lists. Four were in the top 25 on Thanksgiving weekend, the beginning of the holiday book shopping season.”
  3. Seeing the first copy of your published book is an emotional high. I have been saying for years, one of the greatest thrills of being an author is holding or downloading a copy of your book for the first time. Rice supports that point in the article when he relates how he asked author Sheryl Hoyt what went through her mind when she downloaded her first self published book, Dangerous Heart. She choked up and told him, “It was a euphoric feeling.”
  4. There is no reason to die with a manuscript in your drawer. Again I like the way Rice summarizes this point. In his words, “Publishing can be humbling, but it is better than keeping the stories to yourself.”  Self publishing doesn’t mean everyone will be successful, but everyone has the opportunity to be successful.

I know I say it over and over again, but it truly is the best time in history to be an author.

…some of the most savvy authors are looking at self publishing as their first option, not their last.

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