It’s all about presentation. I can have dessert at home. Maybe a yoghurt. Or some fruit. Or if I’m really pushing the boat out, a scoop of ice-cream. Or, if I’m feeling very naughty, I can go to my favourite desserts-only cafe in town, and have ‘my usual’ – they call it the ‘I’ll Have What She’s Havin’ ‘ – a reference to THAT scene in When Harry Met Sally. See, when I have dessert at home I don’t bother with all the little faffy bits.
But it’s the faffy bits that make it so special. You can buy pretty much everything they use in the supermarket, and probably make two or three for the price you’d pay for one in the cafe. But it’s not the same without the faffy bits. When you buy a fancy dessert in a cafe, they think about the look of the thing, they don’t (I hope) just fling it on a plate and forget about it, like we do at home most of the time. True, the appearance of a meal, any meal, or a dessert, a cake, a bunch of flowers, or yes, even a book does not affect its ‘core’ self, the taste, the meaning, the actual substance of the item to be actually or metaphorically consumed. And yet it matters so, so much. Presentation is everything. Something that is visually appealing will stimulate the appetite. It engages our senses and we begin to enjoy it even just looking at it, without going any further.
Books are no different. As an Indie writer, I’m trying to up my game in terms of the visual appeal and presentation of my books. Yes, the story is the feast the reader will devour, but a few little finishing touches will immeasurably enhance the experience for them, not to mention my own satisfaction at having done a good job! So here are a few tips to looking good enough to eat.
I know everyone says this but it is hard to overstate the importance of a really nice cover. Just make sure it is relevant to your story and to your genre, looks as good in thumbnail as it does full size, and also looks as good in grey-scale or black and white as in full colour, because–surprisingly–not everyone has the most up-to-date device on the market. Have a look at the covers of books similar to yours and see what you can learn from those. Don’t go for anything too dainty/squiggly/pale/dark for eBooks as you want readers to understand and be grabbed by your cover. With print books you can be a bit more adventurous, but remember, these are still going to be on the sales page as thumbnails – so they still need to look good tiny.
Edit and proofread your socks off, and don’t just ask your best friend who agrees with everything you say to look at it for you. As is constantly said, there is no greater turn-off for a reader than careless typos, inconsistencies and spelling mistakes. So don’t just make sure, make doubly sure! It’s almost impossible to proof your own work, so either pay a professional (not always as expensive as you might think) or do swapsies with a writing pal. Just make sure they have decent grammar skills. If they say ‘could of’ instead of ‘could have’, choose someone else.
Choose a style
If you’re using Word, use one of their styles to create a gorgeous template that will tame your titles and charm your chapters. This will help you to keep everything consistent, stylish and looking neat and tidy on the page. If you don’t know how to do this kind of stuff, again you can pay someone to format your work when you’ve finished it, or you can learn skills from eBooks and online forums and search engines. Or you could ask a tech-savvy writing bud.
Small touches will make things look good too. You can add decorative separators between sections or chapters, or to headings, you can use fancy fonts or dropped capitals to open each new chapter of your print book, and even with the plainer eBook, you can add little details like having the first two, three or more words of a chapter in small capitals.
Most people know this but don’t neglect the front matter in your book, whether Ebook or print, and give the reader links to your website, or blog, or Facebook page, give them a tasty little author bio, a list of your other works, or just a little author’s note telling them how the book came into being. These are useful ways to reach out to your reader and offer a more personal experience to the reading process. Maybe add in a sneak peek of your next book or you previous book, or any other little extras to engage your reader and enhance the pleasure of reading your book.
If you are a perfectionist, and take time and trouble to get your book looking, not just okay, but fabulous, your readers will trust you to weave a great story for them. The packaging does matter, it’s the visual equivalent of icing on the cake.