Authors: Let’s Play Show and Tell

Authors: Let’s Play Show and Tell explains why authors need to show and tell potential readers about their books and suggests how they can accomplish this.

As writers and authors we see our books from a unique perspective.

We’re excited about our books, right? And we already know how great they are, right?

Because of this, we sometimes lose sight of the fact that our potential readers have to catch up and learn what we’ve known all along—that our books are fantastic and they really need and really want to read them.

So, how do we do that?

Show and Tell

Do you remember way back (well, way back for some of us!) when we were in grade school and we had to bring something in for Show and Tell?

When our books are published, it’s our job as authors to “show” our books and “tell” our potential readers all about them.

What Influences Readers?

But, let’s think like readers for a minute. When we go to buy books, what makes us decide to read a particular book?

I think we select books in our favourite literary genres or subject matters based on:

  • The book cover
  • Availability of the book
  • Familiarity with the author
  • Reviews

So, if these factors influence readers to buy books and we have to “show and tell” readers so they know about our books, how do we do that?

Showing and Telling When It Comes to Your Book

  • Book Cover
    Your book cover is often the very first connection your readers will have with your book and contrary to what we’ve always been told, i.e. “Don’t judge a book by its cover,” we do exactly that. I mean, come on, how could we NOT do that when there are 10 books on the same topic to select from and 5 of them have covers that look like they’ve been designed by a five year old?

    Without taking the time to evaluate the contents, we make assumptions that the author didn’t care enough to do a proper job of the book–based on its shoddy cover. As readers, we don’t stop to think that the author already knew that his book was fantastic and just didn’t know how to relay that information to us, do we?

    Have the cover of your book professionally designed. If you’re determined to do it yourself, have a neutral party with experience in this field critique your cover. One way to do this is through the monthly e-Book Cover Design Awards run by The Book Designer and even if you don’t actually submit your e-book cover to this contest, you can learn a lot by reviewing previous submissions.

  • Bookstores – Online and Off
    Wherever possible, and unless you have a very good reason not to do this, make your book available through various online and offline retailers in print and e-book formats so it can be seen and is accessible. We’re all busy people and many of us are a bit on the lazy side. If it’s too hard to find your book to buy it, most people won’t.
  • Your Author Platform
    Just as you should put your book out there, show your face, too. Connect with your readers, your potential readers, other writers and other industry professionals. Utilize social media, maintain a blog, do interviews, consider podcasting, do a newsletter, write guest posts.

    Use this, your author platform, to tell potential readers about you and your book. Tell them why you made certain decisions about your storyline, or where you did your research, or how you picked your book cover, for example. Let them in on the creation of your book and tell them why you think it’s fantastic, but don’t go over the top with “Buy my book! Buy my book!” because they won’t. You’ll just turn them off.

    It’s recommended that you create your author platform well before your book is actually published to build your connections and to reap the most benefit from your social media networks when your book is released versus starting from scratch after your book has been released.

    Interact with your audience and others in the industry and be approachable. If they like you and are interested in what you have to say, odds are they’ll want to read your book and might even help to spread the word about it.

  • Book Reviewers
    Book reviews are an important way to tell the world about your book. If you’re lucky, you’ll get some book reviews without asking as people read your book, but more than likely you will need to get this ball rolling, and it will be your job to contact book reviewers and ask them to read and review your book and show them your book (see to it that your book gets in their hands) so they can do this.

    Book reviews tell people about your book and the more people telling the world about your book, the more noise they’ll make and the more likely it will be that others will want to read your book, too.

My clearest memory of bringing something to school for show and tell was taking a dried blow fish that my grandfather brought back from Jamaica where he was stationed during WWII. The poor thing was old and very brittle (and ugly!) by the time I took it to class some 20 years after the war ended. I don’t remember what I told the class about this dried up old fish when I showed them, but I do remember that that fish had the last laugh when its sharp pointy spine things poked through the paper bag I was carrying it in and gashed my legs.

Showing and telling your potential readers about your book sounds like a lot of work, doesn’t it? It is, and while it’s not quite as simple as back in the day when you could drag a favourite toy (or a dried up fish), into your classroom and talk about it for five minutes, you can still have a lot of fun with it.

Photo credit: Puffers via photopin (license)

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