So you’ve written the next Great American Novel and you’re ready to publish. Now you’re down to the silly details that try your patience. You have to choose your categories and then come up with a short description, almost every writer’s bane. How do you distill 600 pages down to six sentences? How do you convey all the passion and wisdom and inspiration of your story into one or two paragraphs?
Careful. It’s tempting to throw down a few sentences and call it good.
Don’t do it.
In a recent discussion with other authors, we talked about errors in books both traditionally-published and self-published. It’s an age-old problem that we all face. We re-read, edit, re-read, edit, send out to beta-readers, re-read and edit again and still we miss something here or there. I am guessing it would be more difficult to find a book with absolutely zero errors than it would to find them with one or two if not more. I am actually wondering if there are any books out there without a single error. Maybe, but it’s doubtful. None of us like it, but it does seem to go with the territory. Doesn’t mean we don’t work hard to correct errors, but I don’t think any of us are going to commit hari-kari over it, either.
However, there are two areas where errors are positively absolutely never forgivable. I’m talking about the cover and that description you just tossed up on Amazon.
Spelling errors on covers are just the most inexcusable thing ever, so I don’t even think it requires a discussion. On the lighter side, here’s a web page with famous covers with one letter missing. Makes all the difference in the world, doesn’t it?
But now back to that description. Our own K.S. Brooks talked about how to write a good one, so I won’t rehash that here. But once you’ve got yours done, don’t just slap it up there. Look at it through a magnifying glass. Check each word. Seriously. Every word. Because this, along with your cover, is the first impression the prospective reader gets of your writing talent and style. If a reader sees an error in your description, what does that say to them? That you’re … lazy? Uneducated? Incompetent? Certainly not conscientious and thorough. Many readers will not — will not — buy a book that has a mistake in the description. If you’ve thrown that description up there with only a cursory glance and there’s a misspelling or a punctuation error there, you’ve just lost the opportunity for a sale not just once, but over and over and over. Is it really worth that five minutes of time you saved yourself? What good is writing that Great American Novel if readers can’t or won’t even get past the description?
One last area to think about is the first chapter. This first bit is what the reader can access via the Look Inside feature, so it likewise needs to be top notch. The entire book, of course, should be as error-free as you can possibly make it, but especially these first impressions.
As the old saying goes, you only get one chance to make a first impression.
Make it a good one.