Especially in connection with self-publishing, it has become increasingly popular to involve readers in creating the book. Whether it’s about the content or the book’s title: When you work with your readers, you get the best possible way to publish a book that appeals to your target audience.
In a survey on self-publishing – which was carried out at the beginning of 2016 – as many as 36% of participants indicated that they involve their readers in the publishing process. Most (83%) created some of the content together with their readers, a quarter got help with the cover design and for a quarter of the authors the book title was decided by the readers.
DEVELOPMENT OF CONTENT
The author writes the manuscript, but it can be helpful and essential to hear what the genre’s readers think and prefer when it comes to details or changes. For example, you can ask them about the names of characters, places where events are played out, and options to choose from when it comes to how a chapter should end. Possibilities are endless.
For you as a self-publisher, the advantage is that you get a special relationship with your readers, have direct contact with them, get to know what they expect and discuss and receive direct feedback on your book. Building such a relationship can take time, but it is certainly worth it: When you have certain level of relationship, you have probably also got a loyal readership that wait for your next book and can give you positive reviews.
Start by thinking about where you can reach the readers you want to involve. For example, you can use social platforms, online portals and groups related to your genre/niche, contact book bloggers who write about your genre and find Facebook groups that your target group are members.
THE CHOICE OF COVER DESIGN
We cannot emphasize this often enough: The cover is the first thing the reader sees of your book and is therefore extremely important for the purchase decision. A cover must be well-planned, link to the content, stand out of the crowd and have a little extra for the reader to get stuck for it. Think about what you want to say with the cover: The book’s theme, genre, any feeling or maybe something else?
The cover is a wonderful tool to work with when you want to engage your readers. It shows how many would even click on it in the online bookstore. The material may be as good as it can be, but if the package around is unattractive, no one will ever give it a try.
One way to get readers’ opinions on the cover is to choose a short excerpt from your manuscript or the book description as a basis for open cover design suggestions. It can either apply to the entire cover or smaller parts of it at a time: the image, the style, the colors, fonts, the placement, etc. Once the color and image have been determined, the creation can continue with the first completed steps as a base.
Another way – which is a little easier for readers and gives them a starting point – is to produce a few different variations for voting. It may not mean that you are bound to the cover that gets the most votes, but it can help you in the choice and maybe you also get useful feedback.
THE BOOK’S TITLE
Book title is as important as cover design, description and part of overall package. When the book has a title, it becomes “for real” – a real, understandable piece of work you’ve created! Here, however, also lies the difficulty. It simply has to feel right and be a name that you will enjoy forever. But a little help can never hurt and the choice of the title can be a good chance to involve readers in the process.
Easiest way is to share title options together including some excerpts with your readers on social media and collect enough feedback to make an informed decision.