One of the great aspects of publishing your own work is total control over the content and design of your printed book.
After self-publishing “The Percussionist’s Wife: A Memoir of Sex, Crime & Betrayal” and appearing at more than a dozen live events, I’ve learned two things I want to change the next time around:
- Make more space in the front for signing the book.
- Write end copy asking readers to review the book.
I love it when readers and potential readers ask me to sign my book. First I blush a little, and then I ask, “Do you want me to sign with a dedication to you? Or just my name?” I am aware some people may be buying the book for someone else, or they may intend to part with it after reading it, and they don’t want their name inside. Then, I almost always sign my books the same way: “Stay true to yourself.” I want readers to remember one of the morals of my story.
I have struggled a little with where to sign. Inside front cover? Dedication page? I’ve settled on the title page, though I wish there was just a dash more room there for my John Hancock. As the designer, I easily could have made more space.
As for reviews, I’m a firm believer that any review is a good one because it calls attention to a book and gets people talking. Take a look at Amazon’s reviews for the last book you loved; odds are, someone hated it. It’s the nature of art; if you try to please everyone, you’ll please no one. In any case, Amazon, Barnes & Noble and even Smashwords do a great job asking readers to review ebooks they’ve purchased with follow-up emails a few days or weeks after they’ve downloaded the book. Printed books are another matter, and a little note in back about the value of reviews (and raves on social media) is a good idea to remind paperback readers to take action when they finish a book.
As I accumulate ideas for my second book, a fun little romp through 1982 when I was growing up in Wadena, Minn., and learning the complicated relationship dance practiced by teenagers everywhere, I will keep these design concepts in mind: Make space to sign, and ask for reviews.