Over the last few months most nonfiction authors noticed a new kind of problem – our genre is being overrun by pretenders. “Pretender authors” scan blogs for what they believe to be the best content and “reuse/recycle” this material in ebooks. While most of them “rephrase,” some simply steal other authors’ work. I think of them as “publisher-authors” because they are publishers first and authors a distant second.
Because these “publisher-authors” aren’t really experts, many of these books present good and bad advice. Sadly, even Bookbub promotes books from authors who do not publish a biography or an author profile even though checking credentials is the only way readers can find out if authors are really experts in their fields.
Every reader should be concerned if a nonfiction author does not publish his/her accomplishments and/or credentials. If a “publisher-author” writes about every topic under the sun from, “how yoga can help you to lose weight” to “how to write a great resume,” readers should wonder what kind of expert the “publisher-author” might be, if any at all.
I myself am a communication expert who analyzed 100,000+ emails for effectiveness and personal appeal.
Luckily, when I released my book about writing best emails, I was able to give it a great head start. It got featured in the SUCCESS magazine. My friends and fans were excited.
Although the initial sales were great they slowed down after only a few weeks. I did not understand it. Everything seemed to be aligned perfectly: the Amazon stars and even the day-to-day events I could not control. My book
- received great reviews,
- featured an in-demand topic every professional needs, and
- additionally, my book’s topic was in the news – daily! About four weeks after I released my book, Wikileaks published a searchable database of the embarrassing Sony emails that were stolen by hackers the previous year. Even though my book focuses on marketing emails, I felt that the fact that “my topic” was in the news daily should have helped sales; but, if it did, it was not noticeable.
Pondering the issue, I came to the conclusion that the book’s cover had to be the problem. If the cover didn’t appeal to people, they weren’t going to buy the book, and therefore would never find out what a cool reference book it is.
Of course, the saying goes “Don’t judge a book by its cover” but many of us do because we are all so busy. And, so I kept wondering if my book’s cover
- Was too sexy?
- Did it confuse people? or
- Maybe people do not associate this kind of cover with a nonfiction book about writing best emails?
Still, I didn’t change the cover for a long time because the editor of the SUCCESS magazine had told me that she loved the cover. Finally, after weeks of pondering I gave into my doubts and chose a neutral, technical cover.
Sales improved immediately, but at the same time many of the book’s early fans signaled their disapproval. Since I had branded my books, my fans felt that by the changing the cover I did a disservice to my brand. Needless to say, this divided reaction made me even more unhappy, but I really didn’t know what kind of cover would work better.
Then, in Spring 2016, I stumbled over an invitation to enter the Sparky Award, held by Spark Post, the company that sends twenty-five percent of all legitimate emails in the world.
I was excited, and because I love what I do, I immediately decided to participate. Lo and behold, on Pi-Day 2016, one year to the day after I released “Naked Words,” I found out that I won the 2016 Sparky Award “Best Subject Line.” After the award arrived in the mail, I hired a photographer to do publicity shots.
When I saw the pictures, it hit me – maybe, that’s what my book needed – proof that I was not one of these pretenders but that I really know my stuff.
Still, once again, this was not an easy decision. Every nonfiction author knows that experts say if you are not a celebrity author, you aren’t supposed to put your portrait on a book cover. After much pondering, I did it anyway, mainly because I had been so torn between the other two covers.
Most amazingly, this concept achieved great results. People began buying my book, including readers from non-English-speaking countries like Japan and Brazil. Obviously, the fact that I could prove that I am a real expert in my field, who could also prove her skills in other arenas, was the proof people wanted to see. Readers too have found out that the book market is being swamped by books that are pieced together.
Of course, the funny thing is, that “my subject line trick,” the one I used to win the award, had always been featured in the book; but to find out, people would have had to buy the book first.
Remember what I wrote in the beginning of this blog? – “The only way readers can find out if a book was written by an expert or a pretender is to check the writer’s credentials.”
In this fast-paced world with thousands of books about every topic, it helps if you can put your credentials on your cover.
Are there any awards you could enter?
Follow Gisela Hausmann on Twitter: @Naked_Determina