Creating sizzle to find the sale
Imagine something with me. You're sitting in your favorite restaurant, perusing the menu and trying to decide what you want to order for dinner. You're considering settling for a chopped salad when a server walks by with another table's food. She's got one of those hot iron plates with a perfectly cooked steak that sizzles as she walks by. The aroma hits you and you're sold. Steak it is!
Joe Konrath talked about this on his blog several years ago. You can serve a steak on one of these fancy iron plates that sizzle and throw delicious aroma into the air or you can serve one on a paper plate. Regardless of how it's served, it's the same steak, but one is definitely more appetizing than the other.
And if we're being honest, the sizzle plate is not a great thing. It's super hot so the server has to use a woven mat to surround it so you don't burn your fingers off. It's heavy and dangerous so servers have to put their life on the line in order to bring it to you. Plus, it's still cooking your food. That's right. After you asked for a medium rare steak and the chef cooked it to perfection, they put it on a hot cast iron plate which continues to cook it while you try to eat it without getting any third degree burns.
So why does it work?
It has perceived value. Something served with so much care must be better than the burger and fries served in a plastic basket with a checkered waxy paper soaking up the grease. Obviously, this is a quality item. It's why we serve the overcooked Thanksgiving turkey on china.
And even better, it sells itself. Each time a waitress walks by a table holding the cast iron plate of death, the sizzle follows them. Patrons crane their necks to see what she's holding. The smell of the perfectly cooked steak being overcooked with each step reaches their noses and it no longer matters what less expensive and higher fiber item that table was about to order. They are now getting steak.
What does that mean to you and your book?
Much of the readers impression regarding the quality of your book is in its perceived value. Readers are inundated with hundreds of choices when it comes to which book to read. Every week hundreds of new books come out and many of them might be exactly what an individual reader is looking for. They have to make judgement calls that have nothing to do with if they will enjoy the book.
Instead, they have to judge your book on its perceived value. They are guessing which book (or books) they will enjoy the most. How do they do this? A few ways.
How does a reader perceive a book's value?
A picture is worth a thousand words and your cover image could be worth a thousand readers. Make sure your cover is professional and sells your book. Depending on your publisher, you may have tons of input or none at all. If you are asked for opinions, share them. Your cover matters.
Most readers like talking about books with other readers. This works best when they are reading the same book. Readers like to read the books that other people are reading. This is why bestseller lists are so great at selling books. Until you've worked your way on to one of those lists, it's your job to keep your book visible so it looks popular even if you don't have a ton of readers yet. You do this through blog tours, Goodreads, reviews, contests, etc. The more a reader has heard about your book, the more popular it will appear.
Your cover might be a first look at your book, but readers won't stop there. They are going to read your description, check out your author picture, and scan your bio. The actual content they find is less important than the image it portrays. You want to come across as a professional. This means no selfies for your photo, a bio that doesn't read like an online dating profile and a home base online. You don't want a reader to pass you by because your aren't taking your writing career seriously.
What are other people saying about your book? Who else is talking about your book? Some of this you can't control, however, you can help to steer the conversation. If you feel that the readers of a certain author would really enjoy your book, reach out to that author and ask for a blurb. Target popular book bloggers and ask for a review. Try to connect to large fan sites for your genre. Other authors, popular reviewers and high traffic sites can all add to your books perceived value.
You can't always control the way readers will view your book, but there some things you can do to give your book the sizzle it needs to attract new readers.