How to welcome readers to your book

Online booksellers make it as easy as point-and-click for a reader to buy any book that strikes his/her fancy.  Sometimes, ironically, it’s the publisher who changes the reader’s mind.

How often have you clicked “Look Inside” or “Download a Free Sample” to find out if you really do want to read this one?  And how many times have you been slapped in the face by page after page of boilerplate (“No portion of this book may be reproduced . . . I want to thank my wonderful spouse, children, best friend, dog, et al. . . Here’s the poem that inspired me to write this book . . . Gratefully dedicated to my weekly group . . .”) and clicked DELETE rather than grope on and on through the underbrush until you finally come to the story?

A recent post on LinkedIn’s Crime Fiction group by Iain Parke and reminds us as writers to take advantage of our readers’ appreciative attention by asking them, once they’ve read this book, to review it on Amazon and other sites.

Boom-Books always includes such a request at the end of our books.  Every reader is a partner–our reason for existing–and we hope they’ll want to share the fun they’ve had with the stories we publish.

We also pay close attention to the beginning of our books!  The front matter, as it’s traditionally called, is the first thing a reader sees (after the cover) when s/he opts to Look Inside or Download a Free Sample.  In print books, this may comprise a title page, a half-title, a copyright page, a dedication page, even a preface and/or introduction.  No problem–most readers can easily flip to Page One.  But with an e-book, your reader generally is obliged to scroll through everything that falls between the cover and the story before s/he can get a taste of your writing.  Why waste those precious few seconds of curiosity with stuff your potential reader doesn’t need or want to know?

What DOES the reader need and want to know?  The book’s title, author, publisher, and the fact that it’s copyrighted.  (You might also include its ISBN, and a dedication if that’s important to the author.)  So that’s all the information we put between the cover and Chapter One.  Since e-books don’t have pages, there’s no need to fill up blank space as in a print book.  The copyright line goes something like this:

Book Title Copyright (c) Your Name 2012. All rights reserved. Full copyright notice is at the end of this book.

Last but not least, the title page is an ideal place for your cocktail pitch!  (That’s your a 25-words-or-less answer when someone drifts up to you at a party, drink in hand, and asks, “So what’s your book about?”)  Including a teaser up front offers a hand to your potential readers by (A) utilizing their few seconds of attention to tell them why they’ll enjoy your book, and (B) reminding them, if they don’t return to it until days or weeks later, why they want to read it.  If the book’s gotten rave reviews, include some short excerpts here, too.

For examples, take a look at the Kindle title pages for Charisse Howard’s historical romance Dark Horseman and Carol Verburg’s mysteries Croaked and Silent Night Violent Night.