5 Expert Secrets for Publishing Great Books
Having helped authors sell over 7 million copies, David Chilton knows what makes a book great. That’s why he created the Chilton Method – an in-depth video masterclass that teaches you everything you need to know about creating, marketing, and publishing a book that readers will love.
We’ve cherry-picked five of the most impactful learnings that writers and authors need to know, gathered from David’s 30+ years in the book business. Enjoy!
The most important element of any book’s cover isn’t what you think
Picture your favourite book cover in your mind. What do you love most about it? Why does it work?
There’s a strong chance you’re imagining that cover because the book’s got a great title (and, if applicable, subtitle). Your book’s title is the foundation upon which everything else - colours, font, layout, imagery - is based. Needless to say, if your title’s not strong enough, your cover’s already having to fight an uphill battle to grab readers’ attention.
So, what makes a great title and subtitle? Here are some tips: keep it short, make it brandable, and don’t forget that your title and subtitle are business partners. They should work together. Oh, and be sure to test a few title options with your target readers, too.
The hidden powers of an effective book cover
Forget page 1: your cover is both your book's packaging and its true introduction. If executed properly, a good cover is like a magic key that can open doors previously closed to you. And to properly execute your cover, you need to sweat every single detail and test it with those who will actually buy your book. (And if you’re unsure of where to start, enlisting the help of a professional is an excellent step in the right direction.)
Here are the hallmarks of a great cover:
Your book stands out in people’s minds wherever it’s seen – not just online or in a bookstore, but other contexts like being read in a coffee shop or featured in a photo on Instagram.
It makes people want to buy the book.
Biases the reader to be more likely to enjoy the book.
It makes media more likely to cover your book.
It also encourages people to give you an endorsement. Who wouldn’t want their name printed on a book that looks great?
Forego the foreword
According to Dave, only between 10-15% of forewords are received positively by readers.
Why, you ask? Consider that most forewords are written by people who are too busy or aren't passionate about the book. They’re also an editor’s nightmare, because they’re not written in the tone of the book.
Perhaps most importantly, beginning your book with a foreword starts it off in a voice other than your own – the author. Your readers want to hear from you, not someone else. So, while there are always exceptions, you’re likely better off if you seek to gather short endorsements for your book (more on that in a moment), and foregoing the foreword.
The best back cover copy you could ask for
Why do people buy books off the shelf? Dave’s field research shows that testimonials and great back cover copy are book buyers’ #1 and #2 most cited.
It should come as no surprise, then, that the best back cover copy format for a nonfiction book is a series of outstanding endorsements from credible sources. That’s correct: only endorsement quotes. Dave has found that this format is the most effective at turning a browser into a buyer, and traditional publishers he’s worked with are in agreement.
There’s only one rule in writing and publishing...
And it’s don’t bore the reader.
There’s a transaction at play between author and reader: your reader is giving you both money and their time, and in return you provide them with knowledge and/or entertainment. You need to capture your reader’s attention and keep them away from 1,000 other distractions in their life.
So, whether you’re debating your next word or where to place your Acknowledgements section (spoiler alert: at the back), repeat the mantra of don’t bore the reader. If you endeavour to think of your reader first in every decision you make in writing and publishing, you’re on the path to a great book.