You’re a self-publishing author. Want to make more sales? Of course you do. This weird trick (I wouldn’t call it a strategy) will boost your sales, almost painlessly.
It doesn’t cost anything except maybe ten minutes of your time every few days. I discovered the trick when I was working with students in one of my fiction plotting classes. As with most new authors, some of the students had real challenges starting their books. Putting it bluntly, their story beginnings were boring.
BIG self-publishing tip: great story beginnings matter—they help you to sell
Your book’s cover and title intrigue your readers. If they’re intrigued enough, they’ll use Look Inside on Amazon to read your story’s beginning.
It’s essential that your beginnings hit the mark. There are no second chances.
Victorian novelists could get away with waffling about the countryside and the weather in their story beginnings. We can’t. Readers expect to meet an intriguing character, to whom they can relate, as soon as possible after your story starts.
The weird trick for self-publishing: study beginnings
Read novel and short story beginnings. Lots of them. Amazon’s wonderful Look Inside feature means that you can read the first 10% of books. Read story beginnings, especially the beginnings of bestselling books.
Story beginnings can and will inspire you. I find that when I read a great story beginning, I want to turn off my iPad and go and write.
When you read enough story beginnings from self-publishing and traditional publishing bestsellers, you’ll get a feel for what makes a great opening for a story.
Writing fiction? Remember: EMOTION
“Feel” brings us right back to EMOTION.
Yes, I know. I’m always nagging you about emotion, for a simple reason: emotion gives you a free pass. You’ll read some truly badly written novels, and you’ll wonder: why is this book a bestseller? It’s always a bestseller because the book made readers feel.
You don’t need to read 10%. You can stop reading once you can identify the emotion the story’s opening scene triggered in readers.
Then write down a sentence or two from the book (cite this carefully, so you don’t mix it up with your own writing), and note the emotion.
A tip: please get into the habit of citing everything you reference, if you’re not in the habit of it already. It’s just a good habit to get into. There’s nothing worse than finding a snippet of writing, and wondering whether it’s your own, or something you copied from somewhere. Always, always, cite.
Obviously, you’re not going to use any of the sentences you copy. They’re for inspiration. When you copy enough of these, you’ll have a toolbox packed with tips which will help you to write great story beginnings.
Improve your writing and self-publishing skills, over time
The more you write, using strategies and tricks you’ve studied, the more you improve. Initially, it’s challenging to see how other authors get their effects. Over time, the effects and tricks will pop out at you, and you’ll be able to use them too.
Tip: write your story’s opening after your first draft
Occasionally you’ll get lucky, and a great beginning for your novel will pop into your mind. Usually not, however. If nothing comes to you, don’t waste time. Complete your first draft. You can craft a great beginning later — I’m always tinkering with story beginnings. More than I should, but they sell books, so they’re important.
To make more self-publishing sales, use the trick
Here’s the trick again: read novel and short story beginnings. Lots of them. Use the skills you learn in your short stories and novels. You’ll sell more books.
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Copywriter and marketing pro Angela Booth maintains a busy copywriting and ghostwriting practice. Fascinated by online marketing, she wrote one of the first business books for internet marketing, published by Allen & Unwin. She’s been an enthusiastic blogger since the late 1990s.