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1001 Ways to Market Your Books

Chapter 7: Designing Your Books as Sales Aids

I know when I see a really attractive jacket that the publisher is behind the book and, of course, I pay attention to it.
— Leslie Hanscom, former book editor of Newsday

The marketability of a book is determined not only by its editorial content and the qualifications and fame of the author but also by the design, packaging, and price of the book.

7:01 You Can Sell a Book by Its Cover

It's an old maxim that you can't judge a book by its cover, but this maxim does not hold true in the real world of commercial bookselling. People do judge a book by its cover—not only readers but also major decision makers. I’ve meet with chain store buyers, wholesale buyers, and even television producers, and I’ve watched them as they pick up a new book to make a decision. Within two to three seconds, they’ve already made their decision. You can see it in their eyes. And all they’ve done is look at the title, look at the cover, and size up the packaging. That’s it.

Julienne Bennett, publisher of Wildcat Canyon Press, once showed me a copy of a book they were about to publish called Girlfriends. She said they hoped to sell 60,000 in the first year. I took a few moments to look at the cover of the book and just hold the book. Then I told her that they would sell 200,000 in the first year. Why? Because the title and cover were just right for their audience, which was women who buy books for their friends. And, as important, the book felt so good in my hands. It was the total packaging that sold the book. Within a year, Girlfriends made it to the bestseller lists with 300,000 copies in print. As of August, 1997, it had been on the bestseller list for seven months, with 700,000 copies in print.

Below are just a few more reasons why you should place major attention on the cover design of your books:

The cover is featured in your advertisements, catalogs, website, and reviews. If it is well-done, it will increase your sales. If it is boring or unconvincing, it will detract from your sales. Bruce Willett, sales manager of Ulysses Press, a travel book publisher, reports that “We’ve seen an increase in sales since we’ve redesigned our covers.”

In marginal buying situations, the first impression that the book creates is the only impression it creates.

For bookstores, the cover is important for a number of reasons:

It must fit into the atmosphere the bookstore is trying to create.

It must fit into and yet stand out from other titles in the same subject.

It must attract the casual browser.

The cover is often the only advertising a book buyer sees. It is the ultimate in point-of-purchase ads. It either works, or it does not. According to the Wall Street Journal, the average bookstore browser spends only 8 seconds on the front cover—and then only if the reader is attracted enough to the book to pick it up in the first place. Judith Clinton of Tor Books once observed, “We believe that the cover is a point-of-purchase advertisement of major importance in the marketing of the book.”

Book covers are also important for advance sales at exhibits or with key wholesale, chain store, and book club buyers. Again, it is often the only part of the book that they see first hand before the book is produced. And many of these buyers must make their purchase commitments months in advance of any book's publication date.

At the 1983 ABA Convention, Alan Gadney of Festival Publications took many large orders for three computer books based solely on the sample covers he had produced. The sales could not have come from the contents of the books, because Alan hadn't written the books yet!

While he liked the book’s concept, the B. Dalton buyer originally rejected The Owner's Manual published by Wonder Child Press because it didn't have a full-color cover. After the cover was redesigned by a professional, B. Dalton immediately placed an order for 4,000 copies.

To many buyers and reviewers, the cover design reflects the attention the publisher has put into the book (and will continue to put into the book by way of continued promotions). Hence, your books will get far more reviewer notice if you focus more on designing an effective cover.

For some kinds of books, a well-illustrated cover increases the value of the book. For example, in the science fiction and fantasy fields, the cover illustration is often the number one criteria by which book collectors in that genre judge a book. Indeed, the annual Hugo awards granted by the fans has separate categories for both fan artist and professional artist. And the art shows at the various SF conventions are often better attended than the seminars and speeches.

Design is crucial, of course, with non-books such as diaries, Crown's Anything books, and personalized recipe books like Nancy Edwards's With Love from My Kitchen. In such cases, the design is the book.

Cover design, when standardized for a series, can help readers to identify other books in the series. Witness the standardized covers for the bestselling Chicken Soup for the Soul and Dummies series.

Vintage Contemporaries, Penquin, and NAL Plume all have uniform cover formats for their series of literary novels. The books in these series tend to be displayed together in the bookstores, often face out. The uniform design of these groupings helps readers to recognize the books as a series. When they buy one and like it, they come back for more.

Book Cover Critique: $125. I've watched key book wholesalers, chain store buyers, and producers of major TV shows pick up a book and make an instant decision on the book WITHOUT opening the book. How important is your book cover? Without a good one, your book won't sell. I'll help you
to pass that First-Look Test. All for only $300.00. Each critique includes a 15-minute feedback session via telephone.

“As a publisher on a budget, I can confidently say that consulting with John on the cover of The Way of Leading People: Unlocking Your Integral Leadership Skills was the best money I spent promoting my book. John provided me with clear, concise feedback while making several valuable marketing suggestions.” — Tim Warneka, founder, Asogomi Publishing International

“This was the best investment I've made on my book.” — Sandra Lewis, publisher, My Health Record

Book Title Critique: $125. While a book title critique is included in the book cover critique, I've often had to tell people to go back to the drawing board completely because their title was all wrong. If you are looking to brand your book or want to create a bestseller, a book title critique will help you to create a bestselling book before you hire a cover designer (and spend up to $3,000 on a cover with a bad title). Each critique includes a 15-minute feedback session via telephone.

7:02 Elements of Good Cover Design

The basic rule of cover design is that the cover should match the contents of the book. That means that the style, format, and message of the cover should be compatible with and support the style, format, and message of the book itself. An effective cover design should have at least some of the following elements:

Use a standard format.

The book should look like a book, and especially like other books with similar contents. If you want to attract the attention of buyers of a specific genre, your books must look like other books within the genre. Just as all oatmeal boxes look alike, so must all romance novels that hope to sell to repeat buyers. In the case of romance novels, this means a cover with a feminine typeface combined with an illustration of a man and woman caught in a wild embrace.

Follow trends.

Lately, the covers of romance novels have featured more flesh on the man than the woman—a sign that publishers have finally figured out who the buyers are. For hardcover romances where the publisher is trying to break the writer out to a wider general audience, the covers tend toward fancy type and flowers—a genteel approach that seems to work.

At the same time, the book must look different.

It must be able to stand out in the crowd. That is one reason Zebra Books printed holograms on the covers of its romance novels. It hoped to distinguish its line of novels so the books stood out on the paperback racks and thereby attracted more attention from potential buyers. Similarly, Bantam put an embossed silver foil dustjacket on Leona Blair's novel Privilege so it would stand out from the other hardcovers on the shelves.

Be bold and simple.

The front cover of a book should be bold and simple, more like a billboard (which it is) than a full-page display ad. The cover should be uncluttered, easy to read (with highly readable type), and simple enough that the casual browser can catch the title and name of the author without searching for either.

Put the most important element at the top.

Generally speaking, the title of the book should be featured at the top of the cover. It's the first thing the reader should see. If, however, the author is well-known and more important than the title, then feature the author's name in bold type at the top of the cover.

Feature sales information.

Besides the author and title, feature any other information that could be useful in selling the book. Touchstone, for instance, took advantage of the controversy surrounding the movie, The Last Temptation of Christ, to bring out a new edition of the book by Nikos Kazantzakis featuring the artwork from the film's lobby card.

Choose a correct typeface.

The typography of the front cover should match the style of the book. For example, a simple typeface is more appropriate for a serious book while a fancy script typeface might be more appropriate for a romance novel. Novelty books, on the other hand, might use a casual typeface such as Hobo. Typefaces come in all sorts of styles from simple to complex, feminine to masculine, romantic to businesslike, strong and bold to light and airy. Be sure that your graphic designer selects a typeface that matches the style and subject of the book.

Use illustration where appropriate.

Fiction should have an illustrative element on the cover while nonfiction can do without any graphic elements. Indeed, serious nonfiction books may be better served by a simple bold headline and little else. Again, the design of the cover depends on the style and subject of the book as well as the intended audience.

Get their attention.

To support the line of Topaz romances, all covers feature the Topaz Man, currently a Mr. Universe. Besides attracting female readers to the line, the Topaz Man acts as a spokesman for the entire line, drawing crowds at author events and garnering media attention.

Full-color covers are a requirement.

Full-color covers also encourage impulse sales for almost any book. Many smaller publishers report that switching from one- or two-color covers to full-color covers has had a significant impact on their sales.

Not that all covers need to be full-color.

Javan has successfully self-published a series of poetry gift titles with a simple cover design: just the title and the author's name printed in italics, brown ink on a light brown antique cover. Booksellers reportedly like the cover just as it is.

Odd colors can sometimes work.

For example, Rhodes and Easton’s Deer Camp Dictionary in its fluorescent-orange cover sells well in sporting goods shops, gas stations, and other places where hunters congregate.

Add a fifth or sixth color.

You can’t accurately duplicate saturated colors or very light colors using the four-color process.

Avoid lots of white or black.

Also avoid vast expanses of dark colors. Such colors tend to show fingerprints and other scuffs more vividly. As one bookseller noted, “It’s very hard to sell a book with fingerprints on the cover.”

Maintain continuity in series.

If you are publishing a series, there should be some continuity in the cover design so that bookstore browsers can readily see the connection. For example, Wei-chuan's Cooking uses the same format for all four covers of their line of Chinese cookbooks.

The two complimentary titles from Advocacy Press, Choices and Challenges, both had similar cover designs though one was feminine in style and the other masculine—matching the audience for each book.

Try different sizes of books.

101 Productions was the first publisher to use an 8" x 8" format for trade cookbooks, a format that allows for more flexibility in the layout of pages while enabling the book to lie open more easily without breaking the spine. In the past fifteen years, 101 has sold more than four million copies of their cookbooks.

Since Running Press launched their line of Miniature Editions in 1989, they have sold more than 19 million copies. The trim size of these Editions is 2¾'' x 3¼''. This collection of more than one hundred titles are normally displayed in a 24-pocket spinner rack.

Random House has recently published a line of petite hardcover romance novels known as keepers priced at $10.00 each. Their initial print run for the first books in the series was 200,000 copies.

Highlight awards.

If the book has received any awards or great reviews, feature those on the cover. As Joan Vogel, Vice President of Sales at Chronicle Books, recently noted, awards give the book “a seal of approval and it’s a way to catch the eye of the consumer.”

Add novelties.

Here are a few gimmicks which have been used recently to attract attention to books. For a book on healing stones, Random House attached a real stone to the cover. Abbeville Press used a cover made of artificial grass to market a miniature golf guide. For the novel Red Snow, Dutton added a plastic jacket with fake snow trapped behind the plastic. Or why not add a Post-It sticky note to your cover; such notes have worked well on magazines that wanted to stand out from the crowd at a newsstand.

Go with the season.

If one of your books happens to have a publication date of mid-March, you might want to give it a green cover. More than one bookseller has been known to display a window full of green books for St. Patrick's Day. Customers reportedly love it. When I published Turntable Illusions in the fall of 1992, I designed it with a red and green color, Christmas colors, to fit in with the holiday season.

Coat the cover.

Besides being your major point-of-purchase advertising for the book, the cover must also protect the book. If it is a paperback book, have the cover varnished, film laminated, or coated with a UV plastic. If it is hardcover, use a jacket (which also allows for more promotional copy than a cover by itself).

Choose lay-flat film lamination over UV coating for paperbacks, because UV coating doesn’t protect as well. You might want to experiment with a matte film lamination, such as the one used on Girlfriends.

Do two or more covers for the same title.

For the paperback version of the political novel Primary Colors, Warner Books used three covers, one for each of the three primary colors: red, blue, and yellow.

For the covers of Stephen King’s Desperation and Richard Bachman’s The Regulators, Viking commissioned one work of art that would only be seen as one if the two books were placed side by side—which, of course, was the way Viking hoped bookstores would display the books, thus highlighting the connection between the two books.

For their slightly questionable book, How to Shit in the Woods, Ten Speed Press designed two covers. The first featured a full color illustration of a guy with his jeans around his ankles, a shovel in one hand and a roll of toilet paper in the other. The second cover, a soft yellow background engraved with a pattern of green maple leaves, was discreetly titled How to S--- in the Woods. The book went on to be a year-end bestseller, with the first cover outselling the more discreet second cover by a margin of ten to one.

Test your covers.

Whenever possible, test your covers with consumers and booksellers. Scribner sent two versions of a cover for Faye Smith’s Flight of the Blackbird to 25 African American booksellers. The cover with a portrait of a family beat out a cover with a blackbird in flight.

When Open Horizons published the Fifth Edition of 1001 Ways to Market Your Books, we tested two different cover designs by featuring both on our website ( and asking visitors to vote on which one they liked best. More than 200 people voted 9 to 1 in favor of the cover we were NOT planning to use.

Well, we had to change our minds. We're no fools. The cover on the fifth edition received great reviews from everyone who saw it — thanks to the voters!

Authors — Don't insist on your own cover design for your books. Rely on the judgment of your publishers. They are far more likely to be in tune with the trends of the marketplace—and certainly know better what they can sell. This does not mean that you can't give them suggestions; just don't be married to your own ideas.

Cover Design Tips

by George Foster

Book Category

Successful design communicates an idea. It is not simply decoration. Does your cover look appropriate to the subject? Business books have a different look than self-help, poetry, or history. Visit bookstores and notice the common design approach used by the books in your category. You want to fit into that category so people will know what to expect from your book. Of course, you want to stand out, but first you must be accepted and understood within the right context.

Legibility of the Title

Make sure your title is easy to read. You have 3-5 seconds to make an impression. Can you read it from across the room? Bold type is generally best. Avoid all capitals unless your title is four words or less. Put light-colored type over a dark background, or dark type over a light background. Contrast is key. A small, black drop shadow behind the title often helps visibility.

Use a different typeface for the subtitle. It adds interest to the cover, while making a clear distinction between the different messages. Good combinations are: sans serif and serif, roman and italic, capitals and lower case, bold and thin.


When a printer gives you a quote for a four-color process cover, that means you can have any color in the rainbow, including full-color photographs, through the combination of the four process colors. Most book covers are printed this way. Two-color covers can be done successfully, but their design must be strong to overcome this limitation.

Color communicates feeling, with its many nuances, so use it with care. Don’t go crazy with colors just to get attention, unless your book is about a circus. Contrast works best, as does harmony. Opposite colors are great, but use that effect only once on the cover, not twice. After that, use harmonizing, less contrasting colors, like pale against intense shades of the same color. Some general points: red is hot, gets attention; blue is less visible, but is assured, evokes authority; yellow is optimistic; green is healthy, food, leisure; brown is rich, traditional, warm; white is antiseptic, pure, credible; black is sensuous, mystery, and authority.

Marketing materials and general publicity will likely show your book cover in black-and-white, so make a reduced photocopy of the cover to see how well it reads. Will someone know what your book is about in 3-5 seconds?

These points are broad, and there are exceptions to every rule, so keep an open mind, and be ready for the accidents that actually improve your design. Also, remember it doesn't have to be perfect to be a success in the marketplace.

George Foster is a book cover designer. To see samples of his work, contact Foster Covers, George Foster, President, 1401 Wonder Way, Fairfield IA 52556; 641-472-3953; 800-472-3953; Fax: 866-837-0544. Email: or Web:

7:03 Don't Forget the Spine

More than once in my own publishing career I have forgotten to add copy for the spine before sending the materials to the printer. Thus I had to rely on the printer to set the type and place it appropriately—a procedure that I do not recommended if you like to sleep at night. Anyway, the spine of your books should always have at least the following elements:

Since most books in libraries and bookstores are displayed spine out, make sure the title is large enough to read from across the room. Highlight the most important words. For example, 1001 Ways to Be Romantic is better as 1001 Ways to Be ROMANTIC. Or The International Book of Baseball Drills could become international book of BASEBALL DRILLS.

Also, if possible, leave some space on the lower portion of the spine for libraries to place their shelf stickers. Either leave this space blank or use it for some information that you don't mind having obliterated by the sticker.

One other note: Make sure the spine reads from top to bottom when the book is shelved with the front cover facing the right side of a shelf. This is the standard way to place the copy on the spine. If you place it the other way, browsers will have a harder time reading the title of your book.

7:04 What to Put on the Back Cover

While the front cover should act as a billboard to attract potential buyers, the back cover should serve as a display advertisement to encourage the reader to buy the book. Hence, the back cover can be more complex, more wordy, more detailed. How much more complex? The average book now has about 10 to 15 words on its front cover and from 70 to 100 on its back. In a recent Book Industry Study Group survey, people said that the information on the back cover was much more important than the actual cover design. What should the back cover contain?

The Bookland EAN symbol should be printed on the back cover with high contrast ink (either black on white, or dark blue on white) with at least an 1/8" of white space around the edges. The ISBN number should be printed in OCR-A font above the Bookland EAN symbol.

To get camera-ready copy for the Bookland EAN, you should contact the bar code suppliers featured at, who will know how to prepare the code once you have assigned an ISBN number to the book. Besides these suppliers, you could use bar code software to create the EAN code.

If your books are primarily sold in groceries, drugstores, and other mass-market outlets, the Universal Product Code should be printed on back cover, with the Bookland Ean on the inside front cover. You can sign up to participate in the UPC program by writing to GS1 US, 1009 Lenox Drive #202, Lawrenceville NJ 08648; 937-425-3870. Email: Web: There is a charge to join this program.

Leave space on the top right corner of the back cover for those libraries which use bar-code scanners for checking the books out. How much space should you leave? One inch down by three inches wide. Again, leave this space blank or use it for information you don't mind having obliterated by the bar-code sticker.

Print the book’s subject category on the upper left-hand corner of the back cover. Do not add more than two categories. You can use Ingram’s categories to help you decide what categories to use. For example, here are a few samples: Business / Personal Finance or Travel / Bed & Breakfast. Note, in these two examples, the first category listing is the main category and the second is the subcategory.

Make the subject clear so underpaid bookstore clerks do not shelf the book in the wrong area. Prentice-Hall's National Rifleman's Bible was shelved in the religious section of some bookstores because it lacked this vital information.

Remember that whatever you put on the back cover should serve one purpose: to inspire the reader to buy the book. Few browsers look beyond the front and back covers; hence, the covers have to be so designed that they encourage the browser to buy the book right away or else open the book to learn more about it contents.

7:05 Jacket Flaps

The jackets of hardcover books usually include a short synopsis of the book on the front flap and a short biography of the author on the back flap. This arrangement allows the back cover to be used for testimonials and blurbs from advance reviews. Since a hardcover book is usually higher priced, use the extra space on the jacket flap to include more copy that will overcome the casual browser's price resistance.

7:06 Selecting the Right Binding

There are six basic binding options currently available: hardcover or casebound (whether perfectbound or smyth-sewn), perfectbound paperback, Otabound paperback, saddle-stitched paperback, comb or spiral bound, and loose-leaf binders. How do you choose the bindings of your new titles? Here are a few guidelines:

Hardcovers (casebound books)

Use hardcovers for gift books, library editions, permanent collections, major works of fiction and non-fiction, and professional reference titles

Since hardcovers are still taken more seriously by booksellers, reviewers, and subsidiary rights buyers, publish hardcover editions of your books if you want to reach a wide general market through book reviews and author tours.

Hardcovers account for 42% of books sold by warehouse and price clubs but only 28% of books sold in independent bookstores (where trade paperbacks account for 50% of sales).

Libraries still prefer hardcover editions because they wear better under heavy use. For the same reason, professionals prefer hardcovers for their expensive reference manuals.

Most higher priced books are published in hardcover because such covers are viewed as being more expensive. An exception to this rule, however, are high priced annual directories, such as Literary MarketPlace, because they are expected to wear out quickly and be replaced with a new edition each year.

Cookbooks often sell better in trade paperback editions except around Christmas time when many people are buying cookbooks as gifts for others; then the hardcover edition has a much higher perceived value.

Hardcover editions are also indispensable for books which are destined to be collector's items—anything from a cookbook to a limited edition.

Know your audience. For instance, African American adult book buyers buy 63% paperback and 31% hardcover, while adult book buyers in general buy 57% paperback and 38% hardcover (1994 ABA Analysis of African-American Book Purchases).

66% of popular fiction is bought as mass market paperbacks, 10% as trade paperbacks, and 24% as hardcovers. On the other hand, only 10% of general nonfiction is bought as mass market paperbacks, while 44% is bought as trade paperbacks and 46% as hardcovers (1996 Consumer Research Study on Book Purchasing).

Perfectbound paperbacks

Use paperbacks for most mass-market titles, inexpensive editions, novelty books, travel guides, poetry, literary novels, and any book with an ephemeral topic. According to one study, 58% of all small press titles are now published in trade paperback (also known as quality paperbacks).

Mass market paperbacks are the pocket-sized softcover books sold in drug stores, grocery stores, and newsstands. Trade paperbacks are the larger softcover books sold primarily in bookstores. 1001 Ways to Market Your Books is a trade paperback.

As mentioned above, many annual directories are published in perfectbound paperback format because they are expected to last only a year until the next edition comes out.

Most genre novels are published in mass-market format because, again, they tend to reflect changing tastes and aren't likely to be read again and again.

The main reason to use this format is to keep the retail price down so more readers can afford to buy the book. It also cuts your upfront costs in publishing a book, leaving you more money to put into advertising and promoting the book.

Of course, you could publish both a hardcover and a paperback edition (either simultaneously or, as is more common, the hardcover first, followed by the paperback). Publishing two editions expands the potential audience of the book. For previous editions of this book, we published both hardcover and softcover editions, but 90% plus of our sales were in the softcover edition, so we stopped printing hardcover editions.

Publishing two editions also allows you to sell each edition to a different book club without endangering the exclusivity of either club. Festival Publications did this with one of their titles, selling the $15.95 paperback to one book club and the $23.95 hardcover to another.

Note that trade paperbacks account for 60% of all religious books sold, 65% of psychology/recovery books, 77% of technical books, and 56% of cookbooks. Trade paperbacks sell best in bookstores and via mail order.

On the other hand, mass market paperbacks account for 60% of books sold in discount stores, 37% of book club sales (especially children’s book clubs), and 66% of popular fiction.

Otabound paperbacks

This perfect-binding technique can be used for cookbooks, travel guides, software manuals, and other books that must lay flat. Using special glue and covers, this system allows a book to lay flat without breaking the binding.

While this form of binding is more expensive than regular perfect binding, it is less expensive than comb binding or spiral binding.

Besides being less expensive than comb or spiral binding, it also ships more readily through the mail. And, because it has a spine, it is easier to shelve in bookstores and libraries.

There are two versions of this binding method: the regular Otabind method for longer runs and the RepKover method for shorter runs. Among the printers who can provide such binding are Courier Corporation, R. R. Donnelly, Haddon Craftsmen, Malloy Lithographing, and Viking Press.

Saddle-stitched paperbacks

Use saddle-stitching mainly for workbooks, manuals, reports, booklets, newsletters, and other expendable publications.

Because saddle-stitched books have no spine and thus cannot be shelved with the spine out, they are hard to sell to libraries and booksellers. Don't use such binding if these are your major markets.

The main value of saddle-stitched books is that they are less expensive to produce. Hence, they make superb workbooks and lab manuals.

They also lie flat more easily than perfectbound books—another reason they make good workbooks and atlases.

Comb-bound and spiral-bound books

Use these bindings primarily for cookbooks, computer manuals, and other books where there is a great need for the book to lie flat while allowing the reader's hands to remain free. Otabound books, however, are replacing comb-bound and spiral-bound books in the book trade.

A survey by the Benjamin Company showed that 54% of cookbook buyers consider it essential that a cookbook lie flat. An additional 32% considered it nice but not essential.

Loose-leaf binders

Use primarily for subscription services and any other books which require periodic updating or removal of the pages.

A collection of forms may either be published as a perfectbound book with perforated pages (which does not allow the pages to remain together in a neat way) or as a loose-leaf binder (which allows for the pages to be removed, copied, and then returned for safe keeping).

Loose-leaf binders are usually sold only by mail to end users because librarians and booksellers do not like stocking books whose pages can be removed easily. In addition, binders do not sit neatly on most bookstore and library shelves.

Loose-leaf subscription services are among the highest priced publications, generally priced between $99.00 and $500.00. Some of the major loose-leaf publishers are Prentice-Hall, Research Institute of America, Bureau of National Affairs, Commerce Clearing House, Warren, Gorham & Lamont, Matthew Bender, Aspen, and Longman Trade.


Educational textbooks, especially for low-enrollment or special-interest classes, are now being photocopied and bound in much greater numbers. Indeed, some college publishers are replacing up to half of their textbooks with books created on demand using Xerox DocuWeb or similar technologies where books are printed and bound in one easy print run from a computer text file. The flexibility of taking excerpts from a number of books and printing them together as a custom book has really drawn the attention of college professors. Now more textbook publishers are making it even easier for those professors to get the book they want, even in short runs.

National Academy Press, the publishing arm of the National Academy of Sciences and several other government agencies, has taken this process one step further. They have opened a virtual bookstore on the world wide web ( where anyone can review their 1,000 titles, select one book or part of a book, order it, and have it delivered to them by the Press in hardcopy bound format. Although the Press expected this easy availability would cut into sales of the actual books, the opposite has occurred. “For every book we put out on the Internet,” says Scott Lubeck, director of the Press, “we have found it was excellent marketing for the actual book.”

7:07 Pricing Your Books

Generally speaking, your books should be priced from eight to ten times your production costs. Within this projected range, you should set the retail price of your books to be competitive with other books covering the same subject and in the same format. Below are a few guidelines:

Mass-market paperbacks

Prices range from $2.50 to $7.95. The average price for a mass-market paperback in 1992 was $5.10. The highest average prices for mass-market paperbacks were $13.00 for art books and $32.88 for technology books. The lowest average price was $3.61 for juvenile paperbacks.

41% of popular fiction, sold primarily in mass market paperback format, sells for under $5.00 while another 39% sells for between $5.00 and $7.99). In general nonfiction, only 22% of books sell for under $7.99 (1996 Consumer Research Study on Book Purchasing).

The Twin Cities Gold Book, a directory of advertising and creative services published by Prime Publications, was one of the highest-priced mass-market format paperbacks. It sold for $16.00.

Trade paperbacks

Prices range from $3.95 for a thin book up to $39.95 for a larger trade paperback. The average price for a trade paperback in 1992 was $18.60. Juvenile paperbacks averaged $7.35. Fiction, poetry, and books on religion all averaged around $13.25. Business paperbacks sold for an average of $22.31. Travel guides averaged $14.64. Technology and computer books were among the highest priced paperbacks at an average price of $28.72. Since 1992, average prices have probably increased by one or two dollars in each category.

One of the highest priced paperbacks in 1992 was the 1760+ page Literary MarketPlace, which sold for $134.95.


Prices range from $2.95 for some juveniles and novelty books to $99.95 on up for professional reference books. The average hardcover price in 1992 was $45.25 ($33.38 when considering only those books priced under $81.00). The lowest average prices were $14.51 for juveniles and $20.34 for fiction. The highest average prices (around $75.00 to $80.00) were for books on law, medicine, science, and technology. The average price for a hardcover business book was $44.11, for art books $43.35, for history books $38.58, for travel books $32.87, for sports and recreation books $34.73.

Perhaps the highest-priced hardcover was the $22,000 facsimile edition of Audubon's Birds of America, a combined publication of Abbeville Press and the National Audubon Society. In three years they sold 335 copies of this edition—that's over $7,000,000 in sales!

Recently, Grove Press published the Grove Dictionary of Art with a retail price of $8,800. The Dictionary consisted of 41,000 articles and 15,000 images displayed on 32,600 pages in 34 volumes. The set weighed 168 pounds.

When Taschen published a book on photographer Helmut Newton in 1999, they designed it as a foot-and-a-half wide by more than two feet tall. The 500-page book weighed more than 66 pounds. The 10,000 hand-bound copies were numbered, signed, and came with engraved steel tables designed by architect Philip Starck.

Saddle-stitched books

Prices range from 99¢ to $10.95 on up. Play books for children range from 99¢ to $4.95. Professional reports range from $9.95 all the way on up to $6,750.00 for a report on European Drinking Habits from Business Trends Analysis.

Comb-bound or spiral-bound books

Prices range from $3.95 to $19.95. Cookbooks average between $6.95 and $19.95 for comb-bound books. Comb-bound software manuals are generally higher priced.

Some reports, such as Cowles/Simba Information’s Publishing for Intranets, can cost up to $1,195. These special interest reports usually sell only a few hundred copies so they must charge more in order to justify the expense of researching and producing them.

Pricing Your Books

Now, while you generally want to price your books within the range of other similar books, don’t make the mistake of pricing them too low. You may be surprised what people will pay for your book. Here are a few more tips and observations on pricing that might help you to decide how to price your books.

The Best Seller, “Every price is too high until they see the benefits.” Present the consumer with enough reasons to buy, and price then becomes far less important.

Don’t penny-ante people. When Cowles/Simba publishes their expensive $895 to $1,195 reports, they add on a separate $6.00 charge for shipping. Plus, if you want them to ship it via Fed-Ex, you have to give them your account number! Ridiculous. They should simply include the cost of shipping overnight in the price.

Among college students, hardcovers are perceived as textbooks and paperbacks for enjoyment. Several years ago, one publisher simultaneously published a book in both hardcover and softcover editions but reversed the pricing on the books (the softcover selling for $14.95 and the hardcover for $9.95). They sent 100 copies of each edition to a college in Ohio. The paperback edition sold out, while the hardcover edition just sat there.

Here is another illuminating example excerpted from Nat Bodian’s excellent history of publishing, The Joy of Publishing (available from Open Horizons for only $19.95).

In a published collection of reminiscences, noted British publisher Sir Stanley Unwin relates how his firm, Allen & Unwin, overcame bookseller and book buyer price resistance to a two-volume set of art books they had published. The work had been priced at the equivalent of $10.50 to booksellers and $15.75 for the set to the book-buying public, but the set was not selling. Unwin recalls, “We changed the price to $31.50 per set; told the booksellers that they could sell it at ‘half price’ and pay us $10.50. The stock just melted away. There was no change in the price either to the booksellers or the Public.”

7:08 Good Books Come in Unusual Packages

While in most cases your books should look like books, there are arguments for packaging your book in unusual ways to reach a new market. In many such cases, it's a good policy to publish two editions, one for the standard book market, the other for the special market.

Unusual packaging can set your book apart from other books. The Pet Rock, for instance, was really just a short book, The Care and Feeding of Your Pet Rock, packaged with a plain rock in a fancy box. It wasn't the rock or the fancy box that really caught the imagination of the public; it was the book with its humorous approach to taking care of something as commonplace as a little rock.

Unusual packaging can allow you to reach other markets, just as the unique packaging of L'eggs allowed it to reach into grocery stores to sell nylons—and ultimately to drive most other nylon manufacturers out of the marketplace.

Para Publishing die-cut its Frisbee Player's Handbook into a circular shape and then packaged it inside a frisbee, thus encouraging sales to toy and sports shops that might not otherwise have carried the standard edition of the book (which sold better to bookstores and libraries).

Even small format changes can make a difference in sales. Dial added a fancy ribbon marker to Paula Wolfert's The Cooking of Southwest France, thereby setting the book apart from other cookbooks. Even though the book had few illustrations and a high price, it still sold well because of that little touch of class.

Fodor’s bound Rand McNally maps into its 1998 Gold Guides as an added inducement for people to buy the books.

Richard Scary's Biggest Word Book Ever! from Random House is two feet high—almost taller than many of its intended users (ages 3 to 5). But its size sets it apart from other books, and it fits the title. Of course, the size also allows Random House to justify the price tag of $29.95.

You can use unusual packaging to adapt your books to particular seasons, celebrations, or events. Little Simon, the juvenile publishing division of Simon & Schuster, repackaged its Hatchling line of small board books into see-through Easter eggs which were then nestled on top of green paper grass inside a large counter-top display. These books sold well during the Easter season.

Unusual book packages such as pop-ups, die-cuts, sticker books, and board books are often aimed at children. Such books combine play-value with content to attract and keep the attention of children. Hence, they sell almost as well as toys.

Metro Files, a subsidiary of Rolodex, published a directory of toll-free numbers, 1-800-Toll-Free, not as a book but as a set of Rolodex cards. Not only did this make it easier for readers to use, but it also sold more Rolodex filing systems.

Redpath Press published a series of twelve short stories as Perfect Presents—individually bound short stories designed as gift items. These Perfect Presents were about the size of standard greeting cards but with more pages featuring a story line and illustrations. They sold for $5.95.

Jeff Cook self-published 18 varieties of Cook's Canned Speeches, one-page speeches that were packed inside a can with an applause sign and a plastic carnation. With most of his orders coming from such gift store chains as Spencer Gifts, he sold more than 35,000 copies at $6.95 within a short time.

Rutledge Hill packaged their TV-inspired cookbook, Cooking with Friends, in a shrink-wrapped two-pack so customers could buy one copy for themselves and another for their friends. The two-pack sold for $19.95.

When Little, Brown and Company was faced with 25,000 leftover copies of Blue Highways after a year on the bestsellers lists, they decided to package the book as a gift so they could extend its selling life for one more season. They clipped the price off the jacket flap (so the book could be given as a gift), gift wrapped the book, and bound the package with a band that was printed with the name of the author, the title of the book, the price, the ISBN number, and the Bookland EAN bar code. As a result, they sold another 15,000 copies of the book during the holidays. In 1988, they did a similar gift promotion for Cleveland Amory's The Cat Who Came for Christmas.

For fancy coffee-table books, booksellers prefer to have copies either shrinkwrapped or boxed. Not only does this make it easier to gift wrap the books, but it also ensures that these expensive books will remain in pristine condition. To help the bookseller display these higher-priced books without damaging the copies for sale, offer the bookseller a 60% discount on a browser's copy (with an order of five to ten additional copies at your normal discount). Or provide extra covers. Or provide sample pages from the inside of the book.

In September 1996, Stephen King hit the bestseller list with six titles at once—a record that will probably never be beaten. How did he do it? Signet, his publisher, serialized his novel, The Green Mile, in six segments. By the time the sixth one was published with a 3.35 million first run, the other five books in the series had sold 17 million copies! Later, the six books were sold in a boxed set packaged with a Green Mile screen saver on disk. After Signet’s great success, Ballantine Books decided to serialize John Saul’s The Blackstone Chronicles in six parts as well, with each installment selling for $2.99.

In February 1997, St. Martin’s published a romance anthology, Chocolate Kisses, designed to look like a box of chocolate. Target liked the presentation and actually placed the book with real boxes of chocolates in all its stores.

7:09 Combine Books with Other Items

One way to expand the market for your books is to repackage them with other media, from audio tapes to bones, and then sell the package as a kit. This repackaging makes it easier to sell books in other retail markets, especially gift stores.

Midwest Financial Publications packaged courses that contained two or three books, a collection of cassette tapes, and other information which they then sold via hour-long television shows. The packages were priced at almost $300—well over the total price that could have been charged if each item were sold separately.

Many children's books are now packaged with an audio tape so the children can listen to the tape as they read the story or look at the pictures.

Harper & Row published a novel by Ursula LeGuin, Always Coming Home, which was accompanied by an audio tape. The book told the story of a future Amerindian society while the audio tape contained songs and poems from this fictional future. This set sold very well.

When Jim Humberd published a book on travel to a European country, he contacted that country's tourist office. They supplied him with thousands of road maps of the country which he then packaged with the book. Other items you could package with a travel book: a small gift item from the country or region featured in the book, travel accessories, translation cards, or currency exchange rates.

Computer software is almost always packaged with a manual or set of manuals explaining how to use the software. Certainly the software sells better because it has printed documentation. Of course, the docu-mentation is often inadequate; otherwise, there wouldn't be the large market that now exists for computer books explaining how to use various software programs. These computer books, in turn, are often packaged with a CD-ROM or disk containing additional software, extra add-ons, or clip art.

W. W. Norton packaged a software program to accompany the paperback edition of Richard Dawkins's The Blind Watchmaker, a defense of Darwinism. The software allows readers to simulate the evolution of biomorphs.

Rodale packaged a free radon testing kit with its book Radon: The Invisible Threat by Michael Lafavore.

Klutz Press packaged a set of measuring spoons with its cookbook for kids, Kids Cooking: A Slightly Messy Manual. In fact, Klutz has build an entire business on books packaged with an item, from hacky sacks to magnifying glasses. Their titles often make the bestseller lists for children’s books.

Workman packages Hugh Danks's The Bug Book inside a plastic bug-catching bottle. Workman is also famous for its packaging, which many publishers try to emulate. Such books are known as Workman books.

7:10 Designing the Inside

When designing a book, take some time designing the inside as well as the outside of the book. Remember: A well-laid-out inside conveys information better while also improving the look of the book. How important are looks? When Publishers Weekly rated the top five tax guides in December 1996, Taxes for Dummies was rated best because of its “excellent visuals, superb writing, and friendly organization,” while J.K. Lassers Your Income Tax was rated lowest because it tried to do too much: The “layout is not easy on the eyes.” While Lassers had created the tax book category, “it has now been eclipsed in the packaging department: no small consideration for people with less time than ever to mess with their taxes.”

Here, then, are a few inside design elements that can affect the marketability of books:

Acid-Free Paper

Use acid-free paper for books that must last a long time: library editions, limited editions, professional texts, and any other books worth preserving. If one of the main markets for the book will be libraries, acid-free paper could double the sales of the book.

Not only did Ceres Press publish Clean & Green: The Complete Guide to Nontoxic and Environmentally Safe Housekeeping on acid-free recycled paper, but they also used a vegatable-based ink rather than traditional inks derived from petroleum, a non-renewable resource. Besides making sense, given the topic of the book, this also help their book stand out among other environmental books, especially with the media.

Readable Typeface

Be sure that the typeface you use for the text of the book is readable. And, if the book is to be used by many older people, make sure the type size is large enough.

New England Press published a superb cookbook (practical content, great reviews, attractive design, and reasonable price), but the book did not sell well. Only by chance did they discover the problem. When watching bookstore browsers pick up the book and page through it, they discovered that the typeface was too small for use in a kitchen.

Color Sells

Use color inside high-priced books, pictorial books, and children's books. Few coffee-table books, pictorial travel guides, or expensive cookbooks will sell without full-color photos.

Even fewer children's books will sell if they are not colorful and attractive. After publishing a black-and-white illustrated children's book, Little Fox and the Golden Hawk by Gail Berry, I was told repeatedly by bookstore buyers that they could only buy children's books with lots of color. They wouldn’t even look at a black-and-white book.

In a cookbook buyers survey conducted by the Benjamin Company, 48% of the respondents said that color photographs accompanying the text were essential for cookbooks.


Illustrations help to sell books. Photographs, line drawings, cartoons, tables, graphs, charts, sidebars, and other illustrations all make a book more attractive and useful. Especially in this visual age where many readers have grown up watching television, graphic elements help to sell books. For a few resources to get you started in looking for good illustrative material, check out

White Space

Give a sense of spaciousness to your books. Now, here again I have not always practiced my own advice (certainly my Book Marketing Made Easier and Directory of Book Printers are both crowded to the gills). Nevertheless, if your major distribution outlet is bookstores, your books should be as attractive and as inviting as possible, both inside and out. Remember: As many as two-thirds of all bookstore sales are impulse purchases. The more attractive you make your books, the more likely they are to sell.

High Bulk Paper

Since many readers still equate size with quality, you might want to use high-bulk paper to make your books look bigger and to add a feel of substance. Nat Bodian gives a case in point:

In 1982, two titles were published on the same subject by two different publishers. The first, printed on machine-coated stock, measured one inch thick and sold for $17.95; the other, printed on antique finish paper, measured one and a half inches thick and sold for $24.95. The thicker book, which actually had nineteen fewer pages, sold much better in bookstores.

Authors — Above all, don't forget the content. That is the most important thing you can put into your book. Pack your book with information that is practical, complete, and indispensable to the reader. It's the content that will generate satisfied readers, and it is satisfied readers that will tell their friends to buy the book as well.

7:11 Front Matter

The front and back matter of your books can be used to help market the books. Front matter such as forewords and dedications can help to promote the purpose of your books, while back matter such as appendices and bibliographies can increase the resource value of the books and, hence, their marketability. Here's a list of front and back matter which can be used to increase the promotability of your books:

Inside front cover (or end papers)

These may be used for maps, family trees, or other illustrations which add to the reader's understanding of a book. Illustrations printed on the inside covers or end papers are easier to refer to while reading.

In my book Tinseltowns, U.S.A., a trivia/quiz book, I printed sample questions from the book. Then I gave the page numbers where the answers could be found. If the bookstore browser wanted the answers, he or she would have to open the book!

Half-title page

If included at all, this page (the first page in a book) is most often used to list only the title of the book. It may, however, also be used to print additional testimonials and endorsements or an enticing lead-in paragraph to the story itself.

For example, Warner Books printed a series of questions on the half-title page of the mass-market edition of Jerry Gillies's Moneylove. If you answered “no” to any of the questions, “you are on the way to discovering the enriching truth about the road to prosperity . . . and you can get it with Moneylove.”

Verso of half-title page

If you include a half-title page in your books, use the opposite side to list other books by the author (especially those published by you). It's an inexpensive and unobtrusive way to let readers know about other books by the author.

Title page

List the title of the book, including any subtitle or explanation; the author, authors, or editor; and the name and logo of your company. Also, list your company's address and phone number on this page; it will make it easier for readers to order more books from you.

Copyright page

List the copyright notice, ISBN number, CIP info, and company name and address (if not listed on the previous page). The copyright notice, of course, is required to secure the fullest protection of the copyright law. The ISBN number allows booksellers and librarians to reorder copies more easily. The CIP (cataloguing in publication) information makes it easier for librarians to catalog your books; hence, librarians are more likely to order your books if this information is included. CIP information can be requested from the Library of Congress CIP office (one-book publishers are currently excluded from this program) or from Quality Books, the library distributor.

If the book is available in two editions (both hardcover and paperback), print that information on this page as well.

When LoveLine published Planethood by Benjamin Ferencz and Ken Keys, Jr., the authors and publisher offered the copyright freely to the world because they felt its message was so important. Their copyright page read as follows:

Because our lives and all that we hold near can be snuffed out by war or environmental destruction, neither the author nor the publisher will make even one cent from this book. Any surplus above costs will be used to give away free copies. We have rearranged our priorties to do our part in preventing the end of the great human adventure of life on this planet. ... Freely reproduce this book and use it in every way possible. It is our hope that translations in other languages will be made so that all people on the earth can hear the good news: a proven, workable way has been found that will both stop the senseless killing from recurrent wars and effectively avoid environmental ruin.


Encourage your writers to include some human interest in their dedications, anything that will speak to the readers and make the dedication more memorable.

Robert Holt included the following dedication in his self-published book, Hemorrhoids: A Cure and Preventative: “To the silent sufferers.” His dedication was picked up by several reviewers who used it as the lead to their reviews.

In 1990, Nicolas Freeling’s dedication for his mystery novel Those in Peril got rave reviews from Publishers Weekly. Why? Read for yourself:

I am forever reading books prefaced by writers praising the patience and forbearance of their wives and frequently giving them credit for reading, correcting and even rewriting every single word. I am amazed: I had thought that the editor’s job. So that I hereby dedicate this book to Esther Whitby and Howard Davies in London and Michele Slung in New York. My own wife does nothing like other people and quarreled with me during every day of the writing. When it was finished, she refused pointblank to read the book. But since she has been the beat of my heart for 37 years I must add: “To Renée.”

Below are a few other great dedications. I hope they inspire you to be a bit more creative in writing your next dedication.

“To My Mother, who understood that walking for fun is no crazier than most things in life, and who passed the information along.” — Colin Fletcher, author of The NEW Complete Walker

“To Patty Smith my wife, and a true American patriot, with the patience of Martha Washington, the insight of Eleanor Roosevelt, and a serious commitment to a Coney Island hot dog.” — Jeff Smith, author of The Frugal Gourmet Cooks American

“To my broker—even if he has, from time to time, made me just that.” — Andrew Tobias, author of Still! The Only Investment Guide You’ll Ever Need

“This story is humbly dedicated to the memory of the ancient Chinese patron saint Liu Chin-tin and Tsui Tsung-yuan, who protect from poverty any scribbler who dedicates a tale in their memory.” — Agatha Christie, author of Poirot Loses a Client

“With love for Madam Man’Ha Garreau-Dombasle met twenty-seven years ago in the graveyard at midnight on the Island of Janitzio at Lake Patzcuaro, Mexico, and remembered on each anniversary of the Day of the Dead.” — Ray Bradbury, author of The Halloween Tree

Authors — If you decide to include a dedication in your book, spend a little time to make it the best dedication you can write. Include some human interest.


Forewords to your books should be written by celebrities or by experts in the subject of the book—someone, in short, who will add legitimacy or interest to the book. As mentioned in the previous chapter, that's why Don Dible got Robert Townsend, president of Avis Rent-a-Car, to write the foreword to his book, Up Your Own Organization.


The preface should not only establish the author's expertise but also reveal why the author chose to write the book. Many bookstore browsers read the preface before anything else, because the preface often reveals the author's motivation for writing the book, gives them insight into the author's style and approach to the subject, and provides background on the author and the research behind the book.

Nat Bodian added the following paragraph to his preface to The Joy of Publishing because, as he wrote, “some ‘lazy’ reviewers often look at a book’s Preface and use the wording in it as part of their review.”

Here, then, for all who love books in general, and for all authors, publishers, booksellers, librarians, wholesalers, literary agents and critics, book reviewers and book journalists, translators, and educators, is a heartfelt and joyous contribution that I hope will bring as much pleasure to you, the reader of The Joy of Publishing as it did to me in creating it.

Authors — Use the preface to establish a rapport with the readers of your book. Give them some insight into yourself, your reasons for writing the book, and some reason to want to find out more about the subject of the book. Make it personal, and make it interesting.


Acknowledgements are a great place to thank those who helped you research and write the book, especially the experts and other resource people who provided the necessary background facts and examples. Such acknowledgements help to establish the reliability of your information.

Authors — Use the acknowledgement to recognize the help and love you've received from your friends, family, and resources. Of course, it doesn't hurt to know that everyone listed in the acknowledgement will probably want to buy at least one copy of the book (or receive one as a gift).

Table of contents

After the front and back covers, the first thing most bookstore browsers look at is the table of contents. In preparing a table of contents, be as specific as possible. Let the reader see at a glance what your book offers. Include not only the chapter titles, but also major subheads. (Here's one reason why your chapter titles and subheads should be lively, interesting, and informative.)

Nat Bodian, in his two volumes of the Book Marketing Handbook, included not one but two tables of contents. The first was a short two-page table of contents listing only the major chapter titles; the second was a fifteen-page listing of the major chapter titles and all the subheads. The first provided the reader with a brief summary of the book's contents, while the second provided a complete and detailed overview. 1001 Ways provides both tables of contents as well.

When preparing the table of contents, consider the possibility of using the table as part of the advertising brochure for the book. Many professional and how-to books use this approach very successfully, since readers of such books are most interested in what the books cover. Well-prepared tables of contents provide the best overall summary of what the books have to offer.

Authors — You can make your table of contents much more interesting by creating intriguing, challenging, benefit-laden, humorous, or just plain interesting chapter titles. Remember: One of the first parts of the book any bookstore browser looks at is the table of contents. So make it meaty and enticing.

Lists of illustrations, tables, or charts

If the book includes many illustrations, charts or maps, you should include a list of illustrations. Such a list makes it easier for the reader to locate a specific illustration. It also makes the book more attractive and useful to librarians, because it makes the book easier to use as a reference resource.


Use the introduction to lead the reader into the rest of the book. After the table of contents, most bookstore buyers will look at the introduction. The introduction must be so well-written that the reader is enticed to read on. Chances are that once a bookstore browser reads a well-written introduction, he or she will buy the book.

With fiction, the first chapter often serves the same function as an introduction in a nonfiction book. The first chapter, indeed the first sentence, must entice the reader into the book.

Authors — Because the introduction can be so important in convincing a bookstore browser to buy your book, don't just tack on an introduction. Make it an integral part of your book. And make it as good or better than any other part of the book.

7:12 Back Matter

Most of the traditional back matter (appendix, glossary, bibliography, footnotes, and index) serve one major purpose: They provide readers with access to more information, to additional resources. For that reason, they are considered essential by many librarians. At the very minimum, a nonfiction book should contain a complete index and bibliography.


Librarians love to see bibliographies in books because bibliographies let readers know where they can go for more information on the subject, thus making the librarian's job easier. Also, of course, bibliographies indicate that a book has been well-researched and, therefore, is probably more accurate and complete.

In this edition, I’ve only listed the top thirty books on publishing. For a more extensive bibliography, see the BookMarket website at

Instead of waiting for the second volume of Clay Blair’s Hitler’s U-Boat War to come out, Random House decided to put the 80-page bibliography for the series on the web right away.

Authors — If you have done the research for your book, you should have no trouble preparing a complete and useful list of books that will show your readers where they can go for more information. Librarians will love you for it.


Librarians also love indexes—and for good reason. Indexes make any book more accessible to readers. All nonfiction books (and some convoluted novels) should have indexes.

In a recent book awards contest where I acted as a judge, five out of six hardcover books did not have an index. The one that did have an index won first place in the awards program. All of the books should have had an index. I'm not sure why publishers neglect this important part of any good nonfiction book, but somehow they do.

For 1001 Ways, I included a standard index at the back of this book, but I added three other indexes to the BookMarket website: one listing all the authors featured in this book, the second listing all the publishers, and a third listing all the titles of books used as examples. I wanted to make it easy for people to check if their book, company, or authors were featured in the book. Of course, I also hope to use these additional indexes as selling points for the book. If I were a publisher or author featured in the book, I’d want at least one copy, maybe more.

Olivia Goldsmith included an index in her novel Bestseller because it featured real publishers and agents. When the novel came out, publishing people in New York were all eagerly scanning the index to see if they had been featured and to read the sections where friends made an appearance in the book.

The index for the first volume of Nat Bodian's Book Marketing Handbook was 50 pages. The second volume not only reprinted the index from the first volume but also included its own index of 58 pages. That's 108 pages of indexes—about 1/5 of the book. Yet those indexes were worth every extra page, because they made all the detailed tidbits of Bodian's two volumes far more accessible.

The index for the Fourth Edition of The Macintosh Bible was 11,000 lines long—that's 140 pages of the 1241-page book!

The 34-volume, 32,600-page Dictionary of Art published by Grove featured an index with 720,000 items, certainly one of the longest indexes ever published.

If you are planning to prepare your own indexes, write for the Index Evaluation Checklist. It's free from the American Society of Indexers, 10100 West 44th Avenue #304, Wheat Ridge CO 80033; 303-463-2887; Fax: 303-422-8894. Email: Web: This organization can also put you in touch with professional indexers who can help you prepare a thorough index.

You can also check out the following web site: And, finally, be sure to read the chapter on indexing in the Chicago Manual of Style. Don’t do an index yourself without reading this chapter.

Authors — You are responsible for preparing the index for your book. In many cases, the publisher will hire a professional indexer to do the job, but I feel that authors should do their own indexes because they know their books better than anyone else. At least, they should know it better. And because they do, they should have a better feel for what is most important in the book—the topics people will want to come back to again and again. I always prepare my own indexes.


A good appendix should list all the resources readers will need so they can follow through on the recommendations you make in your book. In more than one case I've recommended books solely because of their appendices which provide access to many resources.

A complete and detailed appendix makes your book more attractive as a reference work. As such, your book might qualify to be listed in resource bibliographies like the Directory of Directories, which can lead to extra sales. Tom and Marilyn Ross's Encyclopedia of Self-Publishing was listed in the Directory of Directories because of its resource list.

It's also possible to expand an appendix so much that you actually write another book. The first edition of the Book Publishing Resource Guide grew out of the appendix I had planned for the original edition of this book. The list of resources got to be so large that it would have made this book too cumbersome to use. So I broke the book down into two parts. Now the latest edition of the Book Publishing Resource Guide is 384 pages long—and has grown into a significant computer database of well over 23,000 records.

You can also use an appendix to add material that won't fit anywhere else in the book. When I sold the reprint rights of Mail Order Selling Made Easier to John Wiley, they asked me to add an appendix on How to Reduce Rising Postage Costs.

Authors — An appendix is a great place to add material that could increase the marketability of your book with special audiences. In a travel guide you could add a resource section for handicapped travelers. Or add a calorie chart in a dessert cookbook. Or list prime resources (who might buy multiple copies of your book for giveaways to their major customers).


If your book is highly technical and/or introduces many new terms, you might want to add a glossary. Again, librarians love glossaries. So do reviewers. I know from my own experience in writing reviews that a glossary helps a book to stand out from the competition. It can also make all the difference in marginal buying situations where a buyer can only afford one book.

One of the elements that formerly distinguished Marilyn and Tom Ross's Complete Guide to Self-Publishing from Dan Poynter's The Self-Publishing Manual was the Ross’s glossary of 400 publishing terms. But that distinction no longer holds. As Poynter noted in a recent fax, “The Self-Publishing Manual not only has a glossary, it is two years more current and it is self-published.” So the advantage the Rosses once held no longer applies.

Authors — If you have used many new terms in a book, you would be wise to add a glossary. It will make your book more understandable and, therefore, more sellable.

7:13 Bonus Inserts and Features

To add value to your books, look into the possibility of offering certificates, coupons, or other bonuses for the buyers of your books. Are there any bonus items you can give the reader? Are there any companies that would be interested in offering free samples to readers of your books? Here are a few examples of what other publishers are offering as added incentives for buying their books:

In his self-published book, How to Solve Your Small Business Advertising Problems, William Witcher included coupons worth $75.00 in free offers: a free trial issue of the Clipper Creative Art Service, a free audiocassette In Praise of the Self-Employed, and a free book, Tax Strategies for Preserving the Business Owner's Estate, from Arthur Andersen & Company. The cover of his $14.95 book proclaimed: “FREE Bonus Offer—$75 value. See Inside!” Who could pass up such a bargain?

Bantam printed a back-of-book coupon offering a free copy of The Sweet Dreams Model Handbook in every copy of the Kelly Blake, Teen Model series of young adult novels. They also promoted this offer in the floor displays and consumer advertising for the series.

In 1989, Berlitz launched a new series called Berlitz More for the Dollar. The books in this series of travel guides were each filled with more than $4,000 in valuable coupons. Do you have travel guides which could benefit from such added value? How many travelers do you know who would be willing to pay $9.95 or $14.95 for $4,000 in money-saving coupons?

Many directory publishers include coupons for services provided by companies listed in the directory (with the companies paying to have their coupons featured). Since many directories already accept advertising, offering coupons is just another way of bringing in more advertising income and providing another valuable service to their readers.

Authors — While doing the research for your book, don't overlook any possibilities for enhancing the value of your book by offering bonus coupons for services or products supplied by key companies serving the field. You might explore possibilities with companies before you submit the book to a publisher, but don't sign any contracts without first getting approval from your publisher. Indeed, you should never make any outside commitments without first getting approval from your publisher. You could easily void your contract if you go ahead without such approval.

7:14 Ask for the Order

Placing an order form in every book is an inexpensive way to increase sales of all your titles, especially those related to the book. This order form can be designed in a number of formats, from a gift certificate for friends … to a listing of your related titles … to a coupon requesting your catalog … to an order blank headed by the question, “Did you borrow this copy?”

Order blanks encourage orders from customers who first saw the book in a library, at a friend's house, or on an associate's desk. Other orders will come from repeat buyers who are purchasing extra copies as gifts for friends. Still more orders will come for other titles in your line that are related to the book from which the order form was taken.

One problem with printing actual order forms in the back of your books is that bookstores do not look kindly on such blatant advertising for direct orders by publishers. Obviously, they would prefer that the reader come to them for any additional books. If your book is sold primarily through bookstores, you might want to replace the order form with a simple listing of your titles and prices plus your company name, address, and phone number. Or print your order form on another page besides the back page, for instance, right after the index. Besides, many libraries put their return card pocket on the back page.

One further comment: Never offer quantity discounts in your books, especially not to consumers—not if you want to sell your books in bookstores. Booksellers rightfully resent publishers who offer consumers better discounts than the booksellers can possibly offer. It's okay to say that quantity discounts are available to volume buyers (25 or more copies); just don't list the actual discounts. Direct readers to write to your company for the information.

7:15 And Ask Again

Rather than print the order form in the book, many publishers blow in an order card into each book (most printers can handle this operation). A separate order card makes it easier for readers to send in an order.

Barron's includes comment cards in most of their new cookbook titles. These comment cards serve at least four functions:

1) They get feedback from the users of the book.

2) They find out where the readers bought the book.

3) They elicit opinions from readers on what other titles they'd like to see produced.

4) They allow readers to request Barron's complete catalog of cookbook titles. Barron's added 15,000 names to their mailing list in this way.

Knopf inserts attractive full-color postcards featuring the book into some of their books. Their hope, of course, is that the reader will send the card to a friend, along with a favorable note about the book.

Bantam inserted a Tell-A-Friend postcard into 75,000 copies of the first printing of Leona Blair's novel, Privilege. Like Knopf, they hoped that this would help to generate favorable word of mouth.

Fulcrum inserts a comment card into every book they publish. Not only does the card help them to build their mailing list, but it also gives them and their authors feedback on the titles they produce. Their authors love the feedback.

Writer's Digest Books includes comment cards in all new titles. They encourage readers to use the cards as bookmarks while reading the book and then to write down their reactions after they have completed reading the book. When readers send in the card, they may also request information regarding five Writer's Digest services: other books published by Writer's Digest Books, Writer's Digest School, Writer's Digest Book Club, Writer's Digest magazine, and Photographer's Market Newsletter.

Peachpit Press bound a postcard into every copy of The Macintosh Bible (950,000 copies in print and still counting). Any reader who sent in the postcard received two updates, one every six months. While these free updates cost money, they provided Peachpit an inexpensive way to develop a list of prime prospects for all their other Macintosh books. It also allowed them to advertise that the Bible never gets out of date.

In their Windows 3.1 Bible, Peachpit binds in a postcard that offers two free items, a Windows Game Book worth $14.95 and a Windows Goodies Disk that includes many free software programs.

Falcon Press inserted a free catalog request card into every book they published. They also offered toll-free numbers to make it easy for readers to request the catalog.

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