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The Case for Author Experiments

Stuck on a title, subtitle, and cover for your book? Let data show you the way. Oh, and I compare myself to Brad Pitt.
Dec | 2 | 2021

Dec | 2 | 2021

The Hardest Words to Write

I’ve written before about the difficulty and import of nailing your book’s title, subtitle, and cover image. TL;DR: It ain’t easy.

Against this backdrop of uncertainty and the need to stick the landing, what should you do? How can you maximize the odds that you’re picking the right one?

In this post, I’ll provide one approach to answering this question.

The Publishing Method Matters

Say that you’re either self-publishing or working with a hybrid publisher. You can test different titles, subtitles, and cover imagery to determine which one(s) work best. I won’t take credit for this idea. I’ve, er, borrowed it from The Lean Startup author and overall rock star Eric Reis.

Why not run an experiment?

Think about it. You may not know which combination will resonate most with prospective buyers. Why not run an experiment?

Sure, you can run polls on Twitter or Facebook—is it Meta now?—but you may not receive accurate results. Your friends or followers don’t necessarily represent a sample of your book’s potential buyers.

To that end, sites like Pick4U let you conduct relatively simple polls. As an option, you can receive qualitative feedback from theoretically unbiased sources. Comments can spark new ideas if you’re not thrilled with your current offerings.

Reluctance at Traditional Publishers

Acquisition editors at traditional publishers typically scoff at this idea. Rewind back to early 2013: My AE wasn’t too keen on experiments when I was putting the finishing touches on Too Big to Ignore. I could sense his discomfort and, when I asked him point-blank if we could run one, he said no.

In a way, this resistance is understandable: These folks have spent their entire careers making these decisions for themselves. They don’t want data undermining their opinions. Kind of like this:

That’s probably the first time that I’ve compared myself to Brad Pitt. (Hell, we’re both crazy.) I suspect that it will be the last.

For more advice like this, check out my brand-spanking-new Teachable course The Author Flywheel: How to Intelligently and Affordably Market Your Book. 

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