H.M. Ward is an unquestionably successful indie author. Her extensive backlist of YA and New Adult romance novels have sold 13 million books worldwide and she’s hit the NYT and USA Today bestseller list a combined 33 times.
She shares her thoughts on how to make it as in indie author here in a 1.5 hr long presentation. (And for those of you so inclined, you can join her writing retreat at a French Chateau the next time she has one.)
I took notes of the presentation for you. You’re welcome. Here are her two main points:
- Selling is About Helping the Reader Find the Perfect Book.
- Obey the Golden Trifecta of Selling Elements
They derive from her early statement:
when you are trying to entice a reader, you are not trying to get them to spend money–you are trying to get them to spend time.
I found this to be incredibly profound. She points out that there are free books by the truckload these days. So money and cost are not the driving factors to convincing a reader to choose your book versus another.
So to help the reader know that your book is the right book for them, you should communicate clearly what you are going to deliver by using the Golden Trifecta, the three legs of the stool
She walked through many cover samples and talked about trends within your chosen genre. What I found really interesting was the way she addressed book blurb writing. She puts the tropes of her genre right in the text of the blurb.
The example she gave was a second chance romance she had written. She literally wrote as the ending hook, “Will she give him a second chance?”
The presentation goes on to talk about why the sample is so important and what readers are looking for. She demonstrates her empathy for her reader by putting herself in their shoes and what she as a reader would expect in the sample. The early bits of the book need to make the reader care about the protagonist and to do that, she recommends including immediately:
- empathy (reasons to empathize with the character)
She recommends against info dumping and lots of backstory to start off the sample, in that it can put off readers at that stage because they haven’t yet come to care for the character. Make them care first.
She points out that she believes her success is not simply because she writes in the romance genre, but because romance is happening to characters readers care about. This is advice that is applicable across genres.
Bottom line: Consider the customer (reader) and consider those commercial elements while crafting your novel.
And here are her YA covers, pretty eyecatching:
And you know what? They are among the lowest ranking ones in her tremendous booklist. Why is that? I doubt they are any different writing-wise than her other bestselling books.
Whatever the reason, she clearly takes her own advice to consider commercial elements. She had obvious evidence that her readers buy books with headless bare-chested men. So guess what? Most of her books have covers with bare-chested men.