Reading a great book is an experience to remember.
Just like enjoying a meal at a restaurant with loved ones. The process to get customers, wow them, and keep them is the same.
Another sign on the road:
First impressions of a restaurant often dictate whether or not you will eat there. A lot of it begins even before you step in the door. First off is sales. More people will visit a restaurant if the parking lot is full rather than empty. Likewise, if a book is on the Bestseller list more people will check out the book. The way to get sales is to advertise. For authors that means to promote your book on blogs, in giveaways, and through word of mouth. I own City of Bones by Cassandra Claire because I saw it on my friend’s coffee table. Likewise, Shatter Me by Tahereh Mafi is in my Amazon cart after reading great reviews on several blogs I visit. I can’t even remember what it is about but I’m psyched to start reading it.
A free book or a 99 cent book gives your readers the expectation of dining at McDonalds. A $2.99 or $3.99 book is like a dinner buffet. A $9.99 book is a gourmet meal. If you can’t live up to expectations of a high-end dinner, charge less. If you’re not charging enough, than you’re losing profits and attracting the wrong crowd.
Once you get customers in the door, you need to keep them. If the place is in disrepair or dingy, then people will walk back out. A book cover needs to look professional. Don’t skimp. If it looks like it came straight from MS Paint, than people will assume you spent just as much effort on the inside. Dirt and roaches can ruin the best restaurant. Hire an exterminator. If a customer sees even one bug crawl across the floor, he will not return. In books, we know roaches as ‘grammatical errors’. Spelling mistakes, typos, and comma misuse distracts from the story and makes even a well-plotted book appear amateur. Hire an editor or someone fluent in the rules of grammar to revise your book before publishing.
This is your main character. He will guide us through the entire book keeping our drinks full and our food coming. Your waiter has to be likeable, but not perfect. A Mary Sue waitress is one that hovers over you and won’t give you any breathing room. You’re (hopefully) not the only customer and they have to give you less than 100% of their attention. Your characters, likewise, can’t be without faults. They need to fail at some point, reminding you that your main character is just another human being. A great waiter can overcompensate for minor problems in the restaurant. A horrible waiter makes you nitpick every detail. The drinks you order at dinner are the minor characters. A one-dimensional character is like a flat soda. The reader will be repulsed by every sip/mention of this character. The waiter also manages pacing: order, drinks, appetizer, dinner, and desert. Too fast pacing would be having the appetizer and dinner out at the same time or too soon after. The guests are overwhelmed. Too slow and the guests starve and consider going somewhere else.
The food is your plot. The guests know what sort of food you serve (genre) and they place an order based on a one or two line description and maybe a picture. This is your first chapter. This is the text that appears in the Click to LOOK INSIDE on Amazon. You need this to be so appealing that your readers are drooling to taste the rest of your book. The appetizer is your first quarter of the book, the beginning, where things start getting hairy for your main character. Eating the dinner is the climax, but you need to build to it. You can’t serve it too soon after the appetizer. You need time to let the appetizer digest and the guest has the opportunity to converse with love ones and the waiter. To get comfortable with the world you built. You should drop hints of what is to come. Let the guest see the delicious plates of food served to the other tables. Make his mouth water in anticipation. When the dinner finally arrives, make sure it lives up to expectations. No burnt food. Don’t over or under season. If a guest wanted a well-done steak, make sure it isn’t bloody. This is genre expectations. Horror is suppose to horrify. Romance is suppose to romance. And erotica is suppose to – well, let’s keep this PG.
And this is your ending. Make sure that you tie up most of the loose ends to your plot. If you are planning a sequel, leave enough open so that your readers can guess the basic plot of the next book. Don’t do cliffhangers. That’s like saying we’re out of fudge sundaes.