A couple of recent posts made me think about the perception of professionalism.
I once worked for a auto recovery service and the owner was usually in the office (well, the trailer that served as an office for the yard) by seven in the morning.
However, he never answered his phone before the “official” opening time of nine, instead he would let the answering machine field calls. When I asked about that he said, “If you keep banker’s hours, people will think you’re a bank.”
It was a subtle thing, but the principle stuck in my mind. He did a lot of things like that–he bought expensive stationary and used a laser printer back when laser printers were huge monsters. Unless someone tracked down the yard and saw the trailer (and his correspondence all used a P O Box in an upscale zip code [and just said #100 instead of box number 100, which made it look like a suite number]) the impression was that he was a major financial institution.
I have been thinking of applying those principles to indie book sales. There has been a lot of talk about quality, and obviously that’s important. But I think that there are other markers that say “amateur” or “professional” to potential readers. Things that may have no bearing on the actual book, but can influence readers without our being aware of it.
I have two examples, and then I’d like to ask other readers and authors their impression.
First, Create Space templates. They aren’t bad in and of themselves, but certain ones are, in my opinion, really overused. There’s one–I can’t come up with the name of it, offhand–that uses a photo bled to the edges, a black title box with white sans serif text, and a translucent bar for the author’s name. It’s a fine design, but there are so many using that design out there that they all look the same after a while.
Second, formats. I have an irrational distrust of books that are published only as an e-book. I say irrational because I wouldn’t usually buy the paperback anyway. The fact that a paperback isn’t available, though, gives me the same feeling as knowing that a film is “Direct To Video”.
I’ve given away more trade paperbacks than I have sold, honestly. As a revenue stream they have been a complete non-starter for me. But I believe that the fact that my Amazon page shows my books in multiple formats (e-book, paperback, and audiobook) makes the books appear more like “real books”.