ATLANTA – Written by M.L. Childs, Author, Screenwriter, Copywriter and Dramatic Historian
Can you imagine that only a little over 150 years ago, public access to books was virtually taboo? The first “public” library wasn’t even invented until the early 1850s and the Dewey Decimal System was created about 20 years later in the 1870s. Nowadays, everyone and their mama, great-granddad, sister, baby mama, and cousins 3rd generation removed has access to books. The information age is in full swing, and we are so inundated with words that we are almost sick and tired of them.
So with this being said, how in the heck can you make your 150-250 word blurb stand out so that you can sell your books?
Well, first you have to realize that this isn’t an easy task. I’m not kidding when I say that garnering your market share of attention for your own work is going to be really tough in these modern times. I’m sure that Mark Twain, Edgar Allen Poe, Herman Melville, Emily Dickinson – heck even Shakespeare – would have significantly benefited from the social media and other resources we have today to get the word out about our books. But the world is operating at a much faster pace than during their times, and unfortunately, everything is competing for our attention so its very hard to stand out in an overcrowded marketplace.
And some of you may be thinking that you can just unload your wares onto a traditional publisher and viola, this solves all problems because they will sell your books for you. Newsflash – THE BOOK INDUSTRY IS CHANGING. So, this hands-off approach to your own success in writing is changing too. The book marketing process is the most costly and time-consuming aspect of bookselling and most publishing houses know this. As a result, if you don’t have the next killer book with the potential to turn Hollywood upside down and rake in billions of dollars from a franchise instantly, then tossing your book over to a publishing house and wishing they will do all the work to make you successful is writing career suicide. Bottom line – writers not only must write, but they also have to sell, too. And with all this chaos in the marketplace, writing a damn good book isn’t necessarily going to make you a “best-selling” author, particularly if no one knows about it.
So here are some things that I believe can help make you write much more interesting blurbs so that you can better market and sell your product.
Learn How to Sell.
Selling has gotten a bad reputation over the years. But to be a writer and say “I can’t stand selling” or “I don’t want to sell” and then have the audacity to aspire to be a “best-selling” author is lunacy. How can you detest something but miraculously want to benefit from it? Face it, if you’re going to be a best-seller in today’s marketplace, you need to know at least the fundamentals of what moves people to buy and learn to deal with rejection. I would recommend that even if you eventually want to become a full-time writer, in your spare time, pick up a part-time job doing something that requires you to sell so that you learn how to do it.
Learn about Copywriting and SEO.
Sales and marketing go hand-in-hand, and marketing for writers is something called copywriting. Unlike its sister, copyrighting, which protects your work from intellectual property thieves, copywriting is the art of writing with the intent of selling something. A great way to learn this is to either do freelance writing work and learn as you take on gigs; or of course, you can try to get a job doing this. Advertising is going to be the most common way to do this type of writing, but the market is stiff because you have to be extremely good to break into copywriting at an advertising firm. If you only have no time to do either of these options, then just teach it to yourself by reading books about it and observing brochures and websites. What about the brochure or website makes you want to buy? Apply those techniques into your copywriting style.
Join social media peer groups in which you can share your blurb and get feedback.
Many of us writers want to get exposure for our writing, but we are usually timid for fear of criticism. My advice: GET OVER IT! You are going to be judged, you are going to be criticized, your work is going to cause controversy, your work is going to piss some people off. That is the nature of the business, so you have to put your work out there to get feedback. Sometimes these groups are good because they usually include aspiring writers but some of these writers may have a little more or less experience than you. They, too, are in the same boat as you trying to become successful so the pain from their criticisms won’t be as painful as it is from professional writers. Join these types of groups and get critiqued and do some critiquing of your own. This practice will open doors for you in improving your book blurbs because when you notice what others are doing wrong, you can avoid these mistakes yourself.
Develop a less is more mentality when preparing your marketing material.
Sometimes we can’t see it, but we writers are verbose. We don’t always get to the point fast enough, and that may cause potential fans to lose interest. When you are preparing blurbs, this is not the time to compete with Charles Dickinson to come up with beautiful prose. Save that for your novel. Blurbs are designed to sum up your book in as few words as possible. So when you shift gears from writing your book to marketing your book, get out of the mindset of writing long paragraphs to explain what’s going on. Say it quick and say it interesting is the name of the game when writing blurbs and the way you do this is have a mindset of ‘as few words as possible’ before you even approach the marketing process. If you want hands-on experience with saying it quick and interesting, get a Twitter account and post regularly. This social media platform forces you to tell a lot with a few words.
While you are at it, develop a KISS (keep it simple stupid) mentality when preparing your marketing material.
Do people really need to know the backstory of the backstory of the backstory? No. Leave that for them to read in the book. And like I said before, this is not the time to showcase more of your knack for prose. And another thing — think big. Yes, of course, you want to sell your book directly to fans of your genre; but your book most likely will need to cut across genre lines and even across international borders to become a best-seller. So, keep the English straightforward and translatable. Can the words on your blurb be easily translated into Spanish, French, Chinese, etc.? And, if so, does it retain its meaning across cultures? Then, my friend, you may just have an international best-seller on your hand waiting to happen because no matter what language audiences speak, concepts are universal. Learn to speak conceptually and stop being caught up in how impressive your English skills are when you are writing blurbs. Remember you are aiming to be a best-selling author, and though great writing skills play a part in this, the ability to resonate across audiences with what you write about will be much more rewarding in the end.
Consider letting your fans or even your beta readers help you write the blog.
Why — because they tend to know what works and what is interesting in your novel. And you don’t really literally have to let them write it, but their feedback is what you can use to help you write your blurb. As a writer, you may think that all your writing works and it’s all awesome. But from the outside looking in, these people can tell you what really moves them and what you need to emphasize in the sales and pitching process. You can also, literally let someone else, like your beta readers, write your blurb. This is because you just may be too close to the piece and unable to get your mind into sales mode. If you are someone who cannot distance yourself from your work, then consider having someone else write the blurb for you.
Do you have some writing advice to add on how writing great book blurbs? Share your comments and don’t forget to follow me on Facebook and Twitter @mlchildsauthor.