Wednesday, May 25, 2016

The Business of Writing: The Book Description #ASMSG #IARTG #MFRWOrg

Golden Gate Bridge,
c2015 by Phil Bird, Depositphotos ID 38718385,
Editorial use only.
Bridge the readers' gap and stimulate your book sales with a tantalizing synopsis! 

Please note I used the word synopsis, not blurb. There are two reasons for this.

1. I think of a "blurb" in terms of a sentence or two that has been excerpted from a larger article, such as a book review.

2. The word itself brings to mind the act of regurgitation. I would much rather not have potential readers associating my book with vomit. :D

There. I feel much better for having gotten that off my chest; thanks.

I used to cringe at the thought of writing a short synopsis for my books—also known in traditional publishing circles as back-cover copy since it's literally included with the other elements on the back of a printed book.

I know I'm not alone; many authors don't feel comfortable distilling 100,000 words down to 300.

I had to get over my reluctance the hard way.

Back in 1997, when my first novel, Dawnflight, was acquired by Sonnet Books, a Simon & Schuster imprint, a fight broke out between my editor and my literary agent, who hated the synopsis the editor wrote on the grounds that it gave away too much of the plot. I could see his point. He wrote his own version, which I wasn't terribly keen on either because it was way too emotionless for a romance imprint. So I waded into the fray and synthesized the two versions, which did satisfy both of them and settled the argument.

The tagline plus three-paragraph structure.

As Aristotle stated millennia ago, everything should have a beginning, a middle, and an end. Surprise! This applies to back-cover copy too.

With Dawnflight's first synopsis, I retained the editor's tagline and three-paragraph structure. The tagline formed the beginning. The first two paragraphs—one each to introduce the heroine and hero—comprised the middle. The end was one paragraph describing their mutual conundrum and its stakes. When I rereleased Dawnflight independently in 2013, I beefed up the concluding paragraph to highlight the book's larger scope to attract a larger audience, something for which I did not have room on the back of the original mass-market edition.

Room for the synopsis is not as big of an issue with e-books.

Amazon, for example, gives you 4,000 characters in which to describe your Kindle edition. Some marketing gurus will tell you that it's a great idea to use every last byte of the allotted amount, because whatever you write will factor into users' search results.

In most cases, I concur with this wisdom. The notable exception I make is in regard to my novellas and graphic novels. Since they are much shorter than my full-length novels, I've taken a page out of The Mikado's playbook, and I "let the punishment fit the crime." In other words, I craft the synopsis to reflect the length of the book.

You may feel differently (and if so, please feel free to comment!), but to me it just seems silly to present a book description that's almost as long as the story itself.

There are some more good tips in this article on BooksGoSocial.

However, BooksGoSocial does not cover one key point:

Posing a question in the synopsis is okay, but DO NOT ask a yes-or-no question.


It causes the reader to supply the answer, and then pass on buying your book.

Sample: "Can John and Marsha overcome their fears and find love in each other's arms?"
Me: "Hm. This is a romance novel, so yes, that had better happen or else there's no point to the book."

Better: "How can John and Marsha overcome their fears and find love in each other's arms?"
Me: "Gee, I don't know. Maybe I ought to read a sample chapter and see if it's worth my time to find out."

Wisdom from a book PR giant.

You don't have to be a "partner" to avail yourself of BookBub's 98 Book Marketing Tips . In case you don't have time to click through—and wade through—all 98, here are the two that pertain to the topic of creating your book's description:
24. Optimize your book description. BookBub’s A/B testing shows that descriptions that include quotes from authors, awards, and language that caters to your audience (e.g. “If you love thrillers, don’t miss this action-packed read!”) have higher engagement rates.

25. Include target keywords on product pages.
Narrow down a list of 5-7 keywords your audience typically searches for, then incorporate these words into your description headline, description copy, and keyword sections on each of your retailer product pages.

I used to think that producing an excellent short synopsis was hard, but it just takes practice. I've had many readers tell me they've been drawn in by my book descriptions, so I must be doing something right!

Studying examples from the most compelling books in your chosen genre is key.

And by "most compelling," I don't necessarily mean "best selling" but rather, what compels =you= about the synopsis that entices you to learn more about that book?

I'm running a giveaway for an e-copy of Dawnflight!
To enter, click HERE.

Last month's copies of Kings got snapped up fast, so don't delay; enter today!

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