Friday, November 16, 2007

Your Promotional Copy

Reading some of the descriptions sent to us for review submissions, I’ve realized how important it is to have good promotional copy on your work. Let’s face it; it’s probably harder to summarize your book in two paragraphs, make it engaging and bold, than it was to write your book. It's not easy to grab your reader.

The problem is, that aside from your book cover art; your promo description is probably the thing that’s going to make or break the sale of your book. The cover catches the eye, it makes the buyer pick up your book, and flip it over. Those buyers will have to like what they read to make them take the next step(s); which can be 1) to open the book up to the first page to read the first paragraph or two; 2) to flip to the last page and read the last paragraph or two; or 3) to carry that book up to the cashier and buy it. Of course, that process might be slightly different on Amazon, but you get my point.

When you are writing the copy for our book jacket description; there are a few things you should keep in mind.

Don’t go into the description as if the reader knows what’s going on and inundate your reader with too much unnecessary information. Here’s an example of this:
Reeta is a Princess who falls in love with a peasant. His name is Fralik. He is an orphan who was raised on a farm by an old peasant farmer named Olik in a tiny village called Arrine. Fralik knows nothing about his past; or who his parents are. Reeta and Fralik know their love is doomed if they stay in Jakreth. They decide to run away; but Reeta’s father Askelor, King of Jakreth, is infuriated; and he sends Kotrioth out after them. Kotrioth is a ruthless killer. Askelor wants Fralik dead so Reeta can return home and so her title and her birthright remains untarnished. But the killer Kotrioth is in for a surprise. Fralik is a Dathrekoor… a person in possession of tremendous powers. And Fralik is in for a surprise too, because he doesn’t know he’s a Dathrekoor either. Can Fralik learn to use his power to protect himself and Reeta?
You can’t summarize the plot and identify and describe everyone in the book too. It can’t just be a play-by play description of the plot leaving the end out. You should inspire questions in the reader’s mind. Take the above example, and here it is redone:

Reeta’s gone and done it this time. She’s run away with a peasant boy; and she is the daughter of a powerful King. Determined to protect his daughter from shame and misfortune and to keep her title intact, King Askelor dispatches an unrelenting hunter after the couple; aiming to eliminate the boy who has ruined everything.

Fralik loves Reeta. A questionable past and a magical power he doesn’t even know he has are all that he can offer her. Fralik understands what Reeta has given up to be with him; and he knows he has endangered himself because of this decision; he has no idea how direly in danger they both are. With an unremitting killer at their heels and a mystical power Fralik knows nothing about, can the young lovers prevail?
If you are not sure about how to do this; try these tips:

  • Do some research. Go to your bookstore, find shelf that sells your genre, and read copy from other books. This copy you read is likely written by the marketing department as much as it was by anyone else. You can take a lot from seeing how it's done. Think of it from a marketing perspective. What is it that makes your book sales worthy? What sells other books and movies?
  • Keep it brief and simple. The more elaborate and involved, the less appealing it will be.
  • Have some of your friends and family read the manuscript and write down the things that really resonated with them. Use what they wrote as a backbone for your copy. Other readers may take away something completely different than you would as the writer.
  • Don’t pepper the copy with character names and places; it can be confusing. Use them minimally.
  • Use a casual voice; one that relates to your reader and is easy to read.
  • Only brush on the main story-- focus on a gripping side-story; let your reader be surprised.
  • Proofread it, have it edited, clean it up; it is the first impression someone will get of your writing. If it’s full of flaws, they’ll assume your book is.
  • Be sure to add something about yourself so readers can identify with the author.
  • Be objective about how you look at your work. Look at it with a practical eye and figure out what sets your book apart from others. Use that.