A Marketing Handbook for Writers: Part Nine - Getting Prospects to Commit Using Blurbs
In this series so far we have explored the parallels between writing fiction and putting together a marketing campaign. Hopefully, you will have realised that there are actually quite a lot of things in common between telling a story and getting someone to buy that story.
One of the problems you face, though, is that there is an awful lot of people (as opposed to a lot of awful people!) trying to do exactly the same as you, i.e. grab enough attention in the marketplace and sell their stories.
I hope that you can see that the primary power generator in marketing your story is the story itself: if you have written a well-crafted tale, it will lend its own power to its own marketing. Stories have their own ‘vacuum power’ - it is largely what they are composed of. You will understand if I again mention my book How Stories Really Work at this point, as it details exactly how to craft a story brimming with the vacuum power necessary to attract readers.
But if we assume that you have a good story, you still need to put together a good marketing campaign. Luckily, as we have seen, this is mainly a matter of extending the same principles that you applied to writing your story outward into the world that your readers occupy.
If you have applied the earlier steps in this handbook, you will have acquired a group of ‘warm prospects’, people who aren’t entirely removed from purchasing your book. Prospects, as we have seen, are defined by their vacuums - they have needs, or they wouldn’t be prospects at all.
Taking an individual prospect, then, the vacuums which make up him or her are either his or her own
are created by others and then impinge upon him or her.
In the case of one of these ‘warm prospects’ in your group, they may have a thirst to read a good fantasy story, for example. Desire creates emptiness; emptiness moves us - they are looking for something to read. Their desire may be strong enough to make their finger twitch and click on your well-placed link, or they may need a vacuum created from outside to prompt motion.
What are the vacuums you can create from outside to make this fingers twitch?
The reason that a journey or quest motif is so common in fiction, especially fiction for younger readers, is that a journey or a quest is based on a simple vacuum: the hero needs to get somewhere where he or she isn’t at the beginning; or to find something which he or she doesn’t have at the beginning. The ‘quest’ belongs to a particular category of plot vacuum described in my book.
The gap between the existing state of affairs and achieving the target is the vacuum that pulls the character along.
It’s the same in marketing.
Readers crave vacuums.
A blurb is one key tool to create them. In a blurb, you have to take your whole story and deliver its most powerful vacuum in one or two electric sentences.
Here are some tips:
1. Make sure that the reader knows that he or she is in safe ground and in the right genre by referring to it and its central themes.
2. Create mystery around the main vacuum.
3. Introduce your protagonist
4. Keep it short.
And here’s what to avoid:
1. Don’t give away any spoilers, no matter how tempted you may be because you feel ‘it will intrigue the reader more’. No, it won’t.
2. Don’t summarise. Some writers like to think that telling readers what
happens in the first chapter will enthral them. It won’t.
3. Avoid clichés like ‘In a world where madness reigns…’ or any other overused phrase.
4. Don’t use ‘amazing’ or any other adjective to describe your book - that’s the reader’s job.
5. Avoid comparing yourself to other writers or your book to other books, as this can be limiting and again, it’s the reader’s job.
The product you want is forward motion occurring, drawing your prospect out of his or her initial inertia and into action.
Your blurbs have to have vacuums - missing things, losses, damage, needs - which then attract reader attention. And then your plot has to have vacuums - missing things, losses, spaces - which move things forward.
And there are other things you can do too.