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Writing The Dreaded Book Blurb by Jenny Jensen

February 19, 2020 by in category On writing . . . by Jenny Jensen tagged as , , ,

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The Dreaded Book Blurb | Jenny Jensen | A Slice of Orange

Cartoons by John Atkinson, www.wronghands1.com

 

Writing The Dreaded Book Blurb

 

Every author faces this last crucial challenge. You’ve already spent untold hours researching, writing and editing your book. Your title hits just the right poetic note. You’ve gone several tense rounds to find the perfect cover. All that remains is the book blurb, the opening salvo in the promotional war.  This is the first (and sometimes only) chance to grab a reader and compel them to buy the book. And so, like click bait, you need to lure your reader with an honest but irresistible snap shot.

 

It’s an art, this writing of a synopsis that isn’t a synopsis, this sell copy that isn’t an ad. And for something that isn’t a science there are strict rules: you have to be honest – no misleading the reader. No spoilers or why bother to read it – which can be tough since the spoiler is often the most exciting part of the story.  Keep it at 200 words or less and don’t make it one run-on paragraph. Use the proper keywords for your genre. Reveal something about the antagonist – readers like to know if they can root for the hero. This isn’t the place to relate the entire plot but you have to provide the zeitgeist, the feel of the tale. No easy task.

 

A lot of the writers I work with find this daunting and ask for help, which I am happy to provide. I think it’s difficult for the writer to step far enough away from their work to pick out the enticing, salient points and present them with the tension and intrigue that make for a successful blurb. To the author, all story points are important. I get that, but as an avid reader I know what works for me in a blurb. It’s not how much is said, but how compellingly it’s said.

 

I start with a deconstruction approach. It’s possible to distill any story down to bare bones. In his book Hit Lit – Cracking the Code of the Twentieth Century’s Biggest Bestsellers James W. Hall provided the most distilled example I’ve ever seen. This is a beloved tale that we all know intimately: “A young girl wakes in a surreal landscape and murders the first woman she sees. She teams with three strangers and does it again.”  It’s short, accurate and intriguing but would it sell the book?

 

I wouldn’t distill it down that far but it makes a great beginning. What if we knew something about the young girl – an orphan, a princess, a refugee? And what about the surreal landscape – gaping desert, oozing swamp, forbidding mountains? Then the three strangers – female, male, older, menacing, kindly?  Is all this murdering spurred by necessity, thrills, defense, the three strangers or is it unintended manslaughter? And finally, what is the young girl up to – revenge, enlightenment, finding a way out of the surreal landscape? Flesh out those points, add some genre keywords, reference any kudos and you could turn those original 24 spartan words into a 160 – 200 word blurb that would peak curiosity and entice the shopper to buy.

 

If you can step away from the totality of your story and deconstruct the plot to the primary elements, then present those elements in a provocative way you can create an effective selling tool with your book blurb. BTW, that book Hall described? The Wizard of Oz.

Jenny

 

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Dear Extra Squeeze Team, How Do I Price My Novel?

February 7, 2020 by in category Featured Author of the Month, The Extra Squeeze by The Extra Squeeze Team tagged as , , , ,

Each Saturday in February we’ll be featuring The Extra Squeeze Team.

Ever wonder what industry professionals think about the issues that can really impact our careers? Each month The Extra Squeeze features a fresh topic related to books and publishing.

Amazon mover and shaker Rebecca Forster and her handpicked team of book professionals offer frank responses from the POV of each of their specialties — Writing, Editing, PR/Biz Development, and Cover Design.

Have you a question for The Extra Squeeze Team? Send them to us by using this handy link.

How Much | The Extra Squeeze | A Slice of Orange

Dear Extra Squeeze Team, I’m ready to self-publish my first novel as both an ebook and a paperback. It’s a romantic suspense novel and about 90,000 words. How do I figure out what to charge? I don’t want to be too cheap, but I don’t want to be too expensive either. Help! How do I price my novel?

Rebecca Forster | Extra Squeeze

Rebecca Forster 

USA Today Bestselling author of 35 books, including the Witness series and the new Finn O’Brien series.

I love that this author has provided so much information. Her query is objective, communicated the pertinent information and is focused. Kudos. Many authors – first time and seasoned – simply calculate how much money they can make at different price points and choose the highest one that they believe the market will bear. What they don’t take into account are market forces and there are plenty of them.

This lady is a first-time author intending to publish as an indie. It is clear that she understands her genre. I will assume her book is awesome. Now let’s look at what she is going to face. There are currently about 2,500 new books published through Amazon a day. She will be competing with seasoned, midrange and newbie authors all of whom are publishing books at the same time she is. Some will offer their books for free and others for $.99. Many will leave those books at these price points for promotional purposes with the objective of getting their books into as many readers’ hands as possible. They will be hoping to garner reviews. In my experience it takes about 100 downloads to get one review. That’s a lot of books you have to sell. If you overprice your work, no one will buy it.   Spending $6.99 on an unknown will not be as attractive as receiving a free book or one at $.099. Many best selling authors (myself included) price their books at $3.99 and $4.99. Anything under $5.00 is considered a bargain book and is more easily promoted on advertising sites and book-dedicated social media sites. There are so many more nuances one can address regarding pricing but covering them all would be a novel in and of itself.

My advice to this author is to read over the above, take a look at the bestsellers in her genre and make a list of price points. I would include general thrillers in this list also because there is a ton of crossover between straight thrillers and romantic suspense. At the same time, assess how you are introducing yourself to the reading public. Do you have your website, your social media accounts, your branding in tip-top shape? Are book two and three almost done (indie publishing has taught me that readers will veer to an author with deep inventory because, if they like your work, they want to click for the next one). Does your cover scream quality? People pay a little more if it looks like the next big thing but not much.

To put this in perspective, I have published (traditionally and as an indie) over thirty books. I have experimented with many price points from $.99 to $6.99. $2.99 to $3.99 is the sweet spot (read Mark Coker’s blog post at Smashwords on pricing). You can make a good living at this price point but not without a heck of a lot of work.

Price this first book to sell, garner fans, ask for reviews, build up your profile everywhere and keep writing so that you have inventory. This is a long-haul profession. It looks like you’re ready for it. Good luck.

P.S. I price my paperbacks for minimal return. I might make $1.00 to $2.00. That is because I want them to be reasonably priced and I know that 97% of my business as an indie is in digital sales.

Jenny Jensen | A Slice of Orange

Jenny Jensen

Developmental editor who has worked for twenty plus years with new and established authors of both fiction and non-fiction, traditional and indie.

Two very successful authors and one savvy, marketer share this panel with me. I’ll leave the hard marketing advice to their tried and true experience and respond as a consumer.

I’m a champion of Indie publishing. I read a lot, all genres, and I love to discover new writers. Unfettered access to any voice that wishes to be heard is the outstanding feature of Indie Publishing. I know I’m not alone in this opinion so as a new, untested voice I salute your maiden voyage.

I download work by unknown authors at least twice a week. My price point for an unknown is from 0 to 1.99 and there are several criteria that prompt my choice: a compelling title, one that invites, intrigues or amuses always gets a second look at the cover and a close read of the story blurb. It’s that book description that’s the hook. It must be revealing to a tantalizing extent (no spoilers), descriptive of some feature that sets the book apart from the cookie cutter template of the particular genre — maybe a well-crafted sentence or two that reveals a great character, an intriguing setting or a particularly unique situation. It must include something of the challenge inherent in the plot — in other words, give me a reason to want to read the story.

This short sell copy reflects the writer’s style and skill so it’s critical that the voice I’m considering spending my time with comes through loud and clear. Poor grammar, clumsy wording and typos are an immediate reason to move on, as is a dry recitation of plot points. If the cover matches the level of professionalism and care reflected in the title and the description, I bite. It sounds like my perspective buyer self takes in these criteria in an orderly way. Not so; it’s the blending of all the features that makes a work by an untried author enticing.

Considering just how fierce the competition is it’s great to have access to various platforms where you can stand out. Whether it’s an offering on a Bookbub-ish bargain site, a platform like Indie Book Nexus or a genre specific site, this is your chance to cut yourself from the herd.

There are degrees of how strong the attraction of a book offering is. I’ll always try a .00 price point book if the presentation interests me. I don’t view that as a cheapened offering, rather I see it as an invitation. If I’m going to invest up to 1.99 then I need an assurance of quality. The care and passion of the book sell copy is reflective of the care and passion in the work.  It takes an excellent presentation to move me to my 1.99 limit.  That hasn’t happen often for a new author with a stand-alone book. Of course, editorial reviews help — nice stuff if you can get it, but I don’t require that.

I’ll add that when I’ve fallen in love with a new author and she has no published work to move on to I am bummed. I vow to keep a lookout for a ‘next’, but it does not stay top of mind. A link to a mailing list for the next book’s release date is pretty good compensation.

You’ve made the decision to publish so I’m sure you’ve had the manuscript thoroughly edited and it is the best product you can provide to the reading public.

Invite every potential reader and if it’s a freely given invitation then know you’ll begin growing your audience. Wow me and I’ll pay for the next book. It’s an investment.

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Writing The Dreaded Book Blurb by Jenny Jensen

September 19, 2019 by in category On writing . . . by Jenny Jensen tagged as , , ,
header image for A Slice of Orange

A popular post from our archives.

The Dreaded Book Blurb | Jenny Jensen | A Slice of Orange
Cartoons by John Atkinson, www.wronghands1.com

Writing The Dreaded Book Blurb

Every author faces this last crucial challenge. You’ve already spent untold hours researching, writing and editing your book. Your title hits just the right poetic note. You’ve gone several tense rounds to find the perfect cover. All that remains is the book blurb, the opening salvo in the promotional war.  This is the first (and sometimes only) chance to grab a reader and compel them to buy the book. And so, like click bait, you need to lure your reader with an honest but irresistible snap shot.

It’s an Art

It’s an art, this writing of a synopsis that isn’t a synopsis, this sell copy that isn’t an ad. And for something that isn’t a science there are strict rules: you have to be honest – no misleading the reader. No spoilers or why bother to read it – which can be tough since the spoiler is often the most exciting part of the story.  Keep it at 200 words or less and don’t make it one run-on paragraph. Use the proper keywords for your genre. Reveal something about the antagonist – readers like to know if they can root for the hero. This isn’t the place to relate the entire plot but you have to provide the zeitgeist, the feel of the tale. No easy task.

A lot of the writers I work with find this daunting and ask for help, which I am happy to provide. I think it’s difficult for the writer to step far enough away from their work to pick out the enticing, salient points and present them with the tension and intrigue that make for a successful blurb. To the author, all story points are important. I get that, but as an avid reader I know what works for me in a blurb. It’s not how much is said, but how compellingly it’s said.

An Example

I start with a deconstruction approach. It’s possible to distill any story down to bare bones. In his book Hit Lit – Cracking the Code of the Twentieth Century’s Biggest Bestsellers James W. Hall provided the most distilled example I’ve ever seen. This is a beloved tale that we all know intimately: “A young girl wakes in a surreal landscape and murders the first woman she sees. She teams with three strangers and does it again.”  It’s short, accurate and intriguing but would it sell the book?

I wouldn’t distill it down that far but it makes a great beginning. What if we knew something about the young girl – an orphan, a princess, a refugee? And what about the surreal landscape – gaping desert, oozing swamp, forbidding mountains? Then the three strangers – female, male, older, menacing, kindly?  Is all this murdering spurred by necessity, thrills, defense, the three strangers or is it unintended manslaughter? And finally, what is the young girl up to – revenge, enlightenment, finding a way out of the surreal landscape? Flesh out those points, add some genre keywords, reference any kudos and you could turn those original 24 spartan words into a 160 – 200 word blurb that would peak curiosity and entice the shopper to buy.

If you can step away from the totality of your story and deconstruct the plot to the primary elements, then present those elements in a provocative way you can create an effective selling tool with your book blurb. BTW, that book Hall described? The Wizard of Oz.

Jenny

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NEW RELEASE, NEW PLAN

September 5, 2019 by in category Pink Pad by Tracy Reed tagged as , ,
Author typing on an old typewriter | Tracy Read | A Slice of Orange

Before I get into my post, I have to apologize for not posting last month.  I completely forgot.  I took a much-needed break and my mind was elsewhere.  I think it must have been the 111 degree temperature I was sitting in.  Here’s the funny part, I took my iPad and laptop on holiday with the intention of writing.  I figured, with the few days away from everything, I’d write a novella.  That never happened.  I take that back.  I did write a couple of pages, but can’t find them.  No biggie.  I had started this book a while back, but couldn’t find it.  When I returned home, I dug deep into my hard drive and found the original pages.  I was able to recall some of what I’d written on holiday and included it in the new book.

Now to this month’s post. 

I mentioned in my last post that I was working on my upcoming release, A Southern Gentleman Vol 2.  I was going to hire a publicist to help with the release, but changed my mind.  I’m not saying I’ll never use a publicist, but right now isn’t the time.  I paid a lot of money on a course to teach me to market my books and I need to make sure I’ve given it a fair chance to work.  I tried the techniques twice.  Once with some success and the second with very little success.  I need to make sure I can do this before I can tell someone what I want them to do.  

So, what’s my plan.  PRAY. Smile.  Okay, I need to do a little more.  I’ve learned a lot about marketing since I released my first book five years ago.  My very first release, consisted of me accidentally pushing the Publish Button and hoping.  I didn’t know about Facebook or newsletter ads. I did book a blog tour, which earned me a few reviews, but few sales.  I decided to go wide, so I burned or used a lot of ISBNs because I thought you needed one for every platform.  I sold quite a few print copies to family and friends.  Unfortunately, those are one-time sales, which I’m grateful.  However, I need and want fans, avid readers and followers of my stories.

I have a plan.  Now I sound like a politician. SMILE.  

I am going to take what I learned in the course, plus what I’ve learned from the various Facebook groups, blog posts and authors I’ve met and formulate a strategy.  Will it be my road map from here on out?  Maybe, maybe not. Every book is different and what works for one book, may not work for another.  Now I should a little confused.  Let me clarify.  I’m building a basic plan which I will tweak with each release as needed.

Here we go.  I’ve given myself approximately 30 days in the Pre-Order period.  During this time, I’ll send the book out to my ARC Readers and people in my various groups to read and post reviews on release day.  Next, Take Overs.  I’ve been doing a few of these for other authors with pretty good results.  So now it’s my turn.  ADS.  I’ve made a list of sites and a posting schedule.  Not only do I need ads for release day, I need them for afterwards as well.  I’m considering doing ads prior to the release day for A Southern Gentleman Vol 1 in order to draw attention the duet with new readers.

Where it gets a little tricky is Facebook.  FB ads can be tricky, so I’m going to start testing graphics a couple of weeks prior to release.  I know I’m going to do BookBub Ads,  I would love to do a feature ad, but I think I waited too late to apply for one.  I am going to try for a paid new release ad, but it might be a little late for that one as well.

All of that will be moot if I don’t do one thing…select a cover.  I hear you cringing now, but let me explain.  I had a cover, then I went into rebranding mode and it didn’t work.  I have two covers and have done a soft test.  Before I commit to a cover, I need to do a little more testing.  So far, the one I like is winning.  However, I don’t need the cover to do pre-marketing, although it would help, a lot.  Right now, I’m as busy as a one-legged man in an ass kicking contest.  [That statement reminds me of one of the characters in A Southern Gentleman Vol 2]. But it’s the truth.  There’s quite a bit to do prior to release.  Grant it, I could do nothing or the minimum and see what happens, but I want to make this my best release to date.

So here’s the plan:

  • Book to ARC Readers
  • Confirm cover
  • Book Ads
  • Book Takeover slots
  • Get reviews
  • Do tease or coming soon posts to social media week
  • Push for Pre-Order Sales
  • Reader Group Release Party
  • Sell a lot of books

I almost forgot.  I have a new release date, October 8th, which means I have a few days before the plan goes into play.  

I’ll update you next month.  

Happy end of summer. Tracy.

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REBRAND: SURPRISE BOXSETS

July 5, 2019 by in category Pink Pad by Tracy Reed tagged as , , ,

Happy July

OMG!  I almost forgot I needed to post.  I was watching the Hallmark Channel and recouping from Fourth of July eating.  

Before I start with this month’s topic, I want to share something with you that will be revealed in the next few days.  If you’re in my facebook group, Tracy’s Reeders, then you’ve seen the revised cover for A Southern Gentleman Vol One.  I love it and the test results were very favorable.  I’m excited to see how it performs.  

The new cover is bold, sexy and tells a different story.  I was about to upload the cover and decided to change the blurb.  The original blurb just didn’t work.  This entire rebranding process is sort of like that stray thread you try to pull, but it unravels and causes more anxiety.  I’m patient because I know this is all going to work out.  

I pushed the release date back a month because I want to hire a publicist to help with the launch.  She needs three weeks of prep and I just finished cleaning up the final draft.

So here’s the cover:

 

SURPRISE BOXSETS

Earlier this year, Skye Warren posted the Romance Author Roadmap on RWA earlier this year.  When I finished reading it, I had a plan for the year.  In creating the plan, I discovered, I had left a lot of money on the table in the form of boxsets.

I have one boxset, which is compilation of novellas centering around romance at different stages.  It never occurred to me to create boxsets within my series.  I started doing a little research and found quite a few authors had created boxsets out of some of their series.  By that I mean, combining the first two or three books in a series.

When I finished, going through my books, I came up with four boxsets.

Boxsets:

        

 

        

Falling For Her Boss: The Good Girl Part One and Part Two

Loving Her: What MY Friends Need To Know and Love Notes

Real Love : Generational Curse and Intentional Curse

Secret Love: Girlfriends & Secrets and What My Friends Don’t Know

I think this new packaging will appeal to readers not connecting with the original titles.  I’m very curious and excited to see how this works.  I’m still working on the pricing.  I have to be careful not to overcharge and work within the pricing allowed by Amazon.

I’m also not sure if I should release the boxsets all at once or one at a time.  I do know initially they will only be in ebook format with print only available on my site, eventually.  

Time will tell how these are received.

See you next month.

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