We're writers, so one would assume we can write. One would even assume we can write well if we're not only writing fiction but also blogging. Just one fallacy there. Writing marketable copy for a blog, sales copy and promotional copy, is a very different beast than writing fiction. Both are storytelling, after a fashion, but the stories they tell couldn't be more different! Any indie author who's tried to write their book's description, the pitch as it's called, knows how hard it is. That's because sales copy is a totallly different style of writing.
A Horse of a Different Color...but it's still a horse!
Novels and sales pitches share some things in common. Both have a set structure: a beginning, a middle and an end. Both are aimed at engaging their respective audiences, but that's pretty much where the similarities end. For one thing, a novel has elbow room to develop its characters and its stage and its props and unfold into its readers laps, one dripping literary gem at a time.
Sales copy, on the other hand, must open with a killer headline See my earlier post, The Headline Is the Story which links through to Copyblogger's most-excellent headline tutorial, Magnetic Headlines. I'd also direct you to Copyblogger's 5 Simple Ways to Open Your Blog Post with a Bang, which is Brian's way of recycling his headline post but the different wording might help some of you grok what you missed in the first article. *grin*
After the killer headline, your sales copy must move directly into an opening paragraph which sets the reader up to "need" your book. Or at least really, really want it.
A sales pitch does not "hide" its objectives from its readers. A novel might, in order to build mystery. Whereas a novel might only foreshadow, a sales pitch will actually pre-sell (the first step in the "Tell Me Three Times" philosophy of presenting information and structured selling).
Hit 'em With Your Best Shot
You may only get one shot, so make it a good one--and make it as soon as possible! The middle of your novel might not arrive for 100 pages, but if you take more than 100 words to reach the gist of your sales pitch, chances are, your prospect has already wandered off.
In the online market, you have 3 to 8 seconds to engage your web site visitor. Whether they are on your site or a bookstore's site, your copy must engage them or they will get bored and wander off, go looking for something to click because they have a driving need to do something.
You can't control a bookstore's site design, but you can control your book's description on their site. Don't forget to tell your prospective readers that what they "need" to do is "click here to buy the book." That's not the first thing you say, obviously, because you need to pitch your story's premise, but it's gotta show up at some point or your prospect might read the book's pitch and not know what to do.
Straight Sales vs. Story Pitching
Okay, let's get serious for a minute. Sometimes, your book's story premise takes up 200 words all by itself. You don't feel you have room for a sales pitch. There are other places to pitch the sale. Fine. Go to those other places--and follow the three times philosophy. Make your sales pitch headline thwonk the reader over the head and make your opening 2-3 sentences really hook them.
Then, right in the middle of your pitch, which shouldn't exceed about 150 words, so around the 75 word mark, you should be asking for the sale. You have to actually use the words, "click here" or guess what? A lot of internet surfers still won't know that's what you want them to do.
In fact, despite how much I love to seamlessly integrate my links into my copy, I've started using the words "click here" more often because recent studies have shown as much as 80% higher click-through rates for those words versus "inline" links (those that are merely active text in the middle of a sentence). You might want to word it as "click here to find out the answer" instead of "...to buy the book" if you feel that's too much of a hard sell, but say "click here" if you want them to click.
Finally, you have about another 50 words to summarize your pitch and close with another "click here" phrase. You have to wrap up your pitch in a strong closing or your readers finish and again, just wander away. Your closing is the last thing they've seen and probably the one thing they'll remember best about your pitch--unless you coined a new term or made a really good joke--so be sure it's as punchy as your headline.
Apply the same kinds of techniques to composing your closing: ask a question, share an anectdote or quote, invoke imagery with a metaphor or simile, cite a shocking statistic and then....ask for the sale. The very last words should have an urgency attached to them and should direct the reader to click.
Thanks for stopping by. I'll see you tomorrow with another
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open. Click here. *smirk*
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