Laren Bright of Laren Bright Words is our guest blogger. Laren is an outstanding, amazing writer of book copy and other advertising text. What is book copy? The words that sell your book, otherwise known as the title, sub title, back cover text, and so on. Laren explains in greater detail below. Laren wrote the copy on my books Numenon and Stepping Off the Edge. I’m delighted with what he did. Laren has the ability to create magic from ordinary words.
Please join me in welcoming Laren Bright.
Sandy Nathan, Your Shelf Life
The Most Important Writing in Your Book
So, you’ve written a book. Or you’re writing a book. Or you’re thinking of writing a book. If you plan to sell your book, there is something you need to know: The best message in the world won’t sell unless it’s presented so people want to buy it.
Here’s a short outline on what you need to know about writing promo text, which includes title, sub title, back cover, flap text (or equivalent), and your short author’s bio. At the end I’m going to tell you why you shouldn’t write your own promo text.
Title. A good title, generally, relates to the content of the book, is interesting, and, if applicable, offers or implies a benefit. (This does not necessarily apply to fiction books, but it may.) Of my own work, my favorite title is Soldiers, Scoundrels, Poets & Priests.
Sub title. Where the title stimulates interest, the sub title is a statement of what’s in the book. In the above example, the sub title is: Stories of the Men and Women behind the Missions of California. Between the title that piques interest and the sub title that explains more, browsers pretty much know if the book is something they’re interested in. If they’re not sold yet, they will turn to the back cover.
Back Cover. The back cover is the first place where you have a shot at really selling your book. If you’ve got a nibble with the front cover, then you can start to set the hook with the back cover. The back cover is the place to describe the benefits; what the reader is going to get out of the book. The back cover presents the promise.
Flap Text. The flap or about the book text takes the promise you stated on the back cover and tells how you’re going to deliver it. You want to give solid information that give substance to your claims. But what about trade paperbacks that don’t have flaps? I frequently work with a fabulous book producer/book shepherd named Ellen Reid. Ellen recognized that the flaps were key selling real estate that was lost in a trade paperback. So she created the About the Book page, which contains the text you’d normally put on the flap. This page appears in one of the first inside pages of the book so that browsers see it almost immediately upon opening the book. Ellen singlehandedly restored the benefit of flaps to books without flaps.
Author’s Short Bio. Start with this awareness: No one cares about you. (Okay, your mom probably thinks you’re swell.) Until they get the benefit from your book, things like where you went to school, what your hobbies are, that you’re a member of the Lion’s Club mean little to the browser. So the whole point of the Short Bio is to establish you as someone who knows enough about your subject that the browser wants to know what you know. Keep your piece short and focus only on what supports you as an expert in your field. Having said that, I generally like to throw in a line to humanize the author. For example, for Sandy Nathan I wrote: She is a writer, a rider, a wife and a mother of three grown children.
Okay, so those are the secrets of book promo writing I’ve gleaned over the course of more than 10 years writing for authors and 40 years writing advertising copy. Now here are 4 reasons why I think it doesn’t serve you to try and write your own promo text – unless you are a professional in sales and promotion.
• Not all the above keys apply all the time. It takes experience to know when they do and when they don’t.
• Authors tend to forget what the browser doesn’t already know. So what is a clever or clear title to the author may be totally meaningless to the browser.
• You are almost certainly too close to your subject to be able to communicate the benefits in a nutshell. Virtually every attempt I’ve seen at back cover/flap text by an author tries to give away the whole book instead of tempt and titillate.
• Most people have a really tough time realizing how much they really know that others don’t know. So most authors’ attempts at writing their author’s bio is less effective than it could be, which can make the difference between a sale or a pass.
• Writing a book requires exercising a very different muscle than writing promo text. A professional copywriter spends a great deal of time thinking in terms of benefits vs. features. You need to know which is which and where to apply one or the other.
Getting a book written & into print is one thing. Getting it done so that it’s salable is something else. If you have confidence in your book and think you can sell it and make money with it, then it’s worth investing money to give it the best shot at selling successfully.
Laren Bright is an Emmy nominated, award-winning writer who has been assisting people (and companies) with promo text that sells for more years than he cares to think about.
The illustrations on this blog post were made by Laren’s colleagues when he worked in animation.