Friday, November 9, 2007

I Got a Spam Promotion from Another Author...

...and posted it to one of my writers' loops to start a discussion on how to write good promo material. It was particularly awful, so I won't post it here or mention any names, but will list what was wrong with it, which will hopefully help.

Mistake #1 - Sending promo unsolicited. I almost deleted it unread and am glad I didn't--though not for the reasons the author would want.

Mistake #2 - It had a lousy opening hook. The blurb talked about demises and other negative things, then in paragraph two mentions it is a comedy!

Mistake #3 - There is nothing in the blurb that engages or excites about the story. In fact, I'm still not sure what the story is even about. The author uses ten words (huge and pretentious words) where one or none would have been better. He also focuses on all the wrong things and ends the blurb in a self-congratulatory, arrogant way.

Mistake #4 - Though I can't prove it, it looks like the author "created" his own review quotes. The writing similarties are marked to the point of embarassing--and are as badly written as the blurb. (I could do a whole blog on how bad the review blurbs were, but won't go there right now.)

Mistake #5 - His bio was as badly and oddly written as all the other elements of the pitch.

It's amazingly easy to write bad promo material, though this particular pitch didn't look easy--it was very painful to read and looked painful to write, too. It's much harder to write your own promo well. As the author of the material, you're close to it and we tend to focus on all the wrong things.

Remember that you only have one chance and a few seconds to make a good impression, whether its in person, on your website or through an email. Always, always put your best foot forward. Don't tell your intended target how much they will like your book. SHOW them with a great opening hook that focuses on the ACTUAL STORY.

Most readers don't want to know the themes you explore in your book. They want to know that you have a great story and characters. Again, just telling isn't enough. SHOW them. A pitch is your first chance to show your potential audience that you can WRITE. They WILL judge your book by how you present your self and your material.

If you've written a comedy, show it in the first sentence. When you are trying to sell a screenplay, you have to start with a one or two sentence "log line" that distills your story down to its essential conflict and main characters. I use that for my opening sentence when I'm writing a query letter.

And if I get a slew of "nos" back, then I KNOW I need to retool and rewrite that opening. Don't be afraid to keep writing and rewriting your promo material until you start getting positive responses. It's also a good idea to practice your "elevator" pitch, so when someone asks you what your book is about, you can tell them in an interesting and intriguing way.

I try to structure my promo material into:

* logline
* Brief synopsis (a couple of paragraphs about the book)
* Longer synopsis (but still no more than a page)

NO WHERE in this material, do I talk about myself, how I felt about writing it or what a wonderful writer I am. These are only about MY BOOK. They are only about my CHARACTERS. And the CONFLICT.

If you can learn to get out of your own way and become adept at promoting your work, it WILL help you with your agent/editor/publisher and ultimately help you find readers.

But still don't spam. It's tacky and unprofessional. :-)
Perilously yours,


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