Writing Promo Copy

When the last draft is edited and you’re ready for your manuscript to be published, your job as a writer changes. You are no longer engaged in communing with your characters, or drawing up instructions in a nonfiction piece. You have to move into the arena of persuasion. That is, you must persuade potential readers that they should give your book a try.

The copy you write may appear in your query letter, or your dedicated website, or your Amazon page. I point out these different venues to open your eyes to the scope of this endeavor. Ad copy is not a book report. Do you think the copy writers for a pharmaceutical firm read the clinical details of a drug’s trials before the FDA approves it? Of course not. That stuff is too deep in the weeds; nobody would understand it.

Writers of novels in particular don’t understand that someone on the outside has no idea what’s going on in your book. A similar error in judgment underestimates a reader’s depth of experience. A browser who plucks a romance off the shelf has in all likelihood read dozens of romances. That potential buyer is measuring your back-cover copy against the copy of all those other books they liked. Dark-haired hunk: check. Smart and saucy heroine: check. Even worse, a writer may not comprehend that the writer of copy for romance covers has likely written copy for dozens of books. Do you think they haven’t discovered a pattern that sells?

No matter what type of book you’ve written, one method is to start by drawing up a list of your highlights. What are the most interesting and unique aspects of your book? In a novel, that list usually consists of the protagonist’s obstacles. Create a progression of the best five, so that the last ends in a question: how can that problem ever be resolved? The reader will just have to open the book to find out.

For writers of nonfiction, unique is more important. What does your book offer that no other book does? If it is a program that should be followed, why is your program different? If it is a narrative, what elements will the reader find most exotic? List features like: lots of studies, lots of charts, lots of quizzes.

When you write from list to copy, you’ll find that your writing is different from the prose in your book. A highlight is not organic. Neither is ad copy. It is designed to sell your product to a customer who can pick from a range of products.

Exercise: Read the copy on the back cover or inside flap of a book that you think is like yours. Don’t read the content. Pick out, in each sentence, what the highlight is. The rest is verbiage built around the selling point. Now think about your book. If you took the gist of each sentence of the copy you’re reading, could you draw up your own highlights?

“Don't let what you cannot do interfere with what you can do.”
—John R. Wooden

Copyright @ 2020 John Paine. All rights reserved.

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Copyright © 2020 John Paine. All rights reserved.