How To Write Fiction Sales Copy: Chapter Six
HOW TO WRITE FICTION SALES COPY
(Summary. This book is coming about because I need to write 32 story blurbs for the 32 short stories I wrote in July for a book titled Stories from July.)
In the first chapter of this book, I touched on what I call “The Author Problem” and gave a basic formula that I sometimes use to give blurbs a structure.
And in chapter two I laid out another formula for writing blurbs.
In the third chapter I talked about a method Lee Allred uses.
In the fourth chapter I talked about the idea that sometimes using first lines can help.
In the fifth chapter, I talked about focus and using setting to get through problems with blurbs.
So now on to more blurbs and in this chapter. In this chapter, the new approach is to focus on character only. No or little plot. Just character in the blurb.
Make Myself Just One More: A Mary Jo Assassin Story
Mary Jo kills people for money. After a thousand years, she knows patience and skill and how to cover her tracks.
Mary Jo loves her job. She makes a lot of money as a hired assassin.
She also loves vodka and orange juice. Passionately, but not in a dangerous way. After a job well done, she rewards herself with the drink.
Mary Jo might be the coldest killer in all of fiction. Or at least the only really cold killer who loves vodka and orange juice.
This is the very first ever Mary Jo Assassin story.
I had no intention of starting a brand new series when I started this. But as she cleaned up the blood from her last kill and worked to cover her tracks, I realized I might have something here.
The problem came in doing the blurb. This again is one of those stories that even telling about the first murder she commits would give away the story. So this needed to have a different approach.
So first I thought about setting, but the setting is a standard suburban home and actually doesn’t play much into the story. So I figured I would just focus the blurb on her.
A complete character blurb.
And her love for screwdrivers. And her love of her job.
I tossed in the fact that she has been doing this for over a thousand years as a reader hook (does not play into the story, but is there a couple times.)
So all four paragraphs in this blurb are about her. No plot at all. Nada. Zip.
I couldn’t even call out a genre on this because it clearly is a crime story. Sort of. I made that clear. But a crime story by an ancient assassin in a modern subdivision. Well, not a normal crime story.
So I skipped calling out a genre and just assumed that those who wanted to read about a very different hired assassin might buy this story.
Gods Have History: A Poker Boy Story
Poker Boy often solves problems and saves the world with his mutant talent of asking stupid questions.
Sometimes really stupid questions.
So when he asks the seemingly simple question over lunch one day about how the gods originated, he stirs up more than even Poker Boy bargains for.
So how did the gods originate way back before Atlantis? Might be better to just not ask. Too late for Poker Boy. He asked.
To start off with, the cover here will not be the cover in the book. We are in the process of rebranding all of the Poker Boy covers and this one is already done, but I don’t want to put it here. You’ll see it in the book. Wonderful fun.
Since I have written over fifty Poker Boy stories now, they become really hard to blurb.
So for this blurb I went back to the topic from last chapter. I focused the blurb on one element. And it is an element of the character as well, so it sort of fits in this chapter.
Focus on one element of the character.
First two paragraphs are focusing on Poker Boy’s method of solving major problems.
Then I brought in the one plot element from the first page, the question he asked.
Then in general terms, I hinted at the results of the questions in hopes to draw readers into the story.
Last paragraph was a summary of the entire question thing, and shows a little of the Poker Boy attitude as well.
For those of you who are Poker Boy fans, no worry after you read this story. Poker Boy is not going in that direction. This was just a history story.
Idanha Hotel: A Thunder Mountain Story
May: 1902. Megan Taber bakes in the fancy new Idanha Hotel in downtown Boise. Her rolls and pastries and pies bring in patrons from all around the area.
Widowed from her husband five years before, her entire life focuses on her baking. And she loves it. She considers baking her art.
Joe Vaughn, a scholar, eats breakfast every day at the Idanha Hotel dining room because of Megan Taber’s baking.
A story of two people, tossed together by events and great food.
This the second Thunder Mountain story in this group of stories from July. And this one needed a different approach as well since the story stands alone just fine, but also can be expanded out into a pretty good novel with a few additions.
So the blurb had to be clear and clean. So once again, I went to the focus on the character all the way through the blurb.
First two paragraphs are also focused on one element of her character as well. Baking.
Third paragraph is the introduction of hero, but again focused on her baking.
Last paragraph tells readers this is a relationship story, with a focus once again on the food element.
Interesting that writing stories in series can sometimes be easy, but writing blurbs for series stories most certainly has problems.
Something Wasted On
Professor Johnson Hubbs, professor of psychology, knew exactly when he came up with the idea of his new study of human nature and patterns.
In his new study, he wants to know how many times people say, “I wasted my time on (blank).
He overhears a woman say that to another woman about her husband and then expand in great detail while Hubbs attempts to eat a wonderful chopped beaf smothered in mariana sauce. Ruins his lunch, but gets him a new study.
A story of simple professor asking a simple question.
This blurb could only be done with a complete focus on character. Even the cover I did focuses on character.
Why? This is a character story, completely.
In fact, not at all sure that most people would think this even had a plot in hindsight.
So the only plot element I put in was the question, which is in the first line. I thought of using the entire first sentence in the blurb, but the sentence was too loose, so I didn’t.
So this is the prime example of not blurbing a plot but blurbing a character only. Even down to a meal he was eating.
Focusing only on character also has the side benefit that readers read for character. And if you can make the character interesting enough in the blurb, then readers will read for that character through the plot events of the story.
I always have character in blurbs, but I often follow the patterns I set in the first two chapters or so unless the story just won’t allow it. Then I turn to either all setting like last chapter’s topic, or all character.
There are many, many ways to approach writing sales copy for a story. Keeping awareness of readers will help you make the choice.
Author Problem Check
Did I get into any author problem on any of these four stories? All were difficult because of author problems and because they were all moderately short, meaning under 4,000 words for all of them. But I think I stayed out of the author problems once again.
Were there any passive verbs in any of the three blurbs? Nope, none that I can see.
Did I once go “and then this happens” with the plot I did reveal? Nope. I basically revealed no real plot on any of these.
I don’t think any had author problems this chapter. But as with the three in the last chapter, all four wanted to have more plot in the blurb.
But the focus on character kept me out of that problem, for the most part..
So remember focus on character as yet another way to deal with writing sales. Focus down into the character, one aspect of the character.
Often that is more than enough.
Onward to more blurbs.
Thanks for sharing the process. As a reader I find that your blurbs are all very efficient at making me want to read the stories, I can’t wait to read the book 🙂
Thanks. That’s what I hope they will do. (grin)