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.
One point right now before I jump down into more of these. I got a question from two people privately, wondering where I would use these blurbs exactly.
So here is exactly how I plan to use all of these.
— Introduction to each story in the book Stories from July.
— Introduction to each story when I late put them in Smith’s Monthly magazine.
— Introduction to each story in a collection that contains one of these stories.
— Sales copy on all electronic and paper sales sites. Amazon, B&N, iBooks, Kobo, and so on. Including Smashwords. These are just barely over 400 characters, so shouldn’t be hard to get them down a ways.
— The sales copy on the back of the paperback of each story. Yes, even the short ones will be stand-alone paperbacks.
So now onward to some more stories.
Then for each one I will detail out my thinking while writing the blurb.
They Were Divided by Cold Debt: A Bryant Street Story
Bryant Street, a standard subdivision street, haunts us all. To escape Bryant Street often takes real courage.
Meet Neil Prendell. He made a mistake. He lost his job but avoided telling his wife. Instead, he pretended to go to work while looking for another job.
Pride? Fear? Stupidity? The reason no longer mattered. He paid the price.
A price that only made sense in the twisted logic of Bryant Street.
My Bryant Street stories are the hardest stories I have to blurb every time. Think Twilight Zone without Rod Serling explaining everything through a cloud of smoke.
Bryant Street is based on my complete fear of subdivisions and the trap, the prison they form for so many. So I write stories set in those homes along the street.
As Stephen King often says, “Write what scares you.” Subdivisions scare hell out of me.
So I went to the form I talked about last chapter and first gave a summary of Bryant Street in general and vague terms.
Second paragraph, I played off the Twilight Zone pattern with the first line, then gave the plot from the first few paragraphs of the story.
Third paragraph I raised the stakes to make readers wonder what price did he pay. And from the first paragraph, did he have the courage to escape.
Fourth paragraph I went back to Twilight Zone rip to make sure readers understood Bryant Street is a very strange and dangerous place.
The Problem of Grapevine Springs
Duster Kendal lost an Idaho mining town called Grapevine Springs. In 2020 he knew the town, spent time there. In 1901 the valley sat empty.
The town never existed. Not possible.
Duster needed to get back to the year 2020 to solve the mystery of the lost mining town.
A stand-alone story that introduces a new mining town and new characters into the Thunder Mountain world of westerns and time travel.
I used what I call “The Hook” structure on this one due to the fact that Thunder Mountain novels and stories are well established. So I needed to get across to Thunder Mountain readers the idea, but also do enough to attract a non-reader of the series.
(I’ll talk more about this structure later in the chapter.)
So I made the first paragraph a plot focus with the crazy plot hook of losing an entire town.
Then I punched that plot hook in the second paragraph.
Then the third paragraph established the story solidly as time travel, with a mystery element, still using the hook from the first page of the story.
The fourth paragraph made sure that I told readers of the series this was a stand-alone story and again punched the time travel aspect of the genre.
So in this one I stayed with four paragraphs, but focused on a plot hook. Just one element of plot. The hook of the plot actually. Never once did I put in an “and then this happens…” silliness.
Writing blurbs in established series is often a trick.
Best Eaten on a Slow Tuesday
Mark Estes flaunted his money, abused his power, cheated on his wife, and most of all loved to eat.
Warned that a dozen sugar cookies would kill him, he ate them anyway.
So how would Mark Estes deal with the ultimate diet challenge?
A story that answers the simple question: Do diets come from hell?
Between the blurb and the cover, you get a pretty good idea of the subject of this story.
I approached the story first from the idea that everyone understands the problems of weight, but tossed that. Sometimes generalizing readers helps, but other times not so much. This was a not-so-much time.
I finally went to the focus of telling what the story is about. Not the plot. Just the hook.
The story is about eating and ego. Or not eating and ego.
So first paragraph set the character. Second paragraph set the first page problem and hook.
Third paragraph hinted at something more without going into detail of what the ultimate diet challenge really was.
Last paragraph then played into what we all believe, that diets come from hell. And with luck gave the story just a hope of someone buying it.
Fighting upstream against topic with this one.
On this story, I had to fight for a moment the “Author Problem” of knowing nifty details of the story and wanting to put those nifty details in the blurb. In fact, the nifty details are what makes the story fun and cool, but if I put even one of them in the blurb, the story would be ruined for readers.
A Matter for a Future Year
A single Seeder scout ship trapped on the edge of a distant, uncharted galaxy. Chairman Peter German holds the fate of the three thousand people on the Pale Light.
Main drives mysteriously not working, the ship hobbles along at sub-light speed with not enough supplies to reach the nearest Earth-like planet
The Chairman faces a hard, hard choice. He must find the solution.
Galaxy spanning ships, billions of civilizations, the Seeder Universe stories and novels cover it all. But “A Matter for a Future Year” brings it all down to a single human choice. And the price paid by those who risk to explore outward.
This was the second Seeders Universe story in the first week. This one in deep space, the other one set firmly on a devastated Earth. It’s a very large universe I am writing books in, that’s for sure.
And the key with large universes is always bringing the story down to a human level. An understandable level.
So on this one, I started with the first-page-of-the-story problem and the character, trying quickly to brush stroke the main character’s problem.
That took three paragraphs. And it was the hook of the first page of the story. Nothing more.
Then I dropped back into giving a blurb about the entire Seeders Universe, making it crystal clear this story is on the human levels of being in space.
So the structure of blurbs I used in the first chapter of this book is not evident at all.
A Second Basic Structure
As shown in three of the blurbs in this chapter, the second basic structure is what I tend to call “The Hook” structure.
The opening page of a story, or opening chapter of a novel, has a great hook that will pull readers in.
Then, in this structure, get a character (readers always read for character) and relay the hook and nothing more in two quick, short paragraphs.
Punch with a third paragraph if possible.
Summary of the theme, why readers would want to read the story, in the last paragraph.
Again four paragraphs. All short. With punch.
Author Problem Check
Did I get into any author problem here?
Were there any passive verbs in any of the four blurbs?
Did I once go “and then this happens” with the plot I did reveal?
I think all four of them don’t have any author problems, but I did have some trouble writing one. If I hadn’t been paying attention, I might have tossed in too much plot.
Onward to more blurbs.