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Power Book Publicity Tips March 2014

Cover Your Back: Writing the Blurb

by Dave Bricker

After writing a book, many authors are surprised by how hard it is to create a few engaging paragraphs for the “blurb” on the back cover.

In traditional bookstores, the book’s cover attracts readers. Inspired by the back cover blurb, they thumb through a few pages and hopefully buy the book. But the majority of books never make it to a bookstore. The role and placement of the blurb—or back cover copy—in this day of digital publishing requires careful thought. The traditional formulas rarely apply.

In e-Bookstores, tiny book covers are displayed in a corner of the screen. Originally used as a bridge between the art and the text, the book description has become the single most prominent source of information—more so than the cover itself. Many “back cover blurbs” will never be seen on the back of a physical book.

Traditional publishers and publicists usually know how to position a book. Publishers select cover images and compose blurbs based on proven marketing strategies. Authors don’t have much input. If you’re still reading, you’re probably an indie author whose work is unlikely to be displayed in a bookstore.

The back cover blurb’s primary purpose is to tell the reader what to expect from the book. Why she should part with twenty bucks and ten hours of her life to listen to you? The reasons vary from book to book. Consider your book’s retail environment, your goals as a publisher, and the needs of your reader.

Be realistic about publishing goals and prospects. Are you an author who wants to sell or an artist who wants to share? You can be both artist and entrepreneur, but be honest with yourself about whether you’re selling literary art or a practical product. Well-written books don’t necessarily sell; top-selling books aren’t always written well.

Non-fiction writers generally have a clear understanding of what needs their book will serve for well-identified reader groups. They define what the book’s value proposition is—learn how to write PHP scripts, understand global finance, study for a professional certification. These books offer practical outcomes that far exceed the value of their cover prices.

Fiction readers want aesthetic experiences. When the product is entertainment, the book’s value is more difficult to quantify. Cost-justifying a book that teaches a marketable skill is easy, but reading literature is more like attending a show; the experience has to be worth the cost of the ticket.

Be clear about the value proposition—“the takeaway.” Too many cover blurbs are a mish-mash of factoids that fail to answer the question: why should someone buy this book?

Writing the Cover Blurb: Who, What, When, Where, Why?

How can you distill the value proposition of your book into a few enticing paragraphs? Focusing exercises that anticipate readers’ questions are the first steps toward answering them successfully.

Begin with the five basic “W” questions (consider including “how?” as a sixth question). Expand the questions and compile a list of responses:

  • Who is your reader? (Profession, age, gender, psychographics, demographics)
  • Why is your book better than/different from the other million books released this year?
  • Who is the writer? (Credentials, background, experience, other books)
  • What is your category or genre?
  • Who are similar authors? (If the reader likes Shakespeare, will they like your writing, too?)
  • What can the reader expect to take away from reading your book (value proposition)?
  • When does the story happen? Is your information current and up-to-date?
  • How soon can the reader expect to see results if he follows your advice?
  • Where do the events in your book happen? Is it about or intended for readers in a particular part of the world?
  • Why should you and your book be trusted as a source of entertainment or information?

 Cover Blurb Tips and Tricks

  • The more interesting and engaging your blurb is, the more likely it is to be read.
  • Keep the blurb short. The longer it is, the less likely it is to be read.
  • The Book Industry Study Group defines hundreds of major categories for books. Conduct an online search for relevant category codes to see what other publishers do to reach your readers.
  • Typos and style errors in your cover blurb are unacceptable. Pass or fail.
  • Define your audience--don’t sell elegant prose to readers who consume romance novels like popcorn. Don’t sell mass-market novels to literature snobs.
  • Testimonials from credible sources that address substantive strengths and value are much more compelling than you vouching for your own greatness.
  • Manage your reader’s expectations. What can she expect to get out of your book for her time and money? Whether the benefits are practical or aesthetic, your book blurb should present a clearly stated value proposition.
  • Kill fluff. If any word in your blurb isn’t either red hot or performing a useful function, cut it.
  • Don’t turn the back of your book into a billboard unless it’s a commercial product.
  • If you’re stuck, ask someone else to read your book and write your blurb. Trade-published authors do not write many of their own book blurbs.
  • Compile a short list of words and phrases that characterize your book: funny, shocking, intellectual, poignant, tragic, visionary, motivating, etc.
  • Compile a short list of words and phrases that describe your reader: intelligent, under 40, male, college-educated, loves math and science, reads historical novels, read all the Hardy Boys books, wants new programming skills.
  • Find relationships between the two lists.

You’ll find as many approaches to writing your cover blurb as you will books and writers. Consider your publishing goals, your audience, and your book’s market positioning and commercial potential. Make your blurb informative, engaging, short, and technically perfect. Your book’s success may very well depend on a few, well-crafted paragraphs.

Dave Bricker, MFA is a pub­lish­ing con­sul­tant and a pro­fes­sor of graphic design in Miami, Florida. He designs rich, expe­ri­en­tial web­sites, creates beau­ti­ful book cov­ers, and produces classic book typography. His popular blog http://www.theworldsgreatestbook.com - is loaded with straight talk about publishing, writing, and book design. Dave Bricker is the author of The Dance, Waves, CurrentsThe One-Hour Guide to Self-Publishing, and The Blue Monk, a col­or­ful mem­oir of his solo sail­ing experiences. He is cur­rently work­ing on a magic eBook formula that mar­ries design and tech­nol­ogy in unique and engag­ing ways. 

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Becoming a TED/TEDx Talk Presenter:

Tips for Authors and Experts to Secure Speaking Opportunities with TEDx

By Sandra Poirier-Diaz, President of Smith Publicity

One of our long-term clients is a highly successful business professional and author. She was the COO of a Fortune 200 company and now sits on the boards of several organizations including one of the world’s leading telecommunications companies.

Over the course of her book publicity campaign with us, we’ve secured a number of high profile media placements across national print and broadcast outlets, as well as targeted trade publications. Attracting speaking engagements is also one of her goals. Therefore, along with our publicity efforts, she also works with an expert who successfully pitched her for a local TEDx talk. I asked her if I could share the path she took to secure this prestigious speaking engagement.

Below are her insights, plus information compiled from TED, to help authors and experts become presenters. Being selected as a “TED Talk” speaker is an honor and often opens doors to new opportunities and builds credibility. We use link of her TEDx talk in our publicity pitches to the media.

What is a TED Talk?

According to their website:

  • TED is a nonprofit devoted to “ideas worth spreading.” It started out in 1984 as a conference bringing together people from three worlds: Technology, Entertainment, Design.
  • TED conferences bring together the world's most fascinating thinkers and doers, who are challenged to give the talk of their lives (in 18 minutes or less).
  • On TED.com, the best talks and performances from TED and partners are available to the world, for free.
  • TEDx was created in the spirit of TED’s mission, “ideas worth spreading.” The (TEDx) program is designed to give communities, organizations and individuals the opportunity to stimulate dialogue through TED-like experiences at the local level.

Famous TED Talk presenters include Al Gore, Steve Jobs, Elizabeth Gilbert, Bill Gates, and Tony Robbins. Others presenters, while not household names, are innovators and leaders in their fields and definitely people to watch. According to TED, here is a list of the most watched TED Talks.

The popularity of TED Talks continues to grow. Here is a February 25, 2014 Forbes article called “TED Talks Are Wildly Addictive For Three Powerful Scientific Reasons.” In July of 2013, Mashable published a compilation of the “15 TED Talks That Will Change Your Life.” TED talks are powerful game changers for viewers and presenters.

The Overall TEDx Process

The author wanted to be presented as a speaker candidate to her local TEDx. She found the TEDx coordinators young and dynamic, and the process from initial pitching of an idea to the final “yes” a bit of a meandering journey.

Her several month progression included submitting a written proposal, follow up telephone calls, updating the original proposal, presenting the topic, and then telephone and in-person rehearsals. This was not a straightforward process. As we experience with publicity, this task needed a dynamic positioning strategy, combined with patient and persistent follow up.

Three Essential Tips to Positioning a Speaker for a TEDx Event

To begin the journey, here is the link to find and contact local TEDx organizers. Based on our client’s experience, here were the three important answers TEDx looked for in choosing a speaker and presentation topic:

  1. What is your ONE big idea?
  2. What are you going to share that will SURPRISE your audience?
  3. What is the CULTURAL SHIFT?

TEDx wants speakers who are creating a cultural shift in his or her field and causing people to change the way they approach a problem, topic or solution.

How TEDx Organizers Identify Potential Speakers

TED Talks guides organizers on how to select TEDx speakers. Advice from the TEDx website:

  • Seek out extraordinary voices in your local community who have a unique story or an unusual perspective—and who can convey it in a dynamic way
  • Local voices that few have heard before
  • People who can present their field in a new light
  • Perspectives that the global TED community may not have access to
  • Diverse demographics, ethnicities, backgrounds, subject matter

Becoming a TED Talk presenter brings serious credentials to any personal brand, and is often a goal for business and other non-fiction authors looking to build their platform as a thought leader.

For those starting out, it may make sense to begin with a local TEDx program. One final tip, whether presenting at a TED event or any other venue, TED offers a Speaker Guide with tips to help prepare and present a “great” talk.

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Smith Publicity exhibiting at Book Expo America 2014

Authors and publishers are welcome to visit Smith Publicity at BookExpo America 2014–held in the Javits Center in NYC, May 28 to 31–to meet with us and ask any questions about book marketing, publicity and promotion. It’s our 12th year exhibiting and we are excited to see old friends and meet new people!

If you would like to make an appointment to meet with us to discuss your work, please email Corinne Liccketto at Corinne@SmithPublicity.com

Be sure to check out more information about attending BookExpo America.

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Display Your Book at the 43rd Annual London Book Fair

Showcase your book at The London Book Fair April 8-10, 2014!

In 2013, more than 25,000 people from 114 countries from all areas of publishing (authors, book buyers, agents, publishers, editors, librarians, distributors and many more) attended the London Book Fair.  The book fair was so popular in 2013 it was a trending topic on Twitter for four days.

The New Title Showcase remains a very accessible and valuable way to have your book prominently displayed through Combined Book Exhibit. The $275 price includes display of one book and a listing in Combined Book Exhibit’s exclusive catalog. It’s a cost-effective way to get your book in front of the publishing industry!

For more information about having your book displayed through Smith Publicity’s partnership with Combined Book Exhibit at a reduced rate, visit our frequently asked questions page.

To register, send an email to cbe@smithpublicity.com or call (856) 489-8654 x306.

Registration deadline EXTENDED: March 15, 2014.

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Smith Publicity Scholarship—Last Chance to Enter!

Smith Publicity is offering a one-time $1,000 scholarship to one high school or college/university student in the United States. The scholarship will be awarded to the student who submits the best essay on persuasive writing. We chose this topic because it’s an important part of the services we provide for book marketing.

The essay should be no more than 1,500 words and must address the most essential elements of persuasive writing, a personal example of persuasion through writing and a comparative analysis of the art of persuasion through written versus verbal communication.

To be considered for the scholarship, applicants must also include a cover sheet with address and phone number.

Essays are due by March 1, 2014 and the winner will be announced by April 2, 2014.  Smith Publicity senior staff members will evaluate the essays and choose one winner.

This one-time scholarship award will be made on the student’s behalf, paid directly to the college or university the student will be/is attending.

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Free Author Platform Webinar Hosted by Industry Leader Greenleaf Book Group

Our friends at Greenleaf Book Group are hosting a webinar to teach authors about the
fundamentals (and importance) of platform development on March 5 at 3:00pm Central. By attending this session, authors will:

  • Know whether building a brand is right for them
  • Understand some key tactics that others have used to begin their brand building
  • Understand how authors and experts in various genres can use branding principles to accomplish their goals
  • Have examples of great brands to follow

Register today at http://www.greenleafbookgroup.com/content/platform2014

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