We here at Girl Friday work with a wide variety of genres, from historical wartime fiction to zombie/gargoyle romance to French psychic thriller and everything in between. Regardless of what kind of book we’re putting our paws on, the promotional text—the book description on the back cover, the tagline, a one-line summary—is essential for attracting readers. I have the highly enjoyable job of writing PT for many of the books we work on, and here’s what I’ve learned about how to write PT that will make your book pop and, more important, get your readers to hit that “Buy” button.
1. Make It Sexy
PTs do not have to be like a glass of old-world Beaujolais—there is no need for subtlety here. Make it a Napa Valley Cab—all big and bold and bursting out the ying-yang with berry flavor and oak barrel tones. “Regina was sad, but she was also starting to have feelings for Alexei” just isn’t going to cut it. This, however, will do the trick: “But even as she grieved, Regina could no longer deny her growing desire for handsome, troubled Alexei.” The book itself can be understated and nuanced, but if the readers don’t get some zest in that first sip, they won’t order the bottle.
2. Match the Tone
Is your book a fast-paced, twisty-turvy, hold-on-to-your-seat kinda book? Or is it a slow, golden-morning kind of book, full of lingering moments of nostalgia and poignancy? Whatever it is, match the tone of the book to the tone of the PT. When I write promo text, I like to pull out gems from the book to catch the author’s style. But at the same time, the “Make It Sexy” rule stands. The PT writer should maintain the author’s voice, but add a dash of hot sauce.
3. Know Your Audience
Write to your audience—if your book is for young adults, use mad hella appropriate young-adult vocab. (Is that how kids these days talk? I may be slightly behind the times.) Regency romance PT can be flowery, with torn bodices and sidelong glances. Readers of thrillers tend to look for the dark and gritty, language that will catch the sound of that lonely police officer’s footsteps as she walks down an alley aglow with flashing blue-and-red lights. Feel free to soup it up with words and terms like posit and salad days for your literary readers. Oh, and avoid the clichés—this is a good rule for all PT, no matter who the reader might be. PT written with an awareness of the audience creates that good first impression and keeps potential readers on the line.
4. Show a Little Leg
Part B of the sexy theme: Don’t give away the whole kit and caboodle; just show enough to get your readers to want more. PT is not a book report, like so:
Detective James went to the scene of the crime. It was bloody. Then he chased the bad guy. The bad guy was mean. Then James caught the bad guy. THE END.
Rather, give the reader something to chew on, but keep ’em hungry:
Detective James, called to the scene of a bloody and gruesome crime, discovers that he may be closer to the killer than he’d like. When his ex-wife’s new boyfriend becomes the prime suspect, James must put aside his own angst and ask himself this: Is Henry the real killer, or does James just want to send him to the electric chair in a desperate attempt to get his wife back?
Whoa! Has anyone written a book like that? I call dibs. See, I managed to hook myself with my own PT!
5. Call In a Freshie Fresh
You’ve read over your story five million times, falling in and out of love with each character, reworking that tricky plot twist, agonizing between the words but and however. Often, authors become so caught up in their own work that they may no longer be able to tell what the story is really about, just what they think it’s about after mulling it over and over and over again. I once wrote a PT for someone who, in his own draft of the PT, had written about a monkey with a tinfoil hat. When I read the story, I noticed that there was no monkey with a tinfoil hat. I have no idea where he got the idea that there was a monkey with a tinfoil hat. When I wrote the PT, I did not include a monkey with a tinfoil hat, because there was no monkey with a tinfoil hat. Having someone with fresh eyes write your PT puts the story in a new light, and it might let you see something you hadn’t seen before. The PT writer might even catch something interesting that had escaped your attention.
I hope these tips and tricks help. And of course—this is our blog, so here comes the plug—you can always give Girl Friday a call for any and all PT needs.