Tuesday, September 20, 2005

Book Marketing by Telling Stories

Here’s some copy from the Territory Ahead catalog that sells their crisscross cord shirt. It combines a great description with a user’s story, imagination, romance, and humor. A nice combination for any sales copy. Can you do the same for your news releases — in as few words?

If you’re shy, this isn’t the shirt for you. The fabric — a richly colored, cross-hatched cotton corduroy — is so supremely soft and texturey it has a tendency to attract unsolicited attention from complete strangers.

In fact, when our Director of Human Resources wore it on a recent trip to Denver, an otherwise well-mannered young woman with a French accent had to be gently dissuaded from stroking his sleeve long enough for him to board his plane home. The aforementioned gentleman, who is not shy, has requested we carry it in additional colors next season.

Now, why is it that so many authors and publishers require two pages or more for their news releases when the Territory Ahead can sell a shirt in only four sentences?

Not only did the copywriters describe the shirt in good enough detail for you to picture it, but they set a qualifier: If you're shy, this isn't the shirt for you. And then they told a short story — in two sentences! — that closed the deal. What man wouldn't want a young woman with a French accent to stroke his arm? And have to be pulled off him so he could make a plane? I know I'd want at least five of those shirts, in a rainbow of colors. I'd wear them just around the house so my wife wouldn't get jealous.

It still amazes me how many authors have no idea how to sell their books with words. So many don't know how to tell a succinct story that hones in on the benefit to the reader.

Your assignment for today: Read that Territory Ahead shirt description at least ten times. No, let's make it even more involving. I want you to copy that description by hand (remember pens and pencils?) ten times. If you no longer have any pens or pencils, you can write it on the blackboard. Just ten times.

That's not much. My teachers used to make me write things 50 times or more whenever I was bad. And you've been bad. So get to work.

Why write it by hand? Because it involves more of you in reading and writing the description again and again. By writing it, you incorporate the ideas and storytelling skill into your very bones. That's good.

If you'd like to get some bonus points, read the description aloud to at least five friends. Or strangers. On the bus ride home from work. Or stand up during lunch at a busy restaurant and do a dramatic reading. Call your mother and read it to her. You will be amazed how much you'd learn by doing this little exercise.

It's your choice: Do this homework exercise and sell more books, or continue to write long boring news releases and sell no books.
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