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Branding With Series Blurbs: Writing Blurbs That Sizzle–and Sell! by Karen S. Wiesner

While an author may have little or no control over the process of the publication of her book or series, she can still influence the outcome and specific areas of consideration in order to do this. The place to start is with branding–and this is something that applies to the books, series, as well as to the author of them. In her article “The Basics of Author Branding” author Theresa Meyers (do an internet search for the article title and author) talks about building an image or perception that’s used to create a loyal readership through branding. Essentially, branding is name recognition, creating a distinction for what you’re offering. I’d go so far as to say that every author should have an “author branding statement” that she uses in every piece of promotion she undertakes. For instance, my branding statement (another catchy blurb!) is “Creating realistic, unforgettable characters one story at a time…” In this statement is a concise summary of what I’m most known for with my fiction: realistic, hauntingly memorable characters. This one simple sentence captures every story I’ve ever written and everything I will ever write.

 

Author Branding

Branding is very much an implied promise to consumers that you’ll continue offering something similar and you’ll do so consistently. While it takes quite a bit of time and effort to build brand recognition (Theresa mentions ten or more impressions in her article, but I’ve heard it’s closer to fourteen these days since the market is so saturated, consumers are harder to entice, and the state of the economy plays such a huge factor in purchasing habits), it’s essential that branding is put in place as soon as possible. Create a distinction for your book(s), your author voice, what you want to be known for (go-to author for {fill in the blank}), and what you’re willing to provide consistently as an author, and then market it ever afterward. According to Kimberly Grabas in her How to Build Your Author Brand From Scratch (and Why You Need to) article, “a powerful author brand is designed–not stumbled upon by accident.” The author is almost always his own designer. Decide what you authentically want to be about, what your books stand for, and continue to evolve the story of your brand.

A series is one of the best places to brand. You want to begin branding your series as soon as you have the first book in the set blurbed. While patrolling listservs for series readers, I overheard comments such as:

 

“I always check any information on the author or books on their websites, especially if I need to know the order of the series. I don’t want to start in the middle and miss any inside jokes or cool continuities.”

“Author websites are the first thing I check if I’m interested in a new series.”

“I think it would pay for authors and publishers to make it easy to know if a book is part of a series and where each title fits in that series, since each story prepares you for the coming books.”

 

These comments don’t necessarily have to be applied only to series titles but all books written by authors. (Re-read the comments with that in mind). Put in these ways, it’s logical for publishers and authors to make it as easy as possible to find out about or purchase all author titles including those that fit into a particular series. But sometimes it does seem like they’re doing the opposite.

Unfortunately, authors don’t always have a lot of influence over many aspects of branding, but even if your publisher ultimately doesn’t back your series with an aggressive marketing track, nothing is stopping you from discussing upcoming issues in your series with your editor or publisher to get branding running hot and fast, and trying to set a good example by offering as much as you can to your fans on your own website or blog. In the sections below, I’ll include methods that authors can employ to promote branding—even if publishers don’t cooperate. Associations and utilization of all types of blurbs are crucial for your author, book, and series branding. It is usually with a series that branding is so essential and so we’re going to address that now, but keep in mind that many of these principles apply to single-title author branding as well.

 

Series Branding

Rule 1: Associate the Series With Each Title

To me, this one is so out-and-out obvious, I feel a bit foolish even mentioning it. If your readers don’t know that your book is part of a series, what’s going to prompt them to look for the next one and the next one and the next one after that? It should be so blatant, yet this is the number one series rule I see broken most frequently, and it’s such a missed opportunity. Look at the website of any book distributor, and you’ll often have a hard time finding out if a book is even part of a series. A few publishers are diligent about this, but most don’t bother.

Make sure the title of the book is always, always, always associated with the series. In other words, never allow yourself or your publisher (if you can help it) to include just the title of your book. For instance, I never refer to my book Shards of Ashley simply by its title. Always, I refer to it as Shards of Ashley, Book 5 of the Family Heirlooms Series. Notice several things about this: I include the title of the book, the book number in the series, and the series title. In this way, new readers and long-time fans immediately recognize the information they need to know.

A new trend in the industry that needs to be addressed here is that many distributor websites are becoming sticklers about how your cover and title page have to match in terms of how the title, series and book number are listed. I’ve had books rejected for distribution because the cover creatively has the title in one place, the series in another, and just the number in some kind of artistic “seal” elsewhere. Because the title page has the book listed as, say, Shards of Ashley, Book 5 of the Family Heirlooms Series, the book is rejected as “not matching”. This is beyond ridiculous, in my opinion, since they’re clearly the same, though automated systems may be too dumb to realize it and you’ll have to ask that a human at the place of distribution look into it. When this inquiry has been undertaken in my case, approval is always forthcoming. But authors and publishers need to be aware this is a growing trend and adjust accordingly.

Additionally, my publisher for Writing Blurbs That Sizzle–And Sell! (and my fiction), Writers Exchange, always lists the series name first, followed by the title and the book number in the series, as in: Family Heirlooms Series, Book 5: Shards of Ashley. Her very sound logic is that, with the series name first, all the books tend to be listed together (and almost always in the correct order) on websites that list only based on the title in alphabetical order. If you have the title of the book first, the other books in that series can end up on totally different pages, which isn’t ideal.

For those readers who try to follow a series, it’s extremely helpful to include the book number in the series whenever you talk about a particular title. On the listservs I patrol, I’ve heard a huge number of series readers say they won’t skip around in a series—they start at the beginning and read chronologically. Very few readers will skip around. Having the book number associated with the title (and even on the spine and/or front and back cover, as we’ll talk about soon) ensures that readers know exactly where this book falls in the series. Make a point of being consistent in the use of the title of each book and trilogy/series name by ensure that the whole title of the book is always associated with the series.

Even in the process of working with your editor, continue stressing this point to enforce to her that you see all the stories as part of the series—one book can’t be separated from the other because they belong together.

While publishers utilize distributors for getting the books out to the customers, publishers provide all the information necessary for distributors to sell the books. It’s the publishers who tend to not provide series information at all, or only incompletely, along with the basic book information. Talk to your editor/publisher about associating the series name and book number for every single title. Make sure this information makes it to distributors consistently.

If your publisher isn’t diligent in this regard, you can change your information at Amazon.com, BarnesandNoble.com, and other online distributors. While you’re logged in to these sites, the page for your book may have a section labeled with something like “Update This Information”. Sometimes publishers won’t allow anyone to change the book information, but if you find that you can change it yourself, do so!

Take my advice: If your publisher won’t follow through on this particular branding, rigorously follow the advice yourself. For every scrap of promotion you do for the series, make sure you include the complete series information for every title. Absolutely do this for your website. You might even consider putting a list of series on your website with the title in each series and the book number—and maybe even making this list printable. That way, your most avid followers can get the information they need without too much hassle. Remember, you can lose sales by making basic information hard to come by.

 

Rule 2: Utilize Series Blurbs

It’s necessary to utilize series blurbs as much as possible to create brand awareness for it. Don’t underestimate the appeal of the series blurb. New and longtime series readers alike want to know how the current book connects with others in that series. If the series blurb is effective, those sentences will accurately reflect the premise of every book in the series in a concise, intriguing summary. Series blurbs can sell books just as surely as story blurbs can. An author would never consider skipping a story blurb—a publisher wouldn’t either. While some publishers write and use their own series blurbs, the series blurb is often underrated and underutilized—to our detriment.

This is the second most common series branding rule I see broken. In this case, it’s not just the publishers who neglect to utilize the series blurb. Recently, I wanted to find out more information about a certain bestselling author’s series. The series had been around for a while, and several books were already available. I went to the publisher’s website, the author’s website, and even distributor websites trying desperately to find out what the series was about. The story blurbs were fine, but they didn’t tell me enough about the connections between the individual books to really appeal to me. (Not to mention that none of the books had numbers, so I had no idea about the order of the series, so finding out where to begin would have been a headache.) When I buy a series, I look first at the series blurb, since that tells me what I’m getting into. If that entices me, I’ll read individual story blurbs (in order). If I like those, I’ll make a purchase. In this case, the information I needed was nowhere to be found. I got tired of chasing after it, and this author (my apologies if none of this was her fault) lost the sale of all of these particular series’ titles.

I do feel bad about that, because I know authors have little if any control over aspects of publication when working with mass-market (and sometimes even small press) publishers. But that particular author did have control of her own website, and she failed to give me the information I needed to make a purchase enticing, or even inevitable.

Utilizing your series blurb is critical to branding. It is part of what convinces a consumer to begin your series. If she likes what she reads, she may buy every single book in the series. But if she doesn’t know what she’s getting into, she may never bother. If enough consumers have this attitude because the publisher and/or author make it a hassle to obtain vital information, your series will fail to gain readers. A series isn’t like a single-title book. If you lose readers from the beginning or anywhere in the middle, you’ve lost them for its entirety. Some series authors never recover from this.

But a series blurb is only one kind of blurb that authors need to learn to perfect. Two others are also important: The high-concept blurb and a back cover blurb. Equally important is creating blurbs in a variety of sizes for different applications.


Love this?

Join Karen December 3-9, 2018 for her workshop titled “Writing Blurbs That Sizzle–and Sell!” based on her new writing reference Writing Blurbs That Sizzle–And Sell!, available now. The workshop will cover the need for high-concept blurbs, back cover blurbs, and series blurbs and simple, effective ways to craft them, along with creating blurbs in a variety of sizes for different applications. Karen will also critique the blurbs of registrants during this busy week.


 

WRITING BLURBS THAT SIZZLE–AND SELL!

by Karen S. Wiesner

Writing Reference/Nonfiction978-1-723857-20-1 (trade paperback); 978-1-925191-65-3 (ebook)from Writers Exchange E-Publishing

Find out more about this title

Make your book fly off the shelves!

  • Are you an author who dislikes or dreads trying to write back cover blurbs for your stories, or have you started one and want help making yours sizzle with intrigue and impact?
  •  Would you like to utilize a series blurb but you’re not sure where to start in covering all the books in your series in one succinct, powerful paragraph?
  •  Would you like to have a short, punchy version of your blurb that can be used in your marketing and author/series branding?
  •  Are you a publisher with a stable full of books that need blurb overhauls?

 

Every author knows what a back cover blurb is, given its high-profile placement on the back cover of every book. At its crux, a back cover blurb strives to be a concise, breathtaking summary of the entire story that includes the major internal and external conflicts and the goals and motivations of the main character(s).

Unfortunately, crafting an effectively good back cover blurb is no easy task, and many writers outright dislike writing them or dread the process because so much is at stake if the blurb fails to engage. A sizzling back cover blurb needs to convince readers they absolutely have to read the story inside the pages…or they’ll set the book down without ever opening it. Additionally, a powerful series blurb can sell not just one book but all of them in that set! High-concept blurbs are necessary in every author’s marketing to provide intriguing “sound bites” for books and series’.

 

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From the publisher:

Amazon.com

Coming soon from BN.com and other distributors

Karen Wiesner is an accomplished author with 121 titles published in the past 19 years, which have been nominated/won 134 awards, and has 41 more releases contracted for. Karen’s books cover such genres as women’s fiction, romance, mystery/police procedural/cozy, suspense/thriller, paranormal/supernatural, futuristic, fantasy, science fiction, gothic, inspirational/Christian, thriller, horror, chick-lit, and action/adventure. She also writes children’s books, poetry, and writing reference titles such as her bestsellers, First Draft in 30 Days and Writing the Fiction Series: The Complete Guide for Novels and Novellas from Writer's Digest Books. Her newest writing reference is Bring Your Fiction to Life: Crafting Three-Dimensional Stories with Depth and Complexity. Cohesive Story Building is also available from Writer's Exchange E-Publishing.