The ‘Value Added Marketing’ of the First Line in your Book

Value Added Marketing

as explained by Shrek

Video courtesy of ryanmorrison31

Marketing Has Layers

Value added marketing

Photography by Joe Gatineau

Marketing is the message that brings buyers to your story.

Imagine marketing as an onion.

Now place yourself in a book store.

You’re walking along the aisle and a cover catches your eye. It looks interesting.

You pick it up. (Layer one, of the marketing onion, has just been peeled away.)

You hold the book in your hand, and then you flip it over to the description on the back. The description tickles your imagination. (Layer two, of the marketing onion, has been peeled away.) You flip the book back to the cover. Your hand opens the book, and your eyes gaze down at the first line of Chapter-One. (You are now staring at the third layer of the marketing onion.)

What is value added marketing?

Value Added Marketing: Creation of a competitive advantage by bundling, combining, or packaging features and benefits that result in greater customer acceptance. (Courtesy of businessdictionary.com)

How does the first line of my book become value added marketing?

Let me tell you a little story

Many years ago, I was visiting a friend. As we chatted, I perused their bookcase. My eyes settled on the spine of an innocuously colored book. It was the typography, title, and author’s name that caught my attention.

I pulled the book from the shelf and looked at the cover. This author is a particular favorite of mine. In fact, I would go so far as to say that two of their books (in that time) were some of my all-time favorite reads. But, I’ve also read some real clunkers by this same author. I stared at the cover; I was intrigued, but not sold.

I flipped the book and read the description on that back. Oh crap, I thought. It was the first book in a long series. If I commit, I’ll be reading this ‘ongoing’ story for months.

At this point, layer one of the marketing onion had succeeded, but barely. However, it did its job because I picked up the book. That’s what cover design is all about. Layer two, the book description, was less successful. It almost cost the author a reader. It was really the author’s reputation that pushed me to move forward to layer three.

This is a really important point. Imagine this scene in your mind; I was within seconds of sliding that book back into it’s slot on the shelf. If I had, there’s a good chance it may never have resurfaced in my life. But, I didn’t. I flipped it open to page one and read the first line. It read –

The Man in Black fled across the desert, and the Gunslinger followed.

Value added marketing

Photo courtesy of theaudiobookbay.com

By Stephen King

Here is where the concept of value added marketing comes to play.

Mr. King’s first line of, The Gunslinger, induced me to action. The cover got me to pick up the book, the description almost cost him the sale, it was the first line of the story that sold the book. I bought that book within days of reading it at my friend’s house. Then, because The Gunslinger is book one of a seven book series, (and it is superbly written), I went out and bought books two, three, and four about a month later. Finally, about five months later, I bought books five, six, and seven.

Think about this – That first line of, The Gunslinger, was the motivation behind a seven book sale. It had residual value and that’s value added marketing! 

Don’t we wish we could all do that.

I’ve thought about that line many times over the years. What makes it so powerful, so intriguing? The prose is quite simple. I think there are three components that are key to its success –

Antagonist, Protagonist, Conflict

It reveals all three of these elements in a twelve word sentence.
There’s no blood, no violence, no complicated structure

It introduces the Man in Black (mysterious), the Gunslinger (strong mental image), and conflict (the word fled). Stephen King could not have chosen a better word than fled. Even just speaking the word conjures up a feeling that something is about to happen!

There are all kinds of famous first lines and lists of them are plentiful in every corner of the internet. Stephen King’s line from, The Gunslinger, is almost always on the list. It’s that powerful. It sells books. It sells a series of books. For me, it is the epitome of the perfect first line. It has value added marketing!

I don’t know about the rest of you, but every story I write gets considerable processing time for that first line. I want that value added marketing in my books. I want a potential reader to get hooked from my first words and find themselves compelled to buy more of my books because they remember that line.

I’ll share this first line from one of my stories. It’s an unpublished short story titled, You Don’t Shoot No Owls.

Claire Brown, was fourteen years old the first time her daddy stuck a gun in her hand and told her to go shoot something.

value added marketing

Illustration by Clarisa Ponce de Leon

This is my favorite first line (of my creation) to date.

I’m striving for that powerful simplicity that Stephen King captured in The Gunslinger. I know I haven’t hit it yet. But, I keep trying and that’s what’s important.

One other interesting note about, The Dark Tower Series, if I had picked up any of the other volumes that day, their first lines would not have had the same effect.

A fantastic first line is not easy.

Back to value added marketing

I hope that today’s blog will inspire you to consider how important each component of your book is:

  1. Writing an interesting story
  2. Giving that story a powerful first line
  3. Writing a synopsis, tagline, and book description with the same dedication that you wrote the story.
  4. Edit every aspect of your writing, thoroughly
  5. Design your cover carefully

Each of these components bring value added marketing to your efforts. As human beings each of us is unique. We all see things differently. You never know which element, or combination of elements, will click with a book buyer.

And finally, maybe one of your first lines will bring you a dedicated reader. One that will follow your efforts for years to come, just as Stephen King did to me.

I’d love to read some of your favorite “first lines” in our comments section.

I am very opinionated about the craft of writing, and life in general. But… I am well-tempered with an enthusiasm for debate. Please leave comments, even the ugly ones, I dare you.

You can follow me at

Facebook     Twitter     LinkedIn     Pinterest     Amazon

I’m also an avid reader. If you desire success in your writing career, you should be too.

I’m currently reading, “Unexplained Mysteries of World War II”, by William B. Breuer

All my best on a beautiful day in South Carolina.

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Authors Don’t Shoot Yourself In The Foot

Authors

Think MARKETING from A-Z

You’ve spent a lot of time writing your book. You’ve edited, and edited, and now it’s time to get that story out in front of the public and let the sales begin!

authors

Hopeful Book Sales – Graphic by The Greater Austin Hispanic Chamber of Commerce

But…

A new story begins

The story that I’m about to tell you.

The Story of Marketing

Several days ago my wife was sitting at her computer. She called out to me and asked me to come over to her. She said, that she had something to show me. As I approached, I saw her Kindle lying on her desk. Amazon was open on her computer’s desktop, and I knew she was hunting for books.

“Look at this,” she said. I leaned over her shoulder and stared at the screen. It was a book description. What I read shocked me (you’ll know why in a minute). “Now look at this,” she said. She scrolled up to the cover of the book. “It’s beautiful isn’t it?”

“Yes,” I replied. The cover was very nice.

My wife then scrolled down to the price of the book; it was free. She glanced up at me, acquiring this look in her eye, a look that says she is about to make a very important point.

“I was about to download this book,” she said. “Until I read that.” She pointed at the book’s description. It’s a shame,” she continued, “someone spent a lot of money on that cover. But if that description is any indication of the writing style… I don’t want it, even if it is free. It looks like a teenager wrote that! Don’t you agree?” She raised an eyebrow.

The truth was, I did agree. The cover indicated a beautiful romance novel. It looked like a period story, set perhaps in the 1940’s. The setting was rural, like a ranch, or a farm. All this information was conveyed to us visually (marketing) through the cover of the book.

And then there was the book’s description

authors

Lost Sales – Graphic by Higher-Education-Marketing.com

A book’s description is in a three-way tie for the front-end marketing strategy of your book.

BOOK TITLE / BOOK COVER / BOOK DESCRIPTION

In order to protect the author’s anonymity (the book my wife shared with me) I’m not going to say their name. I’m not going to say the name of their book. I’m not even going to completely show the entire book description.

I am going to pull a couple of lines from that description; just to give you a taste of what I’m talking about –

authors

Image by AllAboutEmotion.blogspot.com

Quote – “Paul had been a decent kid with two younger brothers, a loving mother, and an asshole abusive father.”

Quote – “But Paul stayed and took the abuse until his youngest brother was old enough to get the hell out.”

That’s enough to make my point. It doesn’t matter how well the book was written, how much editing effort went into it, or, even that it has a fancy (professionally produced) cover; the sale was lost because of a poorly written description.

It didn’t fit the feel of the cover.

Here is another example

Several months back, I was looking at my Twitter feed. There is an author there on Twitter who posts constantly all day long. On this particular day, they had posted the title of one of their books. The title sounded interesting, so, I clicked the link, and it took me to Amazon. The cover looked fine, and the title had already grabbed me; I began to read the book’s description.

I was flabbergasted at the poor punctuation, and grammar, in that description.

This particular author has a large presence on Twitter. I wrote them a “direct message,” to keep it private, and told them just what I told you. They wrote me back and told me to mind my own business.

Another lost sale!

The author did well on their front-end marketing with a great title and a decent cover. But, they failed on the back-end marketing; the did not provide a cohesive, well written, and applicable book description, and, they ignored direct feedback from a potential customer.

(Just out of curiosity), I went back and checked the book’s description while writing this article; it’s exactly the same. The author has, however, pumped out three more books in just a couple of months… “Sigh”

authors

Pumping out the books. Graphic by saneandsingle.blogspot.com

Everything you put out in public becomes marketing

Authors, I know many of us don’t know much about marketing and advertising. I know the bit that I do from running my business for many years. Plant these seeds in your head and let them grow!

  • Everything that goes in front of the public eye is marketing – good or bad
  • 98% of the population will notice what you did wrong and only 2% will notice what you did right. Reach for perfection in every aspect of your book, from the largest, and most obvious, to the minuscule.
  • You are authors. You need to carefully edit everything that gets published; even if it’s a Tweet, make it understandable and professional.
  • Pay attention to all aspects of your book: writing it, editing it, writing a synopsis, writing a tagline, producing a cover, writing your book description, doing a written interview or writing a guest blog about it; if you fail on any of these points, it will cost you readers. And…

 You’ll NEVER KNOW how many READERS you LOST

Readers just like my wife

Everybody here at NovelNook.com wants you to succeed. We want you to write great stories, with great editing, and great marketing. We look forward to reading your best efforts!

I am very opinionated about the craft of writing, and life in general. But… I am well-tempered with an enthusiasm for debate. Please leave comments, even the ugly ones, I dare you.

You can follow me at

Facebook     Twitter     LinkedIn     Pinterest     Amazon

I’m also an avid reader. If you desire success in your writing career, you should be too.

I’m currently reading, “The Stories of Eva Luna”, by Isabel Allende

All my best on a beautiful day in South Carolina.

Bellakentuky

Theme In Fiction – A New Direction

What is the Theme of your current Story?

Theme is the broad idea, message, or lesson of a story.

I have noticed in my reading, (and I’m talking emerging independent writers primarily), that there is a repetition of theme and subject. Some of the most common ones are love, lost love, death, an apocalypse, horrible parents, alien interference,  corrupt government, murder, mental illness, friendship, lost friendship, deceit, betrayal, forgiveness, treachery, supernatural occurrence (zombies, ghosts, werewolves, mystics), sex, gay sex, unusual sex, (the emphasis being on the sex part of the story),  etc.

In the world of independent authors it’s rare to come across a story that is truly fresh in its view.

Why is that I wonder?

Jonas ponders.

Photograph by Ollie Crafoord

I think it has a lot to do with the culture of our modernized world. We are bombarded with images, concepts, stories, books, movies, advertising, and music. It’s so easy, (at a subconscious level really), to rehash something we are already familiar with rather than dig deep into our imagination and discover something new.

This entire discussion came about because of my wife.

I have talked a lot about my wife here on NovelNook and there is a reason for it. She has a huge influence on my writing life.

(I can only hope that all of you have someone like her in your life as well.)

For today, I’m just going to tell you that she is extremely well read, extremely intelligent, and one of the finest plot analysts I’ve ever come across. She is also a native of Argentina which often leads us to the discussion of Latin American authors.

Two days ago, she began to tell me about a short story by Chilean author, Isabelle Allende.

Isabel Allende

Isabel Allende

As the story unfolded, my mind raced through the prospect of writing this blog article. The story is titled, Nina Perversa (Perverted Girl) and it is a short story published in the book, Cuentos de Eva Luna (The Stories of Eva Luna).

Now you might be saying, “Wait a minute! Sex was on your list up there,” and you’re right.

But…

When I finished hearing the story, I was stunned by the theme, (the message), behind the story. I felt this way for several reasons:

  1. It is a really good story
  2. It is written in a fashion that is uncharacteristic of American authors.
  3. This particular theme had never occurred to me in my writing, (not even the tiniest notion of an idea), nor had I ever read anything in my slush pile that addressed it.
  4. The act of sex has very little to do with the story.

 a synopsis

(I’m going to tell you the story. I encourage you to read it anyway. It is available in English. See my link below)

The Stories of Eva Luna

The Stories of Eva Luna

A woman runs a boarding house, and she has a precocious eleven-year-old daughter. One day a man comes to the woman to rent a room. He is a singer and quite handsome. Not long after renting a room at the house, the man develops a relationship with the woman and they become lovers.The man eventually moves in with the woman and her daughter. The girl is in puberty and developing sexual curiosity. She secretly witnesses her mother and the man making love. Her hormones rage, and she becomes obsessed with the idea of sex.

One day the girl and the man are alone in the house. The man is asleep on his bed. The girl enters the room wearing nothing but her underwear. She jumps on top of him waking him from his sleep. He forces her off even as she presses her body to his and pushes her tongue into his mouth. He jumps up angry and pushes her to the floor, calling her a perverted girl.

The next day, the girl was sent away to boarding school.

The days turn into weeks, and then months, and finally years. The girl never returns to the house. Her mother visits her, but the man always finds a reason not to go.

It was during this time that the man’s life unravels; turning into a living Hell. He cannot sleep. He cannot sing. At first, he is overcome by guilt (despite the fact that he rebuffed the girl). But, he begins to fantasize about his moment with the girl. He becomes petrified that he has somehow turned into a pedophile. But still, the encounter won’t leave his mind. He becomes tortured by his own actions as catches himself staring at girls in the local schoolyard, or buying girl’s underwear and fondling them; then filled with anguish, he burns them behind the house.

The girl on the other hand has grown into a woman. She graduates from her University and becomes a banker. Not long after that, she meets a man and falls in love. She marries him. Then one day, many years after the incident, she finally returns to the boarding house with her new husband.

This is the first time the man has seen the daughter since her departure years before. In the hours leading up to their reunion, the man practices over and over what he might to say to her. How he might answer her questions and try to bring sanity back to his life.

Here are the last lines of the story

At dusk, when all the euphoria of the arrival had passed, and mother, and daughter, had shared all the latest news,  they pulled some chairs into the yard to take advantage of the cool breeze.

The air was thick with the smell of carnations.

Bernal, offered a drink of wine, and Elena followed to get the glasses. For a few minutes they were alone, face-to-face, in the cramped kitchen.

And then the man, who had waited so long for that opportunity, retained the woman by the arm, and said that everything had been a terrible mistake, that, that morning he was asleep and did not know what he was doing, that he never wanted to throw her down and call her that terrible name. He asked for compassion, and forgiveness; to see if he could restore sanity, because in all these years an ardent craving for her had bullied him relentlessly, burning his blood and corrupting his spirit.

Elena stared at him and did not know what to say.

What perverted girl did he speak of?

For her, childhood was far behind, and the pain of that first unrequited love was sealed,  locked in her memory.

She kept  no memory of that remote Thursday.

Wow! Pretty Powerful Stuff.

Do you see the theme here? You never know when some action, or statement, that you commit to the world might alter someone else’s life immeasurably; without even knowing, or remembering, what you did.

It still causes me to pause, and contemplate that statement, even as I write it here.

Such a strong theme!

In conclusion, I would like to encourage you to read authors from other countries. My wife has introduced me to some authors from South America; authors like Isabel Allende, Julio Cortazar, and Mario Benedetti. These Latin American authors seem have an insight into the human condition, an insight that seems to escape us here in our busy world.

If you’re interested in the English version of “The Stories of Eva Luna”, click below

The Stories of Eva Luna

I am very opinionated about the craft of writing, and life in general. But… I am well-tempered with an enthusiasm for debate. Please leave comments, even the ugly ones, I dare you.

You can follow me at

Facebook     Twitter     LinkedIn     Pinterest     Amazon

I’m also an avid reader. If you desire success in your writing career, you should be too.

I’m currently reading, “The Stories of Eva Luna”, by Isabel Allende

All my best on a beautiful day in South Carolina.

Bellakentuky