The Art of Enticing the Reader

So while I was discussing (read harassing my friends) what to write for today’s post, and the topic of push vs pull came up. My response was, “It’s pull all the way. Our books need to hawk themselves behind the loo block in their stiletto heels and showing way too much leg while saying in a breathy voice “Looking for a good time?””

Then I realized this was much more accurate than I’d originally thought. People tend to prefer to have a good time when they’re not involved with the things they have to do. We’re competing (and also cross-fertilizing – it’s best not to go too far with the extended metaphors and analogy pretzels there) with all the leisure things: futzing around on social media, watching TV, going to movies, playing games, cute cat videos, you name it.

Of course, what any given person considers a good time isn’t going to be quite the same as what the person standing next to them thinks is a good time (slight digression – this can be a handy means of telling whether you’re facing your best friend or their evil double, assuming said double has the smarts to remove the obligatory Evil Double Goatee. Ask them their definition of fun. The real one will give an answer that’s pretty close to what you’d expect your best friend to say – flaws and all. The evil double will either tell the truth and you know they’re the evil double, or they’ll say what they think the right thing to say would be, and you’ll still know they’re the evil double. Anyway…). We’re a remarkably diverse lot, for a species so incredibly genetically uniform that (if I remember right – the stainless steel lint trap of a mind isn’t the world’s most reliable instrument) any two random humans from any two parts of the world are likely to have less difference in their DNA than two kittens from the same litter would have difference in theirs.

This, I think, is the real origin of Rule 34. And the reason writers need to stop thinking push and start thinking pull (and not, unless you’re writing porn, the “push it in and pull it out and wipe it” type of push and pull).

You see, if our species is this diverse in preferences, then damn near anything can find an audience, and a big enough audience to keep the writer fed, clothed, and housed. But the way to find that audience isn’t to go pushing oneself at anyone who looks like they might be a potential reader. That way lies performance anxiety, as it were.

No, the way to find one’s audience is to entice the readers, to seduce them and convince them via a bit of tantalizing display of leg that there’s more goodies over this way, and they really, really want to come and look a little closer.

Now, there are a whole lot of other stories out there, showing their fishnet-encased legs and whispering sweet promises to potential readers, so it’s important that our stories are properly dressed. By which I do not mean corseted and whatnot (unless it’s that type of book, of course). I mean making sure the cover and title signal the type of book it is so the reader who’s looking for big fat fantasy with nancing elves and gruff dwarfs doesn’t chase your space opera and then get horribly disappointed.

Teasing helps, too. I’m sure the more discerning among our readers have noticed that if you conceal the right things it’s much more attractive and intriguing than if you show it all or hide it all. The tease, the little bit of leg seen through a slit skirt (metaphorically speaking), the suggestion of the greater delights to be found within… All of these help to convince a potential reader that your book is the one to open.

Then, of course, you have to hook them fast and keep them reading. Which is a topic for a different post.

51 thoughts on “The Art of Enticing the Reader

  1. If I understand you, you are endorsing what is part of the Reader Demands: Give us a chance to judge a book by its’ cover. Sometimes that is a picture of exploding spaceships, sometimes a title, sometimes it’s a blurb, and in some cases it’s the author’s name.

    1. Oh, yes, very much so.

      I want each and every book cover of Peter’s to be able to leap off the page from the tiny square in search returns or also-bought, waving its hands and yelling “Pick me! Pick me! I’m exactly the space opera / military sci-fi you’ve been looking for!”

      When a reader click on the cover, the blurb should eagerly tell them “I’m good fun, with an unabashed hero and no navel gazing, just the entertainment you were looking for! You want excitement, adventure, danger? It’s all right here, if you just click inside…”

      Once the reader clicks inside, my job as the marketing half is done is, and it’s up to Peter to deliver a good ripping yarn. (Which I think he does, right fine.)

        1. Seriously looking at that as my next job, yes, along with virtual assistant to authors. (And one photographer, who misses the fact that I haven’t been around to organize his paperwork, make food appear at field shoots, and help find things for his studio since I got the Incredibly Intensive Day Job.)

          1. But what does his cat say? And I’m with Amanda, since I seem to have a gift for un-promotions. (That typed, not having anything out this month I’m 100% certain has not helped. I’m planning some stuff for when I release _Circuits and Crises_ next month.)

              1. Aw, thanks for the vote of confidence, guys. Now I just have to work out business plan, services, rates, and how to avoid promising miracles unless I can deliver.

                1. As someone who spent an hour last night researching, downloading Calibre (twice) and figuring out how to turn my Word doc into a mobi document so I could send it to a reviewer, so that the book can, you know, get another review, miracles aren’t necessary. Guidance, insights and plans are all good. There’s lots of marketing that’s mystifying.

                  For those who are interested, I found this site of reviewers:!free-reviews/c1yij

                  I’ve contacted about five of them and one has expressed interest–she who needed the mobi version. One fellow does like hard SF, but didn’t want space. He wanted more medical/bio stuff. People have their things they like.

                  1. Laura, I would be delighted to review your book. It’s what I do. I also will consider putting my name in the hat on the ‘Tweet Your Book’ site, although frankly, I’ve had a reasonably full plate with my plan of reading & Amazon reviewing MGC (members & fans) books.
                    I just finished my 48th Amazon review, of Christopher Nuttall’s ‘Outside Context Problem.’

  2. Unless it’s SJW message fiction, in which case it’s whips and black leather all the way up…..

    “I beat bottoms for a living……” — Dominatrix Song by Leslie Fish

    1. Nah. Only some of them manage whips and black leather, and you can tell they don’t know how to swing the whip (and that leather is really pleather. Tawdry.) Most are stuck in shapeless hippie clothes or overstretched spandex that doesn’t flatter with finger-wagging scolding in screeching shrill tones.

      1. Most are stuck in shapeless hippie clothes or overstretched spandex that doesn’t flatter with finger-wagging scolding in screeching shrill tones.

        *looks around wildly* Where’s the camera?!?!
        Oh, wait, that was at customers, not the five and three year old that are supposed to be doing their lessons.

        I was going to be indignant about t-shirts and jean skirts not being hippy gear, even if they do reach the ankle on me and my dearly departed grandmother would insist you’re right. 😀

        (Dealing with kids has enlightened me a lot about why so many of the things Those Kind do annoy me– they’re either treating me like a child, or acting like a child who needs a nap.)

    2. Nah. SJW fiction is gray sackcloth. And reeks. Then complains about how nobody likes it, and it must be because of raciss or sexiss or something.

  3. If I may ask a marketing question, I put Manx Prize in the Kindle subscriber service, Kindle Unlimited, a few weeks ago. All was good: if you went to its page it showed it was free to subscribers. Now, it doesn’t show that anywhere but off my author page. (It’s been unpublished everywhere else.) Anyone have any advice?

    1. Laura,

      I’m seeing the “read for free” button right under “buy with 1-click” on the book’s page, and it showed up tagged as KU when I searched for it on the kindle store. So, um, from this end it looks fine.

      (If you compare the manx prize’s book page to any of ours, you’ll note they removed the “$0.00 with kindle unlimited” announcement from right by the ebook/paper price on every page. I’m seriously wondering if rumor was right, and the free price next to the ebook price was impacting sales by making it look like not-a-bargain?)

      1. Dorothy, thank you. Those zero’s weren’t where I thought they should be and I panicked. I sent the book in to the ATH Saturday promo post, and said it was now on KU–hence the panic. Next time I will look around more before bothering others.

  4. Kate, dear, if I start showing a leg (with hair sticking out through the fishnet stockings) and wearing stiletto combat boots, most of my readership is going to run screaming for the exits . . . all except Mad Mike, of course. He’ll think it’s tooooo cute for words!


    1. Ah, but this is why you send the book out in the fish nets and you sit in the back with the cash box. Though, I suppose some shall be disappointed.

        1. And here the analogy turns dark. I have images of large hulking body guards for some books who rough up customers who don’t want to pay.

          1. Oh, I went the other way. With a book sliding up in her barely-there clothing, all her sisters in the series and close cousins of spin-offs smiling behind her and cooing. “Come on, boy. First time’s a discount on me…” (or, for author’s running permafree, “first hit’s free”…)

  5. Just enough to entice is an interesting concept. The fun part though, is figuring out where just enough is not too little or too much. *OUCH* Brainache.

    1. Rule of thumb: up to the first major conflict, and stop. Stakes can be mentioned, but going past that turns it from a plot hook to a plot summary.

      Go read a couple blurbs for books that you liked, and compared how much is shown in the blurb vs. the plot of the book. That’ll give you a feel for the rule of thumb instead of a headache. 🙂

    2. It’s something you usually wind up getting wrong a lot before you get it right. I’m still very much in the get it wrong a lot phase.

  6. “We’re a remarkably diverse lot, for a species so incredibly genetically uniform that (if I remember right – the stainless steel lint trap of a mind isn’t the world’s most reliable instrument) any two random humans from any two parts of the world are likely to have less difference in their DNA than two kittens from the same litter would have difference in theirs. “

    Pretty much. Genetic bottlenecking a couple hundred thousand years back doesn’t go away quick- we’ve only had in the tens of thousands of generations or so since then. It’s why inbreeding is so bloody dangerous for humans, less so for cats and dogs (not going down the rabbit hole of the purebreds diversion, though).

    1. Oh, good. I remembered right.

      When you look at it in that light, this mania for slicing people into groups based on melanin content seems even more idiotic.

  7. “remove the obligatory Evil Double Goatee.” – at which I immediately start visualizing an evil-looking person with a double goatee. That was what you meant, right?

    1. Those ones where it looks like they had a nice goatee, and then shaved part of it so you can see their chin, are generally pretty evil. Like a reverse “soul patch.” (which is also evil)

    1. Throwing money at me is good. The next Con book is back in progress, but it’s – alas – *slow*. If my job would lay off the bloody curve balls for a few months things might settle enough to let me pick up the pace a bit. (I can’t write at work, either, which doesn’t help).

  8. For those of you who know such things:
    I have a wheezy kaff kaff sputter blog over on blog spot, which I have ignored for months at a time. The last post I made before today was a review of “Forge” by T. K. Anthony, because it had not been published to Amazon (or anywhere else) at the time of the review, which I posted on December 2, 2014. Today, I added the two Amazon reviews for Henry Vogel’s “Scout’s Honor” and “Scout’s Oath.” I did that, because I have an advance copy of “Scout’s Duty” and I will read and review it before it’s on Amazon.
    Nobody follows my blog as far as I can tell, but I shed no tears, because it’s been updated so infrequently.
    Does it help authors to have the review posted anywhere other than Amazon? For the advance reviews I’ve been asked to do, that’s the only place I can put them, but when they go to Amazon, I’ll cross-post there.,
    Right now I’m at the 50% point in Laura Montgomery’s excellent “Manx Prize,” and will likely finish reading & review it today.GREAT cover art! Completely in keeping with being able to judge a book by it’s cover!

        1. This is my innocent look. I do it about as well as a cat, which is to say, not at all, and you can clearly tell I’m plotting. Especially when I say:

          “Well, if you cross-post all your reviews with a link to buy on Amazon, this would give us a single place that gathers all the books from all the MGC regulars, regular guest posters, and regular commenters (and yes, our irregular and beloved commenters as well.) If you got an Amazon associate account and used that in all the links, then you could even put that income toward the books not in KU…”

  9. Review of Manx Prize and Scout’s Honor and Scout’s Oath are up on Amazon and my lame blog. Maybe if I keep posting my reviews on it, it won’t be lame.

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