Back to School

The past week has been eaten by taking a class on Amazon Ads. It’s been a long time since I dragged home after work, finished reading (or watching, in this case) the assignment, and then tried to get my homework due today submitted before 11:59:59 PM. And then woke up in the morning, to find a new assignment waiting and try to do it all over again.

It’s worth it, though, because I’m tackling an area of ignorance, and if Peter’s doing this for a full time job, then one of us ought to understand the advertising end. Marriage is a partnership, and since I already had tried some of it before, and write the advertising copy, it landed on my plate. Do not want, contains hours of assignments, homework and deadlines!

But it’s not about me, it’s about us. And while writing is fun and frustrating and lovely by turns, publishing contains lots of boring and frustrating and “Why are we even doing this?” parts that must be tackled even when we really don’t want to.

One unexpected benefit: while the class really hammers the ad copy for Amazon Ads, and turning out something eye-catching and attention-grabbing in 149 characters or less (including spaces), this has actually finally started to penetrate the miasma in my brain surrounding “How do you write a good first line?” I might get there yet. In the meantime, I’m practicing on getting better in each target category and subgenre.

As the world doesn’t stand still for this, I’m also working on the blurb for the last book, since copyedits are almost done, and the cover artist has already gotten the rough draft of the cover to me. Does this sound interesting?

Blood, Oil, & Love:

Lizzes Olsen is a petrogeologist in a partially-terraformed world where oil is so scarce, wars are fought over potential fields. Armed with a dress and an invitation to the Landing Day Ball courtesy of her fairy god-Gunny Sergeant (Ret), she’s determined to get at least three job interviews by the stroke of midnight.

She didn’t count on meeting Twitch, an Imperial Recon who’s decided he’s going to make sure she succeeds no matter the odds. Nor was she prepared for the community that comes with being courted by a very determined quiet professional.

When her wishes are granted, they come at the cost of ecoterrorists out for her blood. Worse, her first job will involve scouting for a potential field deep in enemy-held territory, where not even Recon may be able to save her team…

15 comments

  1. I had this unhelpful thought:

    I didn’t get clear of the first sentence before I had a dead-halt question: If we’re this technologically advanced (spaceflight, terraforming), what need or problem exists that only oil can solve? (cuz why else would it be so valued?)

    Then I read on, encountered Romantic Subplot (having entirely failed to notice “Blood, Oil, & Love”) and considered that maybe it’s subordinate and doesn’t really matter.

    So, doing its job for its intended audience?

    1. a) Having the tech once does not mean that access is retained for all time. In particular, tech levels may require levels of wealth and population, and interstellar projection may be prone to changes in value of locations.

      b) Spaceflight in fiction commonly has handwaving fueling it. Generally, you can make the energy source cheats rather specific to spaceflight, if you want. If you cheat on space travel, generally, but cheat less in specific locations because of your economic world building, how does that location store the energy for spaceflight?

      Currently, we have partial spaceflight, and for various reasons we power vehicles, and especially aeronautical vehicles with fossil fuels. If one extrapolates from that for one’s local aerospace tech in fiction, surface to orbit may well tend to use hydrocarbon.

        1. Yeah, but this is the same setting as Going Ballistic, I think even the same planet and historical period. I’ve read Going Ballistic, and from that and some other things, I have a guess about how she is doing surface to orbit. Of course, faulty memory, personal stress, etc., could be throwing me very far off.

  2. Are you taking Bryan Cohen’s Challenge class? I got a lot out of that.

    I’ve seen some people argue that his approach casts the net too wide, and that one should focus only on relevant targets, but his methods are great for finding those relevant targets in the first place.

      1. It’s a Facebook group and I think one is running this weekend. If this link doesn’t work (you have to join), search on Bryan Cohen’s Amazon Ad Profit Challenge in Facebook. It looks like one is running now.

          1. Yes, that’s the one I’m taking. And it’s eating my brain. Of course, some of this is my own fault. Because I’m writing something that does not have a specific core Amazon subgenre, so figuring out how to market it requires looking at the existing subgenres and then doing a lot of winnowing.

            While these books can and do fit under Science Fiction – action and adventure, and science fiction – military (and I have readers who like them as part of that genre), I know that I also need to find a way to market to the audience that likes science fiction with romance, but not the current soft-core porn with SciiFi trappings that is 99.8% of the romance -> science fiction subgenre. So winnowing out what other authors out there are doing the same thing, and how to isolate and market to their audience – Scifi adventure with a romance element – takes about 15 times as long as if I was writing, say, a straight Gigantic Battles In Space.

            Once I get the hard part down, then I get to go back and start over again going “Yes, it’s tactically correct small unit actions, but it’s got female protagonist and isn’t Gigantic Battles In Space, so how do I market to the MilSF crowd? This would be easier if I was writing Admiral Knight Bastard Princess Supersoldier Assassin Mary Sue, I’m sure, instead of competent female civilian stuck in over her head, but… I write what I write, and I am not going to change it just because it’s a headache and a half to market.”

            Learning curves. I am going to be flying high by the time I get through my books and to Peter’s “It’s a western. Written in classic western style. Which fits in the western genre, classic subgenre. This is awesome!”

  3. Thoughts on the blurb: you’re telling too much, too fast. Subplot or plotline overload. The story might be snappy and thrilling but the blurb is cumbersome.

    Better: A clip-scene (say, three paragraphs trimmed to two) from the text, spotlighting the lead and converging two or more of the plot conflicts.

  4. People fall in love in about half my adventure stories, but I don’t try to market them as romance. They don’t follow the romance arcs and tropes.

    What gets me is that when figuring out your subgenre targets for Amazon ads, you’re supposed to check the top 100 books in your subgenre. For me that’s “colonization”, but when I looked most recently it was filled with a) romance and b) mil-SF, neither of which are good targets for my new series.

  5. I will of course be reading your book regardless of how you market it, since I tend to read authors rather than books. That said, your three paragraphs almost lost me. The first paragraph set the stage, but it was boring. Fortunately the next two made it interesting again. I would suggest adding a new first sentence, to get people through the setup. Perhaps “Jobs! Adventure! Death!”, which is in fact a summary of your three paragraphs.

  6. Yes, very interesting. I don’t DO romances but you made me reconsider. I have frankly been following your blog because of interest in your blog. Now I may have to get the book. 😀

  7. So, I’m assuming you’ve been participating in the 5-Day Amazon Ads Challenge. Don’t worry, I’m not a stalker, just a fan of all the Mad Genius folks who happens to also be one of the BPF writers (albeit, a junior one). Based on how I was taught to write blurbs, you want to start with a snappy hook. The 149 character copy you write for your ads can do double duty. It is comprised of 1-3 sentences. So, taking the 1977 Star Wars as an example: A desperate plea for help. A brutal empire ready to unleash the ultimate weapon. Can a farm boy from a backwater planet save the girl and the cosmos?

    From there you go into your first primary paragraph (made up of three sentences) that introduces your main character, starting with a super short sentence that gives the character’s name, tells us something about them, and expresses a deep seated emotion. So, continuing with “Star Wars”: Orphaned at a young age, Luke Skywalker dreams of adventure.

    The next sentence usually introduces the first twist. In this case it would be something like: So when he discovers a distress signal stored on a droid that leads him into the desert, he’s shocked when he meets a figure out of legend.

    The final sentence for that paragraph is our initial cliffhanger: But his elation turns to despair when he heads home to find soldiers hunting for the robot murdered his uncle and aunt.

    Okay, not my best work, but it will do for the illustration. You follow that up with another short, three sentence paragraph, that moves the story along a bit and pumps up the stakes. The last sentence is your final cliffhanger: Can Luke and his friends defeat the spreading evil before the galaxy is crushed?

    You follow this with the Selling Pitch: A New Hope is the rollicking first book in the Star Wars YA science fiction series. If you like exuberant heroes, nail-biting action, and terrifying villains, then you’ll love George Lucas’ space opera.

    And then you finish up with the close: Buy A New Hope to blast into danger today!

    A few other things to try to keep in mind. As much as possible, end sentences with hard sounds (desert) and/or powerful words (crushed). Also, try to keep escalating the stakes. For most books you’ll want to focus on death. If the hero fails he dies, or the world dies, or his family dies. Oh, and try to avoid using the same word twice. If you have to, put as much space as possible between the two instances.

    I hope that helps you along. Blurb writing takes a ton of practice. I’m still learning.

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