This Hit Home for Me When I Was Looking at the Same Book Twice…

How was your weekend? I was able to get comics and the Sunday crossword, so that was totally awesome. Because of special circumstances, I ended up shopping in Target yesterday, too.

And that’s when it struck me (figuratively, of course). I saw two copies of Before I Fall, one with the original cover with the pink flowers, and one with the movie cover.

It almost seemed like they were two different books, even though they’re not.

But the cover is what attracted my attention at first.

Which, by the way, leads me to my point. If you write fiction, your cover, title, and blurb (of any combination of those your story has) is what attracts readers’ attention.

If you’re writing an email or a sales letter with no images, the thing that’s going to capture readers’ attention is the headline (or the subject line–with the part after that being like the blurb in a way, but that’s the subject for another post).

Both the cover and headline/subject line are the first things that readers (or would-be readers or buyers) will see. That’s what pulled me over to take a look at the book, right?

Good covers and good headlines and subject lines have some things in common:

They inspire curiosity. More of a “just what IS this?” kinda thing. With a picture, that can be done with color and shading/imaging, but if you’re working only with words, that can be somewhat harder, but not impossible. Normally I’d beat the “show don’t tell” drum here, but a few taps will be enough, I’m figuring.

They resonate with or speak to the reader. With a fiction book, you’re curious about the character, if you’ve read the title and looked at the cover for more than a few seconds, and you may have flipped it over to read the blurb on the back, or taken a looky inside.

With an email or sales letter, you want to have the reader imagine that you’re part of their world, and that you want them to be part of yours, too. That’s why subject lines about mistakes and what not to do can be powerful. And if it turns out that your reader was actually making the mistake you talk about, then you’ve bonded with them even more–because you’ve shown you care about helping them.

They ask for the sale. This is *technically* not true with just a subject line, so this is kind of a halfway point. Because book covers (at least physical ones) wrap around the whole thing to the back, they have the price on the bottom, so you know something’s for sale (you’re in a store and unless they say so, they’re not giving stuff away for free). With a sales letter or VSL, it can be a little more obvious something’s for sale (sometimes).

With email, though, it’s entirely different goings-on, and people may not know something is for sale (or that you’ll be linking to something that’s for sale). Which means you have to tell them…and how much detail you use will depend on whether they know you or not, and whether they have the problem or the interest that’s served by your product or service. (Personally I find it easier to frame it as problem-solving and help rather than sales, because most people think sales is a dirty word…even though millions of things and services are bought every day of the year. People are weird).

But if you’re an author, speaker, or copywriter, you’re a salesperson. You don’t have to be pushy, though…if someone’s got objections or something and you can address ’em, go ahead. And if they don’t have the problem you’re looking to solve, you likely won’t be able to sell them anything at all (unless your product or service solves more than one problem, or two or more problems that overlap). Or if someone hates stories with spaceships, and you’ve got three stories full of ’em, they may not be interested (unless you can bring to light some other details in the story that may make it so they’re willing to overlook the part they don’t like).

Sure, subject lines/headlines and covers have a lot in common–more than I could fit in a single post. But I hope that scratching the surface here opens your mind to what can and needs to be done if you’re in the business of selling what you write or using words to sell something else.

Until next time,

Ty

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About Ty Mall

Thanks for stopping by. I've almost always been interested in writing, among other things. Along with discovering pop culture, I've uncovered a lot about the craft over the past 10 years. And whether you're a fiction writer or email copywriter, I'm here to pass on what I've found out. And have a ton of fun in the process.
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