Creating "Gotta Buy It!" blurbs with Libbie Hawker (Self Publishing Podcast #149)
Product descriptions—an aspect of your publishing/marketing plan that many writers either do half-assed or ignore completely—are more important than you might think. As this week’s guest, Libbie Hawker explains in the show, you may pay for (or otherwise wrangle) a good deal of traffic to your book, but if your product description (sometimes called a “blurb,” although that is really something else) isn’t optimized to intrigue readers and convert that curiosity into a sale, you’ll be missing out on tons of possible sales and new readers.
And nobody wants that, right?
This week’s guest, Libbie Hawker, was amazing. Not only did she give all kinds of great information about how to write an outstanding product description for your book, but she also managed to compare Dave to one of the weirdest-looking animals in existence—the Tapir.
Pretty strange-looking creature, right?
This episode was thoroughly entertaining, just as much as it was incredibly instructive, a must-listen for anyone that wants to start crafting better product descriptions for their books.
Learn more about Libbie Hawker, and her books, here: http://libbiehawker.com/
Check out her books, Gotta Read It, HERE, and Take Off Your Pants, HERE.
Oh, and here’s the hilarious Honey Badger video that was mentioned on the show.
Here’s the video version of the episode:
Show Episode Transcript
This episode of the Self Publishing Podcast is brought to you by 99 designs the online marketplace that helps you get outstanding book cover designs at an affordable price. Start your custom design today at 99designs.com/SPP, and enjoy a free power pack upgrade valued to 99 bucks.
Welcome to the Self Publishing podcast where if you want something done right you’ve got to do it yourself, and now here are your hosts sometimes known as the shield, a nose and the yeddy, Johnny, Sean and Dave
Johnny: Hey everyone and welcome to the Self Publishing podcast, the podcast that follows three full time authors as we attempt to change the face of indie publishing. Join us and our trailblazing guests as we shove aside boundaries, freely experiment and occasionally screw up. I’m Johnny B. Truant and my co-hosts are Sean Platt and David Wright, exactly on time, thus ripping the fabric of the universe today.
Dave: We’re sorry.
Johnny: The reason we’re on time guys is because we tried to start early. That’s why we’re on time, so we scheduled 15 minutes because we need to catch up, Sean just got back from a Mastermind Conference, and we didn’t actually accomplish any of that that was just good. It’s really [inaudible] [0:01:21] just start SPP.
Sean: Yeah we started 15 minutes early so that we could start the show exactly on the hour.
Johnny: And let me break the universe a little bit more by going ahead and announcing who our guest will be thus not really being on topic per say but being a little professional, it’s going to be Libbie Hawker today who wrote a book– she has written many books, but she wrote a book called Gotta Read It, that I believe all of us have read. And that I specifically referred back to writing several of our product descriptions realizing that this is our year of optimization and that our, “good enough product descriptions” were not good enough.
Sean: Yeah I think everyone listening to this should buy the book, really. It’s just one of those books; you need those things that kind of flick on your thinking just a little bit different, so that next time you’re writing a product description you have these certain things in your head. I think that there’s two things you want to think about and you know we shall be talking about a lot of the stuff that gets you– really conversion stuff. You know it’s what makes your ideal reader more likely to click on that book, but if you can kind of balance that with some smart search engine type stuff where you’re using the right searchable terms, that’s a very winning product description.
Johnny: Winning, any comments on Charlie Sheen Dave?
Sean: Dave how did you feel about the finale of Two and a Half Men.
Johnny: That’s not good…
Dave: Don’t get me started.
Johnny: Yeah so all right…
Sean: We have a lot of questions to catch up on I know in a sauna, and we have something awesome if you want to do any of them…
Johnny: What was that little panting noise you just made there Dave?
Sean: Just nothing is awesome in Dave’s world, that’s why.
Dave: Nothing is awesome.
Johnny: Nothing is awesome. It was like planned look at that.
Dave: Wow Johnny and I are too much alike, this is freaky yeah.
Johnny: Do you think I can prompt Dave by saying things with song titles in them. Hey Dave I hired some private eyes the other day…
Dave: I’m watching you.
Johnny: All right so it sounds like Sean is eager on the something awesome. So why don’t you go first.
Dave: His tail is wagging, you can tell.
Sean: Well no this came from email this morning because we…
Dave: Nothing good ever comes from email, what are you talking about?
Sean: Well that can’t be true, but when you have Amy Schubert dealing with a lot of email, a lot of good comes from email. And we did– we started an autoresponder and this is a pretty big deal…
Johnny: This is the thing where she yelled at me justifiably of course.
Sean: Justifiably yeah, so we do this new thing where we sign our emails with, “Hey you need anything let Amy know.” But then we you know what we’ll send out a few thousand of those and then Amy will get the responses and it’s fantastic because we gave her no warning. But the long in production, autoresponders that we’ve been talking about forever, we started one on Realms and Sands. And that went out this week and the PS on that is, “Hey tell us how you found us.” And you know that’s just really good practice because it puts you in touch with your reader and you get to know a lot about them and you know they get to talk to you. And it’s really cool that’s really, really cool stuff. And so I was reading through all those this morning. And it is amazing the variety of ways people have found us which…
Johnny: I was surprised by that too.
Sean: Yeah. The reason this is awesome is because now as Johnny said I just got back from a Mastermind and one of the big things that I wanted to talk about when it was my turn was Discoverability. And that’s the– I think that’s the hardest thing for fiction authors right now facing us is Discoverability; you know how do we get people to find us. And it’s definitely one of the biggest nuts that the three of us want to crack. And you know we’re working on an idea right now…
Johnny: Biggest on us.
Sean: Which is what I specifically brought to the Mastermind, I wanted to figure how do we take this idea that we have that we think is really good and how do we properly execute it? And so Discoverability has been very heavy on my mind. And it was just really gratifying to come back and see all those emails and see just a variety of ways people have found us. And it’s really all over the place. I saw you from this book, I saw you from this book, I saw you from Write Publish Repeat. I listen to the SPP every week…
Dave: I saw you on that top 10 list of the Box office.
Sean: No, no really we had, we had…
Johnny: Saw you through your window.
Sean: I met you from BOU, I’m sorry but it’s true.
Johnny: A few Book Pub’s did you mention Book Pub already, I was really pleased to see that.
Sean: Book Pub yeah, so you know it’s– I think it’s a really good example of you know it’s all works, it’s all a little bit and you never know where you’re going to get those eyeballs. And so just don’t be afraid to put yourself out there.
Dave: Put your eyeballs in the jar.
Sean: But I will also say and Terra if you’re listening to this, yes I saw the email, I will respond soon. But for social I didn’t see anyone who said you know I saw you on Twitter, or I saw you on Facebook.
Dave: Well that’s because you are never on Twitter or Facebook.
Johnny: Yeah but she is, that’s the whole point.
Sean: Yeah she is. That’s the whole point like we’ve been really experimenting with social media a lot more. And I think it’s a good place to be social, but I don’t think it’s a good place for authors to sell books…
Dave: You know what, I disagree, okay yeah I get it that maybe you’re not being discovered on Twitter or Facebook, but you are carrying on your interaction with people who already know you and they are responding to that.
Sean: You are right. That’s exactly what I said, but it’s not a Discoverability tool and that’s what we’re talking about here it’s Discoverability. People are not finding their new favorite authors on social media. That is not happening as far as I can see. And when you’re– for us it’s a little different, we do this full time. But if you’re an author who spends 40 hours of work a week you know another you know five to ten hours commuting, taking your kids to practice and doing stuff like that…
Dave: That’s another 15 hours.
Sean: You know like all of this stuff and then you have– you’re lucky to get your 30 minute a day to write. You probably shouldn’t be worried about social media. That’s all I’m saying you really have to evaluate how you’re spending your time as a working author. And if you’re really worried about getting that first bit of Discoverability, yeah if you have a lot of fans it’s really cool to interact with them in social media. But if you’re trying to find those fans– I’m going to make the argument that it’s a distraction more than anything.
Dave: Oh I agree.
Johnny: Good Dave.
Dave: All right show is over.
Sean: Did you guys hear that Dave said I agree? Can you cut that as a sound bite? Johnny and…
Johnny: I agree I agree.
Sean: We’ll say it like you should market more than have them press the button that Dave says I agree.
Dave: Well sometimes I might say I agree, I’m just saying okay I’m done arguing.
Sean: But our listeners will be so confused.
Johnny: Dave we’re going to withdraw money from your bank account to buy Frank Kern’s product, I agree.
Johnny: Do you have anything Dave?
Dave: Now can I bitch you about something instead?
Johnny: You sure you don’t want to save that for Better Off Undead which was fantastic last week…
Sean: Counter to your nature of course you should bitch about something.
Dave: Well a few weeks ago, maybe a couple of months ago I don’t know my cool thing was the Blacklist because a lot of people that we know had suggested it to us. So I watched it and I’m really enjoying it and I’m watching season two which is airing live now in the DC. It’s been a great show up until now. But last night they had one of those episodes where the networks just interfered with. It was almost like welcome first viewer sort of show where like half the episode was like clips, like with recap…
Sean: Oh I like what they do with Alias?
Dave: Yeah I fucking hate that shit. And it just smacked of network interference. I was like, who the hell wrote– just nothing about the show just jelled with anything that had happened before. Like the special agent– this Elizabeth Keen. She was basically facing a murder charge so she’s talking to a judge and she’s basically telling him everything that happened on the show so far. But she works for like this top secret black site, so there’s no reason on earth she’d be telling some judge, just some judge not like a special government secret Judge, it’s a regular Judge telling him like all this shit that no one should know. And it just made no sense at all, and I was losing it. I was on Twitter bitching about him, people like joined me, and it was fun.
Sean: Do you think anybody discovered you?
Dave: Yeah, people discovered. Actually people have discovered me through my hate of stuff on TV.
Johnny: They call him Chad the author.
Sean: Yaay, Chad the author John.
Johnny: Yeah, seldom used. All right so, if you’re– mine is more in the form of a tidbit. So this isn’t really– I mean it is cool. But it but it’s really more of like – I suppose it falls into the realm of a tip– is really becoming aware of how– we knew this obviously, but how different the various platforms are, now that we’re really paying a lot of attention on optimization on not just– obviously Amazon, but off Amazon specifically. And Apple pre-orders is something that I’ve just been thinking a lot about. Apple– just to recap, I think we’ve mentioned some of this, but just really kind of becoming more familiar with it on a new level. Pre-orders are a really big deal on apple assuming that you can send traffic to them, because they count double. Like basically if you sell 100 books over the course of a few weeks on apple and pre-order, then you’re going to get the ranking commensurate with that rate of sales.
But then when your book goes live, then you get a hundred sales on that day. And so you get the boost. It doesn’t diffuse your launch like it doesn’t on I think everywhere else, certainly Amazon. And they’ll let you put a pre-order up a year out. And so some people just kind of rack up the pre-orders, assuming you know you can deliver. That you’re actually can put the book out, and you’re a pro, and all that stuff, and see a lot of velocity at the beginning. And I thought of this because Lexi has the pre-order for her new book which is– Sean and I wrote that – romantic comedy called My Step Brother the Groom, and it’s part of an apple exclusive pre-order. And I was just thinking about that today, and I just heard some preliminary pre-order numbers and stuff. And I’m just really looking forward to playing with that more. And we’ve talked about anything that we can get a cover or not even a cover, contact and colonization; the two sequels to Invasion so far…
Sean: Yeah, but man…
Johnny: A temporary cover…
Sean: I can’t wait to get it for those two. I know that that’s affecting conversion, just the fact that there’s not a cover yet.
Johnny: No. But even so, we’re seeing good uptake on the pre-order.
Sean: Yeah, the numbers are good. The numbers on pre-orders are great, but I think they’d be better with cover.
Johnny: Oh, agreed. But like we could– if we knew that we were going to finish that series this year – which we won’t – we could put a book seven or eight or whatever it is. Like assuming that we knew– and some people who’ve been doing this for a while, and have people used to Amazon pre-orders will basically just put up– they won’t even make a temporary cover. They’ll just use the default, like whatever they give you. No cover and you get the blank thing. And they’ll just put a title that can be totally tentative, and then something like two lines of description. But for these authors that have ravenous fan bases, they’ll just rack up those sales, and then boom, they hit on release day.
Dave: I [Inaudible] [00:13:43] on your Invasion book, on the second book, that you have the description. You basically give away the fucking ending. In book two description, you give away the ending of book one. I’m like, “What the fuck?”
Johnny: No, no, no, we– I was very careful about that…
Dave: No, you don’t. You be careful about that.
Johnny: I don’t want to discuss it, because I don’t want to inadvertently give a spoiler. But Sean and I talked about that on a meeting, and you need– it’s tricky with Sequels, because you need to establish interest via what people who just finished the book are most interested in knowing the answer to, but I don’t want to go into, but I did figure that out.
Sean: Yeah. I think that’s because– have you actually read the ending yet?
Dave: I read the ending.
Dave: Look at that, Dave finished the book and it took…
Sean: Wow! Let’s…
Johnny: Not a lot of time really.
Sean: Round of applause.
Dave: Wait, wait. I didn’t finish the book; I skipped head to the ending.
Sean: Oh, you…
Johnny: Did you really? Are you serious?
Dave: Yeah, I did.
Johnny: Oh, wow! That’s terrible.
Dave: Because I already knew what was happening in the book, because Sean and I had talked about the story before. And I was like I just want to know if the ending was awesome or not. So I skipped ahead to the end.
Johnny: Okay. But without the buildup you might feel that the ending was jarring, because you would’ve seen the seeds sown throughout. And last– although I guess that ending was probably the same as what you guys had originally conceived.
Sean: No, it’s…
Sean: But anyway…
Johnny: It’s not?
Sean: No, it’s a little different. But no I think that that product description does a good job of setting the stage without saying exactly what. You know it gives away the ending if you know the ending already, and you’re– there’s things that you’re inferring there, that aren’t actually in the product description.
Johnny: No. Yeah.
Sean: But anyway on preorders, there’s two things for everybody to watch here. The first is on Invasion, we’ll be able to report on how that’s going.
Johnny: You mean contact? The second one?
Sean: Yeah contact. Well in the invasion series, but yeah. And then and then Yesterday’s Gone, because we’re in the process of getting new covers for all of those, and then we’re going to put them all up, and we’re going to try to get pre-orders going for season six, which is Fourth of July. And so we have a little bit of time to really rack up those pre-orders, and that’ll be really interesting experiment to see how that goes.
Johnny: So there you go. Something cool and doubles as a self publishing tip, do you want to do– I have one voicemail, unless there’s more.
Sean: Yeah, and if we can get some of those questions that I know are in there, that’ll be awesome.
Johnny: Okay. Well this is the same ballpark. These are questions, this one was called in but there’s just one. Okay here we go.
Claire: Hey Self Publishing Podcast, this is Claire. I’m giving a quick call to ask you…
Johnny: Lovely accent.
Claire: Can you explain how the episode and structure of things would have been are different from straight up short stories or novel writing. I’d love to give episode [Inaudible] [00:16:41] a go, however I have no idea how the structure of the book, and how that works. So if you can explain how you actually structure each episode, that would be great. Thanks very much, bye.
Johnny: I wish there are some people here who are the kings of the serial.
Sean: I’ll take this very quickly, and then pass it to Dave. Mine is just cautionary. I think that if you’re not really into serial fiction, I don’t know that it’s something you should try as an idea. I think if you really…
Johnny: That is a tactic. Right? Because you’re creatively interesting.
Sean: Yeah, because it’s not a good tactic. It’s a very specific form of storytelling. Dave can talk to the differences, but really it’s like TV. It’s the difference– a novel is a movie, and television – like the blacklist – that that’s pretty serialized, right? [Crosstalk]
Dave: They’re stand alone, every episode they do stand– one of the few shows that does stand alone. And over [crosstalk].
Johnny: So it’s sort of like the X files?
Dave: Yeah a lot of shows like they do one of the other well. They’ll either do the mythology really well, but the standalone story will suck, or the stand alone stories will be good and mythology kind of sucks, although that’s a little rare.
Sean: It is a hard balance. But…
Dave: Blacklist does them both perfectly. You can tune in, and even if the mythology isn’t kicking it in all the right areas you know the bad guy of the week or whatever will be a very good show.
Sean: I just think it’s really important to– that’s not something you want to experiment with, because it’s very easy to satisfy a reader. One of the reasons that I am so excited to finish off Yesterday’s Gone is that as soon as Season six is done, it becomes something different. We’re not trying to talk people into starting something that’s unfinished. And that is the big danger with serialized fiction is that your reader is going to get something that doesn’t leave them feeling complete. And so you as the author need to do everything in your power to give them the feeling of completion. And even though you’re opening a wound at the end of the episode you need to make sure that there’s a lot of character development, and a lot of momentum, and a lot of things that happen that make it feel like a rich rewarding reading experience, otherwise they’re going to feel let down.
When Dave and I first– we’re doing this with Yesterday’s Gone. The biggest pushback that we got from successful authors who did know better was nobody wants to read their book cut up. That’s why it’s going to fail. And they were right. If we were planning on cutting up our book– but that was never our intention from the beginning. We really were doing a very TV type of thing. So it was a different model. It was just a totally different model. And I think that that’s just really important to keep in mind.
Johnny: I think that when we were originally– the story of the Self Publishing Podcast started when– well, it started with Sean and Dave. But the actual podcast started when Sean and I did– I interviewed Sean for my old blog. And I remember specifically we discussed that tactically. Sean said it worked well to have individual episodes of a serial as opposed to individual books, like it was a way to sort of quick start, then he described how that was like tactically but within the context of a larger strategy at the time, a way to get multiple titles up, and develop a habit.
Now by the time I entered the serial game, when we started writing the beam, and this impression has deepened. It’s become much more about do we want the storytelling experience of writing a serial, because we aren’t– one of us are releasing episodes anymore. The only exception is we’re doing that with adult video, because they do stand alone. It’s a sitcom; it just doesn’t matter if you read them out of order. But we’re not– like we would write a full season, so we would basically be making the decision between say 100,000 word book or 100,000 words worth of serial episodes. It doesn’t shorten it. It doesn’t give us more titles or anything like that. It’s just a creative decision. So I would approach it that way rather than thinking, how can you get multiple titles or something.
Johnny: So do you want to pop open that thing? I actually just lost the ball to my trackball, so I’m going to grab that now. So you can do that.
Sean: Yeah, I need to find it, so Dave if you want to carry the ball for a moment? While Johnny looks for his stress ball.
Johnny: I’m looking for my balls.
Dave: Yeah. Hold on let me just check out the comments here. Kate Morgan says, “You’re on time, who are you and what have you done with SPP?”
Sean: No. It’s crazy.
Dave: Gareth Robinson says, “I think you guys are saying the same thing about social media. No one ever finds me on social media, but it’s where my readers talk to me. They only talk to me though after they found me or my book [Inaudible] [00:22:00] usually through Amazon or You Tube.” YouTube is a freaking fantastic place to get an audience I agree with Gareth there. Gareth said, “I do not enjoy the blacklist.” Gareth, you’re wrong.
Johnny: Thank Dave. Weighing in. Do this…
Sean: Okay. I have the questions. Here’s one. This is from Dylan. He says, “I have so many story ideas to choose from, but I am having a hard time choosing the right one to work on for my first novel. I have several stories that are grand in scale, and I honestly think they could be masterpieces when I gain more skill. Should I wait to write the stories to not make them lesser quality due to it being early in my career?
Johnny: We’ve heard that before.
Sean: Yeah, I have two ways I will answer this, and I think that they are both right. But either one of you guys want to go first?
Dave: Well, I wouldn’t begin with the master epic story. I would begin with smaller more intimate stories, and really you know hone your craft. You don’t want– if you have something you truly feel is going to be epic, you should wait until your skill is good enough to actually deliver it well, because you only get one shot to write that book.
Johnny: I have two answers as well, but I’m positive they’re the same answers as Sean’s, so I will defer.
Sean: Yeah, first of all…
Johnny: Mine are contradictory. I would go both ways.
Sean: My book that I really-really want to get to someday is just the ideas in it are huge. And I just flat out don’t think I’m a good enough writer, yet, to tackle it. Although I’m way closer than I was seven years ago when I first started page one.
Johnny: You’re there writers.
Johnny: You got other tool sets working here.
Sean: So I don’t think that you know one part of me– that I think of that project as my Stephen King’s Dark Tower. It’s my lifetime project, whatever I’ll get to it someday. It doesn’t matter; I fundamentally think I can’t tackle that right now. It’s too big. But on the other hand if I was starting right now, I may not feel that way. And what I mean by that is that ideas are big, sure but so what? More ideas will come tomorrow. If anything I think that we grow by the project. I don’t think Dave and I could have done 12 two years ago. I don’t think Johnny and I could have done Axis our first year. I think that bottom line is we get better by the book, and ideas are free, and readily available, and more good ideas will come. And I think that it’s a mistake to kind of hoard your best ideas.
Somebody asked me for advice yesterday. This is somebody who really wants to write fiction. They actually want to write a cozy mystery. They have lots of ideas, and this is a smart-smart person. And they asked, “What should I do? I have a lot of ideas.” And the advice I said was. “I think you should write your book. And just write it as fast as you, can and don’t worry about it. And when you’re done, throw it away and immediately start a new second book.” And she laughed. And she said, “That’s just that’s great.” That gave her a lot of comfort, because that’s a thing. Like just write your book, and don’t worry about whether it’s good or great. And maybe you take that really good idea, and just write it, and spend a few months writing it, and just throw it away. Because you know what, your first book probably going to be kind of crappy. And that’s okay.
Dave: Don’t really throw it away. I would save it somewhere. Some day you might want to go back and see your very first thing even though it’s…
Sean: Yes. I don’t …
Johnny: Yeah. I agree with that.
Dave: Don’t burn it, and…
Sean: No, that’s not what I mean. But I also don’t think you need to spend a year trying to polish it. And that’s what I was trying to tell her. I said, “Look if you finish it, and you’re like ‘wow! This is much better than I thought it would be’ then go ahead, and polish and edit it, and get it out there. But if it’s just a mess, at least you got that first one out. And you can then, ‘Okay, I’m going to do this again.’ ”
That show that I‘ve been watching, I finally finished all seven seasons, Californication. And the main character Hank Moody is as a writer, and his daughter decides she wants to be a writer, and she’s eighteen years old. And she gives Hank a big stack, 300 pages of manuscript. And you can just see him, and the scene is beautiful. He’s just so uncomfortable. He’s clutching the manuscript to his chest. He so does not want to give his daughter feedback on this. And she is so looking up to him with these big brown eyes, and just daddy, “Tell me you love me.” And she just wants his opinion. And he says– she said, “So what do you think dad?” And he says, “I think you should go out tonight, and get drunk and be really– just throw yourself a party. This is amazing, that you did this. And then you should go home, and put it in a drawer, and never look at it again, and start your second book.”
It was so hard– you could tell it was really hard for her to hear that, and it was really hard for him to say that. And then later on the girl’s mom says, “How could you say that to her?” And he said, “Because it’s what she needed to hear, and if she can’t take it then she shouldn’t be a writer.” And I do think that there’s a lot of truth to that. I think that you need to be okay just throwing out your first work, and just starting right over. Because now it’s out of your system, and your second one is going to be better.
Johnny: All right. What else we got?
Dave: I had to see Monica…
Johnny: Oh, sorry.
Dave: With my seven year old son. He wanted to write a book with me. So then he was like all excited, because he’s like, “Can we put it up on Kindle?” He’s already counting dollars. And I’m like, “Oh, I can do this.” So I was like, “Listen buddy, nobody’s going to buy the book. Okay, we’re not going to make any money on it.”And he was just like…
Johnny: And there’s no Santa.
Dave: He just had this look of devastation on his face. And I was like– I was torn between telling the truth, and I’m going to lie to my son and say– and then just go like artificially buy the book so he thinks like he’s always a writer and making money. I mean, he’s a seven year old. He’s not going to write a book that anybody is going to read yet.
Johnny: Yeah, I’ve actually had the same discussions. It wasn’t heartbreaking though, like he seemed to get it, but yeah I’ve had that.
Dave: Your son’s older.
Johnny: Yeah, yeah.
Sean: All right let’s do…
Johnny: You want you do one more?
Sean: Well, I have two that could go kind of back to back. They’re both business related. So let’s…
Johnny: Okay, why don’t you get those out there?
Sean: Keep up first but, the first one is from Candace, and she says, “I know that you guys are friends, but do you use any type of co-writing agreement contract for projects or before you even started partnering? Either way what do you suggest for other writers? We’ve actually had this question a lot. And we’re going to say what we do, and then we’re going to very loudly say that it’s terrible advice, and it’s not what you should do. We’re all on hand shakes. We love each other, we’re brothers, whatever. We’re not that worried about it. We know it’s all going to work out in the end. That’s terrible advice; you absolutely should not do that. You should have very specific contracts.
I tried to get contracts with Dave a couple of times. He does not seem very concerned about it. And I tried with Johnny once, and he said, “Here it’s an e-mail. We’re done.” And we do need to get more buttoned up than that at some point. But it’s always a good idea to get stuff in writing exactly what’s going to happen if one partner dies. I think when I said that Dave got very uncomfortable. But I think that it is good business sense to get that stuff in writing. You know what happens when one partner dies; you know who controls the work, like that is important stuff. And we will do it for Sterling and Stone some day. We have not, and that is not good advice.
Dave: I’m just telling you, if I happen to die before we finish like one of our great series, and Johnny steps in, and turns it into a Unicorn Western or Redacted, I will haunt you both.
Sean: No. Whatever…
Johnny: That’s why he was uncomfortable.
Sean: You better hurry up with Yesterday’s Gone because…
Johnny: I’m Chopping at the bit I’m already…
Dave: I have a fourth July.
Jonny: I’ve started writing it.
Sean: Boricio is writing a unicorn right now.
Johnny: Like you’re going to be done by July, come on Dave.
Dave: We kind of have to be.
Sean: And then the final question is guys, the final question is as I understand it Sterling and Stone is the LLC and that company has many imprints, did you go somewhere to register those imprints? I’ve established an L.L.C. that is the imprint on record for everything we publish so far but now we’re looking at a very different mind that needs a new imprint. Do we just start calling it by the new name and that’s it? Again this is not advice I’ll tell what I think and what I would do, but really this is your own thing to figure out but…
Johnny: And we are not lawyers and various other details.
Sean: We don’t play them on TV, but this is– Sterling and Stone is our umbrella company. None of the other imprints are our companies except for Collective Inkwell because it was a company first and that’s actually going to be dissolved this year because there’s really no need for it, it is under the umbrella.
Johnny: It’s the only way I’m going to be able to write Yesterday’s Gone season six after [Inaudible] [00:31:02] death anyway.
Dave: That LLC is the only thing that’s keeping him alive.
Sean: Hey, Dave, do you know that Boricio is in Unicorn Western?
Dave: No, no.
Johnny: No, no. A character named Boricio , it is not Boricio in Unicorn Western. All right, so is that you don’t have more to say on that, do you?
Sean: No, that’s-that’s good.
Johnny: All right, so what I wanted to know is the 12 cover contest is well under way.
Johnny: And I wanted to know how that was going, were you able to open that back up so people could see it and how are people digging it and all that stuff?
Dave: Hold on one second.
Johnny: Is this URL still valid that I can give out? The one I gave you the other day.
Dave: What are you talking about?
Johnny: You ask for the URL where there was a post, so it’s still working?
Dave: Oh yeah- yeah-yeah.
Dave: That’s still there I wrote a post but…
Johnny: Okay, yeah the contest I guess this is the process, Selfpublishingpodcast.com/12-cover.
Sean: I sure thought it was just Sterling and Stone.
Johnny: Yeah-yeah, it redirects. We had this whole thing about how I think that the whatever– but that is the right link.
Dave: I also put a link to the poll in the comments on this video so people can vote. Well it’s live, hold on this shit, so okay, so we’re doing a cover for 12 as we mentioned last week. And okay, so one of the cool things about 99 designs is that you can, you can have a poll and you can have your readers help you pick the best cover and you know Sean and I were looking at a completely different cover than this one as, and right now this is like the top one and it kind of surprised me because you know we were kind of leaning towards a couple of other ones although I like this one a lot and I kind of helped the designer you know kind of flesh out the idea.
But this is this is just one of the cool things about doing, you do the poll and you know first place right here you can see how many you know how many stars like five stars, 37 people so far have given these five stars which is good and there’s comments that people can leave. They can say you know, what they liked, didn’t like about it. Here is our number two, which is a cover that we like; it needs some tweaking if it wins. Number three surprised me because I thought this was like the most basic sort a brand one.
Sean: Yeah, that surprises me too.
Dave: And number four is another one that you know, this is one that you know we kind of liked as the main one and you know this is like all the way down to fifth place.
Sean: I’m not surprised to see that down to fifth place.
Dave: Yeah, and this is a guy that did our dark crossings cover, I mean he’s a great designer and yes so it’s really cool, 99 designs allows you to have the sort of interaction with your readers and help get them interested you know in the cover and help actually, help with the process. Our readers are basically going to help you know, decide the cover that we’re going to do and it’s going to change. I mean we would have probably picked something different, but now we’re probably going to pick one of these other ones.
So we’ll have a meeting and discuss it all. But that’s one of the cool things about 99 designs is it’s a process you know you’re working with other people, you’re working with the designer to help flesh out the best cover, anything, get your readers involved in this great thing and you can read all about it at the link Johnny said. We talk about the entire process that we’ve done with this and other covers that we’ve done, and we’ll update you, you know when we choose the actual winning cover.
Johnny: All right guys, so our special podcast link to 99 designs is 99designs.com/spp. You use that you get the power pack upgrade which gets you more visibility and more attention, so on average you’re going to get a lot more designs, so 99designs.com/ spp. And with that said, I would like to welcome our guest who came in the middle of the not horrible ad read today for change Libbie Hawker. Nice to see you Libbie, thanks for joining us.
Libbie: Yeah, thanks for having me. You guys hear me okay?
Johnny: Yeah perfect.
Libby: Okay, good. Sometimes my head sets get a little wacky, so I’m glad that’s working all right.
Johnny: So I think we– I mean I knew who you were like we were– I think we exchanged a few emails but you’re a good example of a guest that I totally wanted to poach from the Rocking self publishing podcast after hearing you on Simon’s show talking about your book, Gotta Read It.
Johnny: I went and bought it and read it and said let’s have Libbie on our show.
Libbie: Cool I’m so glad that you guys had me on the show. I have to say just like from a purely ridiculous personal standpoint, I don’t know, like the beginning of 2013 before stuff kind of started to take off for me, I was working at this job I absolutely hated and I had this really long commute and I would like listen to your podcast, and I was just like driving, weeping and hating my life, and being like, oh I just want to write for a living, Self Publishing podcast. So yeah, so it’s pretty cool to be on here now to have sort of come full circle on that, also ringing endorsement for your podcast too.
Dave: By the way I still drive like that.
Libbie: I’m Libbie Hawker and I lead the steering wheel while I listen to the Self Publishing podcast.
Dave: I like that one.
Johnny. That’s actually, that is great to hear though. I love hearing stuff like that, so that’s great that’s great. I’m glad we were able to do that.
Libby: Yeah, cool.
Sean: And I read a few things on product descriptions and yours was by far my favorite I loved what you said, how you set it up, how you articulated it and your work, what you had that I think a lot of the same type of material is missing is the ‘why’ and I think that that ‘why’ is really important because it justifies it to the reader, it makes them understand why it’s important for the author to pay attention this stuff, and I loved all your ‘whys’ which is the great book and again I’ll say it to everybody listening to this, buy it because you have to get better at your product descriptions, good enough isn’t.
Libbie: Yeah and really is a huge, really important part of marketing and it’s one that is kind of like an afterthought for a lot of authors and I’m really glad you found it so helpful definitely and I’m glad you liked all those ‘whys’ I stuck in there because it’s a– I mean it has a big part for me whenever I learn a new skill I always have to know like the ‘why’, is been dead for long, you know every conceivable level of ‘why’ that I can get to it.
Sean: It matters so much more than the ‘what’, and it’s so easy to find a ‘what’ and I don’t know, you see in every industry it’s not just authors people get really hung up on what to do and that matters, so it’s just– it pales compared to why are you doing that. If you understand the why, then you can make up your own what that’s tailored to your situation.
Libbie: Yeah, absolutely, and also if you follow somebody else’s ‘what’, without understanding why that goes along with it, you’re just setting yourself up for failure or at least you are setting yourself up to not really comprehend exactly what you’re doing, so yeah.
Johnny: So let’s talk about the big what and then we’ll talk about the why. So the why is your product descriptions or as Libbie says inaccurately called blurbs, but that’s what people say.
Sean: The paragraphs that describe your book and we just sort of, we let other people handle those– it didn’t really pay a lot of attention to ourselves, it was sort of an admin task for a while there during our manic phase and…
Sean: You know Garrett wrote a few and he did well but not totally aligned in the way that I wanted to do when I revised them and it was just something we did vary by the way. So that’s the what, and let’s get, so let’s go to the why, like hit us with some ‘whys’ Libbie.
Libbie: Well I think that the big sort of, sort of like broad view why on why you want to nail your product description is because they– like I mentioned earlier there are a huge key part of marketing. The little analogy I make in the book which is called ‘Gotta Read It!’ for those of you who are curious about it. The analogy I make in the book is that your marketing basically is it kind of functions like a boat. So any boat needs a haul, a radar or something to steer with and some sort of propulsion mechanism like a sail.
So in order for your marketing to function like a boat, you have to have three components working equally well together before you can do anything else. So if you throw money at advertising your book or promotions or something like that, that’s kind of like the wind blowing and it’s not hitting anything on a sail. It’s not going to push your boat anywhere even if you have a nice sail up to catch all that money wind that you are throwing at it, if you can’t steer your boat or if you can’t keep it afloat it’s going to sink anyway. So until you nail these three aspects of marketing sort of as a fundamental, you are not going to go anywhere with your books.
Libbie: So the three parts of the book if you will that I talk about in the book are having a good title, which I think is very-very important, and another thing that gets completely overlooked in a lot of indiscernible authors. Having a great cover obviously you guys know the importance of that, but then the other one is having a really effective product description, and it’s so important, it just gets glossed over, and I think part of the reason why it gets glossed over is because it can be very difficult to write.
I think the reason why so many authors have a difficult time writing these product description is because we get so tied up in like the specifics of our plot, and all the cool things about our plot, that makes it unique and different from all the other books out there, but really on a psychological level what draws a potential reader to a book, and makes them actually decide to buy it is the familiarity they see in it. All the way is it exactly like every other book out there is what you should certainly be highlighting in this product description. It seems very counter-intuitive but works, so…
Sean: That makes perfect sense. And you have to– I think authors would be well served always to not think of their product description as part of the creative process, because it’s not, it’s copy. And not that copy isn’t creative, that’s not what I mean, copy is very creative but I can tell you personally, I hate writing product descriptions, and…
Johnny: Oh my God! I have wanted to kill people over product descriptions lately. I’ve been writing a lot of them.
Sean: Yeah, and because we hate it it’s easy to outsource. But unless you’re going to outsource it to a copywriter, which you know if you have the money to outsource your product descriptions to a copywriter, I think it’s actually a great idea, because they understand…
Johnny: Assuming they’ve read the book.
Sean: Assuming they’ve read the book, because they’re going to understand how to write that in a conversion a way. And for me personally, I think that’s why I hate writing product descriptions, because I have been a copy writer, and to me it feels like work. And the book is this magical fun thing that I’ve had so much fun writing, and I am so happy to get it out into the world, and now I have to do copywriting which I just don’t want to do, and so I have a lot of resistance.
Libbie: I know.
Sean: You have to get over that resistance. You have to think of it as a piece of marketing copy. You’re not telling your friend about how awesome your book is. And that’s not the purpose of a product description, that’s not your why. You’re not saying, “This book is awesome, and you’re going to love it.” You’re saying, “This book is going to feed this thing inside you, and this is why now.”
Libbie: Yes, and actually part of the thing I talk about in that book which is actually just expanded into another book too, I guess we can talk about that later.
Johnny: What’s the new one called just in brief?
Libbie: You guys we’ll like this, the new one is called Take off Your Pants.
Johnny: Oh, I do like that.
Sean: Oh, I do like that.
Johnny: That was our…
Johnny: Hook when we were at the copy blogger…
Dave: All my biography.
Johnny: Conference last year.
Libbie: It’s called Take off Your Pants: Outline Your Books for Faster Better Writing. And it basically just goes over my outlining method, what’s worked for me. So I’ve been able– with some of my books in the past to write a complete novel in as little as three week’s time. So it’s just outlining method that sets me up to be able to do that. But it extrapolates on some of the ideas that I kind of…
Sean: Is that out already?
Libbie: Yeah. It’s out now. I was smart and got it out right before I came on this podcast.
Dave: What did you do?
Johnny: That is smart. That’s the marketing mind right there. That’s fantastic.
Sean: You’re a shark.
Libbie: I try, I had a lot of time to think about this while I was listening to your podcast crying, so.
Sean: Did Dave usually cause the tears?
Libbie: It was usually you more than anyone else Sean, I’m sorry.
Libbie: No, I’m kidding. Dave is my spirit animal. Dave and I are very similar in many ways in our opinions. So…
Dave: What animal would I be?
Libbie: I don’t think you want me to answer that question, do you?
Dave: I do. I do want to know. What animal?
Johnny: I’m imagining a drug tippy sort of a sequence.
Dave: Quiet. What animal?
Johnny: Where Olivia is visited by a Dave.
Libbie: This is kind of an awkward question, because they I used to work as a zoo keeper. So I really have a real experience with animals.
Johnny: This is already my favorite. You have to answer now.
Libbie: Dave, this after a caveat, I had this has experience during my keeper days, when part of my job was to observe two giraffes who were supposed to be breeding. And…
Johnny: This is promising already.
Dave: I don’t have a sex life.
Sean: Dave, the breading giraffe.
Libbie: To make notes on exactly what happened, at what time and how long it lasted. So…
Johnny: I do that with people.
Libbie: So the long story short is you remind me of a taper, which has nothing to do with the sexy giraffe.
Dave: Taper? Okay. I got to look that up. I don’t even know what the heel it means….
Sean: Oh, Dave is goggling tapers right now.
Dave: Do I get an ant eater?
Libbie: Taper, no. They’re a distant relative of horses. And their super chill, like they’re really laid back and they just know they got…
Johnny: Well, no. That’s inaccurate.
Libbie: They got everything right. They’re like–
Johnny: Super chill.
Sean: Oh, I can see that.
Johnny: Are they also positive, and believe things will work out well? Because I think you struck out…
Dave: No. they’re the Goths [ph] of the horse.
Libbie: Of the horse family. Yeah.
Sean: All right.
Libbie: Anyway, where were we, I don’t even remember?
Sean: [Crosstalk] apocalypse we need a Dave the taper.
Johnny: Let me– let me give a why from the other the other side of the coin, because I think that this is– you do talk about this in Got to Read It, but I think it’s worth pointing out specifically, as a problem that we have to surmount, or trying to figure out. The reason that they’re so hard to write…
Dave: That’s an ugly animal by the way, Lord.
Libbie: I think you’re glorious.
Dave: I always knew you like Sean.
Johnny: Dave is glorious.
Dave: Okay, go ahead.
Johnny: The reason I think that there…
Sean: Why are they [ham]?
Johnny: The reason I think that they’re hard to write is because you’re trying to take 75,000, 100,000, 150,000 word book, and condense it into a few paragraphs. And you’re like, “But this thing happened, and it’s amazing because of this. And it’s just like this in this unique way.” And there’s not enough the room to get all that in. And if you tried, if you had a bullet point of like why my book is awesome, and then up and then a summary like a plot outline, it would be the worst product description ever, because it would bounce around a lot, wow and then this happen, and wow and then this happened, so yeah.
Libbie: Yeah, and I think it was Sean who mentioned earlier that part of the method that I sort of lay out in there is– you can simplify this process for yourself by bringing out in your product description what like psychologically will draw a reader to your story. Like it’s not going to be, “Oh this is a new fascinating concept, no one’s ever heard of before yardi yarda.” You’re going to feel the need, as one of you said earlier – it might have been you Johnny – you’re going to target the reader by showing what this book is going to do for them on a personal level. Like how it’s going to satisfy them in this sort of obscure way that they’re going to be drawn to, without even knowing that they’re necessarily drawn to it.
You do that by just basically highlighting the ways your story is in common with like every other story that goes back to you know the dawn of time. It’s like we can all agree since we’re writers and reading fans, that story has this like psychological connection to humanity, or I guess I should say that the other way around, humanity has a psychological connection to the story. So this is a way of sort of highlighting those psychological points that are going to draw people into your story, in this deeply personal and almost instinctive way. It’s going to make them really connect with it before they even start reading. And that’s actually– my outlining method is based on so I just go into a lot more detail about that in the outlining book. So you can see how you can kind of apply those psychological tricks to creating a story in the first place, so that it kind of guarantees that people are going to stay stuck to your story, and follow through with the whole way through.
The book is about how to highlight those aspects of your book and product descriptions that will hopefully sell your book, if you do it right.
Johnny: So how do you…
Sean: I just bought that. I can’t wait to read it.
Johnny: Sean is taking off his pants.
Libbie: All right.
Sean: The pants are off already. But they were off before you got on; it had nothing to do with you.
Dave: So one of the tricky things especially for us on the Collective Inkwell side is a lot of our book are a multiple POVs. [Inaudible] [00:48:38].There’s a taper everybody. Good God that is an ugly animal.
Libbie: I think they’re cute.
Johnny: What? Did something change? I’m not aware of anything.
Dave: When you have several storylines that are each important, not every storyline is of equal importance. But there might be like four or five story lines that are POVs that are– okay, okay. When you have several storylines, and a bunch of characters, and there all of somewhat equal importance or at least there’s more than one narrative going on that you feel is important, like everything kind of comes together in the end. How do you sort of put that in the synopsis without like confusing the hell out of people?
Libbie: Yeah, that’s a really good question, and I do go into kind of in more detail in the book. Bu sort of the Cliff’s Notes version is, first of all you should analyze it to make sure you really do in fact have multiple main characters. If you only have one main character, then what’s going on in his in his narrative, and in his side the story is going to have a direct effect on everything everybody else is doing.
So like Sherlock Holmes for example, always has a direct effect on everything that Watson is doing, you know. So even though the narrative is told from Watson’s point of view, even if you had a story that was both Watson’s and Sherlock’s, you’d probably write that product description focusing on Sherlock just because his action controls everybody else’s action, like his story ultimately controls everyone else’s stories. But yeah, sometimes you do have books where you truly have multiple like real main characters going through their own character acts at the same time.
And in that case, I try to set up– like one paragraph it kind of sets up this meaner sort of– sort of paints a general picture about the world the story is taking place in and sort of– maybe kind of touches on some of the broader ideas in the plot like if you look at the product description for Game of Thrones, you’ll see that it kind of– it’s like in a world where winter between last decades and evil is arising. So it kind of gives you a broader idea of the setting and then in the next paragraph you can sort of target a few of those key characters, like this person does this, and this person is looking for this, and this person wants to find X. And then you wrap it up with a nice little one.
Sean: And in that voice too, right?
David: In a world where Dave looks like a…
Libbie: In a world where tapings rule the earth.
Johnny: Okay. So I have a specific question that you may or may not have addressed in the book.
Johnny: And actually I’m going to ask this now because you said The Game of Thrones thing, but then I think we probably should say, “Okay, well for the basic, for a simpler story that isn’t all complicated, what are the five steps,” because that’s kind of what turns the lights on.
Johnny: But when I ended up– the hardest one that I’ve written so far was her description for The Beam season one. The Beam season two, I haven’t touched. It took me hours to write that description and I don’t know if people think it’s good, but sales are doing fairly well I guess, not fantastic but fairly well, and I think that description has something to do with it. So it’s long but anyway one of the things that I started with was the idea that I think I feel like– and tell me if you agree with this– that for Sci-fi and fantasy kind of maybe specifically, it’s like the setting, the concept of this unreal world that you’re painting is sort of like– it feels like it needs to be up top, it feels like it needs to be like in a world because that’s what readers of those genres– they want that setting set first and then okay, now that I know how cool it is for a paragraph then more of the hero’s journey sort of thing or would you agree with that?
Libbie: I think a lot depends on how well you know your audience and what specifically they expect. I mean I think if it is like that crucial to Sci-fi for people that they kind of shop for setting first and other aspects of the story secondary, then you may be on to something. I mean I think it’s always a good idea to put in some hints about what your setting is like in any product description no matter what you’re writing just because it helps to feel real, it helps to make the story feel like it’s really rooted in something for the reader.
But I think it is really psychologically, it’s the character and the hero’s journey that draws somebody to a book in my opinion. So I think you don’t want to put off that clear idea about a real character in a journey and a real character for too long in any product description. I think definitely you need to be introducing your main character by like the end of the first paragraph for sure.
Johnny: But the other problem with the beam is it is serialized and it’s– since most of what CI does is serial, I’m imagining that that’s a lot of your question Dave, right, is if you have this storyline, and this storyline, and this storyline and there is like six different POVs or something, that’s the way the beam is. And so what I ended up doing, and we really should go back to the five because we’re doing advanced without doing basic, is I ended up doing the scene setting and then I ended up sort of describing each of the characters a little bit, like in a hopefully in an intriguing way and sort of what they want. Like, I did the mini thing, like here’s who they are, here’s what they want and it’s a long ass product description, but it just felt necessary. So anyway I won’t go into that but do you want to give the five, like for a more basic story arc sort of way.
Libbie: Yeah. So for a typical story that pretty much only has one central character, or one character who is like really driving all the action, you’re always going to want to include these five things to achieve the same five things that every story since the dawn of time has or at least as far as I can tell. Obviously character duh, the character has to want something and you want to articulate that clearly in your product description. Some sort of force has to stand in his way so it’s not just like, “I want a cookie, I’m going to go and get one. The end,” you know.
Dave: Ah, it’s the Dave’s story.
Johnny: In a world where Dave is kept from his cookies.
Libbie: In a world where tapers can’t have cookies.
Dave: In a world I do not want to live in, all right.
Libbie: I don’t either, I love cookies. Okay, so you have the character who wants something, you have an antagonistic force. Then the character has to struggle against that force, so there’s some kind of conflict going on and then at the end the character either succeeds or fails in every story, but since obviously you don’t want to like spoil the story before anyone has even read it, instead of mentioning whether they succeed or fail, you just mention what’s at stake. So that way they get this clear feeling of like, oh they’re either going to succeed or fail otherwise why would you even bring up the world will explode if they don’t achieve their goal and whatever.
So that’s pretty much it in a nut shell, it’s really that simple, like it seems super, super hard to write these product descriptions. But then when you actually start doing it and just focusing on that character arc of like I want something, something’s stopping me, struggle-struggle stakes, it becomes ridiculous easy. Like you shouldn’t get over that hump and then you’re like, “Oh now I can see it all.” So…
Johnny: I take issue with the idea that it becomes ridiculously easy. I would challenge that right there.
Libbie: Well maybe I’ve just had a lot of practice with it, because I am not kidding. Like, in that book I said, from like the last 10 years I’ve been helping people write query letters and product descriptions out of my house, that was like my only hobby for a long time, which was sitting around and helping people refine their query letters. So I’ve had a lot of practice.
Dave: How do you even get started on doing that and people reaching out to you knowing that you had that particular set of skills like Liam Neeson?
Libbie: I used to hang out a lot and absolutely right, which I don’t anymore because frankly I think it’s turned into crazy town. But I hang out there and I’ve pretty much just like spent all my time…
Sean: This is episode is brought to you by [inaudible] [0:56:47].
Libbie: I’ve pretty much spent all my time in the query letter [inaudible] [0:56:54] for longer and I was just like, all I did when we had some down time like, okay I guess I’ll go and read query letter some more and help people. So that was it pretty much.
Sean: Both– this is off topic from the product descriptions, but what was it that got you over the hump? What was it from crying when going to work thinking about Dave, to like successfully publishing? Like what was– because I know probably a lot of people listening to this would love to know that also.
Dave: They are also crying [inaudible] [0:57:20].
Sean: They are crying right now…
Libbie: Okay. Everyone who is weeping right now listening to the Self Publishing podcast as tears and snorts stream down your face– no I basically the long and short of it is I self published finally. Like I had worked with two different agents for two years, neither one of them could sell my books. So I took one of the books and I was like well– it really had been rejected by like everybody who dealt with historical fiction but I was like, “Well this book is still good.” I know it’s a good book, I don’t feel like oh the publishing industry didn’t want it, so therefore it sucks.” You know, like I never got into that mentality.
Sean: Part of the [inaudible] [0:57:58] there for that.
Libbie: Yeah, exactly. I was like, “Screw you guys, this book rocks. What’s your problem?” So I just self published when I was like “Well I literally have nothing to lose by self publishing at this point, like every publisher has rejected it so whatever.” So I just like stuck it out there and not really knowing what was going on and then I kept pursuing other agents and trying to get my other stuff published. And then quietly over the course of several months I started getting deposits in my bank account.
And I was like, “Where the hell is this money coming from?” It was starting to freak out a little bit, it wasn’t a ton of money, but I was like, “Woh-woh-woh, what’s happening?” And then I remembered, “Oh yeah, I self published a book.” So I went and checked my stats and I was like, “Yeah.” I was starting to take off and find its audience. So at that point, I committed to write, the whole thing like turned to a series and to a four book series and all that and the rest is history. So that was it. No more weeping for me.
Sean: That’s awesome. So basically just the courage to finally do it, to believe in yourself enough to not let rejection hurt, right?
Libbie: Yeah. Like I have never really been that bumped out by rejection. I honestly felt like the one agent who did the majority of the submitting, I felt like she was maybe more intimidated by rejection than I was because she’d like send me a summary and be like, “Well the last five people we submitted it to were directors.” And I was like, “Great, let send it to five more.” And she was like, “I don’t know.” I was like, “I do it, do it. Send the book. So yeah rejection has never bothered me. It’s just difference of opinion as far as I’m concerned. So…
Dave: Everybody else is wrong.
Libbie: Yeah, basically. It was really just a situation where like I really don’t have any other options for this particular book, I might as well self publish it and just see if anything happens. And I expected like, oh you know, maybe like 50 or 60 people will read it and they’ll have a good time reading it because it’s a good book and whatever, and I’ll eventually get a publishing contract, but when I started to actually see money coming from this and seeing like people on the internet talking about my book, and like one lady made like a YouTube video about how much she enjoyed it. I was like, “Okay, this is getting real.”
Johnny: That’s awesome.
Libbie: Yeah. That was really sweet, I really enjoyed it. So…
Sean: And it’s easy to get that fuel, that once you have it early it fuels your next stuff because you know, “Okay, now I have people who are waiting for what I am going to write. They are going to read it and that’s exciting.” It’s just that first little burst that you need so you can get the confidence to go and then you get a little bit of fuel, you can go faster and harder.
Libbie: Yeah, exactly. And then I published on the second book in that series, that did so well that I was like, “Okay, I’m all in now.” So I pulled everything that I had on submission with like small presses and agents and stuff and I was like, “No longer available, self publishing everything.” So I just threw it all in. And I got to the point where I was like, “I’m not even interested in working with a traditional publisher, period.” I had– it was pretty cool. I had four– I had three publishers approach me later on about potentially signing contracts with them and I was like sorry.
Sean: Too late.
Libbie: Yeah. I was like, “Not interested, thanks,” and then like Union which is an Amazon imprint came along and approached me about a novel that I had self published called Tidewater and I actually was really interested in their contract. So I took a look at it and we eventually negotiated it and I did sign with them. So I’ve sold them two books so far. I’ll probably sell them some more in the future, but most of my stuff is still self published and will remain that way because…
Johnny: So to bring it back to the product description stuff…
Johnny: The first– I mean, I’m referring back to this like over, I’m like okay. So– and I basically got the five steps in my head now. The steps themselves aren’t terrible, like you just listed them, right. So nobody needs to buy a book, no kidding, you got to read it anyway, right?
Dave: The book has a lot of good examples.
Johnny: It’s got the– well I’m kidding anyway obviously. But my point is the first one that I really kind of– because it’s like it really stuck. Like I was like– it was one of those things like usually I can pull product description out of my ass but it was just like, “Oh okay I don’t know what to do here,” was for the first Lexi book that Sean and I wrote pretty much by ourselves which was La Fluer de Blanc. And then once it was just kind of like a light bulb went out. I was like, “Oh okay, I know what to do here.” It’s about a girl named Lily Whistler and she wants to open this flower shop in this exclusive [inaudible] [1:02:26] Plaza but she is confronted by her nemesis in the general snootiness of the area up to three and then she struggles against it, and then she either– what’s the qualified last one?
Dave: [inaudible] [1:02:42].
Johnny: It isn’t…
Libbie: What’s at stake?
Johnny: What’s at stake, right? And so once I started thinking in those terms it was easy and another one that was just like that was the newest platen truant Lexi title, the romantic comedy My Step Brother the Groom was the exact same thing. And I think that this, I mean can you talk about– one of the things you talk about is, get out of your own head and just write crappy answers to these questions…
Johnny: Don’t worry about them making sense because that’s kind of a good brain lubricant.
Libbie: Yeah exactly, I mean the first step to this process really is you just want to straight forward answer those five questions, like I literally answer them in like the stupidest dumbest sentences you can think of. Like who’s your main character? It’s this girl who wants to start a flower shop. Why does she want to start a flower shop? Like you’re not trying to– you’re not trying to like embellish it, like you’re not writing your product description yet. You’re just like setting up this framework that’s going to allow you to write it.
So you have to just answer them in like the most boring, dull responses you can think of, because that’s going to make sure you have a really clear guideline for when you start to expand that into something that’s more enjoyable to read, and it’s going to sort of entice readers in a little bit more. So yeah, you start out just like as plain as plain can be.
Sean: It’s like writing, right, you say it, and then say what you mean, and then say it well, right. You just take that first draft, it’s– just get it out of your head so that okay…
Libbie: Yeah exactly.
Sean: Now I got those questions answered and now I can make them sound better, and now I can really polish them to where it’s conversion oriented, you know.
Libbie: Exactly yeah, and you also have to keep in mind too with running a product description just like with the book cover, the job of that product description is not to tell exactly what happens in your book, the job is to make people want to click buy. So as long as you’re doing this in a way that’s pulling people in and making them feel invested enough to go and click, buy, then it’s successful. Like you don’t have to tell me everything about your characters back story, you don’t have to tell me what makes her special, you don’t have to tell me you know anything…
Sean: In fact if you do that’s detracting because it’s a spit…
Sean: Place where less is more because you’re selling curiosity and intrigue.
Libbie: Exactly yeah.
Sean: If the cover makes you curious, and the product description makes you curious, you’re much more likely to say I want to know more about that. But if you’re satisfying curiosity you know with the product description, or the cover is too detailed, then there’s less of a reason to click, because I got what I needed out of that, I want to go for a story where I’m more curious.
Libbie: Exactly yeah, so a big part of this process is definitely getting on your own way. Yeah, just making sure you’re doing this from sort of a business perspective, and that you’re evaluating whether you’re putting together a complete product description that moves a person from introduction to this world, to this question of what’s at stake? What’s going to happen? Wuuu don’t you want to find out more? And that will– should in theory you can convert them to actually buying, so that’s the way to do it.
Johnny: What’s important about this is that I think that a lot of authors don’t really understand that their descriptions maybe aren’t up to snuff. Because it’s like the book is about something to you as the author that may not be the best hook for– you know what’s a great example, Sean is Cursed, so we actually haven’t redone this product description yet, but to us that was…
Sean: We are on our own way.
Johnny: Because we were very much in our own way and Dave has been trying to push us out of our own way on this particular title. And so we’ve just started like Dave, tells us what to do. Like we’re trying to decide what should the name be?
Dave: Now listen to you old man.
Johnny: But we– that was the title, it was another one that was birthed from just a little dumb tagline, like Robot Proletariat was Down Abbey with robots and that one works as soon as we started like you know flushing it out. But Cursed was the fugitive with a chypre [ph] cobra basically, and the problem with the chypre cobra like is it’s basically a werewolf story, but because we made it if a chypre cobra it’s like we’re like it’s like I guess it’s a chypre cobra, and it’s unique and it’s different. And what will make more sense when we eventually get around to doing that is to align the title will probably stay Cursed, but we were debating that this past weekend.
The cover and the product description to align not with what its history to us, or what it is to us, or its uniqueness to us, but to what that ideal reader who may not be just like us wants to see in a book, and in this case obviously it’s basically a werewolf story and we have to position it that way.
Libbie: Exactly yeah.
Dave: Most people don’t want unique and different, they want to read the same damn story over and over really if you think about it.
Libbie: Yes it’s absolutely true.
Dave: So you’re saying chypre cobra, they’re thinking what the– I don’t even know where to put this in my head. If you say– if you make it more like it’s a werewolf story, well I fucking love werewolf stories.
Sean: No they should find out it’s a chypre cobra at the end of the book.
Libbie: It’s like the crying game you find [crosstalk] oh shit.
Dave: Turns out it’s a taper.
Johnny: Sean pitch in a new idea taper outlaw.
Libbie: Oh my God can I correct that with you?
Johnny: Yeah, there you go.
Libbie: Yeah you’re right and you do have to keep in mind what your audience [crosstalk] I loved it [crosstalk].
Dave: I’m looking at this taper, it looks like a fucking pigs combined with an anteater, I don’t like either of them.
Libbie: No they’re super awesome trust me, they’re the best. I also kind of have a penchant for mole rats, so you don’t want to ask me I guess what kind of animal you remind me of.
Dave: I’ll let you answer the question and I’ll read some of the comments about the animals and other people think.
Sean: Not about product description with animals really?
Dave: Well we do have one on topic comment so.
Libbie: Okay, I don’t remember what question I was answering anyway, so go for it.
Dave: On the topic comment, Carla Baku, says, “Product description is reader seduction, leave some mystery,” PS Libbie, I Love your Chasing Down the Moon, goes live Sunday, you’re mentioned in the acknowledgement, thanks for the push.
Libbie: Oh yes.
Dave: Nicholas Klingborg ph] says, “Dave is a pessimistic sloth…”
Sean: Wow that’s cold.
Johnny: Oh wow that’s kind of a character judgment.
Dave: thank you for your assessment.
Dave: Dan Ranke, I think I’m a porcupine, I love porcupines. Dan Ranke says, “I’d say Dave is like a turtle flipped on his back, he struggles to raise himself occasionally, but usually gives up pretty quick.” Sarah Negovetich [ph] I’m mangling that, “Dave is a honey badger.”
Johnny: Yeah he wouldn’t give a shit.
Dave: Yeah I don’t get. Spider Mcgee [ph] says, “Oddly Dave’s spirit animal is grumpy cat.” And I said in the comments, “Grumpy cat stole my persona,” Spider responded saying, “Don’t be like that Dave, it’s a great big world, and there’s enough hate for everyone, besides cats don’t live forever.”
Johnny: Libbie, if you worked in a zoo, I do need to know like zoologically speaking does a honey badger not give a shit, like do you know, because this has been perpetrated?
Libbie: I never worked with honey badgers, so I cannot comment on that point. I can tell you without a doubt mere cats don’t give any fucks at all.
Johnny: Zero fucks given there.
Sean: All right go to Jacob, we need the honey badger video in the show notes.
Libbie: Mere cats also have some really disgusting personal habits, so if you ever know anyone who is this really offensive person, they are a cat.
Dave: Jim Self says, “Libbie is awesome and a perfect guest for this show, I have to go back and catch the whole thing once you guys are gone.”
Libbie: Thanks Jim.
Dave: A lot of people like come in about half an hour after the show starts, because they…
Sean: Because they…
Johnny: Because there are spoil spots.
Libbie: I’m certainly such a crowd pleaser; you guys should have me on more often, good times.
Sean: We should do that.
Johnny: I think so.
Sean: I’m going to read your outline book right away.
Libbie: Okay yeah I hope you like it; let me know what think of it.
Sean: I’ve been reading a lot of writing this and that, and structure stuff lately, just because I mean it’s funny, because I don’t know if there’s a hundred pages there, ninety eight of them are usually like, yeah I know, right. But then there’s that one thing and that’s all you need, one thing that makes you that much sharper and that– at this point I just read so much, and I’ve written so much, and I’ve just I’ve been doing it, so there’s not a lot to surprise me. But I just need a few things; I just need a few nuggets, that make me that much better at what I do. And so I always love it and there’s a lot of outlining books out there like a lot, but I read your product description and it was great. So I’m really excited about this.
Libbie: There you go. There’re a lot of outlining books but none of them are called Take of Your Pants, and that’s has to count for something.
Sean: I probably would have bought it as a hi-five anyway, but I am actually going to read it [crosstalk].
Dave: You really miss a golden opportunity here, I mean you could have made the title Take Off Your Pants and Beat it.
Johnny: Oh my God that would have been good.
Libbie: That’s a good point. There’s that album though, some 90s band of Melbourne called Take Off Your Pants and Jacket though, so I couldn’t like…
Dave: Oh that’s was Blink 182.
Libbie: Oh yeah, Blink 182 I think, I’m trying like reaching back into my early days here I’m trying to remember who that was, but yeah that was great though, Take Off Your Pants and Beat, and I do have a beats in there too. But I do beats in a very special way, they have a shape.
Sean: Wow a shaped beat? My beats do not have shape.
Johnny: No they’re shapeless.
Libbie: No see this might be the thing that you find useful out of this book then, because my thing is that every part of a book has the same damn shape. Like the mental shape of the book is in an inverted triangle…
Dave: What’s the [inaudible] [01:12:47] shape?
Libbie: It’s an inverted triangle like this everything, and then all the chapters are inverted triangles inside of it, and then inside all the chapters, all the scenes are little inverted triangles, shapes.
Johnny: Wow now I’m intrigued, I am going to have to get it too. All right, so we should get to– I’m very excited about Better Off Undead today, so we should get to that.
Dave: It’s a little early.
Johnny: But Dave doesn’t even know what’s going on.
Sean: Normally we burst on Dave, but today we’ll be bursting on me, so it’s going to be great.
Johnny: But Libbie’s book is Gotta Read It, and L-I-B-B-I-E is her first name and H-A-W-K-E-R, and like Sean said everybody should read it, it’s a fast read, and one that I think will make a very tangible difference to your ability to write product descriptions. The new one is Take Off Your Pants…
Dave: And beat it.
Johnny: And Beat it. Any other things, where would you like to– where do you want to plug? Where should people find you?
Dave: Where would you like people to harass you at?
Johnny: There you go.
Libbie: You can find all links to my books– I need to put up Take Off Your Pants, I haven’t put it up yet, on my website libbiehawker.com and like Johnny says, “L-I-B-B-I-E H-A-W-K-E-R. com” So find all my stuff there, you can contact me there if you want to, I’m pretty friendly, I’ll talk to you, whatever so.
Johnny: There you go she’ll tell you what kind of animal you are. All right, so thank you so much for being on this…
Dave: You should come up with another animal…
Johnny: This is great [crosstalk] anyway.
Libbie: Thanks for having me guys.
Johnny: So this has been the Self Publishing Podcast, thanks for joining us guys, check out our publishing guide at [email protected]/wpr but you know that by now already, thanks everybody we’ll see you next week.
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