No, not writing stories with an idea of what will sell sell, but things like cover copy, Amazon online blurbs, and ads. I put in a lot of work during the countdown to publishing Questionable Minds. I browsed Amazon ads when they pop up in my FB feed, and they pop up a lot. It was primarily to get a sense of how other authors push books online, though it’s also just part of my love for books in general. When I worked at Waldenbooks in the 1990s I’d read the back copy of lots of books just to see what they were like. “Men’s adventure” books, Sweet Valley High, Babysitters Club, serious literature. It’s one of the things I miss about bookselling — sure I could do it in a bookstore but I rarely have that much time.
The style in promotional copy has changed a lot. Author Gail Z. Martin (I know her from cons) says it’s due to Amazon allowing all kinds of searches so including really nitty gritty specifics about tropes and subcategories helps grab readers. Thus romances (I’ve no idea why I get so many — it’s hardly my first pick) break down into subcategories such as grumpy single dad, grumpy boss, grumpy neighbor, grumpy single-dad neighbor. Plus lists of tropes such as enemies-to-lovers, friends-to-lovers, bullies-to-lovers (that one makes me want to vomit), smoldering romance, sweet and gentle romance, frazzled single parents, etc.
So, here’s mine: ”
Enter a “steam-psi” Victorian world where newly discovered “mentalist” abilities are changing everything — and they’ve given Jack the Ripper a path to absolute power.
In Victorian England, 1888, some say Sir Simon Taggart is under the punishment of God.
In an England swirling with mentalist powers — levitation, mesmerism, human telegraphy — the baronet is unique, possessing mental shields that render him immune to any psychic assault. Even some of his friends think it’s a curse, cutting him off from the next step in human mental and spiritual evolution. To Simon, it’s a blessing.
Four years ago, the Guv’nor, the hidden ruler of the London underworld, arranged the murder of Simon’s wife Agnes. Obsessed with finding who hired the Guv’nor, Simon works alongside Inspector Hudnall and Miss Grey in Scotland Yard’s Mentalist Investigation Department. Immunity to telegraphy, clairvoyance and mesmerism are an asset in his work — but they may not be enough to crack the latest case.
A mysterious killer has begun butchering Whitechapel streetwalkers. With every killing, the man newspapers call “the Ripper” grows in mental power and in the brutality of his attacks. Is murder all that’s on his mind or does he have an endgame? What plans does the Guv’nor have for the Whitechapel killer? And if Simon has to choose between stopping the Ripper and unmasking the Guv’nor, how will he decide?
Questionable Minds is set in a Victorian England struggling to preserve the social hierarchy while mentalism threatens to overturn it. The cast of characters includes Dr. Henry Jekyll (and yes, his friend Edward Hyde too) and multiple other figures from history and fiction. It has a tormented, morally compromised protagonist, serial-killer villain, a devoted father-daughter relationship and a passionate but complicated love affair.
Trigger Warning: Multiple brutal murders. Nineteenth-century sexism and imperialism. A child in danger.”
I think it works. I hope I’m right. I’m also thinking of going back and redoing the copy for Atlas Shagged and Atoms for Peace and seeing if that can juice sales any. Can’t hurt! Questionable Minds is available in ebook on Amazon or other retailers. Or there’s the paperback.
And while I’m promoting myself, I’ll note that McFarland iscoffering 40% off all titles through November 28, including all my books such as The Aliens Are Here. Use HOLIDAY22 as the code at checkout!
#SFWApro. Covers by Samantha Collins (t) and Zakaria Nada.