Ad Copy Writing Techniques

Ad Copy word cloudBooks exist at the intersection of art and commodity. As art, they suffer from the same malady of all art: they often get short shrift in the multiple priorities of daily life. People can and do live their whole lives without reading for pleasure. It is difficult from a marketing perspective to argue for a novel as essential.

People have a multitude of ways to spend their entertainment dollars, too. It might seem as if reading is being squeezed out as a pastime, but according to research by the Pew Center, Americans read about as much as ever. That’s good news, but it’s not great news. While Americans may read as much as ever, they don’t read a ton:

The typical American read five books in 2013, according to the Pew Research Center’s new report on reading and e-readers. That’s the median, rather than the average, meaning half of Americans read more than five books and half read fewer; if you look just at people who read at least one book last year, the figure rises to seven. All those numbers are similar to findings from previous years.

If the average consumer reads only five books a year, that means plenty of books will be left on the virtual shelf. People need a reason to choose your book. That’s where ad copy comes in.

The purpose of all ad copy is to persuade. There are several common strategies employed in writing ad copy:

This lets the reader know the author has some credibility or expertise that makes the writing more realistic. Ad copy built around authenticity makes the reader think, This guy knows what he’s talking about. An example of authenticity in ad copy might be something like this:

Sixteen years as a Chicago homicide detective gives Nate Kowalski’s writing a gritty realism that is hard to find in today’s fiction.

The appeal to authority is a very common ad technique. This is the don’t take my word for it approach. If your book has a glowing review from a highly credible review source like the New York Times Review of Books, Kirkus, or Big Al’s Books and Pals, you can use that. If your book has won an award, been named book of the month, or whatever, you can use that. Another variation is the inclusion of an endorsement by a well-known fellow author or celebrity. The point is to make the reader realize that outside, independent, and credible sources have read the book and pronounced it good.

People often like to read what other people are reading. If your book is a bestseller, a book club choice, or has tons of reader reviews, that’s important for people to know.

If your style is like that of another well-known author, knowing that may be helpful to people who like the better-known author. In general, it is better if this similarity is pointed out by someone other than YOU. If you say it, it just comes off as empty braggadocio. So, it’s much better to have ad copy that reads:

“Stanley Bishop’s ability to send a chill up the reader’s spine is evocative of an early Stephen King. This is an author to watch.” – Guy Somebody, Cleveland Herald.

than this:

Fans of Stephen King are sure to enjoy my spine-tingling and suspenseful stories.

Not everybody wants to read the same old thing, or the same thing as everyone else. Sometimes readers get genre fatigue. If your story is different, sell it as different:

Tired of the same old he-loves-her-he-loves-her-not romances? The Love on the Rocks series explores romance the way people actually experience it – raw, powerful, painful, and even funny.

Writing ad copy can be challenging, but it is a golden opportunity to shine a slightly different light on your book. Working in company with a quality cover, a polished book description, and a well-written preview, the ad copy can push the undecided consumer off the fence and into the checkout line.

Author: Stephen Hise

Stephen Hise is the Evil Mastermind and founder of Indies Unlimited. Hise is an independent author and an avid supporter of the indie author movement. Learn more about Stephen at his website or his Amazon author page.

14 thoughts on “Ad Copy Writing Techniques”

  1. Do you mean, Stephen, that I should put as ad copy that my first romance was a recommended read by on USA Today’s Happy Ever Blog and not just on the back of my print book 🙂

  2. If you struggle writing your ad copy, take a look at some of the remarks in your reviews. There have been a few folks who have sent me ad copy that just fell flat. In some of those cases, I looked at their reviews and came up with some very helpful suggestions for them. Give it a try. You might already have someone writing ad copy for you. 🙂

  3. When I was writing ad copy in the seventies they gave me a list of the hottest button words in direct mail copy. I arranged them into the following sentence,
    “You save time, money, with new patented love discovery.”

  4. In the fifties it was determined that the most popular words in titles were Lincoln, Mother, and Dog. There was an immediate flood of articles and books titled “Lincoln’s Mother’s Dog”

  5. Great post, EM. I particularly like how you’ve broken ad copies into types. Mine definitely has to fall into the ‘different’ category. Going to go work on it right now. 😀

  6. All great points, EM. I have to remind myself when I’m writing blurbs and stuff like that to take off my author hat and put on my marketing hat.

    Of course, then I have to restrain myself from making the blurb sound like a late-night infomercial. “Call before midnight tonight, so you don’t forget!” 😉

  7. What I’ve been struggling with lately, and reading tutorials is kind of the opposite of this… words NOT to use in email headlines and therefore trigger spam traps. Quickly try to think of a headline for your new free book that doesn’t include the words Free, discount, save, new, deal….

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