What considerations should go into choosing a book excerpt for a blog tour or a post on social media?
First and foremost, you must understand that an excerpt is a sales tool. If you keep that in mind, you’re already leagues ahead of most touring authors.
If you’ve been following this blog, then you know that I work as a freelance publicist. I also host book tours on two of my websites. These circumstances have allowed me to study book excerpts from dozens of authors.
Without pointing a finger at any one of these hard-working, well-intentioned writers, let’s just say that some of their excerpts left me confused. Some turned me off. Some left me sighing, “Ho-hum.”
The takeaway here? I would never have bought that author’s book, based on the scene that was excerpted.
So what is the secret to choosing a book excerpt that has a fighting chance of selling your novel?
Here are six tips, based on genuine book marketing strategy.
1. Pick an Excerpt that is Appropriate for the Host Blog
In the greater blogosphere, there are tens of thousands of places to tour. Clearly, a blog whose readers like Inspirational, Christian-themed Romance is not going to be too keen on your Vampires. Or your Ax Murderers. Or your Erotica.
(One wonders why your publicist would send you to such a completely wrong market for your book in the first place! But sadly, this does happen.)
Before choosing an excerpt for your novel, ask the blog owner what his/her readership prefers. In other words, which articles seem to get the most “likes” or “comments.” If the answer is “Sweet Romance,” and you’re writing Erotica, guess what? You’re in the wrong place.
If you choose to appear on the website anyway, you’re not winning over readers by shoving Erotica (or Vampires, or Ax Murderers) down their throats. You are turning them off. So choose an excerpt that reflects the reading tastes of the blog’s audience.
2. Pick an Excerpt that Sells Your Book.
You have 300 words to sell your book. (Some blogs give you more space, some give you less.) If you understand your target audience, choosing a scene should be a no-brainer.
Romance readers want to see sparks flying between the hero and heroine. They do not want to see a lovely sunset over the ocean, or a breathless horse race, or the witty repartee between your heroine and her witch of a mother.
If you’re writing Mystery, Fantasy, or Science Fiction, be careful not to drop your reader into a scene that begs for information. World-builders are particularly guilty of excerpting confusing passages.
Remember Fantasy writers: nobody except you knows what a "sniggerflop" is. Surely you can find 300 words that showcases something interesting in your story, without confusing your readers with references to sniggerflops!
(BTW: If you can’t show readers what a sniggerflop is in the context of your scene, write a background note for the beginning of your excerpt.)
3. Pick an Excerpt that Can Stand Alone
Never assume that anyone has read previous excerpts, especially when you’re in the middle of a blog tour.
Sure, you want them to read all your brilliant excerpts. But be realistic. Readers are busy. They forget things. Planning a blog hop in which a reader has to back track to Day 1 to understand Day 4 is a recipe for failure.
For excerpts, follow the same writing rule that you would for a spin-off novel: make it capable of standing alone. If you need to set up your scene to accomplish this goal, then write a background note for the beginning of the excerpt.
4. Pick an Excerpt that is Emotionally Charged
I marvel at the number of book tours that provide excerpts with absolutely no emotional hook. Emotion SELLS BOOKS, people! (Was that emotional enough for you?)
No one gives a rat’s fanny how beautifully you can describe a thimble! People read books to live vicariously through the emotions of your characters. So choose an excerpt in which your reader is experiencing a character’s happiness, sadness, lust, anger, etc.
By the way: humor is an especially popular device for selling books via an excerpt.
5. Pick an Excerpt that Ends in a Cliffhanger
Remember: your excerpt is a sales tool. To sell a book, your audience must be willing to open that moth-eaten wallet and shell out cash. (Translation: your reader must want to read more.)
If you can’t find a compelling excerpt that ends in a cliffhanger, then edit or re-write the passage to give it a cliffhanger ending.
6. Pick an Excerpt that Titillates, Rather than Consummates
Warning: many blog readers are offended by sex.
If you're appearing on a blog that cheerfully welcomes sexual passages, then keep in mind that most readers (especially female readers) are turned on by emotional titillation, not by graphic physical descriptions.
Without emotional tension, panting and grinding reads like Pornography. Even Erotica readers don’t want to read Porn.
One final word about sexual excerpts: be sure that you end the scene with a sexual cliffhanger. If you show every lusty detail, all the way through to consummation, why would anyone want to spend money to read your book? You gave away the “good stuff” for free.