Wednesday, December 11, 2013

Writing 101: Shock Value

A long time ago, people who wanted to sell papers would stand in the streets and shout the headlines. Sounds a bit crazy, sure, but just envision it for a moment. You're on your way to work, head still in a bit of a morning fog, and you hear someone cry "Killer Bees Heading This Way! Read all about it!" You're totally going to stop, right? Like, what's the point of rushing to work if you're going to potentially be fatally attacked by bees? What I'm really trying to share is this: shock value can be used to sell things. 


Boo!

It happens all the time, as a matter of fact. Remember the "your brain on drugs" commercials? How about the anti-texting commercials that make you feel terrible? The sad dog commercials where someone sings a horribly depressing song? Shock value. Certain ads are designed to shock your senses. They want to show you something so frightening, so depressing, so surprising that you react and you remember it. You can use that same technique in order to sell more books. 


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The two pitches above are examples of tweets that an indie author might send. Read them both. Which one is more compelling? Which one makes you want to click on the link to learn more? Shock value works. If you use something a little bit exciting, or titillating, or provocative, you offer something that's more entertaining. The more entertaining your pitch, the more likely it is that readers will check out your book (and allow you to entertain them a little longer). 

Just don't take shock value too far. Many people have done this, and it always goes poorly. Stay just on the line of provocative, and avoid becoming offensive. It's okay to make your pitches more exciting, and you should. Just remember not to cross the line while you're doing it, and you will sell more books because of it.

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