Writing Ad Copy and Elevator Pitches: Part 1

The first Sunday of every month, my critique group, The Hourlings, holds a writing or marketing workshop for the first hour of the meeting. Group members propose and decide on topics, and depending on what the topic is, the best-suited or most interested member presents on it. I suggested practicing writing ad copy and writing elevator pitches, which auto-volunteered me to lead the workshop next week. I figured what better way to organize my thoughts and prepare than to turn it into a post. I am in no way an expert. I just want to improve, and the best way to do that is by practicing.

I got the idea for this workshop from an episode of the Science Fiction & Fantasy Marketing podcast (which I listened to long after it was originally aired) in which they interviewed Brian Meeks about Amazon ads. Meeks explained the importance of ad copy. Around 58:30 is where he starts talking about writing ad copy fo rdifferent demographics. (He’s talking about Facebook ads at this point, which I hear are very difficult to master.)

The most important thing is to determine who your customer is. What is your target demographic? What does your ideal reader look like?

STEP 1: Write in some detail about your ideal reader/target demographic.

  • What do they like? Dislike?
  • Who are they? School? Work? Hobbies?
  • What else do they like to read?

STEP 2: Write ad copy that would entice your ideal reader to click on your book ad.

  • Write a lot of these, at least 15-20.
  • Keep it short. One to two sentences is enough.
  • Some inspiration: Put us in the world. Show us the stakes. Introduce your character in one sentence or one word. Tell us about the villain. Tell us why we’ll love the book. Use the same voice as your narrator. Write the line that would get you to pick up your book. Compare your book to another book we love.

Look over your copy. Is there a hook that will attract your ideal reader to your retail page? Is there a lot of open space? Walls of text repel readers.

STEP 3: Choose your top three to five examples. With a friend/fellow writer/reader, preferably someone in your target audience, go through your examples and see which ones appeal the most. Discuss why some work and others don’t.

STEP 4: Take the feedback you’ve gotten and improve your ad copy.

Once you’ve got some good ad copy, you can test it out. From what I’ve heard, Facebook ads are a pain and money pit. AMS ads might be an easier place to start. There are plenty of books out there on AMS ads (Amazon ads) that delve into different strategies, but you should choose a platform based on your goals and where your audience spends its time.

STEP 5: Consider another group of readers who, while they are not your target audience, would still enjoy your book. What elements of your book would they enjoy?

  • Write more ad copy targeting these readers. Repeat process.
  • *Nota Bene: You don’t want to falsely advertise your book to get people to buy it, because they might not like it and give you a bad review because you didn’t deliver what you promised.


So what’s your book about?

This is the other aspect of “advertising” I want to work on. It boils down to what is basically an elevator pitch. Though originally intended for pitching your book to an agent or editor for the 30 seconds or so they might be trapped in an elevator with you at a conference, it’s very useful to have a pitch like this ready for potential readers and curious friends-of-friends.

At least I imagine it would be. I haven’t mastered the elevator pitch, but I’ll be doing a book signing soon, and I want a succinct, coherent pitch that will turn browsers into buyers. After our ad copy exercise, we’ll work on our pitches.

I think that using your blurb (if it’s good, which it hopefully is) as a starting point is good. Here’s the blurb formula I use as a jumping off point:

When INCITING INCIDENT occurs, PROTAGONIST must complete SPECIFIC OBJECTIVE, or else STAKES. (I stole this from Martin Wilsey in my writing group. I’m not sure where he got it.)

This should be short. The next step is to use some of that ad copy to personalize or spice things up depending on who you are talking to. My pitch to a 25 year old woman will be different than my pitch to a 50 year old man. I just haven’t figured out what that difference looks like.

So, these are the two things we’re going to do in workshop next week. I plan to write up the experience. Unless things go horribly wrong, in which case I’ll pretend none of this ever happened and go back to what I like to think of as “Jon Snow mode,” aka I know nothing.

Happy writing!

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