The Everyday Author

For authors who can't quit their day jobs...yet

Month: July 2016

Book Review: Sizzling Synopsis by Bryan Cohen

Disclaimer: I received a free advanced review copy of Sizzling Synopsis in exchange for this review.

There are more writing craft books out there than you can shake a stick at and almost as many covering a myriad of other topics like writing faster, outlining better, building an author business, selling your books in Tijuana…well, you get my point.

One topic lacking resources, however,  is synopsis writing. I’m talking about the hard-hitting, grab-readers-by-the-seat-of-their-pants-and-steal-their-wallet descriptions you need to sell books.

I was fortunate enough in my budding career to have bestselling author Michael Sullivan take me by my young noobish hand and guide me through my first synopsis — an act of mercy for which I’ll be forever in debt to him. You don’t want to know how bad my first dozen attempts were. A year or so down the line, I discovered Gotta Read It! by Libbie Hawker, a book I refer to every time I write a new synopsis.

But as good as Gotta Read It! is, it really only skims the surface of synopsis writing. You get the how-to, but not so much inner workings. In my experience, not knowing why things work will only get you so far. Luckily, that’s where Bryan Cohen’s Sizzling Synopsis comes in.

5136lZOX2ILHow to Write a Sizzling Synopsis: A Step-by-Step System for Enticing New Readers, Selling More Fiction, and Making Your Books Sound Good is the book that pulls back the covers and show the moving parts of a killer synopsis that drives sales. Bryan’s made a career out of copyrighting and last year also brought his talents to the author world with a book description service called Best Page Forward that’s saved countless authors from rambling, boring blurbs.

The skinny:

Why you need it: If you’re an author you need to know how to distill your book down to its most potent form (just like a jug of moonshine), for both readers and potential publishers. Sizzling Synopsis not only shows you the how of writing a great synopsis of your book, it shows the why behind a variety of sales copy writing tricks.

An inside peak (three tips from Sizzling Synopsis):

  • “When in doubt, save it for the book.”
  • “You want your blurb to have momentum throughout the short piece, taking your daredevil reader up the ramp, all the way across the chasm, and safely to the other side where they can start reading your book.”
  • “You’re not the one buying your book. Practice the art of selflessness and think about your reader.”

The bottom line: Nobody wants to suck at any part of their author business yet tons of authors out there write long, abhorrent descriptions of their book like they’re being paid by the word. Do yourself a favor and do it right.

Make hay while the sun shines

It’s a calm night around the first of July. The sun’s just gone down, leaving a grey gloam over the fields of fresh-cut hay. Off in the distance, however, a wave of storm clouds threaten on the horizon. But instead of kicking back on the proch to watch the ensuing thunderstorm, I’m sitting on a tractor, raking hay and hoping the storm passes by.

Putting up hay, like many other aspects of farming, isn’t an endeavor that respects a schedule. You irrigate the fields nonstop until the water’s gone and then, when the hay’s ready, you put it up. Doesn’t matter if its your birthday or the Fourth of July — you’ve got about a four day window to rake, bale and stack the hay before it gets rained on. Hence the expression: make hay while the sun shines.

This same urgency would serve many lackadaisical authors as well. It’s easy (waaaaayyyy to easy) to give in to a thousand different excuses and procrastinate the writing. Here’s a sampling

  • It’s too early to write
  • It’s too late to write
  •  I don’t have enough time
  • I can only write at home on my couch
  • I can only write when no one’s around

And so on and so forth.

I’ve been there — I’ve found myself crippled in the past when, for one reason or another, I missed my “writing window” for the day or told myself I shouldn’t write at all because I couldn’t hit my word count. Sometimes it’s a roller coaster. In the winter, life slows down and I can stick to a balanced schedule better. Summertime, on the other hand, is an insane ride at hyperspeed with a thousands different things (including — you guessed it — putting up hay) going on. It’s easy to allow resistance to talk you out of doing something when your ideal conditions aren’t met. So what are we to do?

We make hay while the sun shines.

We do what we can when we can, because something is always better than nothing.

Sometimes (read: most of the time) if you’re balancing out a day job, a family and a million other things, it’s easy to get discouraged at the lack of progress on your latest project. Instead of getting down, however, you’ve got to attack it. By attack, I mean writing whenever you get a spare moment, pounding out a hundred words here and there whenever you can wrestle away a few minutes for yourself.

You’ve got to do what you can when you can with what you have.

It’s easy to convince yourself you need ideal conditions to write: a 67.5 degree room temperature, 38 minutes of quiet meditation beforehand, the sound of two gophers mating outside your window — whatever it is kick this crap to the curve and just do the work. Fifty words a day is better than nothing. ONE word a day is better than nothing.

Conditions and results will vary. You’ll likely get frustrated. But as time progresses you’ll learn to plan ahead for these crazy times and take advantage of what you’ve got, when you’ve got it.

Forget the notion that writing can only occur under ideal circumstances. It doesn’t. It happens whenever you make it happen. If JK Rowling could start Harry Potter on a napkin, you can make ten minutes.

As the saying goes. Make hay while the sun shines.

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