Poorly Written Headlines #2

This has been a bit of a slow week, so I thought I’d do another edition of Poorly Written headlines. It’s been a while since I did the first of these, so here’s a refresher on strategies to writing good press release headlines and sub-headlines.

What this headline does right:
  • Tells us the author’s name and book title (both redacted)
  • Tells us the genre: action thriller
  • It’s at least 63 characters long (depending on the real author and title length), but the phrase parallel universe would likely be cut off in listing pages, so all we’re really left with is the Who  and the What
What this headline does wrong:
  • Describes the book as taking place in a parallel universe

This headline is more of a statement than a news announcement. It reads as if it was pulled from a descriptive paragraph and slapped into the headline.

Why does it matter that this book takes place in a parallel universe? The vast majority of speculative fiction takes place in some form of alternate reality, whether it’s our universe with some weird shit happening, or a completely unique fantasy world.

Try searching for “parallel universe” on Google and you’ll get 500 million results. Add “books” to that search, and the top bar will show works by authors ranging from Pratchett, to Asimov, to Pullman. The book named in this headline is not competing with those names.

What could be done differently:

Basically, the back half of this headline is fluff; it has no real meaning, and it’s not doing the press release or the book it’s promoting any favors by being so generic.

Instead, the author could hint at why this parallel universe is interesting, or maybe provide a news announcement, such as the release date. Here’s an example without completely butchering the format:

[Author’s] exciting action thriller, [Book’s Title], will be Released this Summer!

It’s not perfect, but it provides some valuable information to the reader–they should check out this book and add it to their summer reading list.

What do you think? How would you make this headline pop more?

Steve D

Poorly Written Headlines #1

Yesterday, I discussed how a bad press release headline can kill your book promotion efforts before they’ve begun. But I’d like to provide some actual examples of what headlines do right, and what they do wrong.

So here’s the first in what will be an ongoing series:

What this headline does right:

  • Gives the genre: science fiction adventure
  • Gives the intended audience: young readers
  • Tells us that this is a series of books, so either the author already has books published, or they intend to publish more, i.e., we should all keep paying attention to them
  • It’s concise, just 67 characters, meaning most of it will appear in search engine results pages

What this headline does wrong:

  • Describing the book as fabulous

What makes a book fabulous? What makes this specific book fabulous? Is it fabulously well-written? Is there fabulous characterization, or fabulous world-building? Is the plot fabulously paced?

Flowery adjectives can make a headline pop, but by leaving the description vague, this headline is effectively meaningless.

The first ten words tell me a lot about the What, which is great. But the final two give me no hint of Why I should care. Young adult sci-fi books are a dime a dozen right now, and this headline fails to stand out from the crowd.

That’s it for now. I’d be happy to hear anyone else’s thoughts on this headline or my critique. I’ll try to do one or two of these each month.

Steve D

How Bad Headlines Ruin Your Book Marketing Efforts

Way back in 2017, I wrote about the four basic elements of a good press release. In that post, I discussed how the headline and sub-headline should be used to hook a potential reader into actually reading the rest of your press release.

But I don’t think I emphasized enough one simple truth about press releases:

If your headline and/or sub-headline are not eye-catching, no one will read your release. Continue reading “How Bad Headlines Ruin Your Book Marketing Efforts”

Belated Numberbrag and Marketing Goals

Goals are funny. Sometimes, when they’re outside of your direct control, it’s better not to pay too close attention to them.

I lost sight of any specific marketing or statistical goals for this website for this year, since most of my efforts focused on publishing and promoting The Warden of Everfeld: Memento. So without particularly trying, we’ve hit a lot of goals… from 2017.

Continue reading “Belated Numberbrag and Marketing Goals”

Reblog: The Basics of PPC Marketing with Taboola

MLS Weech was kind enough to host one of my marketing pieces on his site last week — thanks man! Definitely check out his blog, and his books Caught and The Journals of Bob Drifter!

I wanted to include this piece, “The Basics of PPC Marketing with Taboola” with my ongoing Marketing Your Novel series. I’ll write a follow-up in the near future about how my campaigns performed overall.

M.L.S. Weech

Greetings All,

I’m super stoked about this post.  I’ve known Steven since I’ve started blogging, and I consider him a friend above all. I also consider him one of my top marketing mentors, so when he offered to create a post, I jumped at  the chance.  His book, The Warden of Everfeld: Memento, is out now, and I’ve already ordered my paperback version and added it to my impossible to whittle down TBR list on Goodreads.   So, if you’re like me, and you feel like marketing is a tough nut to crack, please see below.


When I tell people I used to use PPC marketing as part of my job, they give me funny looks. When I tell them that I am now using PPC marketing to promote my first novel, they’re downright flummoxed.

But Pay-Per-Click Marketing is really quite simple: you pay a particular service to feed…

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7 Things I’ve Learned from Self-Publishing My First Novel

The pre-order period for The Warden of Everfeld: Memento officially ended last Wednesday, which means it’s time for a little retrospective on how this 30-day marketing binge went for me.

Here are 7 things I’ve learned from self-publishing my first novel, so far. Continue reading “7 Things I’ve Learned from Self-Publishing My First Novel”

Friday Published-Day: The Work Continues

This has been a pretty big week, if only symbolically.

I officially made The Warden of Everfeld: Memento available for pre-order on Kindle before both the Kindle and print versions are published on July 18.

That’s a pretty big deal for me, anyway.

Other than that, I’ve done a lot of mental gear-turning over what comes next, both before WoEM is released to the world and after it’s out.

Continue reading “Friday Published-Day: The Work Continues”

Numberbrag: 20,000 Views Under the Web

Milestones are sort of weird. They can be easy to lose track of until you’re sitting right on top of them. I stopped myself from doing one of these stats update posts until we had hit a real milestone.

Well, I stopped paying attention, and here we are well over 20,000 Views and 13,000 visitors all-time. Sweet!

Since we’re through the first quarter of 2018, I wanted to have a look at some other recent numbers. Continue reading “Numberbrag: 20,000 Views Under the Web”