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”