One of the hardest things about writing is selling it to readers – especially today, where the old gatekeepers have gone and the web is full of writing that, once upon a time, would have been relegated to a publisher’s slush pile.
The challenge for readers is finding the good stuff. And that’s where a tagline comes in. It isn’t a magic bullet, but everything helps the marketing platform.
When my hard sci-fi novella ‘Missionary’ was published last year I came up with the one over in the graphic (click to get to the story).
I have to admit that a good deal of the motive involved giving the finger to the way the local academic history community have performed towards me. I’m known in New Zealand for my historical writing – a world dominated by tight in-crowds for whom status and personal self-worth are apparently defined by narrow and deeply pretentious intellectual criteria.
When I mentioned that I was getting back into writing science fiction I was warned that (a) this was career suicide – I’d never be taken seriously again – and (b) well, some people do get away with writing fiction AND a serious academic career, but they have to write, you know, high-art literature which is the only valid form of fiction in New Zealand. The warning pre-supposed that I valued the status that the local intellectual community so viciously deny in each other – or shared their definition of what constituted it. Actually, I don’t. I don’t even add the word ‘poet’ after my name, although I’m told I am probably the only New Zealand writer that doesn’t.
My answer? Look at the tagline.
Now, while I was taking the piss out of New Zealand’s intellectual in-crowd expectations, I also had another purpose. The other side of the tagline is to subtly create a hanging question. I mean subtly – not like clickbait, which does it with all the force of a jackhammer. You have to make the reader’s imagination work to draw them in. Don’t tell them what’s in the story – give them a theme, an idea, around which their minds can play. Reader imagination is a powerful tool if you can harness it.
Want to see how that works? Click on that link and check out the story.
See what I mean?
Copyright © Matthew Wright 2016