From a marketing standpoint, we authors want to see our books mentioned and photographed by as many readers as possible, as many times as possible, across social media and the blogosphere. I, personally, am more likely to post about a book more often, if that book has one or more quotable passages. And by quotable passages, I mean passages that:
A) are funny, insightful and/or beautifully written
B) aren’t cluttered with story-specific details that could easily be moved to a different sentence
C) can stand alone without much additional context
D) fit the character counts of the social media sites I post bookish stuff to (or, for image-centric sites like Instagram/Bookstagram, where people often add text to images, fit the space within an image with a font size that is large enough to be legible) and,
E) optionally, are timely or literary
EXAMPLE 1: Notice how this quote from Pride and Prejudice fits criteria A through D: “It is a truth universally acknowledged, that a single man in possession of a good fortune, must be in want of a wife.”
If Jane Austen had instead written, “It is a truth universally acknowledged, that a single man in possession of a good fortune, must be in want of a wife, and Mrs. Bennet was going to make sure Mr. Bennet found five such single men, for each of their five single daughters, if it was the last thing she did,” the passage would have been cluttered with story-specific details (B) that add to the length of the quote, making it less easy to post around social media (D). A saving grace is that at least the story-specific details happen at the end of the sentence, and they can fairly easily be curtailed with an ellipsis. Ellipses mid-quote, for me at least, are more of a distraction.
EXAMPLE 2: Take this post of mine about Bird by Bird, a book on the craft of writing. Anne Lamott, way back in 2003, couldn’t possibly have known that I would try to squeeze the anecdote that inspired the title for her book into a 451-character Litsy post. Notice how, in order to fit the quote within the allowable character-count (D), I had to repeatedly trim words with the use of ellipses. I also had to squeeze in some context at the beginning, so my followers would better understand why I was posting the quote (C).
EXAMPLE 3: Notice how, for this quote I posted from The Bell Jar, which fits the criteria for A, B, and D, I had to add a fair amount of context before sharing the quote (C). I’m not saying Sylvia Plath should have written it differently, just that because so much context is needed, this particular quote wouldn’t work as well as a text-overlayed-on-image type post that you might, for instance, come across on Instagram/Bookstagram.
EXAMPLE 4: As to the optional criteria for E, timely or literary, by timely I mean something that the author might not be able to predict when writing but that fits with the news cycle at the time a reader is reading the book. And by literary, I mean anything that references books. From what I’ve noticed, the literary community likes to share bookish quotes (relating to a character’s favorite reading nook, bookshelves, book buying habits, libraries or librarians, etc.), I think, because it feels like an inside joke with the author. This won’t work in every book, and not all characters are going to be readers, but if it does fit one of your characters, consider this food for thought. Here’s an example of a timely quote from The Left Hand of Darkness by Ursula K. Le Guin.
Now, I’m not saying authors should contrive quotes at the expense of their story. All I’m saying is that once in a while, if you have an aha moment after you’ve written a really dope sentence (or two,) read it again but with your marketer’s hat on to see if it fits criteria A through D (and optionally E), and if it doesn’t, consider rewriting it so it does. If you have three to five such moments while writing your book, that’s three to five quotable passages, three-five additional opportunities for readers to post about your book, three to five additional opportunities for potential readers to find out more about you and your book.
This post is part of the #AuthorToolboxBlogHop. So many great blogs to keep hopping through. Click here to join the hop and to see what other writing tips you can glean from this month’s edition.
Where do you post about other authors’ books (blog, Twitter, Goodreads, Litsy, etc.)? Do you ever post book quotes on your blog or around social media? Is writing quotable passages a goal of yours?