Thursday, June 01, 2006

Snip Tease

Posting excerpts from your novel on your blog gives your readers a sample of your storytelling talent. Published authors regularly post them to interest visitors in their latest releases, hoping the teaser will result in a sale.

The most common problems with posting excerpts are length, subject matter, and appeal factor. A long excerpt runs the risk of boring the casual visitor; a short one can be too brief to capture their attention. 500 to 1000 words seems to be a good length for a blog post; if you want to put up something longer you might consider posting it on a website page and linking to it (Alison Kent does a great page for each of her novels; see the one for Kiss and Make Up here.)

It's best to avoid story spoilers, but putting up something too enigmatic or dependent on the rest of the novel to be understood creates confusion. Add to this the need to select something with enough appeal to make the visitor curious about reading the rest of the novel, and you have a ready-made tension headache.

Some things I do:

1. Pick a scene with no more than two or three characters in it; preferably two. Suddenly dumping a scene with big cast on a casual reader requires them to try to sort out who's who; often something they can't do without the rest of the novel.

2. Look for something that shows interesting interaction between the characters. By interesting I don't mean a rehash-the-plot conversation in a room decorated by one of their mothers. Seek out moments that showcase your characters.

3. End with a bang, not a whimper. If you can work the snippet so that it ends on a cliffhanger, all the better. Remember, a tease arouses; it's not supposed to satisfy.


Now as I conveniently have a new release hitting the shelves this week, and would like to lure some of you into buying it by dangling a teaser, here's a working example:
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An Excerpt from Dark Need by Lynn Viehl

Lucan checked the room's security monitor and saw Cyprien's sygkenis on the wide, comfortable bed before he released Kyn-proof bolts on the outer door. Inside her lavender scent perfumed the cool air, drawing him into the master bedroom to look down at her unconscious form. She wore a short negligee and a diaphanous robe in a shade of peach that complimented the sun-kissed golden bloom of her flawless skin. Rafael had taken the additional precaution of chaining her to the bed with copper, he noted, but had protected her wrists and ankles by lining the manacles with flannel padding.

"Sleeping Beauty, indeed," he murmured, using his finger to dislodge a curl of hair that had tangled with her long dark brown eyelashes. Fangs flashed, and Lucan barely had time to pull his hand away before Alexandra sank her sharp teeth into them. "Good morning, Doctor. I trust you slept well?"

"Bite my ass."

"I should be happy to." Ah, she was beautiful when she snarled. "Roll over."

Chains rattled as she strained against her bonds. "Let me out of these fucking things."

"I would like nothing better," he assured her, "but I must insist you stay as you are for the time being."

She stopped jerking on the chains and glared up at him. "This has got to be the stupidest thing you've ever done."

He thought of Samantha, naked and willing under his bare hands, and his smile faded. "Not quite."

"Cyprien will be back by now. Your walking light bulb didn't kill everyone. Phillipe saw him, and will tell Michael what happened, and he'll come for me. He'll bring the whole freaking vampire army with him, too. But that's what you want." She peered at him. "Can't you guys just kiss and make up?"

"Your master has taken everything from me that I ever wanted." He sat down on the side of the bed, keeping just out of her reach. "Now he will experience firsthand what that feels like."

"Another vampire pissing contest. Marvelous." She looked at the copper bars on the window. "So he comes here and you two battle it out until someone dies. Is that the plan?"

He ran his glove along her bare leg. She had very shapely legs, and arched, dainty feet. "You could choose to stay with me of your own volition."

"Oh, yeah, I'm going to do that." She laughed.

"Sacrificing yourself for the one you love is such a noble thing." He traced the spaces between her toes, admiring her pink-polished toenails. "I wouldn't kill him if you became my woman."

She jerked her leg away as far as the chains would allow. "Now? You're dreaming."

"I'm not the monster you think I am, Alexandra." Here was a solution to both of his problems. He could rid himself of his inconvenient longing for Samantha and strike a crippling blow to Cyprien at the same time. "Think of all the lives you would save."

"I'd rather screw a snake, thanks." She bit her lip as he climbed over her, and settled himself on top of her. "Lucan, wait. Wait."

"I have, my dear. Two hundred years and better."

Alexandra was smaller than Samantha, more delicately made. Her scent was softer, rather sweeter than he had expected, but it suited her. He could see why Cyprien had taken so many risks to take and keep her. She was the kind of woman a man would gladly gamble his life to have and to hold. In fact, he was counting on it.

"Don't do this," she said, turning her face away from his when he came closer. "You can't ever take it back."

"I should hope not." He pinned her manacled wrists on either side of her head, and bent to put his mouth to her throat.
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This is one of my favorite moments from the novel, so I'll admit that influenced my decision to post it. I think for a 634 word partial scene that it illustrates both characters and their motivations well enough to interest someone who has never read the series and doesn't know Lucan or Alexandra from Adam. What's said is tied into both the main conflict and an important subplot, but not enough to spoil them. As interaction between characters goes, it's sexy, funny and scary. The ending doesn't tell you what happens next, but it makes you wonder about it.

Get creative with how you present your excerpt, too. Discuss why you wrote it, or something involved in the process of writing it, or get into what inspired it. Robert Gregory Browne and Holly Lisle are two authors who podcast regularly from their blogs; if you've got a good voice why not read your teaser for your visitors?

What sort of teasers do you all prefer to write, or read?

14 comments:

  1. My publisher gave me permission to put the entire first chapter of both my books online, laid out in PDF format. (Blatand link warning! Hal 1 and Hal 2)
    If the first chapter bores the reader they probably won't want the books anyway. I know it's tougher to read from the screen, but they're free to print out the PDF. Personally, I just read stuff like that from the screen. In fact, if they read the first few sentences and decide it's not for them, that's not a whole lot different to people evaluating novels in a bookstore.
    The downside is that it's very hard to read a chapter in isolation, meeting characters and getting involved in a scene when you know you don't have the rest.

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  2. Make that 'blatant'. I can do it, but I can't type it!

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  3. It's out this week? Really?

    Squeee!!! I thought it was end of the month, for some reason.

    Note to self: call favorite bookstores now. LOL.

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  4. I like to read ones that are similar toyours. Not too short not too long. You need to give a taste of the authors voice as well as the story and characters.

    As for posting them. It all depends on my mood.LOL

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  5. I loved Dark Need. You did a marvelous job! I can't wait to read the next book in the Darkyn series. Thanks for allowing me to review it!

    Shawn

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  6. oh yeah... that's a great lure.

    I need to do that for my next release.

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  7. Holy hell, now that's a scene! Can't wait to read the book, although I've been waiting not-so-patiently since Private Demon.

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  8. I definitely prefer to read something from the work itself, and not someone else's blurb. Too often the front and back material is misleading or even just plain inaccurate.

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  9. That scene was great! I also prefer something from the book itself, rather than a review.

    Uh, I know the release date is June 6, but did you know WalMart already has Dark Need on the shelves.

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  10. I like an excerpt that's a bit of a tease--one that leaves me wanting to know more about a character or the story.

    Since I read them off the screen I like an easy to read font and please, no white print on dark background

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  11. *whimper*

    That's all we get?!

    Man. My copy is on order to be delivered. Perhaps I should have just gone out to get it at the store. Because I don't think I can wait those extra shipping days!

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  12. Fantastic, excerpt, PBW! A excerpt will always cinch or kill the deal of me. The most awesome sounding plot/character could fizzle on the page if the author's writing style doesn't resonate with me.

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  13. The excerpt is wonderful...just like the book. It's on my keeper shelf, along with your note. :) You pack a lot of punch into every scene, nothing wasted. I hope someday I can do the same. Your work gives me something to aspire to. Thank you.

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  14. The podcast idea is excellent, also some of the other suggestions.

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