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I've Just Written A Novel – Summarizing A Concept

Cover of Somerled by Miriam Ellis
Greetings from inside the SEOigloo,
The image at right is the cover of the novel I’ve just finished writing for my own pleasure. I’ve been writing novels since I was a young girl, and as an adult, have continued to do so for the entertainment of loved ones. I spent about a year writing this most recent story – Somerled.
Having just completed this project, I’ve been thinking about the task of summarizing a concept. Printed paperbacks normally contain a summary of a book. Someone is employed to write the summary so that end users (readers!) will get the gist of the book and hopefully be intrigued enough to obey the call to action to buy it.
Asking The Right Questions
This scenario is identical to the one I go through each time I take on a new client for whom I need to write clear, comprehensive, energetic website copy. I believe that one of the things that separates good SEOs from poor ones is that first questions revolve around what the client actually DOES, rather than how their title tags need work. The conversation between the SEO copywriter and the client needs to go something like this:
Me: What does your business specialize in?
Client: Well, we offer at-home health care services.
Me: What does that involve?
Client: We take care of patients who are recovering from surgeries, illnesses or who are suffering from Alzheimer’s/Dementia.
Me: So this is a local service. What is the area in which you serve?
Client: The San Francisco Bay Area.
Me: What is it that really sets your service apart from similar local competitors?
Client: Well, we’re the only firm that has a 24-hour number for emergency nursing needs. Clients can reach us any time of the day or night, and we’ll send a health care worker over to them right away.
The conversation will be much more detailed and in-depth than this, but even this cursory sample begins to show how an SEO works. From just these few questions, I’ve gotten a feel for the specialty, area of service and the unique value proposition of this client’s business. From such things are keyword research and compelling, relevant copy born.
Put yourself in my shoes and you can imagine the challenge I face when a company who manufactures steel pipes for ocean going vessels calls me to write for them. I have no knowledge of this field. I’m at sea (pun intended) until the client can begin to communicate to me what their business is about. In certain cases, an area may require such unique technical expertise to be written about correctly that I have to say pass, but for the most part, my who-what-when-type questions get me over the hump with unfamiliar industries. The client’s answers provide me with a specific topic to start researching so that I can quickly familiarize myself with whatever subject is pertinent to them and their customers.
The nightmare (and this has really happened) is when I ask a potential client what they do and they say,
“Well, I don’t really know. I don’t know how to explain it.”
If the client, who must be the expert in their own field, doesn’t know how to tell me what they do, I’m sunk. Copywriters can’t reasonably take on projects like this. Vagueness is a real enemy when it comes to the written word, and if I can’t coax what I need to know out of a client, I know I won’t be able to do a good job for him or enjoy my work, so I to turn such contracts down.
Getting Back To Somerled
Here’s a hypothetical summary of my novel, such as you might find on a paperback:
Growing up in the hazy seaside 1970’s of Mendocino, California, Keith Somerled struggles with the stigma of a birth defect, the legacy of abuse and the stress of surviving in the public school system. The one saving grace in his life is the presence of a back-to-the-land family and their gentle daughter, Morwenna, whose valiant battle to light Keith’s way back out of drug addiction and hopelessness ends in bitter misery. Yet, in his darkest hour, the power of the natural world and simple human kindness send Keith on a journey to discover the value of being loved by an awesome Creator. Now, Keith Somerled has returned to the Mendocino coast, a man of strength and newfound purpose. He has not forgotten the good and bad of the past. He has never forgotten Morwenna…
Likely, this would work for a basic novel summary, but if I were writing this as the lead-in sales copy of a website home page, I’d do it differently. My task would be to discover my audience and engage them with text speaking directly to them with the goal of selling my book. This copy would read more along these lines:
Are you a 70’s kid?
Do you love the wild natural beauty of the Mendocino Coast?
Have you or a loved one been dealing with the psychological link between childhood abuse and drug addiction?
Do you believe the American public school system does more harm than good to the kids who slip through the cracks?
Do you believe it takes grit and grace to survive in this tough world?
Are you ready to read a story that makes you cry but strengthens your hope about life?
Are you ready to hear a message about your worth in the eyes of an awesome Creator?
Stick with Keith Somerled as he struggles through the pains and problems you have known and believe he will triumph in the end.
Buy Somerled Now

Though both of my examples have some degree of emotional pull, the former is fairly passive while the latter is extremely active and you-oriented. I’ve detrmined that my target audience would contain people who are nostalgic about the 70’s, people with an interest in this part of California, people who are trying to understand certain psychological dilemmas and people with a leaning toward a spiritual outlook on life. I’ve decided all of these kinds of people need to read my book as a beneficial and enjoyable life experience. Speaking directly to the needs of your audience and providing the solution to their lack is how sales happen.
Getting Back To Your Website
Today is a good day to go take a look at your homepage, or one of the selling pages on your website. Ask yourself who you are writing for. Ask whether you are clearly explaining to these potential customers how your product or service meets their needs. You may need to make a few minor changes to adjust the energy and focus of the language, or you may need to scrap your text and start fresh, with a clearer idea of what the goal of your page is. This is good, important work for you to be doing.
As for me, I’ve now got to think about what to do with this novel of mine. I have been contacted by a couple of agents in the past who have expressed interest in representing me, but it just hasn’t felt right to me, to date. Maybe it’s time I re-examined my own goals where writing is concerned. Writing is something I utterly relish and find absorbing to the point of disorientation! I can convince myself it’s July when I’m writing in the middle of winter, and my husband kindly sets food and tea next to me when I’m having a ‘spell’ so that I remember to eat from time to time. It’s that kind of fun.
I’ve been mulling over the concept of publishing this novel, Somerled, as a blog. It’s an interesting idea. Any thoughts?