Writing a 60,000-word manuscript isn’t easy – but writing a 60-word blurb? Laurie Schnebly Campbell says applying a few basic advertising principles can help.
CHOCOLATE, WINE, COFFEE, SEX OR SHOES
by Laurie Schnebly Campbell
We all have words that jump out at us.
So do the people who read our books.
That’s what makes it crucial to FIND those words when you’re writing a blurb for your book.
Your blurb is what readers will see on the back cover. And on your website. They’ll see it in your bio with articles, in newsletters from bookstores, in reviews posted near your release date, and — perhaps most important — they’ll see it when they’re browsing online for a great read.
What Blurbs Do
You’ve seen blurbs that made you think “I’ve gotta get that book!” You’ve also seen blurbs that made you think “Nope, not what I want” and others that make you think “Hmm…keep browsing.”
So how can you write a blurb that makes everyone think “I’ve gotta get that book!”?
The fact is, you can’t. No matter how great your book, it’s not going to thrill every reader in the world. Someone seeking a cookbook doesn’t want a story about fly fishing. Someone who wants a thriller won’t be satisfied with women’s fiction. Someone shopping for first-graders doesn’t want a romance novel.
That’s okay. You don’t care about those readers.
The readers you want already know what they’re looking for…and it’s the kind of book you write.
What about your book will appeal to them? That’s what your blurb needs to feature.
Creating Your Blurb
Some writers have an easier time creating a 60,000-word manuscript than a 60-word blurb. Or 30 words, or 150, or whatever length you decide on — and by the way, it’s good to have different lengths available for different uses.
I used to think I was incredibly gifted because I had a much easier time writing blurbs than manuscripts, until I discovered my gift wasn’t actually a special talent. It was from my day-job experience of writing ads.
Because, really, your blurb is an ad for your book. You’ve noticed how the headline of a magazine ad either draws you in or makes you turn the page, right? The first line of your blurb is exactly the same way.
Websites that track the eye movement of people reading them (and I have no idea how they do it!) found that readers who aren’t captured within the first eight seconds are lost. How many words can you read in eight seconds? The average adult reads 200-300 per minute, so this gives you about 30 words to capture their interest.
And how do you choose those words? This is where it helps to think like an advertising copywriter.
The Advertising Basics
* Know what your audience wants. If you’re not sure, ask them.
* Know what YOUR book offers that readers won’t necessarily get in ANOTHER book they might also enjoy. If you’re not sure, read others like your own.
* Know where your readers look for books, because that’ll affect which blurb you use where.
Yes, you’ll want different blurbs. Everyone browsing Amazon might see the same one, just like everyone reading the publisher’s catalog will see the same one, but if you’re indie-publishing you can change it as often as you like. You can even do test-marketing to see what works best.
Before you start testing, though, try writing half a dozen blurbs of (for instance) 30 words apiece. See which points you keep using. Odds are good that those reflect your opinion of what’s most special about the book.
Then run those samples by people who know your book. Do they feel like you’ve left out something vital? What is it?
You can play with this for as long as you like, until you absolutely HAVE to get blurbs out to the public. But thinking about your blurb, even before you’ve finished your book, is a handy thing when it comes to marketing.
Which Leads To…
If you want some other tips on creating a blurb that’ll attract readers, you could win free registration to August’s yahoogroups class on “Blurbing Your Book” just by leaving a comment before tonight’s prize drawing.
And since I’d love to get some comments I can quote during that class, here’s my question for you:
When you’re browsing for a book — not one you’ve already chosen because you love that author / topic, but when you don’t have any particular book in mind and just want to view some possibilities — what do you do?
I can’t wait to find out!
Polish those Pitches Romance Writers! Join us Mon, Aug 6 for a full day of pitching to editor Ashley Christman of Entranced Publishing – she’ll comment on each one!
Laurie Schnebly Campbell combines work for a Phoenix ad agency with teaching other novelists about the craft of writing. She’s also published half a dozen romances (including one that won “Best Special Edition of the Year” over Nora Roberts) and a how-to for fiction writers on creating believable characters. Check out her August workshop on blurbs — and more — at www.BookLaurie.com.
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