What makes people talk about your book before they've ever read Page 1?
Well, maybe they remember you from high school and can’t wait to see if they’re featured on page 28.
Or maybe they heard the publisher paid a billion-dollar advance to get your manuscript.
Or maybe they saw that Josh Brolin and Jessica Alba agreed to co-star when it’s also released as a movie on Publication Day.
But aside from news like that, pretty much the ONLY thing that gets people talking is word of mouth.
We've all heard (or read) comments like:
"I’ve already pre-ordered that one."
"I hear it's a great book, can’t wait to get it."
"It looks really good; I was reading the blurb."
Ah, the blurb.
While we might have no control over our publisher's budget, much less over movie stars, we CAN control the blurb.
But a lot of writers feel uneasy about writing their own. Sure, no problem writing an entire novel, but a blurb?
Most people would rather face dragons.
If that sounds like you, you're sure not alone. Even writers who are naturally gifted at self-promotion - and, boy, don't we envy them? - find it tough to condense their fabulous book into 50 words.
Which is easy to understand. If you had to condense your entire life into 50 words, where would you even start?
Getting just 50 words to sum up everything that's great about a story you've spent the past however-many months on can be every bit as challenging.
So that’s why it helps to think like an advertising copywriter.
All you marketing people already know this, right? I DIDN’T know it when I started wondering why writing blurbs came so easily - far easier than writing the actual novels - until I realized blurbs are all about presenting the product in its best possible light.
In a very short space.
To the people who want it.
Who ARE those people?
It’s a good idea to figure that out early in the game. After all, no advertiser would waste money producing a TV commercial or a full-page ad in the New York Times or a billboard on Main Street without knowing who they want the ad to reach.
(Er, whom. But that sounds so pedantic!)
Anyway, we writers tend to be a bit more all-inclusive and democratic than the advertisers who maintain "the ONLY consumers we care about reaching are suburban females age 35-49 with pre-schoolers in a $50-75K household."
We tend to say "I want to reach every reader on Planet Earth."
But, drat it, that makes it tough to target our blurb toward any specific market.
It could very well be, of course, that every single reader on earth will agree HERE's the book they've been waiting for their entire life, and they'll order millions of copies for all their friends.
(And even as we authors dismiss such a premise as being unrealistic, some little secret part of us still thinks "yes, exactly!")
The realistic part, though, recognizes that not every reader WILL want this fabulous book. Someone seeking a sweet romance doesn’t want incredibly hot love scenes. Someone who wants a medieval historical won't be satisfied with the Old West. Someone shopping for a relaxing escape doesn’t want a nail-biting thriller.
But who cares? Those aren’t your readers anyway.
The readers YOU want already know what they're looking for...and it's the kind of book you write.
So how do you show them?
Tell, don’t show.
In a blurb, you flip the traditional show-don’t-tell advice on its head. Here, telling instead of showing is doing the reader a favor. Someone who’s skimming through a whole selection of possible stories wants to get the flavor of yours in just a few sentences or paragraphs.
Think of it like writing a commercial for a brand new car, or a traditional favorite snack food. You have fifteen seconds to present the image of how this car or this snack food will make life better for someone glancing through videos.
Seems daunting, right?
But you have an advantage -- because you don’t have to catch people glancing through videos. They’re glancing through story descriptions because they ALREADY want to buy your kind of book.
So you need to make the most of that advantage, putting your best blurb-writing skills to work. And that’s where we come up against today’s question:
What’s the best blurb you've read lately? It can be your own or somebody else's, just mention the book's title and author.
Fun stuff, right?
Although maybe not quite as much fun as choosing who stars in the movie of your book...
Laurie Schnebly Campbell (BookLaurie.com) works in advertising, where her job is to convince buyers they'll love a particular product. She's spent years writing about products people might not think of buying, until they saw a message that makes 'em realize "yes, THIS is what I want!" She's always pleased, but not surprised, when people who've taken this class report increased sales with their new and improved blurbs.