Monday, January 11, 2016

The 50-word Blurb

Hey all.  It's marketing time again.  Still.  Ad infinitum.  And I want to talk about an intriguing concept I read about yesterday that kind of made me rethink my back cover copy, or blurb, if you will.

I've been tossing this around for a while now, but I haven't really implemented it until I read this post over at The Mad Genius Club - Blurbs: Short and Sweet.

The idea I've been tossing around is this - take everything that was hammered into you about writing a query letter and chuck that shit out.  In a query letter, you have 250 words to capture the attention of an agent who may or may not think your idea is interesting enough to work with you on getting it published.  With a blurb, you have seconds for a reader to decide whether they want to shell out their hard-earned money on your book. 

It needs to be faster.  Zippier.  Attention grabbing.

Think about it.  A reader scrolls through wherever, sees your cover, and clicks the link to see two things - 1) How many stars do you have? and 2) what is your book about?

We'll set aside the star thing for now.  But that's the progression - See the cover, see how many stars a book has, read the blurb.  If any of those fall down, you're screwed. I assume you've already got a neat cover.  The review thing will come or it won't.  So, that leaves you with the next thing you have control over - that blurb.

Chances are if the first few sentences of your 'product description' don't attract their attention, they aren't going to click 'Read More' to see how awesome your blurby prose is.  They aren't going to scroll down and read what awesome things your readers had to say.  They're going to move on to one of the other millions of reading material available.

Now, admittedly, I totally suck at this.  But I'm trying.  I spent a good portion of yesterday morning attempting to write what the author of the Mad Genius article suggested - a 50 word blurb.  50 words.  a 100K word manuscript with all its twists and turns and character intricacies boiled into 50 freakin' words.  Ain't an easy thing.

Here's where to start.  Stop thinking of it as a 100,000 word manuscript.  Don't worry about the intricacies.  I know you worked REALLY hard on all that.  I know the urge is there to weave it all into a glittering block of text to entice readers.  You can't.  Sorry.  It's impossible.  Sure, all that will be necessary to hold your readers' interest, but they really aren't to a point where they give a rat's ass about any of it.  They're at the 'I wonder if I should spend money on THIS book rather than THAT book' point.

"Should I eat at Olive Garden or Red Lobster today?"  That point.  They've already made up their mind that they're going out to eat. Which do they choose?  Well, Olive Garden's got this commercial where everything is cheesy and gooey, and there are those unlimited breadsticks.  Red Lobster's got steaming hot shrimp on skewers and appetizers that make my brain water.  Or they could eat at Joe Nobody's Family Diner.  No one's ever heard of it, but the way they describe their homemade meatloaf is mindblowing.  And they might be a little less expensive.

And if they're doing a good job, their meatloaf lives up to the expectations.  If you love it, you'll be back for another helping.

That meatloaf is your book.  The point is, you have to get them in the door.  You have to encourage them to buy a meal and stick around for dessert.  They eat good, they'll be back, but they can never come back if they were never there in the first place.

Draw the customers in.

I don't have it all figure out yet.  I do feel like I'm on the right course, though.  And if I fall down on this short and sweet blurb thing, I can always go back to the long and descriptive blurb.  That's the great thing about self-publishing.  If something doesn't work, you can change it without having to jump through a building full of other people.

So, here's the test blurb for BloodFlow. 

Agent Randi Kruz knows Project Hermes is killing people. But the government won’t allow anything to hamper their plans for microchipping the populace. Despite numerous threats against her, she has to uncover the truth before anyone else dies. Locating the madmen responsible will be difficult. Stopping them might be impossible.

What do you think?  And look at it with a reader's eye, not a writer's.  Like you're just someone looking for something to read and not looking to snag an agent. Would a blurb like that entice you to buy or to investigate further?  Maybe check out the Preview pages?  Perhaps read the reviews?


  1. I like it, but it might be punchier if you said "despite the danger", or "stop at nothing" - you know those Hollywood type buzz words people like. That said, I really do agree with you that a punchy 50 word blurb is a real seller. I don't want to read the entire story on the book on the back. I want to enjoy the process of learning the characters & story and working my way through to see if I can beat you to the end, so those 50 words are a good pull for me.

    There's a lot more to think about nowadays than just writing a ripping good yarn, isn't there?

  2. I love the last couple of sentences, especially. I agree with what Fran says above, though. Maybe something like: Agent Randi Kruz knows Project Hermes is killing people. But the government will stop at nothing to microchip the populace. Uncovering the truth means becoming a target. Locating the madmen responsible will be difficult. Stopping them might be impossible. Will Randi uncover the truth before the government shuts her down--permanently?

    Although that could use work, too.

  3. Here's how I would word it. (And yes, I think you are on to something and I'll explain below.) LOL

    Project Hermes is killing people. But the federal government won’t allow anything--or anyone--to hamper their plans to microchip the populace. Agent Randi Kruz knows the truth. She'll stop at nothing to uncover the conspiracy before anyone else dies. Locating the madmen responsible will be difficult. Stopping them might be impossible.

    Or words to those effect. Word count: 52

    So...why not do both? Put the down-n-dirty blurb at the beginning, above the fold, as it were. Then have a bit more detail for when the potential buyer clicks "Read more." And for those not familiar with newspaper terms, "Above the fold" is that space on the front page that faces out of a newspaper stand or is the first thing a subscriber sees when they unroll the home-delivered paper. (Gah, paper papers are almost extinct now!) Anyway, on Amazon, it's the same. You need punch in that opening "paragraph" to fill the space above the "See More" link that then expands the blurb. Now I need to go back and shake up all my descriptions. Ugh.

  4. I like your new blurb, but everyone's ideas may make it punchier.

    This post makes me feel better about my most recent blurbs. I was worried they were too short. "-)