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How To Write Effective Fiction Book Blurbs - That Get SALES...

Fiction Books Don't Sell Themselves. 

Sure, a good title and cover help, but it's the "blurb" that seals the deal.

Especially in these days of so many look-alike books out there.

Some of the worst advice on marketing has been from some of the "guru's" with thousands of followers. 

Because "conventional wisdom" says that a lot of followers must mean they know what they are talking about. And because someone has one or a few books that sell well doesn't mean they know how to market. Yet these supposed experts feel they can tell you how to write blurbs that market your book.

How to Write a Good Fiction Blurb That Gets Read And Gets Sales

Blurbs have limited space: about 4,000 character descriptions - and that means about 500 words (at 8 characters per word on average).

And that whole blurb isn't what the reader sees. Usually just the title, cover, author's name, and first two or three lines of blurb text. 

Then your potential customers have to click a "see more" link which opens up everything else. 

And let's face it - Amazon wants you to buy a lot of other things than books. Or they would be like Kobo or Barnes & Noble and just have a few (related) book recommendations on that page (instead of literally hundreds of links to other stuff than your own book.).

The other problem is that most of the "experts" out there tell you to title and cover your book so that they are much like all the rest - to "write to market", which makes your books even harder to stand out from the crowd. Because they are almost identical to the crowd.

Your job is to capture that reader's interest and fuel that spark so that they hit that "Buy Now" link with a fevered expectation.

We're going to concentrate on that book description - the "blurb" which is your only real way to stand out.

Start with what a blurb is: blurbs are good copywriting.

In copywriting, the rule is that your first line (headline) gets your reader to read the next one. And that next line gets them to read the one after that, and so on. 

At the end, you've encouraged that reader to click through and become your customer.

All by something you've written. No other flashy graphics or other crutches. (These arbitrary limits are just for the book distributors, but the underlying rules are those of good copywriting, which apply everywhere.)

The Core Structure of Copywriting

The most in-demand textbook on copywriting today was written in the '60's by Eugene Schwartz, called "Breakthrough Advertising". And you can only find it as an expensive hardback, through a single link on the Internet. Direct from that publisher. (Yes, it's worth it.) 

Sure, Schwartz laid out the above rules and more, but he also referred - twice - to another book that has been out of print for many decades: "Writing Non-Fiction" by Walter S. Campbell. 

Campbell (aka Stanley Vestal) was also a popular fiction writer - and ran the only really effective writers course out of Oklahoma University. As part of this, he distilled the four-step structure that is common to both fiction and non-fiction:

  • Hey!
  • You!
  • See?
  • So...

You're probably more familiar with these in the fiction writer's parlance: 

"Hey!" is the hook that pulls the reader right into the book. "You!" is the set-up - where the reader dives into the characters and setting, while the mystery/romance/adventure is established. "See?" is the rising tension building, the conflict is made evident. "So..." is the cliffhanger which then persuades the reader to get a copy to find out what happens...

Yes, this is called a short-short fiction. The difference it that those first three lines have to immediately transport the reader into your world to meet its characters and their problems. Your trick is to write an enticing introduction to your book which is so entrancing that the reader is instantly transported in the opening scene, and then so engaged that they know your style and can trust you to keep them entertained through the rest of the book.

Difficult? Impossible? Not for any author who has really studied their craft - and practiced it.

(Non-Fiction blurbs are very similar, but are the subject of an earlier article (which this refines...)

Which makes your Blurb the perfect "come-on" to your book.

You're already familiar with employing emotion and the five human senses to involve your reader, and to help them create a world in their imagination. So creating a snippet that brings your reader into your character's world is not all that hard. But it does have to be crafted and tuned and tweaked until those few paragraphs become irresistible.

Note that you're throwing away concepts like synopsis, or comparisons to similar author's books - all those failed devices you've been recommended for your blurbs before.

What does your reader most want? To be instantly transported into the conflicts of a character and their exotic world. They want entertainment. As for "writing to market", the trick only to employ enough necessary elements that the reader knows you'll fulfill their desires - for that genre you're writing in.

(Technically, after a few of these, you'll be on your way to writing breakout books - because you've mastered riveting story-telling that transcends all genre limits. More study, more practice - but you love writing, so that's just more fun coming your way...)

This approach is just incidental to your study of copywriting. And by digesting both Schwartz' "Breakthrough Advertising" and Campbell's "Writing Non-Fiction" then you can see how these can be employed to promote your fiction works just within that 500-word blurb.

Because that's the point of this. Advertising is "Salesmanship in Print" and salesmanship is helping people find products and services that will improve their lives. For fiction readers, this is guaranteeing they will find themselves reading non-stop until they know how the main characters resolve their situations. (And of course, you have another blurb in the back, where they can now buy a book to continue their reader-adventure...)

So your next action is to add these copywriting classics to your author craft library - so you can study them over and over to continue making your books irresistible from the very first line...

- - - - 

Meanwhile, consider getting my "Breakthrough Copywriter" book that distills Schwartz' "Breakthrough Advertising" and has additional bonuses such as the two surviving transcripts of Schwartz lecturing copywriters on how to advertise effectively. (See the link below...)

Get your copy of "Breakthrough Copywriter"

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