Category Archives: writing tips

The Blurb Factor: 3 Crucial Steps to Optimize Your Book Description | Guest Post

I am honored to be able to share this next guest blog post with you all. Writer Greg Josselyn from Reedsy has reached out with a brand new post on the Blurb Factor to share with aspiring authors and writers out there. Enjoy and be sure to follow Greg’s work on Reedsy.


From botched to bestselling

When romance writer Alessandra Torre uploaded her first book on Amazon eight years ago, she only sold three on the first day. And for the next few months, she averaged a still-disappointing 15 – until one night, she looked at her book description and said: “I’m going to re-write this.” 

That re-write sparked a renaissance. First, it was 100 books sold in one day. Then 300. Then 2,000. That’s when she started ranking as a top seller in the Romance category, and offers from agents and publishers came flooding in. Now, Torre is an Amazon International bestselling novelist, with over a dozen books to her name. 

We can’t pin Torre’s success entirely on a book blurb – she is a good writer, after all! But we would be remiss not to poke around the subject, especially since this is a great Amazon self-publishing success story. The fact is, without the social credit and marketing budget of a big publishing house, the seemingly small things we usually save for last – like book descriptions – will make or break you. 

If you’re a writer who’s planning to self-publish, this post will help improve your book description (or back cover text) and grow your profitability on Amazon. But even if you aren’t quite at that stage yet, you can apply these techniques to query letters and pitches for your book. After all, it’s never too early to start selling people on your ideas.

Step 1: Get a hook and bait

Hook, hook, hook. That seems to be all writers and editors ever talk about, and yet, most of us still wonder what it really means. When we say “hook”, we mean like a fish hook, with – you you guessed it – bait. This is particularly important in the sea of distractions that is Amazon.com. But what are the raw materials that will make up your hook and bait? You’ll require: 

  1. A brief – we cannot stress this enough – summary of the story (no spoilers, please!) 
  2. A question that the story poses (which, of course, makes the reader want to find the answer so much that they’re willing to pay $9.99 for it). What’s going to compel Suzie So-And-So to forgo her mocha lattes this week for your book? 
  3. A little typography dress-up. You don’t have to go to coding boot camp to try on bolds, italics, and colors when setting up your product page. For example, on Amazon, you can:
    • Make things bold: <b>Be Bold My Friend, Be Bold</b>
    • Italicize Things <i>don’t go overboard though here because sometimes readers breeze over italics </i> 
    • Headline: <h1>This is a classier way to do all caps</h1>
    • Amazon Colors: <h2>Jeff Bezos will approve.</h2>
    • Indent: <blockquote>for anyone who likes a good old indent, you’re welcome. </blockquote>

Step 2: Blurb it out

Try to think of your book description in the most succinct terms possible. This isn’t a school book report; it’s like more like an elevator pitch. In other words, don’t blurt it out – blurb it out!

And when it comes to blurbs, our friend Torre is the master. If she didn’t revise the blurb for her first book, she may have switched careers instead of rising to the New York Times best seller list, which is why we always refer aspiring writers to her video tips on the subject. But in brief, she stresses these two essential facts: 

  1. The first three sentences of the blurb matter most. It’s like a teaser trailer – after those three sentences, users are going to have to click “Read More” to well, read more. To keep them scrolling, or get them to move onto the “full trailer,” as it were, those three sentences should stand out by utilizing the problem/question structure mentioned above.

One strong way to do that is to employ the classic proposition “but.” For example: “Will Byers lived a normal life in a boring suburban town. But when a mysterious alien creature shows up, his life turns upside down. Will it ever turn right side up again?” (Read More…)

  1. Leave out unnecessary details. All too often, authors use their blurbs to share irrelevant details like character surnames, where they live, their professions, or other excess exposition to no end. Cut all of that out – just set up the problem and the stakes of the story. You can always go full-on Charles Dickens in the actual book. But don’t make your blurb into Bleak House, or you’ll send readers running for the hills. 

Step 3: Demonstrate (and prove!) a social benefit

You’ve done it all so far: The blurb is short enough for a social media share. Your first three sentences set up a key question and further dilemma. You’ve omitted unnecessary details, like your character’s middle name or their township’s population.

And yet, potential readers are still scrolling to click on other book titles in your category. Yes, it could be other factors like book cover design and reviews, but still – there’s one last ingredient needed to seal the deal on your blurb. This is, of course, why the book matters to the potential buyer. What does your book provide for them? How will it make an impact on their life? Advertisements do it all the time, so why not utilize this technique to sell your book?  

For example, if your book is self-help, be sure to mention that they’ll never think the same way about X problem ever again. Or if it’s fiction, show how your main character is relatable to readers, and how they overcome problems that many of us experience in our own lives.

If you have reviews or testimonials to prove this, even better: up the social proof to the max. And if you’re new to self-publishing, drawing comparisons to pre-existing works is one great way to do it (e.g. “This Gender Bending Historial Fantasy is Games of Thrones meets Queer Eye), or just stress how it’ll change the reader’s way of looking at the world (“fantasy fans and fashionistas will never be the same again…”). 

Takeways

In order to make a successful book blurb, be sure to include:

  1. An enticing lead to grab readers
  2. A question that a reader can only answer by actually reading your book
  3. Proof that the story will benefit the reader’s life – this might be pure entertainment, or genuine self-improvement

There are endless ways to play around with these elements. Try out different options – at least three – and test them with friends and family, as well as pro beta readers. Ask: which description pulls you in? Which one doesn’t do it for you? And why? Or, do an A/B test in Amazon: swap out the different descriptions and see which one performs the best.

Still no sales? Keep re-writing and testing until you do, like Alessandra Torre. Otherwise, accept that the marketplace just may not be ready for this particular book, and start re-examining your content from the ground up.  

Greg Josselyn is a writer for Reedsy, a curated marketplace dedicated to empowering authors. When he’s not covering KDP Select, he writes short fiction and makes podcasts.

Twitter / Instagram.

Write On Your Terms: Why You Can Succeed As A Writer Without Committing To NaNoWriMo

Let me start off by saying this: I love NaNoWriMo. I’ve participated twice in the last four years, and each time I felt myself challenged, excited and creatively supercharged with each passing day. The process of writing in 30 days a full 50,000 word or more novel is exhilarating to say the least. So this post is not a knock to the event at all. In fact the event is still a very huge presence in my writing in the month of November.

However, for any authors out there who are not participating or can’t participate in the event, know that it is ok. You do not have to participate in the event to be a great writer in life or even just in the month of November. I struggled for a couple weeks on whether or not I wanted to participate in this year’s event.

Am I participating?

So many factors came into play when it came to my ultimate decision. I am working four jobs right now, all of which take up a lot of my time. In addition to this, I have responsibilities at home that take up even more time of my day, so by the time I get to the point where I have time to write, I’m either exhausted or have very little time to write, only getting a few hundred words in at most. I also have a project I am deeply committed to, but I am already at over 40,000 words. I’m not sure how many more words my project will end up taking on, but I don’t want the pressure of having to write another 50,000 just to satisfy the goal of NaNoWriMo and writing more than I really needed. Each story is unique (as many of you writers know), and should not be constrained by word counts for the sake of statistics. It usually sacrifices the story and flow of the novel overall as a result. I started coming up with an outline for a short story anthology I want to write to create a whole new project to work on, but with all of the other factors in play, the timing for NaNoWriMo 2018 just didn’t feel right.

So I decided ultimately to hold off for the year. I felt at first like I was failing to join the writing community or failing to be the best writer I could be. Then I started to ask myself: why? My day jobs consist of writing. I have a whole project I’m in the midst of working on that will include more writing. I’m neck deep into the world of writing. Why should I feel any less of a writer just because I’m not participating in the event.

Your Terms

There is no shame in taking your own path when it comes to writing. Whether you have an existing project, a project that doesn’t require 50,000 words or more or already is near that goal, you don’t have to commit to an event to feel like a great writer. The best advice I can give to a writer is to just be you. Write what you love, and write it on your own terms. Whether it takes you a month or ten years, don’t let anyone else tell you, (although, unless you are writing the next great novel, ten years is a bit long. Just kidding). Even I am still growing as a writer, and learning that you cannot rush the creative process or a project as a whole. To anyone participating in NaNoWriMo, good luck to you guys and I wish you well. I look forward to reading some of these projects in the future, and to interacting with you guys throughout the month as we all write alongside you. To everyone else, be you, and write on your own terms.

What do you guys think? Does this help any of you writers out there? Do any other authors have advice for anyone not participating in NaNoWriMo? Leave your comments below and be sure to share this post on your social media sites.

Check out my latest review of Firstborn by Tosca Lee here! Also grab your copy of my first two YA novellas in the Nightmare Academy series here!

30% Off Hasbro Star Wars

Buy 1, Get 1 50% Off – Dork Diaries and Diary of a Wimpy Kid

Guest Post: Redemption by Author Mike Schlossberg

Note From Anthony Avina: 

 

Hi there everyone! I am thrilled to share with you an amazing guest blog post from an author I will be working with in the months to come. Please read and enjoy this post from author Mike Schlossberg on how he came up with the title for his book Redemption and how others can learn from it. 

 

 

My book is called Redemptionand it’s about depression, anxiety and saving the world. From the blurb:

Twenty young people wake aboard the spaceship Redemption with no memory how they got there.

Asher Maddox went to sleep a college dropout with clinical depression and anxiety. He wakes one hundred sixty years in the future to assume the role as captain aboard a spaceship he knows nothing about, with a crew as in the dark as he is.

Yanked from their everyday lives, the crew learns that Earth has been ravaged by the Spades virus – a deadly disease planted by aliens. They are tasked with obtaining the vaccine that will save humanity, while forced to hide from an unidentified, but highly advanced enemy.

Half a galaxy away from Earth, the crew sets out to complete the quest against impossible odds. As the enemy draws closer, they learn to run the ship despite their own flaws and rivalries. But they have another enemy . . . time. And it’s running out.

Now, here’s the question I keep getting: Why is it called Redemption?

First is the obvious: It’s the name of the ship. But it’s the name of the ship in the book for a reason.

Okay. So I wrote this thing not just to tell a science fiction story, but to tell a story of mental illness and give those who suffer hope. That’s sort of been my driving force, as an elected official and advocate for the mentally ill. And to be perfectly honest, that permeates just about every facet of the book. Including the name of the ship.

I named it Redemption because I think the idea of guilt – and seeking Redemption – was and is a big part of my depression. Guilt is a common symptom of depression. It’s something I certainly got to know in a very personal way. And I spent most of my life searching for redemption. I desperately wanted to be redeemed from some unknown sin. And I think that’s something that’s relatively common among those who have suffered.

The entire plot is, at it’s core, a redemption story, but not from a sin: From mental illness, from depression and from anxiety. It’s a redemption that I think we all strive for. In my experience, it’s almost not complete obtainable. Personally, I know I will never be completely free from mental illness. It will always be there, running in the background like an iPhone app. Recovery isn’t an end state, it’s a journey. And that’s a lesson I that I have tried to learn all my life, and a journey I try to highlight in Redemption.

As always, I’d love to have your thoughts. Is this an experience you understand? No? Either way, let us know in the comments!

https://www.amazon.com/dp/B07C7M8WT8

https://mikeschlossbergauthor.com

http://www.twitter.com/MikeSchlossberg

http://www.facebook.com/MikeSchlossbergAuthor

https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/39896276-redemption

Summary:

Redemption Cover from Amazon

Twenty young people wake aboard the spaceship Redemption with no memory how they got there.

Asher Maddox went to sleep a college dropout with clinical depression and anxiety. He wakes one hundred sixty years in the future to assume the role as captain aboard a spaceship he knows nothing about, with a crew as in the dark as he is.

Yanked from their everyday lives, the crew learns that Earth has been ravaged by the Spades virus – a deadly disease planted by aliens. They are tasked with obtaining the vaccine that will save humanity, while forced to hide from an unidentified, but highly advanced enemy.

Half a galaxy away from Earth, the crew sets out to complete the quest against impossible odds. As the enemy draws closer, they learn to run the ship despite their own flaws and rivalries. But they have another enemy . . . time. And it’s running out.

Author bio:

Michael Schlossberg

Mike Schlossberg has been a writer since he wrote his first short story in eighth grade, a Star Wars fanfiction. While he claims it was terrible, the creative passion followed him into adulthood.

Serving as a State Representative in Pennsylvania, Mike has had the chance to make a difference. The problem closest to his heart is mental health, where he strives to break the stigma surrounding those who suffer from mental illnesses and give them hope. For Mike, this issue is personal, as he has been treated for depression and anxiety related disorders since he was 18. It was this desire to help which drove him to write Redemption, his first novel, but not his first book. That honor goes to Tweets and Consequences, an anthology about the varied ways elected officials have destroyed their careers via social media.

When not writing, Mike plays video games (both modern and old school), watches anything related to the Muppets (specifically Fraggle Rock!), reads, attempts to get to the gym, and calls his constituents on their birthdays.

Mike lives in Allentown, Pennsylvania, with his wife Brenna and his two wonderful children: Auron, born in 2011, and Ayla, born in 2012.

Why Should You Re-Release Old Books?

Time. 
Time has produced new innovations in the world of writing and publishing. In today’s world of publishing authors have more opportunities than ever to showcase their work without traversing through the process of traditional publishing houses. However as many self-published and traditionally published authors can agree, time allows us all to learn from our mistakes and improve ourselves and our writing. With self-publishing it is easier now than ever before to improve on our previous work.
In a month and a half, I will be releasing I Was An Evil Teenager: Remastered. This is a three novella series telling the story of Lisa Etron, a seemingly innocent teenage girl with a dark persona bubbling just beneath the surface. I originally published the first novella, I Was A Teenage Killer, in 2010. This story was fun to write, but as the years have gone on i recognize so many grammatical and story based errors that the time to fix it was here. Not only have i and my skills as a writer changed and improved, but the world has changed as well. Whether its our current political climate or the tragedies of our world reshaping our views or the wisdom and strength that comes with age, this book began to feel outdated and in need of serous improvements. So i went through all of the novellas and realized this would make a great remastered novel, and so i began to work.

In the end, i think this remastered book is stronger and more character driven then it ever was before. The themes are more prevalent and the show versus tell style of writing has helped me to improve how the story is conveyed. This is something all authors can do. Our experiences and our understanding of the world can reshape how we view the past, and with the innovation that is online self-publishing it is easier than ever to strengthen the works that came before. I highly encourage any author out there to take the time to reread their books and look to see if time has given them any new insights or views that can improve their work. I hope you guys enjoyed my brief viewpoints on re-releases and book publishing. If you guys want to check out my work for free be sure to sign up for my free newsletter here on my blog, and if you guys are interested in seeing what a remastered book looks like then be sure to preorder your copies of I Was An Evil Teenager: Remastered today on Amazon and soon to be available on iBooks, Barnes & Noble and more!
I Was An Evil Teenager: Remastered https://www.amazon.com/dp/B0756SVSGD/ref=cm_sw_r_cp_api_wwqRzb0T6F1VC