Posted in Guest Post, 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.

Posted in Book Promotion, Book Related Blog Posts, writing tips

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

Posted in Uncategorized

Interview Questions for David McCaffrey

First off, congratulations on Hellbound. It’s a fantastic read and am happy I got the chance to review it.

1) Tell us a bit about what your inspiration for Hellbound was.Honestly, there were two inspirations. The first of them was the quantum theory of Schrödinger’s cat.
Having read the story you might identify with it; it demonstrated the
conflict between nature and behaviour and what we observe to be true on a
macroscopic level. The experiment consisted of him placing a cat in a
steel chamber with a small amount of hydrocyanic acid. If a single atom
of the substance decayed, it would trigger a relay mechanism which would
trip a hammer and in turn break the vial and kill the cat.

You
cannot know without popping the box whether the substance has decayed,
the vial broken and the cat subsequently killed. It therefore, according
to quantum law, exists in a superposition of states which means it is
both alive and dead simultaneously until you open the box and discover
which it is.

Hellbound
was a tale of deciding which scenarios the antagonist, Obadiah Stark,
could be existing in. Only at the end do you discover which of those it
actually is.

The
second inspiration was Kung Fu Panda! No kidding!! A tale of the most
unlikely evil overcoming the most despicable of evils. Hellbound is an R
rated version of Kung Fu Panda if you really squint!!

2) What kind of research went into the creation of this story?I
have a big thing about research. I will spend weeks gathering as much
material as I can and reading around a subject so that when I begin to
write about it, it feels, smells and sounds real. My writing coach,
Steve  Alten taught me that. Make it believable or else you cheat the
reader and will lose them. So I spend an awful amount of time reading
around the death penalty, executions and the morality that goes hand in
hand with such an emotive subject. It was important to the story that I
do not give my opinion, only the facts and allow the reader to decide
for themselves.

3) Was there a particular case or person that inspired Obadiah Stark’s character arc? Obadiah
Stark is like the love child of all the most evil serial killers in
history! Tapping back into the research element, I read around Ted
Bundy, Charles Manson, Richard Ramirez, John Wayne Gacy to name a few
and took characteristics form all of them and remoulded them into
something familiar but hopefully at the same time, new. Most
importantly, he needed to be sympathetic which I know sounds bizarre but
for the story to work the reader had to potentially be able to
sympathise with him despite all his crimes. Again, I don’t know if it
works for all the readers, but that was my aim. I saw him as Wentworth
Miller in my mind for an actor to play him!! I became quite fond of
Obadiah  actually!!!

4)
How much inspiration for the story’s setting did you take from your own
life? The descriptions of the various settings were so well written I felt like I was there.Thank
you! I love Ireland and wanted to set it somewhere different than
normal. Ireland has such history and is so beautiful, so it seemed
ideal. I have family from there and have visited many times so I drew on
those experiences and that knowledge and looked at a lot of maps to get
the locations correct! I tried to have the setting influence elements
of the story and lend them a sense of depth. I hope I succeeded…I
certainly enjoyed writing about the country and the various locations.

5) What author or book most inspired you to become an author?Steve
Alten, without a shadow of a doubt! I owe everything to him and
Hellbound wouldn’t exist if not for his patience, mentorship and
coaching. He took me on as a writing coach client and showed me how to
create a beat sheet, how to draft and edit chapters, how to develop
characters and how to weave a narrative. I thank him in every book and
will always do so. He is an amazing author from adventure thrillers
about giant, prehistoric sharks to political dramas concerning 9/11.
Absolute genius and genuine, humble man. I think more than anything I
wanted to make him proud as I had never really had that in my life where
someone was proud. So, yes, Steve Alten!!!

6)
Is the mystery thriller/horror genre something you are the most
passionate about, or would you consider working in various different
genres?I love
psychological thrillers, however I have so many extremely talented
author friends who write in genres I could never do; comedy, apocalyptic
fiction, love stories, fantasy. If I was to go outside my comfort zone
then I think I would write a love story (or try to!). Though I do have
gangland thriller in the works which I am writing with a friend who has
the most amazing story to tell and I have a infection outbreak thriller
all drafted and ready to go!!! I do think there are ore original tales
that can be told in the thinner genre. That’s what I am aiming for, to
create stories that are just a little different. In the words of Shane
Ward, ‘That’s My Goal’!

7) What do you enjoy developing more: your characters or your plot?I
think I would have to say both! I certainly enjoyed trying to develop a
good plat that can keep the reader guessing and taking them on an
exciting journey. that said, it is nothing without some good characters
to breath life into the scenarios and worlds you create, so to me they
are mutually exclusive. I loved developing the character of Obadiah
Stark for Hellbound. I wanted him to make readers anxious and resentful
towards him for his evil nature, but wanted him to be personable.
Personable evil was my mindset when creating Obadiah…an engaging
murderer!!

8) If you could talk to your character, Obadiah Stark, and ask him one question, what would it be and why?Ooo,
good question. Hmmm, I think I would have to ask him “What does it feel
like to feel?” the why would be because after his experience, I think
it would be interesting to know whether a remorseless person is capable
of feeling remorse.  Though I might ask him “Who would win in a
fight…Batman or Superman?” Everyone wants to know that!!

9) How important has social media been to the development of your author brand and readership?
Social
media has been vital in allowing me to reach new people who might like
to enter the world I have created. I have met so many fantastic authors
and bloggers who have become good friends; Louise Hunter, all the girls
at Crime Book Club, Tracy Fenton and all at The Book Club, Noelle
Holten, Shell Baker, Maxine Groves, Gordon McGhie, Sarah Hardy, Gigi
Gus, Jane Wignall,  Llainy Swanson, Emma Tasker, Jane Andrukiewicz,
Donna Marie McCarthy, Ryan Mark, Rob Enright, Tim Adler, Andy Males,
Bekki Pate, Paul Ferns, Leigh Russell, Karen Long, Paddy Magrane,
Charlotte Teece…I could go on forever!!! The bottom line is that every
single person I have mentioned and all of those didn;t have the space
for have helped me become a better author and helped share Hellbound to a
wider audience. Whether a review or a mention, I wouldn’t have any of
these opportunities without them, or people like your good self…none
of us writers would. I am only tiny in a huge literary world but it is
ridiculously exciting and I owe it all to the social media sites such as
Twitter and Facebook and the people I have met there that anyone knows
about Hellbound at all.

10) What are your plans for future writing projects? I
have the gangland thriller I mentioned in progress alongside a follow
up to Hellbound and In Extremis titled Nameless; not a direct sequel but
set in the same universe (a little like Marvel. All the films are
connected but not about the same characters). Both will be out in
October time. I also have the infection outbreak thriller I mentioned
all beat out and ready to start and some ideas for a few other
novellas…enough to keep me out of trouble!!!

Thank
you for your time David. I look forward to reading more of your work
and appreciate you taking the time to do this interview.
Thank you for giving me the opportunity to chat to you Anthony.  It was a pleasure!