Writing Blurbs That Work

Look! Look! Look!
I must buy this book!

Yesterday we discussed the difficulty in writing a blurb – a short description that gets potential readers to click BUY – for your book

(See: Why Your Book Isn’t Selling, HERE. Hint – it’s the blurb.)

 

It’s hard to do for our own work because you are usually too close to your book. What you want in a blurb is the highlights, but presented in a certain way. A friend is usually better at that than you, especially when you’re doing it for the first time, and if you are in a critique group, you can ask one of your partners to help develop the blurb, then test it out on the other partners.

 

If it works, run it by friend and fans on your Facebook page (that’s also a sneaky way to create some interest without appearing to do so).

 

Author Allison Maruska (The Fourth Descendant) did that recently with me, and she blogs about the steps in the process HERE.

 

This blog will show the evolution of the blurb we wrote (okay, it was mostly her), so you can see how it happens and WHY you need to go through it.

and through it…

and through it.

 

We did over EIGHT versions of this blurb before we started getting close to what we wanted. Watch the process unfold.

.
Poggi cover RED borderFIRST: What I would have started with (this is way too long but it’ll give you an idea of what the story is about):

Mike was a normal hard working family man who loves his wife and would never follow up on any of the flirtatious advances he receives from other women on a daily basis. His doctor, his neighbor, the moms at his daughter’s school, you name it – he was immune. To advance his career, he takes an assignment to Italy and brings the family, but after two weeks his wife is fighting with him, his daughter has developed a gelato addiction, and his Italian business partner is in the hospital with a heart attack. When the Mrs. Leaves in a huff, Mike is trapped. He can’t go home to save his marriage without sacrificing his project and losing a big promotion, but if he stays and completes the work, he may lose his wife and family.

 

His Italian partner assigns Mike a top notch assistant, a beautiful young woman who has ideas of her own about what Mike needs to focus on in Italy, namely her. You’ll enjoy one hilarious folly after another as she attempts to seduce him and he tries his best to be a good boy. The romance of Tuscany is the backdrop for a madcap comedy that will pull at our heart strings in Poggibonsi.

Okay, so those were my first thoughts. Allison (AM) knew the story already, so I asked for her input.

AM: When Mike lands an assignment in Italy, he sees endless opportunities: a chance to make a name in the industry, to revolutionize tourism in Europe, and to rekindle the romance with his wife.

DA: Is what you wrote there the whole blurb? Doesn’t seem very hook-ish.

AM: No, that’s just part 1. Hold on I’m thinking.

See, she was working through the steps while I was reading the article she sent me about the steps. Plus I was driving. (I replied at traffic lights until I got home)

DA: Oh. Ok.

AM: Once there, the opportunities crash onto the cobblestone streets of Venice. His business partner is in the hospital, the locals like their easy-going lifestyle, and his wife can’t wait to get home.

DA: See, I thought the whole hook was about him having the affair with the assistant. Shows what I know.

AM: I’m getting there. geez.

DA: Well you didn’t say how many parts there were. (I was still driving)

AM: As his hopes fade, he sees her – the goddess on the train, who turns out to be his new assistant. She’s everything he imagined he’d find in Italy, and maybe she can solve all his problems. She’s gifted at organizing meetings, schmoozing the locals, and maybe…she can rekindle a little of Mike’s lost romance.

4 parts, but the last isn’t spelled out – we need to make the mood funnier.

DA: Yeah. (It’s a romantic comedy) Do we need to get to the sexy part sooner?

AM: That’s the hook, isn’t it?

DA: I always figured Mike for this good looking guy who is immune to all the advances the women in his life are throwing at him, until… If the sex is the hook, don’t you want it up front? Or is it implied by the cover anyway?

AM: So you want the focus on the sex, not the job?

DA: No. I don’t care what the blurb focuses on, as long as people click through to buy the book. I just figured sex sells. This is harder than I thought.

Now Allison has had a chance to get my ideas and think through her own, and take a second run. Note the differences.

AM: When Mike lands an assignment in Italy, he sees not only a chance to advance his career but also to rekindle the fiery passion he once shared with his wife. After ten years, she’s the only woman in the city not flirting with him, and what better place than the Italian countryside to pursue romance? Once there, his hopes shatter on the cobblestone streets of Venice. Mattie spends her time fussing over their daughter, shopping, drinking wine, and being angry with Mike. By the time she heads home with their daughter, Mike thinks she’d like him to choke on a fancy Italian olive instead of return home to them in a couple weeks. Not exactly the romantic excursion he had in mind.

 

As his business prospects and love life collapse, he sees her – the goddess on the train. He can’t help but admire her form, her grace, or how she captures the attention of every man in the car. When she leaves the train, he thinks she’ll remain a fantasy – until she introduces herself as his new assistant, one who wants to teach him the ways of Italy. With her, he has the chance to experience Poggibonsi in all its glory – as long as he forgets what it could cost him.

Here, it covers the important items very well, but she thought it needed more emphasis on the humorous aspects of the story. (Because it’s a more of a comedy than anything else.)

AM: Do you think using both Venice and Poggibonsi is okay? Should we just name one city?

DA: Yes, but that’s really good already. And it is funny, because it’s ridiculous (in a good way) saying how his wife is the only woman in the city not flirting with him. Great, great, great base to build on.

I was very happy with this because it sounded like a blurb. But now comes the second hard part. Where to tweak. And with only about 250 words, we look at each and every one.

We discussed which cities to name.

DA: Tuscany is what I’d use. That’s what women here in the U.S. know.

AM: I like Poggibonsi at the end. We could generalize the first one – the village, or something.

DA: I was just saying if we had to choose a location to tie in women’s interests, Tuscany is more automatically appealing than Venice, I think.

AM: Oh. Well that’s your call. It’s a minor point.

Because we are critique partners, we looked at some technical aspects. The words “their daughter” were repeated very quickly in succession, called an echo. That wasn’t a big deal at first, while we were sketching the rough ideas of the blurb, but we’d need to address it before we arrived at a final version. Because every word will get scrutinized.

What about slipping in their home city, Atlanta, to add some detail and help readers know this is not an Italian story but one about an American in Italy?

 

After ten years, she’s the only woman not flirting with him…

 

After ten years, she’s the only woman in Atlanta not flirting with him…

And the fact that he’s forced to let this argument simmer for four more weeks – that’s a long time to be fighting. So we added it.

DA: And are we giving too much away? I hate to tell people Julietta (the assistant) is the girl on the train, but if it must be, I guess it’s a minor giveaway. (Mike is surprised to discover that the girl he admired from afar on the train turns out to be his new assistant.)

AM: It’s a minor giveaway, and readers will love it when they reach that part.

DA: Should we amp up the romance angle as far as the assistant? “one who wants to teach him the ways of Italy – in business and pleasure/romance.” Something like that?

AM: How about this instead: one who wants to teach him all the ways of Italy.

Same essence, fewer words = a winner.

AM: Why did you highlight the olive?

DA: The olive? I don’t know. Of all the things to choke on that he ate, olive didn’t come to mind. Fancy olive seemed, I don’t know, uncommon way to describe it, like you’d use the name of a real fancy olive instead of calling it a fancy olive. Does that make sense? The only name I know is Kalamata olives, which of course is Greek. Manzanilla? Trying too hard? What about a different food, like tiramisu or veal scallopini? He had bad luck with veal, after all…

AM: The olive was just something off the top of my head. Change it to something that matches the story a little better. Oyster? Ravioli? Maybe veal, but people are weird about veal.

DA: Either way, this is a million times better than what I came up with. Between you and (a cover artist) we might have a decent click through rate.

AM: Cool. Glad you’re happy.

And I am. Collaboration is a big part of things, sometimes, especially when you have a known weak spot. After a while, I thought referring to “a fancy olive” was cute and endearing, not unlike our characters who are so out of place in Italy. It worked.

 

We decided a funny line was needed in paragraph one, and some tightening. Here’s the result:

 

When Mike lands an assignment in Italy, he sees not only a chance to advance his career but also to rekindle the fiery passion he once shared with his wife. After ten years, she’s the only woman in Atlanta not flirting with him, and what better place than the Italian countryside to pursue romance? It’s the land of naked art, Valentino, and yoga pants, after all.

 

Once there, his hopes shatter on the cobblestone streets of Venice. Mattie spends her time shopping, drinking wine, and being angry with Mike. By the time she heads home with their daughter, Mike thinks she’d rather he choke on a fancy Italian olive than return home to them in four weeks. Not exactly the romantic excursion he had in mind.

 

As his business prospects and love life collapse, he sees her – the goddess on the train. He can’t help but admire her form, her grace, or how she captures the attention of every man in the car. When she leaves the train, he thinks she’ll remain a fantasy – until she introduces herself as his new assistant, one who wants to teach him all the ways of Italy. With her, he has the chance to experience Poggibonsi in all its glory – as long as he forgets what it could cost him.

 

Eight revisions for one blurb. Don’t tell me it’s not hard work!

 

We’ll let it rest and attack it again in a week or so, and then we’ll put it to the critique group, and float it to friend and fans on Facebook, and when it shows up on Amazon, it’ll work well to get readers to become buyers.

Plus, it’s fun working with friends!

22 thoughts on “Writing Blurbs That Work

    • Or we take something simple and make it look hard. One of those.

      At the end of the day, we can all agree that what I was going to write wasn’t as good as what we ended up with, and maybe with some more input, it may be even better.

      For example:

      “all her glory” is kind of cliche – but does get the point across without being explicit.

      Does the blurb let you know how funny the story is? It may not expressly do that enough

      Thoughts?

      Like

  1. Agreed! I’ve been revamping my blurb all week. I tell you it’s an art! Encompassing the gist of a story without giving too much away, yet wanting to put the bait out. Sheesh, writing and publishing and marketing . . .OH MY! 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Carol, I’ve heard it doesn’t appear on your phone, but if you are on a computer, across the top margin will be the WordPress buttons for My Site, Reader, FOLLOW, Like, Reblog, etc. If you click follow, it should subscribe you and you’ll get posts automatically from then on. Don’t feel bad, either. I has the SAME problem trying to follow a friend’s blog! She had to explain it to me, but eventually we got there.

    Like

  3. Is there a trend to longer blubs nowadays? Where you’ve got too for me a bit too long and gives too much away. I remember the book well as a beta reader and it worked well not knowing his business contact got ill…or that the girl on the train educated him quite so well in Italian ways. The blurb puts you off the wife a bit too much too… the story handles her in a more sympathetic way…least as I remember. Perhaps this is a European vs USA thing…less is more for me.

    Liked by 1 person

What do YOU think? Let me hear from ya.

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s