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Book Marketing: How to Write a Better Book Blurb

I don’t want to get a reputation for complaining or being a whiner, but “Damn!” marketing is a heck of a lot more difficult than writing (but, I’m going to whine anyway). Having had my book out for a month and moving a few hundred copies, generating only 3 reviews (all 5 stars and not from anyone I know, I might add with a little satisfaction) and pushing on the marketing as often as I have time, I’m a little disappointed. I know that I’m being unrealistic in my expectations. I don’t expect to have a best-seller, but I really enjoy the feeling of satisfaction I get from knowing that I’ve provided an entertaining experience for people and I want more of that.

I’ve read enough of my selected genre–Science Fiction– to know that my novel is worth reading, so I’m left with the thought that people just aren’t finding it or, if they are, I haven’t convinced them to read it. Since there are numerous other authors that get plenty of readers, I must be doing something wrong with my marketing. In either event, it’s my responsibility to find a better way to get the word out.

Book blurbs need to be concise and quickly compelling. The average reader won’t read more than the first two sentences before making a quick decision to read the rest or go on. Does the first line or two grab attention? Does the first line scream read the rest of this blurb? First impressions are critical, both in meeting new people and in blurbs, among other things.

The blurb shouldn’t tell the whole story; it may hint at various plot elements, but why read the book, if you already know how it’s going to end? However, the prospective reader must become engaged enough to want to find out more.

The purchase price of a book is only part of the equation. Most people don’t have any problem spending more as long as they believe that they’re going to receive value for value. The main unknown in the decision to buy is the buyer’s estimate of whether or not the book will be worth their time investment. We’ve all got only a limited amount of time and there’s more than enough information flowing down through the web to keep us busy every second for a billion years or more. The rate of information increase is exponential and our available time steadily decreases on a linear basis, so deciding to spend time reading what may be a poorly written story with a trite plot is an important factor.

How do you make the sale in the blurb? Assuming that the first line or two is compelling enough to grab mind-share and the prospective reader is motivated to read on, the brief nature of the blurb forces the rest of the writing to directly address making the sale, so to speak. There has to be enough information there to 1) give the reader a sense of what they’re in for in terms of subject, plot and setting and 2) get the reader to make the decision to either buy the book or to read the free preview at the minimum. If there is a video book trailer, the reader might also be directed to it to help them confirm their decision.

I find that reading the free preview is often enough to allow me to decide if the purchase is going to be worth my money and, more importantly, my time. The blurb may be well crafted and compelling, but the text may be full of errors, written in a horrible style, or essentially incoherent, nonetheless and reading the sample gives me enough information to decide. If I can identify with the characters and am caught and wondering what happens next to them, the chances are great that I’ll read the book.

There is another issue that I’d like to point out. This is one of the things that really irritate me. The blurb can be compelling, the sample text well written, the reviews all five stars, but when I download the book and find that it isn’t full length, it really aggravates me. There’s a place for novellas and short stories, but the reader should know how long the text is before they commit. It’s what I would call “common courtesy.”

I was researching book promotions and ideas (when I should have been working on finishing the second novel of the current trilogy) and stumbled upon a blog post about book blurbs. It’s worth a read, if only for the perspective: http://www.bookdaily.com/authorresource/blog/post/1584996 It’s actually the reason for this post. I was motivated by it to think about the elements of the blurb. I’ve been in sales for over 30 years and I’ve been very successful at it. In addition, my education is based on the study of human motivation, so I know what helps people make decisions.

The blurb deserves to be written carefully and rewritten if it isn’t doing its job. It is one of the main tools to sell books and it’s very important. However, it’s important to realize that there is only so much it can do. It will not convince someone to read a book that is just not in their sphere of interest. For example, I’m unlikely to read much about financial analysis for charitable causes, but I do read a lot of science fiction, new age spiritual works, and quantum physics. (I freely admit that my tastes are esoteric.)

These musings motivated me to rewrite my blurb. Below you’ll find the original and another try.

If you’re so minded, I’d love to hear what your opinion is of the two. Which is better? Which would motivate you to invest your time in reading the book? If neither is appealing, do you have a suggestion?

The original blurb:

Caution! Do Not Enter! The other side of the door might be hazardous to your health! Starting in NYC, Declan travels through a wild linkage of disguised matter transporters to rescue a beautiful woman from aliens. Together, Dec and Liz, helped by a stray tom cat named Jefferson, try to puzzle out and disrupt the invasion plans of the hidden invaders. The aliens have enlisted the aid of members of the government and pose a deadly threat to humanity. To forestall them, the matter transporter network must be destroyed before all is lost. Desperately fighting their way across the solar system with captured weapons, Dec and Liz discover that the aliens’ power is based on a horrifying symbiosis that is the foundation of the alien’s strength, but which also creates an exploitable vulnerability. As a result of being captured by the alien leader, both Declan and Elizabeth gain unique mental skills that may help save mankind from destruction. Unfortunately, the invasion plot is multi-pronged and the aliens have set up a devastating final attack that can destroy human society, forcing the survivors into a survival lifestyle. This book stands by itself and does not leave you hanging in the heat of the action, but it is the first of a series. The next story, “Second Wave” will be complete by the end of 2014.

The second try:

Caution! Do Not Enter! The other side of the door might be hazardous to your health! You might find a hidden network of alien-installed matter transporters being used to set up an invasion that will destroy humanity. You might also find a beautiful woman captured by the invading forces. You might be joined by an unexpected ally in the form of a stray tom cat. You might just find that the alien weapons are better than the human counterparts. You might find that the aliens’ strength depends upon a horrifying biological symbiosis; a symbiosis which creates an exploitable vulnerability. You might find that your own mind is a far better weapon than you believed. You might find that you can’t save the world, even if you can still stop the invasion. You might find the love of your life. You might find more close calls and firefights than you expected. You might find that you’re wondering what comes next. Please take the time to view the video trailer at DeclanDunham.com. It gives you a good sense of the pace of the story and some of the plot elements. This full-length novel stands by itself and does not leave you hanging in the heat of the action, but it is the first of a series. The next story, “Second Wave” will be complete by the end of 2014.

Thanks for your comments!

Namaste!

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Why Do We Like Stories About Monsters?

I’ve got two problems. I love to read and I’ve always been overly optimistic about human nature. I hope for the best, but lately, it seems that just about everyone has set out to disappoint me. My wife tells me to just ignore the news, but the blasted stuff is so compelling. Compelling deliberately, because viewers and clicks sell advertising. Still, no matter where you look, you see examples of blind hatred, self-destructive antipathy, gross incompetence, and stupidity on Idiocracy levels.

Have you noticed that TV is usually several days behind in coverage of current events and it’s also pretty one-sided – the side depending, of course, on your choice of channel? My other news source, the Internet, is a hotbed of  “outrage porn.” No matter your personal predilection, you can always find at least one slant on a news item that really ticks you off. Unfortunately, whether you read one side’s view or the others or maybe even both, there’s a high likelihood that the actual facts don’t warrant either interpretation.

Despite all the divisiveness, I keep hoping that everyone will eventually get together and begin treating each other like they’d want to be treated themselves. It just never seems to happen in real life. People continue to find trivial things to disagree about. These little disagreements turn into big ones and the next thing you know, someone is dead or there’s a war somewhere or some people are being repressed violently by another group.

Humans apparently need enemies. It’s probably a result of our tribal origins. Despite wistful thinking or willful blindness, many humans think that their lives aren’t complete unless they have someone to hate, denigrate and fight. Perhaps it’s a neighbor who belongs to a different political party, church, race, sexual orientation, or maybe just combs their hair on the wrong side. It’s really all the same; they are worthy of hate because… You fill in the blank. If you don’t like being reminded of this, good! At least I got a response.

This sad state of affairs made me think, what would happen if humans had an external enemy, one that poised a serious threat to all of us. Would we pull together and stand as a group? This thought happened to become mixed up with another idea that I had. A few years ago, a French artist placed a non-working door on the blank side of a building. Today, the door gets mail delivered to it and the city maintenance people keep it clean. It’s become an established part of its neighborhood in Paris. When I read about it, my first thought was, “Wouldn’t it be interesting if there were a functional matter transmitter hidden behind the door?”

Both of these ideas came together in book form and, naturally, they created a situation that required a man of action to deal with the alien enemies that just had to come through the matter transporter. I mean, what’s a matter transporter good for unless it provides access to the Earth for inimical creatures from another world? That’s where Declan Dunham came in. He’s competent and a good fighter, but he’s always been rather unsuccessful with women (although that’s about to change.) He also makes strategic mistakes at times, but he is definitely the man for the job when it comes to interfering with plans to invade the Earth.

Thanks to Dec, I realized that I like reading because it’s fun and a relaxing use of free time. On the other hand, writing is stressful, takes a lot of time and is a lot of work! To help him through this story, I spent my free time writing which inevitably cut down on the time available for reading. My goal was to work hard so you could spend your free time in an enjoyable manner. I made my characters risk their lives, so you can have fun. But, as I wrote, I realized that I was exploring what humans might do, if faced with an outside enemy. The story also deals with what it might be like to have our current system of living broken, forcing us to reset and rebuild in a new pattern. I sometimes think that we may have trapped ourselves and a full reset of our society might be necessary to progress.

I believe that most people aren’t in a position to take definitive action regarding things they don’t like about our world. Dec rather inadvertently finds himself in a situation which demands that he do something. Now, you can follow him through his difficulties from your armchair without working up a sweat. Trust me, it’s a lot easier that way. Who knows, perhaps you’ll come up with a thought that will lead to a whole new way of living for all of us.

Declan hasn’t stopped with the events in the first book. He’s now back up to his old tricks, busily trying to create as much havoc as possible in the second book of the series. The Second Wave will be released in December, 2014, so please watch for it! If you’d like an email notice that it’s available, connect with me using the widget on the right side of the screen.

Namaste!