For those of you who regularly follow our posts you may remember that we were supposed to have Nia Shay join us at the beginning of the month. And I was especially looking forward to her Take over post. Unfortunately sickness struck Nia's house making it impossible for her to finish her post and get it to me on time so i ran a promo post for her instead. Now though, we are happy to announce that we have Nia's post here for you today.
The Battle of the Blurb
We self-publishing authors face many challenges in creating, perfecting, and marketing our products. The trouble is that most of us are storytellers first and businesspeople second. Unlike our traditionally published counterparts, we don't have hordes of professionals standing by ready to handle the challenges involved in getting our books into readers' hands.
Of course the single most powerful selling tool an author has is a compelling cover. We shop with our eyes, after all, especially in the world of ebooks where we can look but not touch. Fortunately, the Internet is chock full of freelance cover artists. I've had the privilege of working with several, and each time I've been thoroughly satisfied with their quality, value, and experience.
Professional help with the second most valuable tool in an author's marketing arsenal, however, is a lot harder to come by. Once an attractive cover catches your eye, what's the first thing you do? You pick up the book and flip it over, eager to learn about the story inside. The blurb is an author's audition—our make-or-break moment to either convince the reader to open to page one or put our story aside and move on.
Publishing companies hire professionals experienced in the art of marketing to make this window of opportunity count for their clients. Independent authors, however, usually face the challenge of crafting a compelling blurb all on their own.
As an independent author myself—as well as a freelance editor, budget-minded single mother, and all-around grouch—I can say that a bad blurb is one of my biggest pet peeves when choosing my next read. Let me share a few tips that just might charm a few dollars out of my pocket and your book into my shopping cart.
- Think like a salesman, not a storyteller. The point of a blurb is to share a few juicy tidbits, not to retell your story in Cliffs Notes form. Think of the most exciting, most mysterious, or most emotional parts of your story. Now imagine you didn't know how these issues resolved. If you'd be dying to find out what happens next, chances are your potential readers will be, too. Center your blurb around one or two of these important plot points.
- Banish the backstory. Outside of the most basic introductions, tell about your characters between the covers. Any backstory you include in the blurb should either illustrate what makes your character unique to her world (e.g. the only fairy ever born without magical powers) or highlight the conflict between main characters (e.g. the heroine has given up on relationships and the hero must change her mind; the villain is the only one who can cure a fatally ill character.)
- Keep it short and sweet. Ideally a blurb should be only a few hundred words long, and every word should count. If your blurb is half a page or longer, it's time to start cutting…be ruthless! Remember, people respond to instant gratification. If you don't hook their attention quickly, you may lose it forever.
- Editing is important! Every author, self-published or otherwise, should employ the services of a professional editor—after all, if you're not willing to invest in your work, how can you expect anyone else to? And good grammar in your blurb is as important, if not more so, as in your manuscript. If your blurb is awkwardly or amateurishly written, readers will assume your story will be too. Have your editor look over your blurb as well as your manuscript. It'll be money well spent.
- Don’t be self-serving. No one wants to hear about how your story is the greatest epic since the Rings Trilogy or that you consider yourself to be the next Stephen King. Spend this unique opportunity to sell your story on its own merit, not by comparing it to someone else's. Even if you do make a sale based on a boastful claim, you'll lose that reader forever if you can't back up your words. Similarly, don't fill your limited "Book Description" space with reviews and praise for your other books. Or if you simply can't resist, at least put the blurb for the book in question first…don't make readers search for it at the end of a long list of horn-blowing.
It's an exciting time in the publishing world, and your blurb can either help you ride the waves of opportunity or sink you below the surface. Remember, it's not about TELLING a story, but SELLING a story. You have hundreds of pages to fill within the covers, but only if you can get a reader to open them. Don't squander the chance to make a good first impression!
About this author
Nia Shay is a reclusive weirdo who lives in a tiny concrete box in the middle of the Arizona desert. (No, seriously.)
In between dealing with mild OCD and an epic caffeine addiction, she finds time to mold the voices in her head into cohesive sarcastic remarks, and sometimes even a story or two. She has been penning such tales, almost all of them with a decidedly paranormal flavor, since the second grade.
Now that paranormal fiction is the “in thing,” Nia has decided to overcome her extreme distaste for trends and jump on the ol’ bandwagon. Join her on her harrowing journey through the twisted corridors of her own mind. That is… if you dare.
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