From JW Manus:
When Aunt Edna is telling a story, I have to make sure the guns are safely locked away.
Aunt Edna: Did you hear about the Smith’s dog?
Me: Who are the Smiths?
AE: Remember that nice couple who lived on Oak Drive? The blue house. Awful color, looked like one of those toilet bowl cakes. I thought about leaving them a note. A nice note, not mean or anything, just a hint that paint is cheap and I’m sure the neighbors would be more than happy to help paint the house on a weekend.
Me: Huh? What does this have to do with a dog?
AE: They painted the house when they moved in–
. . . .
Bless her soul, Aunt Edna is not trying to drive people crazy. It’s that she has a story to tell, and it excites her and she wants other people to understand how exciting it is, so she needs to explain all the backstory and who the characters are and, of course, every story relates to another, so Uncle Henry’s hearing problems are important, too.
It’s those Aunt Edna-ish impulses that give many writers fits when they try to write book descriptions. They love their book, they’re excited, they want others excited, too, but they know too much and they’re emotionally involved. Browsers on Amazon or B&N won’t look for the key to the gun safe, they’ll just click the “next” button.
Copy writers who create blurbs and book descriptions for publishers tend to work off synopses, rather than the read the books. Why? It’s not their job to love the book or get involved or excited about the story. Their job is to entice readers into buying the book. A synopsis hits the high points of character and plot, providing all the information the copy writer needs with none of the emotional investment.
. . . .
Study. Go through your shelves or head to the bookstore or browse Amazon for descriptions written by pros. Find mass market paperback novels that are similar in genre and tone to your novel. After you read about ten or twenty, you will discover there is a formula. Copy writers use that formula because it works.
. . . .
Know your audience. Do a little market research. Hop over to Amazon or GoodReads, find the ten most popular novels that are similar in genre and tone to yours. Read the reviews and look for buzzwords. If for instance you wrote a fantasy novel, look for whatever readers are mentioning. The characters? The setting? Use of magic? Dragons? Tricky plots? Battle scenes? What are readers getting excited about? Seriously, make a list of the buzzwords. Readers who liked those popular titles will be looking for similar titles to enjoy. To help them find yours, focus your book description on what the readers are actually looking for.
. . . .
Think brief. You have seconds to catch browser attention with your cover. A few seconds more to intrigue with your first sentence or two. A reader will then decide if they want to read more. So you have to lead with your very best. Don’t blow it by presenting a mass of text. Blurbs on the backs of mass market paperbacks tend to run between 100-250 words. Usually closer to a hundred.
Link to the rest at JW Manus and thanks to Eric for the tip.