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On Covers and Blurbs

we investigate zebras cover 3

(First up, We Investigate Zebras is up for free today.)

This is another post on marketing, most of it brought to you by the Mad Genius Club 🙂

The best way to sell a book is make sure the reader loved the book before it.  But the best thing to get the attention of a new reader is the cover and blurb.

The post from MGC on covers is here.

Yesterday I took serious note of this because my latest Evie isn’t selling well, and with the help of my author friends and readers, I figured out why.  On the cover, Evie is wearing an outfit that confuses the hell out of everyone.  She’s in a fedora and a silky, loose Chinese top.  So while the layout and background go with urban fantasy, apparently the outfit was saying Regency Romance with a twist.

Oops.  My cover artist and I are working on a new cover with Evie in her usual business casual attire.

Another cover I had to fix was this one above, the wording was put in an awkward place that just threw people off.  We fixed it to this and it sold much better.  You may notice this is very cartoony.  That’s because this is the chick lit end of urban fantasy and those typically have a cartoon cover.

Today MGC tackled blurbs.  A blurb in this context is the back of the book, what the book is about.

The other night I was at a friend’s birthday party and started chatting with an older gentleman who said he was a writer too.  I asked him what he wrote and he went off on the typical beginner’s spiel of, “And then there’s this… but oh wait, this happens first, but the reader doesn’t know it yet.  Anyway it gets to this.”

It took him about ten minutes and halfway through his explanation, I was calling the bartender for another martini and trying to figure out how to tell him nicely that he needs to work on his elevator speech.

Here’s the thing, there’s no nice way to say it.  Nobody wants to hear the ten minute babble of the plot.  They’ll read the book for what is a much better story, hopefully, than the one you’re taking ten minutes to tell.

Like the MGC says in their post:

At the heart of every story, there is this: A person, who wants something, but a force opposes him. This is important, because of these stakes. Either they get it, or they don’t.

Your blurb is the first two sentences.  That’s what the story is about.  Boil it down to it’s simplest idea.

In law school we had a saying during finals, “If you can explain the legal concept to a five year old, you’ve got it down.”

Same thing here.  If you can tell a five year old what your story is about and they get it, you’ve got it down.

Blurbs are still not my strong suit.  Hey, I’m new, I’m working on it 🙂  But here’s mine for We Investigate Zebras, which is up free today on Amazon if you want to check it out:

“When psychics hear hoof beats, they think zebras…

When a body burned in a fire hotter than a crematorium’s is dumped in Nashville, there’s only one section of the FBI to call in, the supernatural investigators of the Special Division Force. With no leads and something obviously magic behind it, they need rookie FBI Agent psychic Ariana Ryder to solve the case.

But not everything is as it seems and sometimes a girl’s gotta go back to the basics to see the horses through the zebras.”

You may notice that first line is its own thing.  This is what we call the tag line.  It’s a pithy phrase that catches the reader’s eye and it will its own post when I have a better handle on them 🙂  The best thing to do with these is go to something like IMBD and read the tag lines below the movies to get an idea of what you’re going for.

With the blurb, you want person, goal and opposition.  Do NOT put down the resolution, otherwise there’s no reason to read the book 🙂

Problem is the case needing to be solved, Ariana is the main character, and the thing in the way is the assumptions the investigators made about the case.

Again, I’m not saying this is a great blurb because I know it’s not.  It’s not bad though, and it is an example of trying to implement the basic blurb structure.

So take your latest work.  I don’t care if you’re an experienced author, a new one, or the beginning writer who’s babbling for ten minutes about the plot of your half written first book.  Take it, and try to fit it into this structure.  See what you come up with.

Happy Writing 🙂

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