For online bookstores, the cover, title, blurb, and sample are the book’s only salesmen at the point-of-sale. A great blurb can help motivate purchases, whereas a lousy blurb tends to deter them.
(1) Summarizing the book.
The blurb’s number one priority is to create interest in the book, not to summarize it. Summaries often don’t sound interesting and provide too much information.
(2) Giving too much information away.
An effective blurb arouses the reader’s curiosity. Rather than answering all of the reader’s questions about the book, ask some questions – either explicitly or implicitly. A customer who wants to know something about the story has to read it to find out, unless the blurb answers the question.
However, nonfiction books should make the content clear.
(3) Building suspense.
Customers tend to be impatient. If the blurb (or sample) starts out slow, some customers will walk away without reaching the main part of the blurb. Start out by creating interest to capture the reader’s attention.
(4) Sending mixed messages.
The title, cover, blurb, and sample should send a unified message regarding the genre and content. The message should be clear in each component. Confused buyers look for other products that aren’t confusing. If the cover looks like fantasy, but the blurb sounds like science fiction, for example, then the audience that is drawn to the book won’t buy the book.
(5) Spelling and grammar mistakes.
If the hundred or so words in the blurb have any spelling or grammar mistakes, the tens of thousands of words in the book itself must be plagued with editing problems. At least, this is what potential customers will expect.
(6) Too long.
Buyers tend to have short attention spans. If a buyer becomes bored while reading the blurb, the buyer will check out a different book. The longer the blurb, the more difficult it is to hold the buyer’s attention throughout.
A long blurb also looks intimidating to some readers. There are customers who immediately return to the previous page when a blurb looks too long. This depends in part on the target audience, and is a bigger concern for fiction than for nonfiction.
If the blurb makes the book sound far better than it actually is, the blurb will backfire as soon as customer reviews reflect this disparity. Also, when a book sounds too good, many customers will be skeptical.
Boasting tends to deter sales. Avoid comments like, “This Book is much better than That Book.” However, stating that a book is similar to a well-known book or movie – without making it sound better – can help potential buyers understand what to expect. Compare this comment with the previous one: “This Book is similar to That Book,” or, “This Book is a cross between Book A and Book B.”
(9) Telling readers what to think.
If a book is funny, for example, there is no reason to come right out and say this. Let customers form their own opinions. Most people don’t like to be told what to think. Saying that the book is a comedy may be helpful, whereas saying, “You will laugh your pants off,” tells readers what they will do.
(10) Poor formatting.
Insert a linespace to separate paragraphs. Break large paragraphs into smaller ones. Don’t use returns to force text onto a new line in mid-sentence. Don’t format each sentence on a separate line (unless using bullets). Boldface, italics, linebreaks, and bullets are available through AuthorCentral for Amazon book descriptions.
(11) Not giving readers a good idea of what to expect.
While it’s important not to reveal too much information, it’s also necessary to provide a general idea of what type of book to expect. Nonfiction should also make the content clear. The blurb should attract the right target audience for the book. Otherwise, customers are likely to express negative feedback in customer reviews.
(12) Lack of feedback.
Share the blurb with several people from the book’s intended target audience prior to publishing. Discover how they react to the blurb – especially, what they do and don’t like about it.
Chris McMullen, self-published author of A Detailed Guide to Self-Publishing with Amazon and Other Online Booksellers (Volume 2 now available)