How to Write Good Blurbs and Back Pages for Your BookBy
Lynn Serafinn shares a template for writing good marketing copy for your wholesalers, and discusses what to put on the back cover and back pages of your book. Part 4 of a 5-part series on self-publishing.
Over the past month, I’ve been sharing my 10 ‘Must Do’s’ of self-publishing. So far we’ve covered:
- Must-Do #1: Choose Your Title and Subtitle METICULOUSLY
- Must-Do #2: Find a Highly-Recommended Professional Editor and Proofreader
- Must-Do #3: Find a Highly-Recommended Cover Designer
- Must-Do #4: Create a Publishing Company
- Must-Do #5: Get Your ISBN Numbers
- Must-Do #6: Setting Up Your Title, Prices and Categories with a POD Company
- Must-Do #7: Working through your edits and proofs
- Must-Do #8: Obtaining endorsements for your book
The problem is, I keep thinking of more things to say! First it was going to be a single article. Then, 2 parts… 3 parts… 4 parts. Today I finally decided it needed to be a 5-part series. Today is Part 4. In this article, we’ll be looking at:
Must-Do #9: Blurbs, back cover and back pages
So here we go!
How Your Book is an INVITATION
Your book is not just a book. It is an invitation. First, you are inviting your reader into a new space, where you make them a promise to deliver something they want. Secondly, it is an invitation for them to become more deeply connected with you beyond the pages of your book.
To ensure your book is an effective invitation, you need three vital components:
- A powerful book description (‘blurb’) for wholesalers
- An equally powerful back cover blurb (if publishing a printed version)
- Attractive ‘back pages’ that attract the reader to explore more
Let’s look at each of these, respectively.
Your Wholesalers’ Blurb – technical considerations
The wholesalers’ ‘blurb’ is the words that are fed automatically from your distributor (for example, Lightning Source) to wholesalers and online retailers about your book. In Lightning Source, they also refer to this as the ‘meta’.
Different distributors have different ‘rules’ and specifications for their blurbs:
- Most have a character limit. For example, Lightning Source has a limit of 4000 characters (including spaces) for their ‘meta’.
- Some (like Lightning Source) require you to input HTML code for the blurb to read properly. If you don’t, when it appears on Amazon or other websites all the paragraphs in your blurb will be run together into one long block of text. This looks unreadable (and unprofessional) on people’s computer screens, so it’s vital to prepare your HTML properly before submitting your blurb.
- Note that any character limits INCLUDE your html coding. So if your limit is 4000 characters, try to stick to around 2500 characters of text/spaces when you’re writing the blurb. That way the extra characters from your HTML code won’t take it over the limit.
- Some companies will accept Word docs and your formatting will (or should) carry over to the online version.
Before starting to write your blurb, be sure you address these details with your distributor or subsidiary publisher, so you don’t end up disappointed.
TRICK: I discovered that the HTML tags <h2></h2> will translate into a lovely header on Amazon that uses its ‘house style’ orange colour.
Your Wholesalers’ Blurb – writing your copy
It’s important that your blurb is constructed properly so that you will attract the attention of the right customers when they read it online. Think of your book as a journey. People will ‘embark’ on the journey when they start to read it. However, you have to remember that they’ve been on their own journey long before they found your book, and something has led them to find you.
Any copy for a non-fiction book must address and acknowledge where your readers have come from, where they are now, and where you are going to take them. Here’s a rough template of how your blurb should go. Be sure to make each section SHORT with 2-3 sentences maximum in each:
- HEADLINE/BIG IDEA: Start with a headline that addresses the ‘big idea’ of the book. Make it short and to the point. Some people recommend putting keywords in your headline. That can be a very useful idea to help get your book to appear in searches, but be sensible about this, and don’t just ‘stuff’ your headline with keywords if they don’t actually convey the ‘big idea’.
- THE DESIRE: In your first paragraph, talk to your reader. What’s the journey they’ve been on? What are they looking for? What are the challenges they have faced?
- THE PROMISE: In the next paragraph, give a broad view of how THIS book addresses what the reader is looking for.
- EVIDENCE: In the next paragraph, give specific examples of how the book delivers on the promise. You might say something like, ‘You’ll learn X, Y, Z, etc.’ This is a good place to use a bullet-pointed list to make it easier for people to absorb.
- CREDIBILITY: Somewhere in your text (it could come in the ‘evidence’ part) bring in your credibility. For example: ‘Mary Smith draws upon more than 20 years in the holistic wellness field to give you…’
- USP: This stands for ‘unique selling point’. After you’ve given the ‘evidence’, people are going to start asking ‘Yeah…so what?’ There are countless other books on the market in your niche. Why is THIS BOOK different? What’s the angle? What does it do that no other book does?
- BONUS MATERIALS: If your book contains a link to any bonus materials, such as a downloadable MP3, worksheets, etc., here’s the place to mention them.
- END RESULT: Close your blurb with a simple, one-sentence rewording of ‘the promise’, reminding them of what they will gain from reading the book, and assure them that if they’re looking for X (‘the desire’) they’ll find it here.
ADVICE: Avoid schmoozy hype and over-blown descriptors in your copy. Don’t use words like ‘amazing’, ‘life-changing’, ‘incredible’ etc. Just tell people about the book. Remember: it’s an invitation, not a demand.
Making a good blurb for your wholesalers’ description requires skill and practice. It’s not something you should do flippantly or hurriedly. Get other people to read it and make sure it’s proofread. AND, if you’ve never done one before, you might have to do it a few times before it actually looks right on Amazon and has the right effect.
Your Back Cover Blurb
Your back cover copy is also an invitation. This time, it’s an invitation to readers who may be physically picking up your book in a book shop or at a book event.
Essentially, your back cover blurb should be a (significantly) reduced version of your wholesalers’ blurb. For it to fit, you’ll probably have to cut it down by as much as two-thirds, depending upon your layout. Make sure you have at least one line from each of the 8 parts of the template above, but strip it WAY back.
Leave room on your cover for other elements:
- A short (50-75 word) author bio and headshot
- 2-3 endorsements (see Part 3 of this series)
- Your bar code and price
Your Back Pages
While the above ‘blurbs’ are invitations for your readers to step into your book, the back pages of your book must be an invitation for your readers to step into a deeper connection with you. These should not be big blasting sales pages but information that can help the reader do any (or all) of the following:
- Read more about you (i.e. your ‘about the author’ page)
- Find/buy more of your books
- Sign up to receive a free offer of some kind
- Join an online community you lead
- Listen to a radio show you host
- Get involved in a project you are doing
- Find out more about courses you deliver
- Contact you for a private consultation
- Connect with you on social media
- For long links, use a shortener like http://bit.ly and then customise the link (example: http://bit.ly/TweepKindleUS is a custom link to buy the Kindle version of my book Tweep-e-licious on Amazon US).
- While providing your readers with links is important, for print books (not eBooks) you might consider using QR codes as well.
- Don’t just use words; show pictures of your books or logos of your show, etc.
While many self-published authors feel confident with writing book blurbs, many others find it challenging to distil the thoughts and language of their book into marketing copy. Others don’t know how to use HTML or how to ‘chunk’ the information visually so it becomes easily digestible on a computer screen.
Writing blurbs is something I do all the time for my clients, and some even hire me solely for this purpose. I spend a long private session interviewing you so I can extract the real ‘promise’ of your book and your work, and to get a real feel for the ‘desire’ of your ideal audience. I’ve repeatedly been told my copy writing really captures the essence of my clients’ work in an authentic way. On the technical side, I’m also great with HTML. I’ve been using it every day in my work for years. My MA is in distance education, and about 10 years ago, and as part of my degree I had to create a pretty complex educational web directory using only HTML code).
So if you’re in need of a help in these areas, give me a shout and we can set up an appointment to chat about it. Just drop me a line via the contact form on this site: http://spiritauthors.com/contact
And, of course, if you’d like to discuss building a marketing platform for your book, an Amazon book launch or any other marketing help, give me a shout too.
I do hope you’ve found this article useful. Let me know what you thought about it (or ask me any questions you might have) in the comments below.
AND…subscribe to this blog if you want to be sure to get Part 5 (finally) of this series, where we’ll be looking at:
Must-Do #10: Formatting, Uploading and Ordering Your Proof
17th July 2013
Happy birthday to my mother, Margaret, who would have been 90 years old today if she were still alive. Thanks for teaching me all about grammar, Mom.
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LYNN SERAFINN, MAED, CPCC is a certified, award-winning coach, teacher, marketer, social media expert, radio host, speaker and author of the number one bestseller The 7 Graces of Marketing — How to Heal Humanity and the Planet by Changing the Way We Sell and Tweep-e-licious! 158 Twitter Tips & Strategies for Writers, Social Entrepreneurs & Changemakers Who Want to Market their Business Ethically. She was recently named one of the Top 100 marketing authors on Twitter by Social Media Magazine and was selected as a finalist for the prestigious Brit Writers Awards. Her eclectic approach to marketing incorporates her vast professional experience in the music industry and the educational sector along with more than two decades of study and practice of the spirituality of India. Through her company Spirit Authors, her marketing campaigns have produced a long list of bestselling self-help and mind-body-spirit authors. Lynn is also the Founder of the 7 Graces Project, a budding social enterprise whose aim is to help grow a new generation of passionate entrepreneurs who want to serve both people and planet through innovative, ethical, independent enterprise.