Sunday, April 15, 2018

The Art of the Blurb by Alison Henderson

By the time you read this, I will be deep in my edits, probably moaning and tearing my hair. However, at the moment I'm taking advantage of my last few days of freedom to work on the blurb for UNDERCOVER NANNY that will become my Amazon product description.

As you know, blurbs vary widely in length and level of detail. Some are mere teasers. Others spell out most of the main plot points. I've read quite a number of articles on how to write great product descriptions, but I'm not sure I got many useful pointers from any of them. Some were written by professional marketers, and others by authors discussing the elements and style that have worked for there. I'm not a marketing guru, but personal preference seems to play a major role.

So, what about you? When you're looking for a new book, what do you look for in a blurb? Do you want a brief description that gives you an idea of the tone of the book but only a broad overview of the characters and plot? Or do you feel more comfortable (and therefore more likely to part with your hard-earned cash) if you have a better idea of the story?

I don't think most readers like super-long blurbs, so I've written two potential options for UNDERCOVER NANNY: one with approximately 100 words, and one twice that length. I would love your opinion as to which would make you more likely to hit the "Buy" button.

#1
Kidnapping. Extortion. Antiquities smuggling. Add one light-fingered, bad-tempered monkey, and it’s all in a day’s work for novice bodyguard Casey Callahan.

She has been hired to protect the five-year-old niece of archaeology professor Alec Bainbridge from would-be kidnappers while posing as the child’s nanny—a task made all the more challenging by the escapades of Balthazar, a Capuchin with an attitude.

Amid break-ins, anonymous threats, and possible arson, Casey and Alec race to identify the villains before they harm the child or make off with a priceless Egyptian artifact. All the while, their growing mutual attraction becomes a complication too powerful to ignore.

#2
Kidnapping. Extortion. Antiquities smuggling. Add one light-fingered, bad-tempered monkey, and it’s all in a day’s work for novice bodyguard Casey Callahan.

Casey has been working part-time for an all-female bodyguard agency while finishing her graduate degree. In her first solo assignment, she has been hired to protect the five-year-old niece of a handsome archaeology professor from would-be kidnappers while posing as the child’s nanny. When she arrives at the house, she is startled to learn her duties will also include wrangling the little girl’s staunch companion, an impudent Capuchin named Balthazar.

Alec Bainbridge has been balancing excavation and teaching duties with single parenthood since the death of his sister. When a stranger attempts to take his niece from school, his fears push him to hire a bodyguard. However, the young woman who shows up is a far cry from the matronly type he was expecting.

Despite Alec and Casey's best efforts, the anonymous threats continue to escalate, sending them on a race to identify the villains before they harm the child or make off with a priceless Egyptian artifact. All the while, their growing mutual attraction becomes a complication too powerful to ignore.

Do you like either? Should I mix and match elements? I want to give readers enough, but not too much. It's a fine line, and any help you can give will be most appreciated.

Alison
www.alisonhenderson

15 comments:

Margo Hoornstra said...

Since you asked. The first paragraph is great. Here’s what I suggest for the rest of it.

Kidnapping. Extortion. Antiquities smuggling. Add one light-fingered, bad tempered monkey, and it’s all in a day’s work for novice bodyguard Casey Callahan when she’s hired to protect the five year old niece of a handsome archaeology professor.

Then go on with paragraph three of #2, and finish with paragraph three of #1.

IMHO anyway.

Jannine Gallant said...

#2 is way too long with lots of unnecessary info. I like the first tag line as is, but I reworked the rest to keep it in present tense, active voice, and deleted a few extraneous words. However, I added a new line to complete each paragraph and give it more punch.

Kidnapping. Extortion. Antiquities smuggling. Add one light-fingered, bad-tempered monkey, and it’s all in a day’s work for novice bodyguard Casey Callahan.

Archaeology professor Alec Bainbridge hires Casey to protect his five-year-old niece from would-be kidnappers. Posing as the child’s nanny—a task made all the more challenging by Balthazar, a Capuchin with an attitude—Casey is prepared to do whatever it takes to save the little girl.

Amid break-ins, anonymous threats, and attempted arson, Casey and Alec race to identify the villains before they harm his niece or steal a priceless Egyptian artifact. All the while, their attraction for each other complicates an already volatile situation. With an innocent child’s life at stake, Casey and Alec risk everything to solve the mystery before their growing feelings become the final casualty…

I haven't heard you scream yet (which I expected once you read that doc), but maybe the wind is simply blowing in the wrong direction...

Diane Burton said...

I prefer #1. Just enough detail. In #2, you don't need the info about her part-time work. And it's too long. I like Jannine's version, esp. the last sentence. Hope this helps.

Andrea Downing said...

Back before time began, I used to write blurbs (back cover copy) for Simon and Schuster. I can tell you the first is very good, Alison; generally I aim for around 150 words. The second tells me things I don't need to know: finishing her graduate degree, the monkey is a Capuchin, and so on. But basically, the first is good; it says everything a reader would want to know before buying.

Rolynn Anderson said...

I do like the first one better and will deal with it (along with Jannine's additions). Don't like the 'all in a day's work' phrase which minimizes the gravity of her task (she's a novice!) and is a cliche. Don't ask me why this is important, but it bugs me that I don't know whose monkey this is (in the first version). Don't think you need the word 'innocent'. I like Jannine's concept in her last line which interweaves the attraction to the crime-solving, but the sentence could use some tweaking. I don't think the monkey needs two mentions.

(I'm still working on mine, Alison...damn thing! One of you asked me to put my 100th draft on the loop, so I'll do that. Please show us your kinda final, too on the loop.)

Alison Henderson said...

Thanks so much, Margo. I think the final version will probably pull elements from both versions, too.

Alison Henderson said...

Jannine, I think #2 is too long, too. I'm amazed by the length of some of the product descriptions I read on Amazon. I like your suggestions, but as usual (LOL) I'll probably pick and choose. To me, your version suggests that Alec is the main POV character, and he isn't, so I'll probably re-work it a bit more.

As for the screams, I've read your notes and will probably get into the actual document this afternoon. I really like a couple of your plot solutions and plan to use them. I also have some of my own I think will work well.

Alison Henderson said...

Diane, #1 was my favorite, too. I just wondered if I was being too brief.

Alison Henderson said...

Thanks, Andi. I was afraid #1 might not give enough info about the characters to draw readers in.

Alison Henderson said...

Rolynn, thanks for the input. At this point, I have no idea how many versions I'll go through before settling on one. LOL

Leah St. James said...

I definitely prefer the first, and I like the last line Jannine added as well. I confess I don't pay too much attention to blurbs. They always feel so sales-y to me, which of course they are. I do read to get a sense of the tone of the story (drama, comedy) but tend to mostly skim through them. My opinion is probably the last one you need! LOL!

Brenda Whiteside said...

Late to the party, but I'm liking the first...and I can't wait to read!

Alison Henderson said...

Leah, I wrote #1 first and still like it best, too.

Alison Henderson said...

Thanks, Brenda. It should be ready in a few more weeks.

Ally Robertson said...

I'm late, as usual. I agree with everyone else about #1. Definitely just want a bit of a teaser to draw readers in. I look at blurbs to see if I want to read a book and see if it grabs me. (if the blurb is talking about aliens who take basket weaving class and quote Shakespeare, I'm probably going to pass :)). But, I get bored with lengthy blurbs. I don't need to know a lot about characters. I'm also amazed at some of the lengthy blurbs I run across on published books. I seldom read the entire thing. Sounds like a fun read!