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Aug09

How to Write a Marketing Blurb

It’s the blog you (most of you) have been waiting for! The infamous, how to write a marketing blurb! *Crowd cheers.*

 

This has been a long, long time coming. Before we get started, let me share some fun facts as to how long it took me to actually write the final blurb.

 

The marketing description document was created December 8, 2014. The final blurb was written July 8th 2015, a full SEVEN MONTHS LATER!

 

Seven months to create what is essentially a total of 129 words.

 

Edit 2 which I showed to the Senior Creative Writer at my job was a total of 135 words.

 

My first edit on the marketing blurb was originally 129, which is the same word count as the final.

 

The document where I created my rough ideas for the book was created on October 7th 2014. The marketing description was created on December 8th, 2014. The marketing blurb was finalized on July 8th, 2015. Interesting how my projects seem to start and end on the 7th or 8th.

 

Okay, with that out of the way. It’s time to discuss the marketing blurb. From rough draft, to edit, to final. It’s a long, arduous process but also one of the most important. Your marketing blurb is what’s going to bait your reader into opening the book. If you don’t sell them on the concept, you don’t get a sale, period.

 

In order to start our marketing blurb we need to create a rough draft.

 

ROUGH DRAFT:

 

Idea 1 *After a foiled robbery leaves a former New York City police officer on her deathbed. Cindy Ames leaves behind her students, a sister, and a husband. Or so it was believed. Cindy miraculously survives her injuries but feels . . . different. Something has happened to her and now her body is capable of turning into metallic skin. She feels stronger, bullets can’t hurt her, and she can turn back to her human self at will. Cindy starts to call herself The Silver Ninja and uses her newfound powers to do what she could never do as an officer. Save the city.

 

Idea 2** “Perfect is the last thing you would use to describe me.” Cindy Ames was just your average, ordinary woman planning a birthday party for her husband Jonas. While picking up a cake at her favorite Cafe, she becomes witness to an armed robbery and decides to take action. Falling back to her NYPD training, Cindy foils the robbery at the cost of several crippling bullets to her body.

 

Idea 3 ***While picking up a cake at her favorite Cafe, she witnesses an armed robbery. Falling back to her NYPD training, Cindy decides to take action and foil the robbery, but at the cost of several crippling bullets to her body.

 

She miraculously survives but something has changed. Her body is covered in sleek silver, she gains super strength, and her skin becomes indestructible. Cindy sets off to discover what’s happened to her and also uses her newfound abilities to protect the city.

 

Unfortunately, her quest for the truth may be more than she bargained for.

 

Okay. Here is the genesis and verbal diahrrea of the basic concept behind the marketing blurb. The goal of the rough draft is to write as many ideas as possible and figure out which ones resonate with you. This means telling not showing and writing it out as literal as possible. The rough draft has no mystery or hooks to grab your reader nor does it have language that is enjoyable to read.

 

This will all be addressed in the edited version. BOLD any ideas or concepts that sound the most interesting. In this case, how did Cindy survive and what changed to allow her to do so? That last line also looks promising and could potentially serve as a hook.

 

Let’s start refining the text into an edit that’s useable. The goal is to get the description under 130 words.

Remember, the marketing blurb is seen on the description of your book page and other retailers. They don’t want a synopsis, they want something small and fast that will fit on the webpage.

 

During this edit process you’re going to write and re-write and re-write and re-write and re-write . . . you get the idea. Don’t worry if it sucks, you have a lot of editing ahead of you anyway.

EDIT 1:

A sheen of silver crept up Cindy Ames’s arm and gradually swallowed her whole. Its metallic surface reflecting her pained expression. Cindy’s former life as a police officer, wife, and ordinary woman was being eaten away. It was a miracle to have survived, but something . . . something had changed. Cindy had been reborn, but into what? (Description feels too wordy)

Those who have seen her glistening silver armor call her The Silver Ninja. A superheroine that uses her super strength, indestructible armor, and bone breaking martial arts prowess  to do what she could never do as an officer. Save the city. (Bold has potential, the rest is too literal.)

But when a series of suspicious murders plague Manhattan, all fingers point to her. Is Cindy truly the heroine she believes herself to be? (This line has potential.)

Between black and white lies a shade of silver.

** TAGLINE: “Between black and white lies a shade of silver.”

All right. Now we have an edit but there’s a few problems with this text. The first paragraph is too vague and seems kind of confusing. The second paragraph has too many lists and seems like a cop out in terms of description. The third paragraph however, seems salvageable.

Let’s take a break for a few days (in the real world, not the blog) and revisit with fresh eyes later on.

EDIT 2:

A gel of viscous silver crept up the arm of former police officer, Cindy Ames and swallowed her pale skin with metallic tendrils. The last thing she saw before succumbing to darkness was her pained expression stretched over a mirror of steel. (Hmm . . . something’s not quite right. Not sure what.)

Motivated by a haunted past and the mystery of her transformation. Cindy embraces her newly discovered powers and becomes a vigilante crime fighter. As The Silver Ninja, Cindy was finally able to do what she could never do as an ordinary cop. Save the city.

But when a series of suspicious high-profile murders plague Manhattan, all witnesses point to her. Is Cindy truly the superheroine she believes herself to be? Her quest to unearth what she’s become may be more than she bargained for.

Between black and white lies a shade of Silver. (That’s a keeper!)

Edit 2 was the edit that I was most happy with. I loved it, thought it was great and decided that this would be the version to submit for peer review.

In the peer review I showed this version to fellow author K.S. Marsden of the Witch Hunter series and the Senior Creative Writer at R* games. (I don’t know if it’s cool to post his name, so he’s just the senior creative writer for now.)

So it was submitted and the feedback was universal. “I think your second and third paragraphs are great, really interesting. I’m not sure about the first, though. When I see the word gel I think of body wash and it’s not clear exactly what’s happening. I’m assuming it’s talking about some sort of suit? It also feels that the first paragraph is disconnected from the second and third.” The writer proceeded to circle my entire first paragraph and said, “I think you need to re-think this paragraph and start again.”

It was this useful, constructive critique that delayed my marketing blurb by several months. Do you know how difficult it is to write one brilliant paragraph that matches up with the high quality bar set by the other two? It’s really f-ing hard. So hard that it took another 5 months to write it. Up next are the several variations that followed this edit.

EDIT 3:

A gel of viscous silver crept up the arm of former police officer, Cindy Ames and swallowed her pale skin with metallic tendrils. The last thing she saw before succumbing to darkness was her pained expression stretched over a mirror of steel.

Former NYPD officer Cindy Ames claws at her bathroom door as a strange liquid metal snares her leg and consumes her body. Trapped inside a suit of flexible metal alloy, Cindy finds herself infused with extraordinary superhuman abilities. (So being an NYPD officer is why a liquid metal is grabbing her? Also, “infused with extraordinary superhuman abilities,” is a little too weak for a marketing description.)

The struggle to write the first paragraph of this marketing blurb became very real. Everything I wrote felt disconnected from the second paragraph or lacked the punch to grab the reader’s attention. In order to stir some inspiration, I grabbed some marketing blurbs from video games, film, and TV. Book blurbs of today are incredibly weak. “From New York Times best selling author. This book will blow your brain away. An incredible experience.” WEAK! USELESS! How is a new, unknown author supposed to use that kind of blurb? Avoid the blurbs from popular books, they are rarely helpful. Instead I turned to indie books and other media. Check them out below. (I also included terrible ones too so that I knew what to avoid.)

 

Blott (An indie book by Daniel Parsons | Daniel’s website)

When a devastating famine forces Blott to disobey his parents and leave his remote village in search of food, he learns three things that change his life forever.

  1. The world outside his village is made up of a giant canvas that stretches all the way to the horizon.
  2. A freakish ability that he has kept secret for years means that he can paint life into the fabric, and shape new land around him to save his people from extinction.
  3. A sinister voice inside his head has other ideas, threatening to consume him and unleash an untold evil onto the community.

Will Blott create a perfect world, or will he let his inner demon paint with darker colours?

The fate of his people rests in the balance.

Interesting premise, concise, and definitely has good hooks.

MANHUNT 2 (Video game)

An experiment at a secret research facility has gone catastrophically wrong. Daniel Lamb and Leo Kasper are the only surviving subjects. The Pickman Project will stop at nothing to hunt them down and stop the truth from getting out.

Demented screams echo around the dark asylum that has caged you for the last six years. You open your eyes. A white-coated body slumps to the floor through your shaking hands. A bloody syringe slips from your arm. Waves of confusion and paranoia crash over you. You have no idea who you are or how you got here.

The door to your cell is open. One choice. One chance. They took your life. Time to take it back.

(Really liked this one. How is this only 117 words!? Impressive visuals from the writing.)

 

BATMAN V SUPERMAN (Upcoming film)

 

Fearing the actions of a god-like super hero left unchecked, Gotham City’s own formidable, forceful vigilante takes on Metropolis’s most revered, modern-day savior, while the world wrestles with what sort of hero it really needs.  And with Batman and Superman at war with one another, a new threat quickly arises, putting mankind in greater danger than it’s ever known before.

(Who wrote this? This is shit! Formidable, forceful vigilante? Pure garbage! Do not emulate!)

 

LUCIFER: (Upcoming TV show):

 

LUCIFER is the story of the original fallen angel. Bored and unhappy as the Lord of Hell, LUCIFER MORNINGSTAR has abandoned his throne and retired to L.A., where he owns Lux, an upscale nightclub.

 

Charming, charismatic and devilishly handsome, Lucifer is enjoying his retirement, indulging in a few of his favorite things – wine, women and song – when a beautiful pop star is brutally murdered outside of Lux. For the first time in roughly 10 billion years, he feels something awaken deep within him as a result of this murder. Compassion? Sympathy? The very thought disturbs him – as well as his best friend and confidante, MAZIKEEN aka MAZE, a fierce demon in the form of a beautiful young woman.

 

The murder attracts the attention of LAPD homicide detective CHLOE DANCER, who initially is dismissive of Lucifer. But she becomes intrigued by his talent for drawing out people’s secrets and his desire to dispense justice, doling out punishment to those who deserve it. As they work together to solve the pop star’s murder, Lucifer is struck by Chloe’s inherent goodness. Accustomed to dealing with the absolute worst of humanity, Lucifer is intrigued by Chloe’s apparent purity and begins to wonder if there’s hope for his own soul yet.

 

At the same time, God’s emissary, the angel AMENADIEL, has been sent to Los Angeles to convince Lucifer to return to the underworld…can the Devil incarnate be tempted toward the side of Good, or will his original calling pull him back toward Evil?

 

(Way too wordy (253 words) but this is great. The premise sounds fascinating. It’s not as visually engaging as Manhunt but it definitely knows how to get someone interested. Whoever wrote this knew what they were doing.)

 

Okay, back to work. Let’s bring out the rest of the edits.

 

EDIT 4:

 

Trembling on her bathroom floor. Cindy Ames claws at her skin as a strange liquid metal snares her body and morphs human flesh into flexible steel. Several painful seconds later, Cindy emerges as the world’s first high-tech superhuman. (Last sentence is a cop out. Descriptive visual but still seems disconnected from paragraph 2.)

 

EDIT 5:

 

Trembling on her bathroom floor. A strange liquid metal snares Cindy Ames and begins a startling transformation. Her skin turns to flexible steel, muscles expand, and a petite woman awakens into something mighty. (This whole bathroom thing isn’t working. However, I do like the sentence of a woman becoming mighty. There might be something there.)

 

Before I get to the final, approved marketing blurb. Let’s explain why I was trying to use the bathroom approach. Originally, my intent was to give the reader a sample of what kind of writing they should expect from the book. Unfortunately, tying that together with the second paragraph and keeping it concise just wasn’t going to work. Either all of the paragraphs needed to have descriptive writing or they all needed to be direct and to the point. One or the other.

 

So I went with a different approach. In order to help me nail down this final marketing blurb I asked my girlfriend to review it with me and help me brainstorm. She liked edit 2 but I explained to her that edit 2 felt too disconnected from the rest of the marketing blurb. I needed something that was more attention getting, faster, punchier, and clear because you always want clarity in your writing. “Where’s the chase and how do we cut to it?” Somehow as we sat there staring at the screen, the final blurb came to me.

 

EDIT 6:

 

Cindy Ames never believed in superheroes. Then one day . . . she woke up as one. Enveloped from head to toe in a liquid metal nanosuit, this strange technology has turned an everyday woman into an unstoppable force.

Motivated by a haunted past and the mystery of her transformation. Cindy embraces her newly discovered powers and becomes a vigilante crime fighter. As The Silver Ninja, Cindy was finally able to do what she could never do as an ordinary cop. Save the city.

But when a series of suspicious high-profile murders plague Manhattan, all witnesses point to her. Is Cindy truly the superheroine she believes herself to be? Her quest to unearth what she’s become may be more than she bargained for.

Between black and white lies a shade of Silver.

 

Although I liked this blurb and thought it was final. I made sure to have the senior creative writer take one more look at it.

 

This is what he had to say:

“Yes, this looks much cleaner and clearer now… It’s a marketing blurb so definitely doesn’t need to reflect the writing style of the book itself.

Some of the switches in verb tense seem to disrupt the flow of it a bit.  E.g. Cindy embraces her newly discovered powers and becomes a vigilante crime fighter. As The Silver Ninja, Cindy was finally able to do what she could never do as an ordinary cop.

So, personally, I’d keep it all the present tense.”

 

He changed four words in his edit. Four words made the world of difference for the final, polished, ready to print version.

 

Ladies and gentlemen. I present to you the final, approved marketing blurb.

 

THE SILVER NINJA:

 

Cindy Ames never believed in superheroes. Then one day . . . she wakes up as one. Enveloped from head to toe in a liquid metal nanosuit, this strange technology turns an everyday woman into an unstoppable force.

Motivated by a haunted past and the mystery of her transformation, Cindy embraces her newly discovered powers and becomes a vigilante crime fighter. As The Silver Ninja, Cindy is finally able to do what she could never do as an ordinary cop. Save the city.

But when a series of suspicious high-profile murders plague Manhattan, all witnesses point to her. Is Cindy truly the superheroine she believes herself to be? Her quest to unearth what she’s become may reveal more than she bargained for.

Perception can be changed. Reality cannot.

 

I love it and so did everyone else. Instead of describing the scene like I was attempting to do before I went with the blunt, tell it like it is approach. The difference was in the word choice. Let’s break down the blurb so that you can understand the mechanics behind my decisions and word choice.

 

Set up the scene and protagonist. Cindy Ames never believed in superheroes. Then one day . . . she wakes up as one. (Okay so this book is going to contain something about superheroes.)

 

Enveloped from head to toe in a liquid metal nanosuit, (Enveloped implies something being covered or trapped inside. Liquid metal nanosuit could be like the T-1000 from terminator or mercury from an old thermometer.)

 

this strange technology turns an everyday woman into an unstoppable force. (So a transformation has happened. What does unstoppable force mean? That’s up to your imagination to decide.)

 

Motivated by a haunted past and the mystery of her transformation, (We have the beginnings of character agency and plot.)

 

Cindy embraces her newly discovered powers and becomes a vigilante crime fighter. (So she becomes a superheroine.)

 

As The Silver Ninja, Cindy is finally able to do what she could never do as an ordinary cop. Save the city. (So she used to be a cop? Is she still a cop? Did she fail as a cop? Where does this take place?)

 

But when a series of suspicious high-profile murders plague Manhattan, (Ah so it’s in New York City. High-profile murders eh? So someone’s killing people with a lot of visibility. Politicians? Celebrities?)

 

all witnesses point to her. (The DUN DUN DUN, plot twist. The reason why you’re reading the book.)

 

Is Cindy truly the superheroine she believes herself to be? Her quest to unearth what she’s become may reveal more than she bargained for. (The closing hook. Now you know it’s not a cut and dry, cliché superhero story. There’s more to this, more depth, more complexity. Is our heroine actually evil?)

 

Perception can be changed. Reality cannot. (The tagline. Yes, I changed it from the original between black and white. Why? Well as the novel evolved so did the theme. I can’t give away why it’s changed but I assure you that it’s for the better.)

 

Whew. That was a long blog wasn’t it? I know it was a lot of words to sit through but I wanted to make sure that it was as educational as I could possibly make it. Writing a great marketing blurb is infinitely more difficult than writing a book. With a book, you have the opportunity to elaborate and explain what’s going on. A blurb is you, without training, with a bow and arrow, trying to hit a bullseye.

 

This is what happens when you’re an indie author. You don’t have a marketing team to back you up or the help of a traditional publisher. You have to make magic happen and that first impression needs to be memorable if you want to sell books.

 

Hopefully by breaking this marketing blurb down and explaining my thought process to you, this could help you figure out how to write your own marketing blurb. Or if you have some cash to spare you can hire someone to write a blurb for you, but then again… if you had cash to spare you wouldn’t need this blog now would you?

 

Hope you enjoyed today’s blog! If you felt this information was useful, please share with any fellow readers who may be interested in it or feel free to comment down below or on the FB page.

 

Thank you and good luck on your writing journey!

 

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Wilmar Luna