Author Topic: feedback on description with CTA for upcoming paperback novel on Amazon  (Read 1008 times)  

Offline kalencap

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While still waiting for final decision from kindle scout on ebook publication, went ahead and reworked description for paperback version of novel (and possibly ebook if self-pub as is likely). The description is for "The Ancient Tripod of Peace." Let me know what you think of the description -

Teens Lexi and Gil face relic-thieving secret societies.

Plagued by loneliness, vegan Lexi hopes to make like-minded friends in high school. But, her dad's job is jeopardized when relics are stolen from his museum, changing her priorities. And she wonders why her new teachers dislike her.

His dad in jail, cipher enthusiast Gil hopes freshman year will provide a clean slate. But, hiding a secret of his own while paired with Lexi, he discovers secret codes within a Shakespearean play. Finding the code embroils them in a mystery with family already involved.

The teen sleuths join forces during the burglary investigation. The secret societies' activities center near an aviary housing majestic birds in the Lake Erie Islands community. The societies' factions fight over a powerful relic, the stolen Tripod of Peace.

Lexi holds an age-old key the thieves will attack for. Gil's quick thinking may not be enough to keep the teen duo safe. What chance can young adult sleuths have when criminals wield an instrument of astounding power that can be used against them?

The Ancient Tripod of Peace is the first book in novelist Kalen Cap's Teen Thief-Catchers Series. If you like stories with artifact treasures, thieving and fighting secret societies, and spunky protagonists, you'll love this novel.

Grab your copy of The Ancient Tripod of Peace today and join Lexi and Gil in this enthralling adventure.
« Last Edit: February 12, 2018, 05:18:33 PM by kalencap »

Online Becca Mills

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Re: feedback on description with CTA for upcoming paperback novel on Amazon
« Reply #1 on: February 13, 2018, 10:02:05 AM »
I generally like it but feel it could be punched up a bit. Not sure how (sorry, not great at blurbs and such). There's perhaps more detail than really is productive in some areas and not enough in others. For instance, what larger agenda do these secret societies want to pursue? Something dastardly, I presume? And what can the tripod do that's so scary? Even if it's a secret, maybe it's possible to hint. Getting those larger implications in there could help us see Lexi and Gil's task as really mattering. On the other hand, do we need to know about Lexi's veganism, the aviary with majestic birds, that Gil has a secret, that the action happens in the Lake Erie Islands? Maybe that stuff could be pared back. Location could be included at the very beginning ("When her Dad's museum work takes her family the isolated Lake Erie Islands, fourteen-year-old Lexi ...").

Writingwise, I do notice that the sentence structures are repetitive. That could be varied a bit to create more dynamism at the level of language. Note the parallel structures in the first two paragraphs:

Plagued by loneliness, vegan Lexi hopes to make like-minded friends in high school. But, her dad's job is jeopardized when relics are stolen from his museum, changing her priorities. And she wonders why her new teachers dislike her.

His dad in jail, cipher enthusiast Gil hopes freshman year will provide a clean slate. But, hiding a secret of his own while paired with Lexi, he discovers secret codes within a Shakespearean play. Finding the code embroils them in a mystery with family already involved.

Modifier, modifier name verb remainder of predicate. But, ...   It'd be easy to mix things up a bit. Also, no comma after "but." "But," "and," "or," and such are exceptions to the rule about comma-ing after introductory elements. They're so short that it makes for choppiness.

In the third paragraph, all the sentences have the same beginning and similar structures:

The teen sleuths join forces during the burglary investigation. The secret societies' activities center near an aviary housing majestic birds in the Lake Erie Islands community. The societies' factions fight over a powerful relic, the stolen Tripod of Peace.

Definite article verb preposition ... This kind of thing can be mixed up a bit for less choppiness/repetition.

Note the "secret" echo in paragraph two. Maybe "discovers codes hidden in a Shakespeare play"?

Good luck with it. :)

Offline kalencap

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Re: feedback on description with CTA for upcoming paperback novel on Amazon
« Reply #2 on: February 13, 2018, 10:39:23 AM »
I generally like it but feel it could be punched up a bit. Not sure how (sorry, not great at blurbs and such). There's perhaps more detail than really is productive in some areas and not enough in others. For instance, what larger agenda do these secret societies want to pursue? Something dastardly, I presume? And what can the tripod do that's so scary? Even if it's a secret, maybe it's possible to hint. Getting those larger implications in there could help us see Lexi and Gil's task as really mattering. On the other hand, do we need to know about Lexi's veganism, the aviary with majestic birds, that Gil has a secret, that the action happens in the Lake Erie Islands? Maybe that stuff could be pared back. Location could be included at the very beginning ("When her Dad's museum work takes her family the isolated Lake Erie Islands, fourteen-year-old Lexi ...").

Writingwise, I do notice that the sentence structures are repetitive. That could be varied a bit to create more dynamism at the level of language. Note the parallel structures in the first two paragraphs:

Plagued by loneliness, vegan Lexi hopes to make like-minded friends in high school. But, her dad's job is jeopardized when relics are stolen from his museum, changing her priorities. And she wonders why her new teachers dislike her.

His dad in jail, cipher enthusiast Gil hopes freshman year will provide a clean slate. But, hiding a secret of his own while paired with Lexi, he discovers secret codes within a Shakespearean play. Finding the code embroils them in a mystery with family already involved.

Modifier, modifier name verb remainder of predicate. But, ...   It'd be easy to mix things up a bit. Also, no comma after "but." "But," "and," "or," and such are exceptions to the rule about comma-ing after introductory elements. They're so short that it makes for choppiness.

In the third paragraph, all the sentences have the same beginning and similar structures:

The teen sleuths join forces during the burglary investigation. The secret societies' activities center near an aviary housing majestic birds in the Lake Erie Islands community. The societies' factions fight over a powerful relic, the stolen Tripod of Peace.

Definite article verb preposition ... This kind of thing can be mixed up a bit for less choppiness/repetition.

Note the "secret" echo in paragraph two. Maybe "discovers codes hidden in a Shakespeare play"?

Good luck with it. :)

Thanks Becca! Appreciate your comments.

Offline NathanBurrows

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Re: feedback on description with CTA for upcoming paperback novel on Amazon
« Reply #3 on: February 13, 2018, 12:04:22 PM »
I think Becca's already hit most of the main points, but for me (and I'm no expert - this is just a reader's opinion) you're trying to get too much information across in the blurb. It doesn't leave the reader with any burning questions about what happens, but is more like a potted synopsis.

Also, for the international audience, be careful with 'spunky'. It means something slightly different here in the UK...!

Offline kalencap

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Re: feedback on description with CTA for upcoming paperback novel on Amazon
« Reply #4 on: February 13, 2018, 01:45:32 PM »
I think Becca's already hit most of the main points, but for me (and I'm no expert - this is just a reader's opinion) you're trying to get too much information across in the blurb. It doesn't leave the reader with any burning questions about what happens, but is more like a potted synopsis.

Also, for the international audience, be careful with 'spunky'. It means something slightly different here in the UK...!

Thanks Nathan. Appreciate the heads up.

Offline Lummox JR

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Re: feedback on description with CTA for upcoming paperback novel on Amazon
« Reply #5 on: February 13, 2018, 01:59:01 PM »
Hold onto something, because the red pen is brutal with this one. Constructive suggestions and a potential rewrite to follow.

Teens Lexi and Gil face relic-thieving secret societies. (1)

Plagued by loneliness, vegan Lexi hopes to make like-minded friends in high school. But, (2) her dad's job is jeopardized when (3) relics are stolen from his museum, changing her priorities. And she wonders why her new teachers dislike her. (4)

His dad in jail, cipher enthusiast Gil hopes freshman year will provide a clean slate. But, (5) hiding a secret of his own while paired with Lexi, (6) he discovers secret codes within a Shakespearean play. (7) Finding the code embroils them in a mystery with family already involved. (8)

The teen sleuths join forces during the burglary investigation. (9) The secret societies' (10) activities center near an aviary housing majestic birds (11) in the Lake Erie Islands community. (12) The (13) societies' factions fight over a powerful relic, the stolen Tripod of Peace. (14)

(15) Lexi holds an age-old key the thieves will attack for. (16) Gil's quick thinking (17) may not be enough to keep the teen duo safe. What chance can young adult (18) sleuths have when criminals wield an instrument of astounding power that can be used (19) against them? (20)(21)

The Ancient Tripod of Peace is the first book in novelist Kalen Cap's (22) Teen Thief-Catchers Series. (23) If you like stories (24) with artifact treasures, thieving and fighting secret societies, and spunky protagonists, (25) you'll love this novel. (26)

Grab your copy (27) of The Ancient Tripod of Peace today and join Lexi and Gil in this enthralling (28) adventure.

1) A tagline, if used, should be super punchy and super short. This is almost punchy and not short. Lose it.
2) This comma needs to be shot.
3) "When" is a huge blurb clich. Avoid.
4) I wonder too. This sentence is a non-sequitur. It lacks any context to make it make sense.
5) Great googly moogly. Please tell me the prose in your book doesn't do this. Shoot this comma too.
6) I literally don't understand what you're saying in this clause. It makes no sense and again lacks any context. Paired with her how? Is she holding a secret such that "a secret of his own" would make sense?
7) Now this part is interesting. You got into the weeds on the way here, but this is what you want to emphasize. Secret codes! Adventure!
8) The "with family already involved" part does not flow and again is missing context. I think you'd do better to tie this more explicitly to the case of Lexi's dad and the missing relics.
9) They, uh, aren't cops, and it's a sure bet nobody asked them to investigate. This sentence doesn't work without them being officially tasked with the investigation. It needs serious rewording.
10) The what now? Left field just called, and it wants its secret society back. You didn't establish this AT ALL.
11) This is completely irrelevant to the blurb.
12) The Lake Erie islands setting really belongs right up front in the lead paragraph.
13) You've just started three sentences in a row with "the".
14) Relic of what and stolen from whom? You can get away with not answering the first part, but if you say it was stolen it behooves you to say who it was stolen from, or how, or at least something about the theft. Was it stolen from the museum? Say so.
15) Whoa now. We're on paragraph four. No blurb should have more than three, fact line and possible tagline excluded. This is rambling.
16) Left field just called back. Guess why.
17) If he's a quick thinker, that needs to be established in his paragraph.
18) Really? You name-dropped the genre? No no no. On top of that, Gil is a freshman. 14 or 15, not an adult. Yes it's called a YA book, but the protagonists are only teens.
19) The phrase "that can be used" is totally redundant here.
20) Questions in blurbs are bad juju. They're so overdone as to be hackneyed, often rhetorical, they talk to the reader, and they tend to give away late-story details. Only that last case is not a problem, but the other three are. Really this whole sentence accomplishes nothing.
21) Well it accomplished one thing. Left field called again. You never actually said the secret society has the relic, merely that they were fighting over it.
22) No. Leave your name out of the fact line. It does not belong there.
23) Fact line ends here. Everything after it is reader-talk which must be killed with fire. Never talk to the reader; let the blurb draw them in and make them want to read it without feeling you nudging and winking the whole time.
24) NO! A MILLION TIMES NO! Never EVER say "If you like..." in a blurb. Ever. Never ever. This is the absolute worst kind of reader-talk.
25) All of these things you actually said already in the blurb proper. This is redundant.
26) Never ever tell the reader they'll love it. If the blurb proper didn't convince them then nothing you say directly to the reader will get the job done now.
27) Oh good gads. More reader-talk?
28) This is an author boast. You have zero credibility in saying it because you wrote the book. Let your reviewers say it for you, and keep it out of the blurb.

So that's a lot of notes. Let's start with the big picture: you wrote this blurb like a synopsis, not a blurb. They're two completely different animals. A synopsis summarizes plot points; a blurb summarizes the book's gestalt, but with strong word choices and seductive language. That's why you rambled for four paragraphs instead of getting the job done in three, and then the two paragraphs of reader-talk after were just... ugh. The fact that you tried to spool this out as story beats is also why things appeared to come out of nowhere, like a secret society being mentioned like we already knew about it, or how Lexi having this key you never brought up was so jarring. Finally there's a certain level of incoherence in several of the sentences for lack of context, which again points to things not being properly established.

The first thing you need here is a structure. This blurb almost has one, but then you let it get away from you. A good structure for this blurb is character-character-conflict, which is to say you give each of your protagonists a paragraph and then you do one for the conflict. It starts out with the character paragraphs already, but they're a smidge too short. Once you get onto the conflict, it starts to get into story beats instead of simply laying it out in one shot, and that's where what should have been one paragraph became two.

Temporal focus is also important because it will stop the impulse to lay this out beat for beat. It's a big deal in blurbs, keeping a very loose sense of "now" instead of "A, then B, then C". A blurb lives right around the end of act 1 where it's transitioning into early act 2. Events are made to seem like they're happening in that now, without a sense of temporal flow giving them sequence. Wherever flow is unavoidable, it's best to hide it in the gaps between paragraphs.

With all that in mind, here's a rewrite suggestion with the character-character-conflict format and a simple fact line that only discusses the series and does not talk to the reader.

Vegan teen Lexi is new to the Lake Erie Islands community. Plagued by loneliness, she hopes to make like-minded friends in high school. But so far friends are hard to find, and even her teachers dislike her. To make matters worse, her dad's museum job is in jeopardy thanks to a recent theft of several relics.

His dad in jail, cipher enthusiast Gil hopes freshman year will provide a clean slate. After being paired with Lexi on an assignment, he learns they have more in common than he thought--but he also finds a series of secret codes hidden in a Shakespearean play. The codes are linked to the items stolen from the museum, and someone in town isn't happy about the untimely discovery.

With the police dead-ended on the investigation and pointing fingers at Lexi's dad, she and Gil search for answers with the few clues they have. The trail unearths an ancient secret society still operating today, whose competing factions are willing to kill for control of an artifact with incredible power. And the key to that control may already be in Lexi's possession, putting her and Gil in a crossfire between dangerous foes with vast resources and no limits.

The Ancient Tripod of Peace is the first book in the Teen Thief-Catchers series.

So there it is: simple three-paragraph format, quick layout of the kind of book it is, and it doesn't go in for story beats. This throws them into the beginning of the adventure, gives a rough idea of who's moving against them and what's at stake, and leaves it there. Power words are sprinkled liberally throughout to set the mood. It's crystal clear that this is a young adult mystery thriller, that it's in a small town kind of setting, that it deals with ancient secrets, and that these two are pawns in a power struggle beyond their level. Some of the above involved some guesswork based on the original blurb, so hopefully I'm not too far off in any of the particulars.

IMO the series could use a bit of a catchier name, but that's your call.
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Offline kalencap

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Re: feedback on description with CTA for upcoming paperback novel on Amazon
« Reply #6 on: February 13, 2018, 04:27:12 PM »
Thanks Lummox, that helped with the 3rd and 4th paragraph particularly. Now, have it shorter and into 3rd without the 4th. Good suggestions helpful in cleaning up some clunks.

Regarding lines 22 - 28, there's a breadth of work on completing the description beyond the synopsis including Bryan Cohen's work on the synopsis - amazon.com/gp/product/B01HYBWOF6/ . I pretty much tried that as suggested, could vary it a bit, I suppose. But, there are over 4500 writers in the facebook group working  with variations of this. www.facebook.com/groups/509197505915958/

Thanks again.

Offline Lummox JR

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Re: feedback on description with CTA for upcoming paperback novel on Amazon
« Reply #7 on: February 13, 2018, 07:33:19 PM »
Regarding lines 22 - 28, there's a breadth of work on completing the description beyond the synopsis including Bryan Cohen's work on the synopsis - amazon.com/gp/product/B01HYBWOF6/ . I pretty much tried that as suggested, could vary it a bit, I suppose. But, there are over 4500 writers in the facebook group working  with variations of this. www.facebook.com/groups/509197505915958/

Just because that's a big group doesn't mean any of those writers are any kind of right. Aggressive reader-talk actively turns readers away. Some may respond to it, but it just looks amateurish and terrible. Even trad-pub blurbs don't do anything like that last line, and that ought to tell you something.

99.9% of blurbs are terrible, cookie-cutter garbage. In trad-pub they put no real effort in except for choosing good power words; this job is typically fobbed off on interns and low-rung employees who are given no training for it, which is why so many blurbs look alike and why so many self-pub blurbs ape them. But somewhere along the line someone got the terrible idea that they should make their blurbs sound like a used car salesman as written by a sixth-grade class, pushing for the sale with the cheesiest lines imaginable. That overpowering stench of desperation works against them.

A good blurb is all about seduction. A blurb is a window into your story, like a still diorama capturing the essence of motion. You want readers to peek into that window and get so engrossed in what they see that it tips them over into making the purchase. Shouting at them that if they like X, they'll love Y is just horrid; it sounds like a parody of the worst movie trailer ever. It is never a good idea to talk to the reader, period--actual fact line content not included. What you need is for the reader to sell the book to themselves.
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Offline kalencap

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Re: feedback on description with CTA for upcoming paperback novel on Amazon
« Reply #8 on: February 14, 2018, 04:45:37 AM »
You may be right. Fortunately, we can always try and change description copy rather readily.

Online Nicholas Erik

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Re: feedback on description with CTA for upcoming paperback novel on Amazon
« Reply #9 on: February 14, 2018, 03:32:19 PM »
Just because that's a big group doesn't mean any of those writers are any kind of right. Aggressive reader-talk actively turns readers away. Some may respond to it, but it just looks amateurish and terrible.

I don't have any comments on the blurb, but this point is not correct. The "if you like" construction (or other ways of comparing yourself to bestselling authors/clearly stating the genre) is extremely effective - in fact, it's probably the most effective blurb tool, unless you're an ace copywriter. People claim they dislike such "aggressive" copy. Sales and data prove otherwise. That's why all that "aggressive" stuff is always in the lead. As for it looking amateurish, it's used because it works. I don't even consider the "if you like author X" or "for fans of author Y" approach aggressive; I do that for most of my books. BookBub uses this all the time. Trade pubs use this all the time. Bestselling indies use this all the time.

As for boasting, you invite criticism if your book doesn't live up to expectations. But it sells books, and works if you deliver. Look at all those "an absolutely GRIPPING psychological thriller with a KILLER twist" books burning up the charts. In your face? Hell yes. Effective? Insanely.

Do you have to be this direct? No. But writing a killer hook that instantly communicates the genre and reels in the reader is a high level skill that takes time to develop. And it's much more hit-or-miss. Blurbs are not the place to be subtle. They're the place to TELL the reader exactly why they'll enjoy the book.

Nick

Offline kalencap

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Re: feedback on description with CTA for upcoming paperback novel on Amazon
« Reply #10 on: February 14, 2018, 03:54:17 PM »
I don't have any comments on the blurb, but this point is not correct. The "if you like" construction (or other ways of comparing yourself to bestselling authors/clearly stating the genre) is extremely effective - in fact, it's probably the most effective blurb tool, unless you're an ace copywriter. People claim they dislike such "aggressive" copy. Sales and data prove otherwise. That's why all that "aggressive" stuff is always in the lead. As for it looking amateurish, it's used because it works. I don't even consider the "if you like author X" or "for fans of author Y" approach aggressive; I do that for most of my books. BookBub uses this all the time. Trade pubs use this all the time. Bestselling indies use this all the time.

Thank you for your comment, Nick.

As for boasting, you invite criticism if your book doesn't live up to expectations. But it sells books, and works if you deliver. Look at all those "an absolutely GRIPPING psychological thriller with a KILLER twist" books burning up the charts. In your face? Hell yes. Effective? Insanely.

Do you have to be this direct? No. But writing a killer hook that instantly communicates the genre and reels in the reader is a high level skill that takes time to develop. And it's much more hit-or-miss. Blurbs are not the place to be subtle. They're the place to TELL the reader exactly why they'll enjoy the book.

Nick

Offline Lummox JR

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Re: feedback on description with CTA for upcoming paperback novel on Amazon
« Reply #11 on: February 14, 2018, 08:14:02 PM »
I don't have any comments on the blurb, but this point is not correct. The "if you like" construction (or other ways of comparing yourself to bestselling authors/clearly stating the genre) is extremely effective - in fact, it's probably the most effective blurb tool, unless you're an ace copywriter. People claim they dislike such "aggressive" copy. Sales and data prove otherwise. That's why all that "aggressive" stuff is always in the lead. As for it looking amateurish, it's used because it works. I don't even consider the "if you like author X" or "for fans of author Y" approach aggressive; I do that for most of my books. BookBub uses this all the time. Trade pubs use this all the time. Bestselling indies use this all the time.

I don't see this in trad-pub blurbs at all, and BookBub doesn't do blurbs--it does ad copy, which is an entirely different animal. In ad copy I think there's a point to be made for the aggressive approach, but a blurb is something completely different.

The only time I see trad-pub say things like "If you like" or name-dropping another author is in a quote from a reviewer or author that might get included somewhere on the cover, often the back but sometimes the front, and of course sometimes in ad copy. Never--or at least seldom enough I've never seen a single example--as part of the blurb proper.

Also, I'm going to call shenanigans on the sales and data statement, and demand some proof to back that up. I submit it's impossible to test this with any scientific rigor, because nobody has ever done proper A/B testing of blurbs and for a number of reasons it's unlikely anyone ever can. (BookBub has done A/B testing of ad copy, but not blurbs. Their results show some interesting insights--about ad copy.) It's far more likely that the people who are using these aggressive copy techniques are also applying highly aggressive marketing techniques in other areas, and you're conflating success with the shotgun approach with success with a single pellet. It's an extremely common mistake. (Hi, Jack!) I don't doubt for a moment that writers who are going gung-ho on marketing and focus on getting in every angle they can will do better with a crap blurb than writers whose resources/time are more limited but have an awesome blurb.
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Online Nicholas Erik

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Re: feedback on description with CTA for upcoming paperback novel on Amazon
« Reply #12 on: February 14, 2018, 10:52:41 PM »
I found this after clicking on two books. And then this one a few later in the Amazon Top 100. Authors, books, whatever, same comparison concept. Trad pubs use it.

The blurb is a piece of sales copy. Its only job is to sell the book. The Amazon blurb is no different than the BookBub blurbs, except the latter is shorter. No one has to use the comparing to authors/books technique. There are effective alternatives. But to say that the comparison construction doesn't work is incorrect.

I don't want to derail this thread, so I'm not going to belabor this point with data or sales numbers. Suffice to say, I know it works, and there's plenty of evidence among authors selling much better than me on Amazon that it works. The OP asked for feedback, and I don't have much to offer in YA. Becca's suggestions are sound. I'd cut the CTA at the end; that always strikes me as odd whenever I see it on a fiction book. Like a sales letter for an info product. Just seems out of place. The tagline is a little flat, but you could punch it up with a stronger verb than "face." The relic-hunting and secret societies give the reader an immediate idea that this is an adventure story, which is what you want.

Nick

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Re: feedback on description with CTA for upcoming paperback novel on Amazon
« Reply #13 on: February 15, 2018, 01:59:36 AM »
It's far more likely that the people who are using these aggressive copy techniques are also applying highly aggressive marketing techniques in other areas, and you're conflating success with the shotgun approach with success with a single pellet. It's an extremely common mistake. (Hi, Jack!)

I'm not go to derail the thread either. Especially since Nick has provided solid information (as usual). What you call a mistake I call market awareness.

I'll ad this for the benefit of the OP. The end of the blurb is critical territory (as I'm pretty sure you know). It's at exactly this point that the prospective buyer decides what to do next. As authors, we would prefer that next action to be clicking the buy button. That's why in copywriting this is the place to give the prospect a clear course of action to follow. For instance, "grab a copy". This technique works. It's standard copywriting. It's a CTA, and the clearer the CTA the better. But, book buyers aren't used to this in fiction blurbs. Because of this, it's more noticeable as marketing, which could be detrimental. I've tested it on some of my blurbs and couldn't detect any increase/decrease in sales, but I do think it's potentially harmful (in fiction blurbs - non fiction is different).

Is there an alternative? You bet. A super strong story hook. Tease the blurb reader mercilessly just at the end. Or use the "if you like X you'll like Y" technique that you have. Try experimenting with both finishes and then use whichever one is stronger.
« Last Edit: February 15, 2018, 02:03:45 AM by Jack Krenneck »

Offline kalencap

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Re: feedback on description with CTA for upcoming paperback novel on Amazon
« Reply #14 on: February 15, 2018, 06:09:09 AM »
Thanks for the added feedback. Good to see there are different perspectives and my question isn't based on mere overthinking it.

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Re: feedback on description with CTA for upcoming paperback novel on Amazon
« Reply #15 on: February 15, 2018, 06:58:22 PM »
The blurb is a piece of sales copy. Its only job is to sell the book. The Amazon blurb is no different than the BookBub blurbs, except the latter is shorter.

No, the BookBub text is something else entirely because of the limited length. Call it an elevator pitch perhaps, but it is not a blurb. Conflating the two is incorrect.
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