Bad Blurbs Don’t Sell Books

This has been something stewing in the back of my mind for quite a while now, and I’ve actually talked about it so many times in so many different places, I just went back to make sure I hadn’t actually written the blog already. I think I’ve talked before (I know I have on the YouTube channel) about the fact that I get a daily newsletter from Bookbub, showing me free and discounted ebooks. I’ve found some interesting titles from there…and some really unfortunate sounding ones as well. (This is where I’ve found that apparently, shape-shifter romances are BIG. I guess.)

But the deal with me is that if the Bookbub blurb gets my attention, I’ll click on the Amazon link. If the Amazon blurb sells me, I’ll download the book.

If ever I needed a case study for why your blurbs should be looked after carefully, this is it.

I’ll change out the names for placeholders, so as to not entirely throw this author under the bus. I don’t know what the book is like, so. Here’s what Bookbub had to say about one of the books they were offering for free that day:

The summer before college, FMC and MMC fall in love — then go their separate ways. FMC forms an intense connection with SMC, but how can she turn her back on the boy who’s always been there for her?

(FMC meaning Female Main Character, MMC is Male Main Character, and SMC is Secondary Male Character)

This seemed interesting enough. It’s a free book; I’m not looking for Shakespeare. I like triangles when they’re done well, so sure why not. I clicked on Amazon…and got this:

“You never have to be without me, FMC, never.”

He lied…my everything I ever knew, trusted, wanted…I am, in fact, without him.

On my own and out of my shell, I learn new things about life, friendship and…myself.

Like what you’ve always known may not be what you’ve always wanted.

MMC awakened things within me that I never knew existed, unraveling and uncovering the real FMC.

I’m a NEW adult…so is my story.

what the ACTUAL hell.

This blurb tells me quite literally nothing about the book. It’s pretentious and vague, trying for suspenseful and falling flat on its face. The Bookbub blurb does a better job of talking about the book than the actual page where the book is sold.

Not to mention the final sentence. “I’m a NEW adult…so is my story.” Are you kidding me? What is that supposed to me? I’ve never seen someone so desperate to put the genre of the book into their blurb. I get it; it’s an NA romance. It’s bordering on a coming-of-age, finding yourself kind of story. Okay, that’s all well and good. But is your story a new adult? Is it newly adult? Why is the story adult? Or is it that it’s new? That only works right after publication.

Oh wait. IT DOESN’T EVER WORK. The sentence serves absolutely no purpose other than to ramp up the pretentious nature of the blurb to eleven.

I’ve talked about my distaste for over-vague description in blurbs before, I think. I was talking to a fellow author who was working with her editor on a blurb for her book, and she ran what the editor had come up with by me. I told her outright that even though I knew the book and knew it was likely interesting, this blurb would make me pass it up. It sounded over-written and pretentious. (I’ve used that word a lot; I’m sorry! There’s just not a better one!) Everyone loves to talk about first pages, first sentences, first chapters. You need to catch your readers and drag them in.

Yeah, absolutely. But you need to get them to pick up the book first. That’s what the book jacket does. That’s what the blurb does. And if you can’t even convince me to open the book, your brilliant first sentence/page/chapter isn’t going to do a lick of good. You’ll stay on the shelf, dusty and alone and unread.

Let’s take a different example, one that I think is done well. This one (perhaps unsurprisingly) is taken from one of M.C.A. Hogarth’s books, EVEN THE WINGLESS. Here’s the blurb from her website:

The Alliance has sent twelve ambassadors to the Chatcaavan Empire; all twelve returned early, defeated. None of their number have been successful at taking that brutal empire to task for their violations of the treaty. None have survived the vicious court of a race of winged shapechangers, one maintained by cruelty, savagery and torture.

Lisinthir Nase Galare is the Alliance’s thirteenth emissary. A duelist, an esper and a prince of his people, he has been sent to bring an empire to heel. Will it destroy him, as it has his predecessors? Or can one man teach an empire to fear… and love?

This tells me about the world, the characters, and the stakes of the novel. This is a high-risk story; Lisinthir being the thirteenth chance is telling. The Chatcaavans are clearly not entities to be trifled with. And ending with a statement wondering if Lisinthir can teach them to love is the clincher. The concept would be utterly foreign.

Even the small description given for Lyn Thorne-Alder’s Book 1 of Addergoole gives me more of an idea of what’s happening:

Book One follows three students as they fall down the hole into another world, slipping beneath the surface of the normal world. Fall Down the Adder’s Hole with them as they enter a strange, new school and discover just how much they don’t know about themselves, their parents, or their world.

If you dig deeper, you find small descriptions of Shahin, Kailani, and Jamian–the three main characters of the original series. But that’s about it–and that’s all I really needed to get into Addergoole the first time around. (Now, from Friday’s post, you can see I never really left the world after I fell in.) If you want to go vague, do it that way.

At least, in my opinion.

I’ll ask all of you: have you ever seen a book with an awful blurb and still bought it? Alternately, have you picked up a book with a fantastic blurb and then been royally disappointed in the book? I’m curious. Let me know in the comments below.


One thought on “Bad Blurbs Don’t Sell Books

Leave a Reply

Please log in using one of these methods to post your comment: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s