Reaching Your Readers ~ by Laurie Schnebly

Laurie Schnebly Campbell combines work for a Phoenix ad agency with
teaching other novelists about the craft of writing. She’s also published half
a dozen romances (including one that won “Best Special Edition of the
Year” over Nora Roberts) and a how-to for fiction writers on creating
believable characters. Check out her workshop on blurbs — and more — at

We all have our reasons for writing. Reaching out to others,
expressing truth in fiction, offering inspiration…and so much more. But what
if nobody reads what we wrote?
Some writers don’t care, because they’re perfectly happy
just getting the story down on paper and shoving it in a desk drawer. Yet other
writers WANT their words to resonate with readers, which means they need
readers to find their book.
How can you make that happen?
Getting published by a major publisher is one way. So is
hiring a marketing director who will publicize your work. But if you’re not
working with a full-service publicity team, one of the biggest advantages you
can give yourself is something relatively simple:
A great blurb.
That’s what readers will see on your back cover. And on your
website. They’ll see it in your bio with articles, in newsletters from
bookstores, in reviews posted near your release date, and — perhaps most
important — they’ll see it when they’re browsing online for books.
What Blurbs Do
You’ve seen blurbs that made you think “I’ve gotta get
that book!” You’ve also seen blurbs that made you think “Nope, not
what I want” and others that make you think “Hmm…keep
So how can you write a blurb that makes everyone think
“I’ve gotta get that book!”?
The fact is, you can’t. No matter how great your book, it’s
not going to thrill every reader in the world. Someone seeking a cookbook
doesn’t want a story about fly fishing. Someone who wants a thriller won’t be
satisfied with women’s fiction. Someone shopping for first-graders doesn’t want
a romance novel.
That’s okay. You don’t care about those readers.
The readers you want already know what they’re looking
for…and it’s the kind of book you write.

What about your book will appeal to them? That’s what your
blurb needs to feature.

Creating Your Blurb
Some writers have an easier time creating a 60,000-word
manuscript than a 60-word blurb. Or 30 words, or 150, or whatever length you
decide on — and by the way, it’s good to have different lengths available for
different uses.
I used to think I was incredibly gifted because I had a much
easier time writing blurbs than manuscripts, until I discovered my gift wasn’t
actually a special talent. It was from my day-job experience of writing ads.
Because, really, your blurb is an ad for your book. You’ve
noticed how the headline of an ad either draws you in or makes you turn the
page, right? The first line of your blurb is exactly the same way.
Websites that track the eye movement of people reading them
(and I have no idea how they do it!) found that readers who aren’t captured
within the first eight seconds are lost.

How many words can you read in eight seconds? The average
adult reads 200-300 per minute, so this gives you about 30 words to capture
their interest.

And how do you choose those words? This is where it helps to
think like an advertising copywriter.
The Advertising Basics
* Know what your audience wants. If you’re not sure, ask
* Know what YOUR book offers that readers won’t necessarily
get in ANOTHER book they might also enjoy. If you’re not sure, read others like
your own.

* Know where your readers look for books, because that’ll
affect which blurb you use where.

Yes, you’ll want different blurbs. Everyone browsing Amazon
might see the same one, just like everyone reading the publisher’s catalog will
see the same one, but if you’re indie-publishing you can change it as often as
you like. You can even do test-marketing to see what works best.
Before you start testing, though, try writing half a dozen
blurbs of (for instance) 30 words apiece. See which points you keep using. Odds
are good that those reflect your opinion of what’s most special about the book.
Then run those samples by people who know your book. Do they
feel like you’ve left out something vital? What is it?

You can play with this for as long as you like, until you
absolutely HAVE to get blurbs out to the public. But thinking about your blurb,
even before you’ve finished your book, is a handy thing when it comes to

Which Leads To…
If you want some other tips on creating a blurb that’ll
attract readers, you could win free registration to August’s yahoogroups class
on “Blurbing Your Book” just by leaving a comment before tonight’s
prize drawing.
And since I’d love to get some comments I can quote during
that class, here’s my question for you:
When you’re browsing for a book — not one you’ve already
chosen because you love that author / topic, but when you don’t have any
particular book in mind and just want to view some possibilities — what do you
I can’t wait to find out!

You can get Laurie’s book Believable Characters: Creating with Enneagrams on her website: or on Amazon.