Last week I complained that I’ve been suffering from book blurb blindness. I’ve resolved to read more new-to-me authors, at least one per week, so I’ve been paying more attention to the book marketing communications that find their way to my in-box. I actually started reading them instead of giving the usual hasty skim in the hope that something would leap out and grab me.
I couldn’t keep it up. Even on a slow day I get emails from BookBub (ten free or discounted titles of various romantic sub-genres), Amazon (usually at least two emails with a dozen books each, plus others if an author I like has an upcoming release), SmartBitchesTrashyBooks (anything up to a dozen books on sale, reviewed or newly released), and a handful of author blogs or newsletters.
I’m barely dipping a toe in the water, and I guesstimate I receive about 40-50 targeted suggestions per day, in addition to recommendations I actively seek out from friends, discussions here and other trusted sources. That makes over 300 titles per week, from which I’m trying to find one or maybe two new reads. If I gave those titles a minute each, that would be five hours out of my week, enough time to read another whole book. So I’ve reverted to giving most of them a few seconds, and following up on the few that catch my attention.
According to BookBub’s information for authors, at the time of writing they have over 2.1 million subscribers in the contemporary romance sub-genre. For a free book, the average number of copies downloaded is 29,500 and for a discounted book it is 2,520. Or, more or less, one contemporary romance subscriber in every seventy might give a book a try if it was free, one in eight hundred might pay for it.
Those 2.1 million BookBub subscribers make their decision based on the book’s title, its cover, and 40-50 words of blurb. That’s about three sentences in which to make the book stand out in a sea of other titles, but also to make a clear story promise, let the potential reader know what kind of read to expect, optimize the opportunity for reader satisfaction and minimize the risk of disappointment and book rage.
I tried a little experiment and it’s surprising how many decision-making triggers can be present in such a small package. Without the benefit of covers or pricing information, below I’ve sampled a selection of blurbs from BookBub’s current contemporary romance offers. I’d be interested to know which ones appeal to you, and why. Or if not, why not.
Seaside Dreams by Melissa Foster
A spicy romance from a New York Times bestselling author! When Bella accidentally breaks the law, she meets sexy police officer Caden. “Make sure you have all night, because once you start you won’t want to stop reading” (Brenda Novak).
Barefoot in White by Roxanne St Claire
Willow is too busy planning weddings for smitten couples to give her own love life a thought. But when Navy SEAL Nick reappears at one of her weddings, it’s hard to forget his irresistible charm — or their painful history. “Plenty of heat, humor, and heart” (USA Today) from a bestselling author!
Shopping for a Billionaire’s Fiancee by Julia Kent
A fun romance from a New York Times bestselling author: Billionaire Declan is getting ready to propose to Shannon, but there’s a pesky mother-in-law to worry about — and his future fiancée just swallowed the ring… With over 550 five-star ratings on Goodreads!
Secret Blend by Jennifer Bramseth
In this smoldering story of law and love, brand-new judges Rachel and Brady start up a passionate romance behind their chamber doors. But it’s hard to keep a secret in Bourbon Springs, Kentucky…
Not Over You by Amanda Torrey
Since her brother’s devastating death, guilt-ridden Savannah has been running from her past. When she returns home, will her high-school sweetheart Quentin be able to convince her to stay? A heartwarming love story about second chances.
Snowflake Bay by Donna Kauffman
Having just returned home to Blueberry Cove, Maine, Fiona is busy planning her sister’s wedding. But when she reunites with her childhood crush Ben, Fiona has a chance for a romance of her own! A “sassy, witty, sexy” read (Library Journal) from a USA Today bestselling author!
Someone Else’s Fairytale by EM Tippets
Chloe Winters is living every girl’s fantasy when star Jason Vanderholt falls in love with her — every girl’s fantasy, that is, except her own… Can he change her mind? A “deeply satisfying” romance (USA Today) with nearly 1,200 five-star Goodreads ratings.
- I don’t get dazzled by the term ‘bestselling author’ and I don’t judge books by the number of five-star ratings they have, though I’ll bet many people do.
- As I mentioned last week, I’m not a fan of ending the blurb with a question. Can they overcome this or deal with that? This is a romance; I can answer that one without reading the book.
- I pay attention to characters’ occupations, and I like the sound of active, hard-working people with a purpose in life. So I’m all for wedding planners, SEALs, judges, doctors, nurses, special ops guys, firefighters or sports stars. I’m quite happy for the hero to be rich, but I’m not thrilled if he’s just described as a ‘billionaire,’ because that makes me think the story will focus on his wealth and lifestyle.
- I’m positively influenced by occupations and situations that seem to lend themselves to conflict. Wedding planner and a SEAL? Might be interesting.
- I’m over small towns with whimsical names. I’d be compelled to check out a story set in a small town with a non-adorable name, or one that implied the town was some kind of battleground. That might be fun.
- I find it helpful when the blurb indicates the tone of the story. If it’s described as hot, spicy, or sizzling, I assume the heat level will probably be more than I’m looking for. If it’s sweet or heartwarming I assume it will probably be too gentle for my tastes. I like smart and funny. I’m ambivalent about sassy, sexy and witty. I really like the quote for Barefoot in White: ‘heat, humor and heart.’ That sounds like my kind of story.
- If something about the blurb catches my attention, I’ll ignore any or all of the foregoing comments.
My favorite blurb from the selection is Barefoot in White. I’m slightly dubious about a heroine called Willow (sounds sweet/heartwarming) and I worry about characters with a painful shared backstory, but the author had me at ‘heat, humor and heart.’ I’m going to check this one out.
Next up – Secret Blend. I have reservations about smoldering/passionate, and but I’m intrigued by the notion of two brand-new judges falling for one another. To investigate.
Third choice – Someone Else’s Fairy Tale. Hm. I don’t know what either of them does for a living. The hero’s a star. The blurb has a question – can he change her mind? And it quotes 1,200 5* reviews. That picks off most of my caveats above, and yet…I’m curious. I’d like more information and I’ll go looking for it.
The ones I wouldn’t follow up right now? Shopping for a Billionaire’s Fiancee – the language for this makes it clear it’s lighthearted comedy – a fun read with a pesky mother-in-law. Maybe another time, if I was in the mood for a romp, I’d pick this one first. I don’t think I’d ever pick Not Over You. With a devastating death and a guilt-ridden heroine, I’m already reaching for the kleenex. Not for me, though I have friends who’d be all over an emotional-sounding story like this.
Lot of food for thought here for an aspiring author of contemporary romance. If I’m feeling brave, I might have a try at writing my own blurb next week.
Which blurbs engage you (or don’t)? Why?