Week #1 – Blake Crouch – Upgrade

We all know that book descriptions are vital part of book sales, and one of the biggest pains on an indie author’s to-do list.

I’m on a myth-busting mission impossible to breakdown the elements of best selling blurbs so that you can use the techniques to write your own best selling blurbs…and make it a lot less painful in the process.

Heck, I’m gonna go so far as to say that I actually want you to start enjoying writing the bleddie things…

Because you’ll have a handy bag ‘o’ tricks to refer to, grab inspiration from, and stop using the spaghetti-thrown-at-the-wall approach.

Here’s how these weekly blurb breakdowns are gonna go down

Every week I’ll take a best selling book off the digital shelves of Amazon’s top 100 in a given category… and I’ll break it down, sentence by sentence, so you can see the techniques and strategies at play.

Then, you can use those techniques to strengthen or create your own best selling book description.

If you come across an awesome book description out in the wilderness, and you want me to break it down, I’m more than happy to do it. The catch is, it can’t be for one of your own books.

Just email me with the Amazon link and tell me what you liked about it – if it made you want to buy it, or if you bought it.

Right, so them’s the rules, let’s dive in…

This weeks blurb breakdown is Blake Crouch, Upgrade, at the time of writing it was sitting at no. 3 on the UK Amazon best sellers in Science Fiction & Fantasy eBooks.

A screenshot taken from the Amazon sales page of Blake Crouch's book, Upgrade including the book description.
It might be tricky to read, so here’s the link to his book on Amazon

The first thing I’ll say is that it’s nicely formatted. There’s plenty of white space, they’ve drawn the eye to the hook with bold and a short italicised sentence.

Plus, they’ve varied the sentence length to give us a nice London skyline effect – try tipping your head to the right, you’ll see what I mean. This gives our eyes micro breaks, it’s hard reading big chunks of text on a screen.

The varying length also makes it feel faster to read, and the longer middle section isn’t more than three lines (on the desktop).

Right, on to the copy…

A screenshot of the above the fold hook.
The above the fold hook

“Mind-bending thriller” – this immediately calls out the genre and reassures readers they’re in the right place.

“[…] author of the bestselling Dark Matter and Recursion.” – Uses social proof to add credibility and authority – although it might be a waste of real estate given Blake has been around a long time – this type of authority building is targeted at new-to-the-author readers rather than loyal fans.

“You are the next step in human evolution…” – The main hook speaks directly to the read and uses curiosity to get your attention, it’s a bold curiosity driven statement and the ellipsis is used to draw you on the the next line…

Getting you use your imagination is a techniqued call future pacing. Our brains aren’t very good at distinguishing reality from our imagination so by using this question the writer is getting us to engage our brain.

The section section of Blake Crouch's book, Upgrade, broken down.

“What if you were capable of more?” – This direct question is designed to get you thinking and it creates an open loop in our brains – one which makes us want to read more because it’s so general – it kind says capable of more – but more what?

If it was specific it might not as compelling, ie ‘What if you were capable of better concentration?’

“Your concentration was better, you could multi task…” – Now we’re getting a little more context and the copy is starting to link nicely with the title of the book, ‘Upgrade.’ So the description so far has been working hard to set the scene for the story.

“For Logan Ramsay, it’s happening.” – It’s not until four lines in that we learn the name of the main character and the initial questions are paid off – ‘it’s happening.’ It work here because the previous copy is all about the reader.

If the book description opened with ‘For Logan Ramsey, it’s happening.’ Although it uses an open loop in a question form, and makes the read ask ‘what’s happening,’ it’s not nearly as compelling without the initial set-up.

He’s beginning to see the world around him, even those he loves the most, in whole new ways.” – So the writer has closed a loop (we know something is happening to his ‘normal abilities’) and opened new one – his world is changing, but now we want to know in what way – what news ways is he seeing his family and the world around him?

“He knows that it’s not natural” – Here they’re setting up the conflict.

“his genes have been hacked” – This is very genre specific wording and will appeal to Blakes target audience. By using the terms familiar to the genre – gene hacking, it also opens another loop in the readers mind – who and how have hacked his genes and why? – Well, you gotta keep reading to find out more…

“He has been targeted for an upgrade.” – This is equally compelling because we want to find out why he’s been targeted. The idea that he’s been targeted also implies that he’s a victim – this helps the reader feel empathy towards Logan – and empathy is an important trigger to get people invested in the character and to buy the book.

“Logan’s family legacy is one he has been trying to escape for decades” – Again – another open loop – what’s the legacy and why has he been trying to hide from it? What was his family responsible for and why is it so bad?

“it has left him vulnerable to attack.” – Again, open loop, they’re really ramping up the intrigue with more questions than answers – also the word vulnerable to attack again seek to build empathy, intrigue, and curiosity.

“But with a terrifying plan in place to replicate his upgrade throughout the world’s population” – Here’s the high stakes, ok we might have started to care about Logan a bit but now there’s more than just his life at stake. It’s pretty vague about who/where the threat is coming from, this adds another layer of mystery, but it does give us enough to figure out that there’s some badass to take down.

“he may be the only person capable of stopping what has already been set in motion.” – There’s a repetition of the word ‘capable,’ which reinforces the opening, and if we look closer at the word it taps into a deep psychological trigger about our own capabilities – no one really wants to see themselves as incapable so again, we resonate with that feeling.

“To win this war against humanity” – War against humanity is a strong statement that builds the stakes and gives us something to cheer for, a side to pick and an enemy to hate.

“Logan will now have to become something other than himself . . .” – Here is a hint towards a transformational story arc – it suggests that Logan who finds his new talent is unnatural must somehow not only come to terms with his ‘upgrade’ but also harness it.

This final statement also leaves us on another open loop,  and makes us wonder how he’ll have to change, plus the use of the ellipsis here encourages us to keep reading…

Intricately plotted and epic in scope,” – While the whole of the first part of the description focuses solely on our emotions, we’re jolted out of it with a statement that appeals to our logical brains. This short pithy switch is enough nudge us to the next part of the sentence.

us to ponder the limits of our humanity” – To ‘ponder’ is a great word choice here because it’s less formal than ‘question’ and doesn’t require a definitive answer. Rather, it invites the reader to think with a sense of freedom.

Are you ready for the impossible?” – This has to be my favourite ending to a book description. It is a really cool, sneaky call to action. It’s another open loop and is a tactic often used by marketers…

When asking a question, you generally want the answer to be yes. There’s a whole bunch of reasons for that, that I won’t go into here, but this is really good because by answering no, they’re going to see themselves a little negatively, saying ‘no’ I’m not ready for something is quite an admission to make and feels vulnerable, so people are more likely to say yes and therefore the positive framing makes them more likely to click buy.

It also ties in with the opening style of directly addressing the reader, so although we’re left with sooooo many questions, there’s still a completeness to it.

All in all a top notch blurb. What do you think?

Have you got any questions about it?

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