Week #3 – C J Cooke – The Ghost Woods

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 CJ Cooke’s, The Ghost Woods, at the time of writing it was sitting at no. 1 on the UK Amazon best sellers in the hot new release in horror.

Here’s the blurb…

A breakdown of CJ Cooke's book description for The Ghost Woods.
It might be tricky to read, so here’s the link to her book on Amazon

The breakdown…

First impressions are good, it’s nicely formatted with no big chunks of text burden the eye. The enlarged “Praise for The Ghost Woods…” does draw my attention away from the copy that comes before it. Maybe a little more white space between the main description and the reviews would help to keep my focus on the main body.

On to the opening hook…

‘Haunting’ Sara Sheridan

‘Intriguing, atmospheric, thought-provoking’ Alexandra Bell

‘Beautifully crafted, thrilling and atmospheric’ Rebecca Netley

There’s a couple of things to note here.

I have no idea who these people are, given that this book is sitting at the top of the chart it makes me question whether it matters who’s saying what in a review. It is interesting because in his book, The Art of The Click, Glenn Fisher wroting about testing the effectiveness of testimonials on a sales page. He used heat mapping technology to see what browsers were focusing on.

He found that generally speaking, people don’t read reviews but the copy converts better when they are present. Although here, we have the reviews as the opening hook which forces the reader to at least glance over them.

They’re nicely used here because they reinforce the genre and reassure readers that it’s well written.

In the midst of the woods stands a house called Lichen Hall.

Already this sounds ominous. The ‘midst of the woods’ nicely sets the remoteness of the setting. 

This place is shrouded in folklore – old stories of ghosts, of witches, of a child who is not quite a child.

Again, this perfectly calls out the type of story you’re getting. The last part of the sentence made me do a double take and evoked my curiosity with an open loop – how can a child be not quite a child?

“Now the woods are creeping closer […]”

This is nice imagery, we all know that woods don’t move but it does give you the chills. Cooke is doing a good job of constantly reinforcing the genre using the setting.

“[…] something has been unleashed.

And now we have an open loop, we want to know what’s been unleashed..by who, and how.

These first few lines nicely set the scene. If location plays a big part in your story, as it presumably does in this book, then you don’t always have to open your book description by introducing the main character.

“Pearl Gorham arrives in 1965, one of a string of young women sent to Lichen Hall to give birth”

This is the first introduction to our main character yet we don’t get much info about Pearl, except that she’s pregnant. However it sets up the plot and tells us what Lichen Hall is used for.

“And she soon suspects the proprietors are hiding something.”

Here was have another open loop. As good as it is, I think there’s room to strengthen it a little just be giving us a nod as to what’s raised those suspicions. For example – after a few babies go missing, or after accidentally finding a satanical alter – I dunno I’ve not read the book, but just slipping a little something in here would strengthen it for me.

“Then she meets the mysterious mother and young boy who live in the grounds – and together they begin to unpick the secrets of this place.”

Here’s another open loop or two! We want to know more about this mysterious mother and her boy, and we want to learn what secrets require unpicking.

“As the truth comes to the surface and the darkness moves in, Pearl must rethink everything she knew – and risk what she holds most dear.”

Here we’re raising the stakes and it all sounds very ominous, I love the phrase ‘as the darkness moves in’. What darkness, what evil lurks in the woods?

If I’m being honest, ‘Pearl rethinking everything she knew’ isn’t that grabby on it’s own, but the tension is heighten by the following phrase and we want to know what it is she’s risking. I’ve not read this book but I think the end of this blurb but with all that work to create a sense of mystery around the setting, I wonder if the final cliffhanger could be made a little stronger by adding ‘Her baby.’ Or something, just to give us something to anchor us to and to empathise with and make us say ‘Holy shit’.  

In summary

Overall it’s a pretty solid blurb. It focuses heavily on the setting and uses mystery and intrigue as the main mechanism to pull readers in. There is a fine balance between attempting to create mystery and being too vague that you lose the reader. Here, the balance works well.

What do you think?

Have you got any questions about it?

Want to suggest a book description to breakdown?

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