Week #5 – Claire Douglas – The Girls who disappeared

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 Claire Douglas’, The Girls that disappeared, at the time of writing it was sitting at No 1 in uk bestselling crime, thriller, & mysteries category.

Here’s the blurb…

The Girls Who Disappeared, book description

The breakdown…

Ok, so first observation, this is a whole heap ‘o’ bold text. The point of emboldening is to help key points to stand out and catch the reader’s eye. Having just about everything in bold defeats the object.

Also the line spacing is quite tight, if they increased the distant between the quotes at the top then it would be easier on the eye.

Having said that, it clearly isn’t putting readers off from buying the book – such is the power of social proof. I would guess that there’s some skim reading going on.

On to the opening hook…



The publisher has kicked things off with their social and credibility proof trump card. There is a hierarchy of social proof these two popular sources are up there at the top.


This short one liner helps to build and reinforce the author’s credibility – ‘oh, she’s written something else’ gives readers the reassurance that there’s something else to read and that this ain’t the author’s first rodeo.

‘I loved this twisty novel’ RICHARD OSMAN

‘Clever. Gripping. Terrifically compelling. Kept me glued to the page’ SARAH PEARSE

An unputdownable thriller. Spine-tingling mystery’ GRAZIA BOOK CLUB

‘Eerie, spine-tingling. Douglas is a master storyteller. The perfect immersive read’ JANICE HALLETT

Here’s that social proof hierarchy at play. They’ve added in review comments that simultaneoulsy reinforce the genre and also used popular/familiar people for authority.

Main body copy


Here, almost buried in review copy, is the main hook for the book. It’s just three words and instantly curiosity grabbing with an open loop that’s every parents worse nightmare. The order of the words here is important.

If you switch it to, ‘Three missing girls,’ it becomes more of a statement and less active. Whereas ‘Three girls missing’ feels more like we’re in the present, like it’s happening right now. Do you see what I mean?

Twenty years ago, […]

Another three words quickly sets the time frame. We know that parts of the book will set in the past but also that it’s set in present day.

Olivia Rutherfood crashed her car while driving home with three friends. When she regained consciousness, she was alone – her friends had vanished.

In this short first sentence we find out about one of the main characters and it sets up the main plot line . The second sentence is another great curiosity grabber, the main theme here is the mystery of it all and is in keeping with the genre. How come she was alone, where were her friends. You have to keep reading.


Now we’re clued into what the plot is all about – the hunt to find out what happened to the three girls. What I like about this bit is that they used title case and if you only skim read the blurb you can get the gist of the plot : THREE GIRLS MISSING. THEY WERE NEVER SEEN AGAIN.

This is a tactic for skim readers and also those buyers who’ve already heard about the book and are ready to buy. They just need to easily see they’ve found the right book – you can literally see the conversation between friends “I’ve just read a book about three girls that go missing and were never seen again. Now I’m I’m the friend looking for the book and read those sub headings, I’ll know I’ve found the right book.

Now, journalist Jenna Halliday visits the town where it happened, […]

‘Now’ – This simple three letter word tells us we’re no longer in the past, twenty years ago, but in the present day.

The next bit gives us an insight into who the main character is and her reason for getting involved in the mystery – journo’s like to investigate stuff. It also hints at a location but doesn’t give us much to go on – although you might infer from the cover that it’s got a small town vibe.

[…] determined to unlock the girls’ disappearance.

‘Determined’ and ‘unlock’ are both emotionally laden words that again give us a hint at the type of person Halliday is and the drama that’s about to unfold.

But Olivia won’t speak. And as Jenna probes further, the locals grow frightened . . .

This raising of the steaks increases curiosity, again because we want to know why she won’t talk about it. Why isn’t she desperate for answers too? What’s she hiding or afraid of?

And the second sentence adds another nod to the genre with a mysterious open loop, what could have the locals so frightened?


How many secrets can one small town hide?

The final cliffhanger is another clue about the setting and the use of the word ‘secrets’ reinforces the genre and ups the stakes. It makes you wonder what else the town is hiding. Ending on a question is strong closing for blurb, because our brains like to have closure, leaving on an open loop is like trying to leave an itch unscratched.

‘Douglas is the queen of the unexpected twist, and this is her best wrongfooting yet’ GILLIAN MCALLISTER

‘A chillingly dark plot with a killer twist, I was totally gripped throughout’ HEIDI PERKS

‘A deliciously dark, captivating and twisty mystery from the Queen of Gripping Pageturners’ CL TAYLOR

‘Clever . . . Adventurous . . . Fans of Douglas’s bestseller, The Couple at No 9, will enjoy her particularly lively female characters and twisty plot’ DAILY MAIL

Moody, menacing and gothic . . . A chillingly atmospheric thriller’ JP DELANEY

‘A fabulous book. Brilliantly plotted, heart-wrenchingly emotional, and with a central premise to die for. This delivered by the armful. I loved it!’ GYTHA LODGE

The social proof continues. I haven’t copies it all here. All this social proof is working hard to sell the twisty nature of the plot, I’m not sure how many of these review snippets would get read or just glossed over but keywords do stick out as you skim read.

It serves to heighten the mystery of the twists, reinforce the genre, add fomo, and social proof with ‘word-of-mouth in print’ to give readers who aren’t yet convinced the sense of the type of read they can expect.

In summary

There is A LOT of social proof going on. It’s really hard to say how effective having so much of it is helping with book sales. There are other factors at play, we don’t know how much the ad spend is or if Douglas has a large email list, or her social media following, but she’s obviously getting results.

What do you think?

Have you got any questions about it?

Want to suggest a book description to breakdown?

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