Week #6 – David Walliams – Spaceboy

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…

Spaceboy by David Walliams – read the description on Amazon

The breakdown…

A note on the subtitle

The epic and hilarious new children’s book for 2022 from multi-million bestselling author David WalliamsOn to the opening hook…

The epic and hilarious new children’s book for 2022 from multi-million bestselling author David Walliams

This is the subtitle on that amazon sales page. Can you see what they’ve done here? Epic and hilarious suggest it’s not a quick read, but it’s funny. ‘New children’s book’ instantly speaks to the buyer (who is not likely to be the child). They use the novelty factor to point out it’s a new book and double down on the fact it’s a children’s book. Then they layer on the social proof with the multi-million bestselling author bit.

Go back to the Space Race

Go back to the space race – for the purchaser this might evoke a nostalgic sense (well, for grandparents perhaps) but also helps to set the scene.

No.1 bestselling author David Walliams

No 1 bestselling author – layers on the social proof and tells us he’s written other stories and also implies he’s pretty good at it.

[…] breathless cinematic adventure full of mystery, action, laughs and surprises

This bit doesn’t tell us anything specific about the plot, but it is full of promise and builds desire.

[…] and a secret that could change the course of history…

Ah, now they’ve built some desire, we get hit with an open loop to build curiosity. What secret and how could it change the course of history? It compels you to read on.

America. The 1960s.

This is the Hemmingway way of setting the scene. We know where we are and when we are. No fluff. Our brains can fill in the blanks.

Stuck on a remote farm with her awful aunt, […]

The word ‘stuck’ offers great imagery. They could have gone with ‘trapped’, or ‘stranded’, or ‘forced to live with,’ but stuck offers hope of a solution. It is, of course, an open loop. And we can’t help but ask, ‘Why is she stuck?’

We also find out that it’s a remote farm, so we know she’s isolated and ‘awful aunt’ paints just the right picture to not be scary—think Miss Trunchbull. They could have just said ‘aunt’, but that doesn’t give us anything to anchor an image to.

[…] twelve-year-old orphan Ruth

Now we learn more about the main character, her age, and that she’s an orphan. We’re told her age to help reinforce the appropriateness of the book and help buyers gauge if their child would like to read about a 12 yr old. We’re also told that she’s an orphan. They could have used a description here, like skinny or blonde, but it doesn’t clue us in to her world. Rather, it fosters empathy in the reader. And evoking empathy is a key emotional trigger to getting buyers to buy.

[…] spends every night gazing at the stars, dreaming of adventure.

This is relatable and gives you a sense of how she’s coping with her situation. This also reflects the hero’s journey – it tells us about her normal life.

One night she spots a flying saucer blazing across the sky… before crash-landing in a field.

This tells us more about the plot and what the inciting incident is.

When the spaceship opens and reveals a mysterious alien, all Ruth’s dreams come true.

We want to know more about this mysterious alien and clues us in on the call to adventure. We know Ruth dreams of adventure. This is the promise of the premise of the story. An adventure.

But does this visitor from another planet have a giant secret?

This open loop aims to up the anti, to build the tension and increase the mystery. What is the GIANT secret? There could be a clue in the word giant – it’s not a typical use of the saying, who goes around saying I have a giant secret, most people say a big secret, or long forgotten secret, or massive secret. By using a word that we rarely put in front of another disrupts the pattern and what we normally expect, so it makes it stand out more.

Spaceboy is a hilarious and action-packed tale for readers in any solar system.

This re-iterates the genre, action-packed, and uses a little humour at the end to reinforce the fun and lighthearted content.

David Walliams was most recently Children’s #1 bestseller with The World’s Worst Pets (TCM chart: 30 April 2022)

Ending on another layer of social proof reinforces the fact that other people are buying and reading Walliams’s work. So not only does it build credibility, it also hints at FOMO—the fear of missing out—to trigger more desire to buy.

In summary

This is a neat and tidy, Hemmingway-esque book description. Each line pulls its weight and leads you easily to the next. Notice it doesn’t end on a direct call to action, i.e. grab a a copy today, because it doesn’t need to disrupt the desire and excitement the body copy has built.

What do you think?

Have you got any questions about it?

Want to suggest a book description to breakdown?

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