Week #11 – Bella Mackie – How to Kill Your Family

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 bestselling 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 Bella Mackie’s book, How to Kill Your Family. At the time of writing it was No. 16 in the UK’s Amazon charts.

Here’s the blurb…

Here’s the Amazon link if you want a closer look

The breakdown…

Opening hook and subtitle:


‘I loved this book’ RICHARD OSMAN

‘Funny, sharp, dark and twisted’ JOJO MOYES

‘Chilling, but also laugh-out-loud funny. Another corker’ SUNDAY TELEGRAPH

They’ve gone big on the #1 Sunday Times Bestseller angle. There is, I believe, a hierarchy to social proof. Here their biggest weapon is the status this bestseller brings to the table. Celebrity endorsements are another sales staple, and three one-liners are enough to skim while still get the gist of the type of experience you’d be in for.

Then we get to the opening hook for the actual plot…

They say you can’t choose your family. But you can kill them.

Oooh, this is good. This is a play on the familiar phrase, ‘You can choose your friends but you can’t choose your family.’ But, obviously, they’ve given it a bit fat unexpected twist at the end. We humans prefer things that are familiar to us, there’s safety in it. So when you give something that’s familiar a little twist, you get a kick of dopamine, a little jolt of electricity that makes you go, ‘Ooh.’

Notice also, that the hook also links to the title. This helps to really hammer the message home.

Now the body copy…

Meet Grace Bernard.
Daughter, sister, serial killer…
Grace has lost everything.
And she will stop at nothing to get revenge.

Well, this is short but it certainly packs a punch. Let’s look at what’s going on.

Firstly, we’re given one piece of information—the main character’s name.

Then we’re given a tiny bit about her identity but notice again how they twist the ending to something you wouldn’t expect to see. There’s a few other things going on here that make it work so well. The ‘daughter, sister’ bit humanises Grace, as well as lean on our personal meaning of those words. They have an emotional relatability. Then there’s a little bit of alliteration (sister & serial) which gives it a little rhythm.

Then we’re given the set-up (Grace has lost everything.), which creates an open loop. How has she lost everything? What does that mean, everything? It gives you another ‘Ooh’ moment.

And finally, it implies the stakes and combines it with another open loop. Who is she seeking to exact her revenge on, what could they have done to deserve it?

That’s probably one of the shortest book descriptions we’ve had in Blurbology—so far. They’ve chosen to sandwich it with more gushing social proof to the point that you could easily skim straight past the book description…

‘Funny and furious and strangely uplifting. Grace is a bitter and beguiling anti-hero with a keen eye for social analysis – even in her most grisly deeds, you never stop rooting for her’ PANDORA SYKES

‘Deliciously addictive…brilliantly executed’ i PAPER

‘Addictive… Grace Bernard is one of the most intriguing and bewitching protagonists I’ve read in years’ EMMA GANNON

‘A funny, compulsive read about family dysfunction and the media’s obsession with murder’ SUNDAY TIMES STYLE

‘You’ll be gripped… Grace’s emotional detachment throughout will give you chills’ Rated 5 stars by COSMOPOLITAN

‘Hilarious and dark’ ELLE

‘Ironic twists and caustic commentary on everything from liberal guilt to the consumerist con that is “selfcare” sharpen this debut novel’ OBSERVER

‘Brilliantly tongue-in-cheek stuff from the Vogue columnist’ IRISH INDEPENDENT

‘Witty, waspish satire of a murderer with no regrets’ GRAZIA

‘Original, funny, unique and such a refreshing read’ PRIMA

‘A deliciously dark debut novel’ RED

‘One very entertaining read’ WOMAN’S WAY

How To Kill Your Family was number 1 in the Sunday Times paperback chart on 26/04/2022

Now, I can’t say for sure, but hiding the description away may be tactical, it might not be, it might be just an accident. But by allowing the description to blend in with the reviews, you almost force the reader to read the reviews in order to find out the story is about. The more the reader stays on the page, the more they see, then there’s more chance of increasing the conversions.

I’ve also just spotted that they end by using the date on which the book was listed as the No 1 Bestseller. The reason they do this is to build credibility, authority, and therefore trust through specificity. Soooo many people these days throw around the words ‘Bestseller’ but adding the date is evidence of that claim.

In summary

This book description shows that sometimes, less is most definitely more. It might not work in every genre, but here it certainly does.  

What do you think?

Have you got any questions about it?

Want to suggest a book description to breakdown?

Either comment below or shoot me an email.

And of course, you can always join my email list for deeper copywriting insights.

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