Week #12 – Ken Follett – A Place Called Freedom

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 Ken Follett’s book, A Place Called Freedom. At the time of writing it was No. 1 in the UK’s Amazon charts.

Here’s the blurb…

Here’s the Amazon link for a closer look

The breakdown…

Opening hook: Set in an era of turbulent social changes, A Place Called Freedom is a magnificent historical fiction novel from the undisputed master of suspense and drama, Ken Follett.

At first glance, the first part of this sentence of this hook doesn’t seem to be doing much. BUT act-chew-ally it’s instantly signalling the genre, and the word ‘turbulent’ helps to set the scene. The second part – repeats the title to help it stick in readers minds, reiterates the genre, and builds the status of the author all while signalling the type of book it is. Whew, that’s a lot for one line.  

Sub head: A Life of Poverty

I like the use of subheads. It helps skim readers, and the white space breaks up the copy and frames the content of the paragraph that follows. This one, ‘A Life of Poverty’, sets the overarching theme and the background of one of the main characters. 

Body copy: Scotland, 1767. Mack McAsh is a slave by birth, destined for a cruel and harsh life as a miner. But as a man of principles and courage, he has the strength to stand up for what he believes in, only to be labelled as a rebel and enemy of the state.

By starting with ‘Scotland, 1767’,  we quickly and easily get located in time and place. It doesn’t get in the way of itself. It’s kinda like using ‘said’ as a dialogue tag.

We’re also introduced to the main character, his current situation, and his future challenges. It doesn’t get bogged down with extra details rather it stays focused on the theme of poverty. Then it sets up the kind of man he is, his character traits, this helps to build an image of him in our minds, it builds empathy, and resonates with readers—we would all like to think that we have the strength and courage to stand up for what we believe. The final sentence paints him as the underdog, and we all love to get behind the underdog. 

Subheading: A Life of Wealth 

This is the opposite side of the financial coin and helps the reader transition from one character to the next. 

Body copy: Life feels constrained for rebellious Lizzie Hallim, as she struggles with the less cruel circumstances of wealth and privilege. Fiercely independent, she is engaged to a man she doesn’t care for, a landlord’s son and heir to an exploitative business empire.

Again, we’re not overly bogged down with the finer details here, rather the focus is kept on the Lizzies financial situation and the price she pays for being born into wealth. There’s the similar structure to this paragraph as the previous one:  we’re given their name, their financial situation, then a character trait and a challenge she’s facing in her life. As before it helps to build empathy to the character’s situation. 

Subheading: A Search for Freedom

The final part of the hook ties the two other parts of the hook together. Both characters are looking for freedom of some kind. I think it also creates a little open loop inviting readers to wonder if the pair do actually find freedom.  

Body copy: Lizzie finds herself helping Mack after he becomes a fugitive. Separated by class but bound by their yearning for freedom, they escape to London. True freedom, though, lies further afield, in a new life that awaits across the Atlantic Ocean.

The third paragraph, as I say, brings both character’s lives together. It opens a few questions in the reader’s mind, firstly :how does Lizzie find herself helping Mack, and what the heck has Mack done to become a fugitive. The next sentence (separated by class, etc.) reinforces the overall plot and the conflict the two face. It also adds another open loop: why do they head to London? The next bit suggests that they’re still not safe in London and ends with the promise of adventure and discovery. 

In summary

Overall, it’s a good description, fits the genre, and sticks to the core theme of the class divide. It’s got a bit of a Romeo and Juliet vibe about it. Hasn’t it?

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.

Leave a Reply