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 Chris Voss’s, Never Split The Difference. At the time of writing it was No. 2 in the Amazon UK’ bestselling business life book charts.
Here’s the blurb…
Opening hook : THE HUGE INTERNATIONAL BESTSELLER
“The”, it’s three letters. But they’re an important three because they make the claim bolder. There’s no pussyfooting around. It is the bestseller. Let’s say they opened with “A”. ‘A huge international bestseller’ puts this book among all the other bestsellers. “A” makes it one of many. One fish in a giant pool of other fish. But “The” makes it sound like the cream of the crop. It is the book that everyone is talking about.
“The huge international bestseller” in CAPITAL LETTERS makes it hard to miss this social proof element.
A former FBI hostage negotiator offers a field-tested approach to negotiating – effective in any situation.
The first part establishes the author’s authority. You can’t get more high-stakes than hostage negotiation and the fact that he’s going to spill the beans on the techniques he used… well, hot-diggity dawg, I’m all ears. The addition of the ‘effective in any situation’ is a clever bit of copy. It addresses an objection – it’s not relevant to me – and it creates an open loop, people will fill in the gaps and think of situations where they could have used better negotiation skills.
‘Riveting’ Adam Grant
‘Stupendous’ The Week
These three snippets of review quotes help to establish some social proof. What’s interesting is they don’t give much away about the actual content.
In his book, The Art of the Click, Glenn Fisher ran a test (not hugely scientific one, he just used heat mapping software), but he noted that on landing pages and sales pages, people skipped the testimonials. Their absence was noted – reduced conversions – whereas their presence boosted conversions even though browsers were just skimming over them and not actually reading them.
“After a stint policing the rough streets of Kansas City, Missouri, Chris Voss joined the FBI, where his career as a kidnapping negotiator brought him face-to-face with bank robbers, gang leaders and terrorists.”
First thing to note is the fact that they’ve separated the opening hook from the actual book description with a solid line. I like this, it’s easier on the eye by breaking up the copy.
One to the words… This first sentence is all about establishing his authority. This is important because people will be thinking ‘why the feck should I listen to him?’ It tells me this guy has seen some shit and faced some pretty challenging situations.
Notice they don’t go into a heavy load of detail about his background. Instead of saying he spent 7 years as a cop in Kansas, they say ‘stint’. This lightens our mental load.
They don’t bog us down with irrelevant stuff, but they keep the high-stakes vibe going by describing the streets of Kansas as ‘rough’, and they say ‘kidnapping’, bank robbers, gang leaders, and terrorists. (See how these last three are written alphabetically? They roll off the tongue and leave you with the thought of what it would be like to come face to face with a terrorist.)
“Never Split the Difference takes you inside his world of high-stakes negotiations, revealing the nine key principles that helped Voss and his colleagues succeed when it mattered the most – when people’s lives were at stake.”
At first glance, you might think that repeating the title of the book is a waste of real estate. I mean, it’s right there on the cover. And on the top section of Amazon’s sales page…
But repetition is a handy tool in the copywriter’s armoury. When done well, it can cement an idea or image in someone’s mind. When done badly, though, well, you risk sounding like a grandad who tells the same story at every event. It gets dull.
Here, though, it does two things. First, it repeats the title of the book – a helpful way to get you to remember it – and second, because the title is so clever, it cements that idea in your head – the idea of never splitting the difference – which speaks to our egos.
Next, we have the idea of being taken into a secret world. Being an insider. Being let in on high-level info, it’s like catnip to our curious dopamine loving brains. Must. Find. Out. The. Secret…
But it’s not just one secret, it’s nine secrets! We like numbers. Numbers are solid things we can get our heads around easily. There’s literally safety in numbers.
The copy goes on to reiterate the high-stakes theme – the thing to note about this is that it gets us a bit excited. And it’s this excitement that helps get people off their procrastinating arse and click the buy button.
“Rooted in the real-life experiences of an intelligence professional at the top of his game, Never Split the Difference will give you the competitive edge in any discussion.”
Here we go again with the authority and credibility building. But then there’s a pivot to the reader and what the benefit is (as well as another sneaky bit of repetition with the title). Who doesn’t want the ‘competitive edge in any discussion’?
PRAISE FOR NEVER SPLIT THE DIFFERENCE
‘Such a great book that is relevant to more than just FBI negotiations: it’s relevant to my relationship with my partner, to my business, to everything in between.’ Steven Bartlett, entrepreneur and host of the Diary of a CEO podcast
‘It’s rare that a book is so gripping and entertaining while still being actionable and applicable.’ Inc.
‘A business book you won’t be able to put down.’ Fortune
Again, they’ve used the solid line to break up the copy and used the ‘social proof sandwich’ technique I’ve seen so often in trad pub’d book descriptions.
All these review quotes are benefit led. They help to establish what the reader will get out of it and use the credibility of the reviewers to build on that social proof.
Note (there are a lot of notes to this one!), that the writer hasn’t used a direct call to action (i.e. ‘go buy this book today’) but that the final quote isn’t just a review quote, it’s also what I call a soft CTA – an indirect call to action.
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.