Monday, September 5, 2011

ASK PZM - Sept 2011: blurbs

What tools do you use when writing blurbs for your book clients?

First, a disclaimer: While I’m a good writer and spend a lot of time thinking about blurbs, loglines and taglines, I’m not a copywriter, which is a specialized writing skill. (Cathy Goodwin of is a copywriter I highly recommend.)

Second, I don’t think of tools so much as questions to ask before writing. This is akin to tossing a stone into water and watching the concentric circles expand out from the stone.

Who are the most likely readers for a book? What do they need to know about the book to realize this book is for them?

Who are the second most likely readers for a book? What does this second group of readers need to know about the book to be motivated to take an interest?

One way to think about how to write blurbs, logline and taglines for your book is to study the loglines for television shows. How are specific target audiences appealed to?

But there are often limitations on effectively reaching your book’s ideal target audiences no matter how good your blurb is.

Let me give you an example:

As a former Mrs. Lieutenant (the wife of a U.S. Army lieutenant), I know that the number one target audience for my novel “Mrs. Lieutenant” are current and former wives of low-ranking Army officers. And in my experience these women buy at the Army P.X. But I can’t get my self-published novel into the PX system because the books aren’t returnable.

When the novel came out in April 2008 I didn’t yet know about the numerous online military spouse communities. Plus the cost of the novel, set by Amazon’s BookSurge (now merged into Amazon’s CreateSpace), was too high for an unknown novelist’s book.

Today the publishing landscape has drastically changed, and I could focus on getting out the word to these online communities, especially with the price of the novel lower (thanks to CreateSpace’s pricing options) and the $2.99 price of the eBook versions.

You should accept that, even if you know the best target audience for your fiction or nonfiction book, you may not be able to reach that audience as effectively as you would like.

In a perfect world, though, we’ll assume that we can effectively reach our best target audiences. And if we can do this, then we have to figure out what resonates with these audiences.

Many years ago I worked for a product placement agency (putting products in movies). I taught younger agency staff how to write persuasive “pitches” to companies who might want to participate in a specific movie.

I said that we didn’t write what we thought was exciting about the movie’s opportunities, but what the company’s representative had to hear to understand that the movie was a good opportunity for his/her company. In other words, we had to switch our POV from our own to that of the potential company participant.

And this same POV (something we writers often struggle with in writing novels) is what we need to consider when writing blurbs, loglines and taglines: Not what we want to say about our book but what the potential target reader needs to hear to be motivated to be interested in our book.

While this sounds easy to do, it often isn’t. Thus I urge you not to feel “stupid” when trying to do this.

P.S. I’d like to add something else. If your Kindle version was priced several years ago, revisit the price now to see if it is in line with current eBook prices. Now that Kindle has lots of eBook competition, eBook prices are often lower. (I just ordered a book from Amazon and the paperback version was cheaper than the Kindle version.)

The August 29th Wall Street Journal article “New Economics Rewrite Book Business” by Jeffrey A. Trachtenberg began: “The economics of the book business are changing so rapidly the industry barely looks like it did just six months ago.”

The article goes on to mention that, due to “publishers bridging two worlds” (physical and digital), advances and print runs are being reduced.

In conclusion, while blurbs, logline and taglines will continue to be very important, if your book or eBook is not priced strategically in line with the changes in the book industry, you may be shooting yourself in the foot without realizing it.

Thus it’s important to stay up-to-date with what’s going on in the publishing industry that can affect your book promotion decisions. And when you read a book blurb that you think is really good, consider how you can adapt your own blurbs to emulate that blurb!

(Special request: I’m looking for people who might like to read my new eBook-only novel “Lt. Commander Mollie Sanders” for a possible Amazon review. I can email review volunteers an ePub version to be read on a computer with the free software from But I know this novel is not for everyone; you have to like this kind of story. First see and then email me at if you’d like a review copy.)

© 2011 Miller Mosaic, LLC

Phyllis Zimbler Miller (@ZimblerMiller on Twitter) has an M.B.A. from The Wharton School and is the co-founder of the marketing consulting company You can learn about her fiction and nonfiction books at her Amazon author page at

The Pampered Book Club (@pamperedbook on Twitter) will be discussing Phyllis's eBook LT. COMMANDER MOLLIE SANDERS at a simultaneous tweetchat on Twitter and Facebook chat via the group's Facebook group ( on Thursday, September 8, at 7:30 p.m. EASTERN.  This is the first-time the group has tried a simultaneous chat.  You're all welcome to join in and see how this goes.


  1. Amazon has a new author feature in beta that I think is really terrific. I write about this and other book marketing info in this new Miller Mosaic post -- -- that includes a link to this post here as well as a link to a new post about websites being mobile friendly.

  2. Thanks, Phyllis. I'll check it out.

  3. Blurbs. Thanks for the advice, as they ARE so daunting.

  4. I'm with you, Carol. Blurbs are tough to master. Thanks for stopping by. Hope your week is great.

  5. Just want to add a shoutout to Joylene for adding such great graphics to my guest post. The graphics really liven up the post!

  6. You're very welcome, Phyllis. As a visual person, I'm happiest to see text with pictures myself, so adding them adds a nice element.

  7. Wish I had a blurb to write!

    Hey, I was searching for my face in your followers but couldn't find it. All this time, I thought I was a follower! What the heck?! Well, now I am and your blog is on my roll. What a stupid oversight on my part.

  8. Hi Nancy. It was fate. You are now officially follower #201. How kewl is that!

  9. thanks for sharing your blurb, logline writing process. very insightful.

  10. Thank you so much for stopping by, Aquilar. Your blog is quite beautiful. I was moved by your posts. You have a great talent.

  11. Authors (and publishers!) ofen find blurbs and pitches difficult. Phyllis is right to point out that a good copywriter can help. So can screenwriters who tend to have loglines (like a mini pitch) figured out. But for those who must do it themselves, some more techniques are available in the updated and expanded editon of The Frugal Book Promoter,

    Thanks you two helpful women. I'm tweeting this column/post.

    Carolyn Howard-Johnson
    Blogging writers' resources at Writer's Digest 101 Best Websites pick

  12. Carolyn, I have a copy of "The Frugal Book Promoter". I love that book.

    Thanks for stopping by.

  13. Thanks, Aguilar and Carolyn, for leaving comments. Glad you liked this post.


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