When authors and publishers promote books via BookBub’s Featured Deals email, each promotion includes a blurb. Each BookBub blurb is carefully crafted to appeal to readers subscribed to that book’s category. We often get questions about these blurbs: Who writes them? How are they written? How do we decide what to include?
At BookBub, we have an editorial team that produces each day’s email and writes each of the blurbs. We craft these blurbs based on the copy and information that we know appeals to members subscribed to each of our categories. Much of this is based on data we collect — what copy engages readers the most, A/B tests comparing copy variations, and popular trends and tropes in each genre.
In this post, we’ll shed some light on our process for writing blurbs, explain how we run A/B tests, and share some of the insights we’ve gained from all our tests.
General Best Practices
When writing blurbs, we generally collect as much information about a book as we can. We use sources like the retailer product page, editorial reviews, and bestseller lists. Then we use our set of guidelines to shape this information into a well-crafted blurb:
Length: Blurbs should generally be under 50 words. Keep them as concise as possible, and avoid drawn-out plot summaries that may lose a reader’s attention.
Plot points: Keep blurbs broad to appeal to as many readers as possible without being deceptive about the plot. Avoid categorizing books in overly specific ways (e.g. “inspirational cozy mystery”) that may discourage certain readers from clicking.
Accolades: Include any major accolades — the bestselling status of the book, past bestselling status of the author, and/or awards the book or author has won.
Review counts: Include an impressive number of reviews. Examples include: “More than X five-star reviews on Amazon” or “Nearly X five-star ratings on Goodreads.”
Quotes: Weave quotes from good sources into the blurb for variety and acclaim. (e.g. “This “unputdownable” memoir (Better Homes and Gardens)” or “Hailed as “beautifully observed” (The New York Times)”)
Comparables: Use comparative titles, authors, movies, or TV shows (e.g. “Perfect for fans of Game of Thrones”) when applicable.
Author track record: Mention well-known backlist titles (e.g. “Bestselling author of The Da Vinci Code”) when applicable.
Emotional connections: Particularly for nonfiction, when possible, try to highlight what the book can do for the reader. Some examples include:
- World War II history buffs will love…
- For those of you who want to make money in your pajamas
- If you love chocolate cake, this book is for you
Language: Use active and exciting verbs and avoid the passive voice whenever possible. Try to include laudatory adjectives, such as:
How We A/B Test Our Blurbs
We use data to make our blurbs as strong as possible. Often, that means running A/B tests to see what kind of copy and information resonates with readers.
We run A/B tests by randomly sending a slightly different version of the same promotion to two groups of our subscribers. For example, Group A might receive a version of blurb copy including the book’s number of Amazon reviews while Group B would receive a variation without this information, though everything else in the promotion remained exactly the same.
The version with the highest click-through rate is the winner, and we run the same test across multiple blurbs in multiple genres. This method allows us to isolate the copy and find out which version appealed more to our readers.
Top A/B Test Results
Here are some of the most interesting results from the A/B tests we have run.
Content that increases click-through rates overall
These results are consistent across multiple genres, so we are able to use this data when writing blurbs across the board.
- Including a high number of reviews. In the example above, we found that including high numbers of reviews in the blurb increases engagement. When a book has at least 150 five-star reviews on Amazon or Goodreads, including the number of five-star reviews in the copy increases clicks an average of 14.1%.
- Include comparable titles. Mentioning comparative titles, authors, movies, or TV shows (e.g. “A mind-bending psychological thriller for fans of The Girl on The Train”) increased clicks an average of 25.7%.
- Include quotes (aka, testimonials). Our tests showed that book descriptions with testimonials from authors or publications got an average of 22.6% higher click-through rates than those without.
- Choose quotes from authors instead of publications. While quotes from both authors and publications increased engagement, descriptions that included a quote from a well-known author got an average 30.4% higher click-through rate than descriptions including a blurb from a recognizable publication. Note that in many cases, the authors quoted were big names in the specific genre of the book, so the results will depend on how recognizable the author or publication is in a particular genre. But our data shows that all else being equal, showcasing a quote from an author is a better bet if one is available.
- Include author awards. If the author has won an award in the past for any book, including this fact would increase clicks an average of 6.7%, especially if the award signified the genre of the book (for example, the Shamus Award for mysteries).
- Cater to audience interests. Our A/B tests showed that catering the copy to your audience’s interests (e.g. including “if you love [genre]”) positively influences engagement. Copy like “If you love thrillers, don’t miss this action-packed read!” instead of “An action-packed read!” increased clicks 15.8% on average.
Content that increases click-through rates in specific categories
Here are a few examples of results in specific categories. We use this data to help us decide what elements to include within these particular genres.
- Historical fiction: Including the time period in the description increased clicks an average of 25.1%.
- Chick Lit: Mentioning the age or age range of the protagonist increased clicks an average of 8.4%.
- Business: Mentioning publications or media in which the authors have been featured increased clicks an average of 18.8%. For example: “The team behind this aspirational book has been featured on NBC’s Today Show, Forbes, and more!”
- Cookbooks: Mentioning specific recipes included in the cookbook decreased clicks an average of 8.0%. Readers engaged more with blurbs that focused on the benefit — for example, time-saving recipes or a two-week eating plan — without naming recipes.
- Contemporary romance: If the protagonist in the romance is a single mother, mentioning that fact increased clicks an average of 5.2%.
Content that didn’t make much of a difference
For several tests we ran, we were surprised by the results in that there were no results — these changes didn’t make a difference in engagement whatsoever!
- Bestseller type. Whether a book is a New York Times bestseller, USA Today bestseller, or Amazon bestseller, including one versus the other in the copy didn’t make a difference. Including the fact that the book was a bestseller did help!
- Posing the hook as a question. We tested posing the hook as a question versus a sentence, and it made no difference. For example: “Will Cora discover that he’s the perfect guy?” and “Cora may discover that he’s the perfect guy.” yielded the same exact results.
- Mentioning a debut. If a novel is an author’s debut, mentioning that fact one way or the other didn’t make a difference at all.
- Including the name of the series. If a novel is part of a book series, mentioning the name of the entire series didn’t have very much of an impact on engagement.
If you have any questions about our blurb-writing process, let us know in the comments below!
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