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"Wait, wait - you're not done yet!"
After several years of not being particularly creative about the metadata in Amazon's Upload Form, such as Subtitles and Keywords, I ordered a hardcopy of the book titled, How to Sell Books by the Truckload on Amazon by Penny Sansevieri. Now, I quickly confess it would take someone far more tech savvy than I—and someone with far more time on their hands—to do the many things described in this book, but I have to admit that a couple of things really caught my fancy. And I do believe they have increased my sales, so . . .
Warning: I purchased hardcopy as I like to highlight instructional books. But in the paperback version, the many screen shots are really hard to read. You need a magnifying glass.
Ms Sansevieri points out, and rightly so, that there are now so many books on Amazon that an author needs to do more than write a good blurb. You need something to grab readers' attention so they'll take the time to read the blurb. Hence, the SUBTITLE.
A subtitle is just another name for Log Line—those few words authors are encouraged to put at the top of a submission to an Editor or Agent to catch their attention. Short, well-crafted words that feature that special something that makes your book unique.
This made so much sense to me that I sat down and wrote subtitles for every one of c. 40 titles - a MAJOR chore, believe me, as capturing the essence of a book in less than a full sentence is a true challenge. Below are a few of the examples I came up with:
The Abominable Major: a wounded veteran clashes with a scandalous countess
A Lady Learns to Love: a poignant Christmas tale of love and loss
Tarleton's Wife: a war widow, a second chance & a resounding surprise
The Ghosts of Rushton Court: a bride's new home has a host of unexpected guests
Grace note: I strongly suggest you consider adding subtitles to your books on Amazon.
The idea behind using more complex Keywords than, say, "Regency Romance" or "Regency Historical" is that when searching those titles, 10-20,000+ entries may come up! Your goal—spelled out in detail in Ms Sansevieri's book—is that you should aim your Keywords at areas with lesser numbers, so your book has a better opportunity of being found. Warning: the research for this is painstaking, but I'm inclined to think it well worth the effort. I spent hours testing various combinations, but in the end I had a group that worked well for my Gothics, a group for my Historicals, a group for the Matthew Wolfe series.
Here are the Keywords I came up with for Brides of Falconfell, an older title that has definitely had a resurgence since changing the Keywords and adding a subtitle.
Clean Regency Romance Gothic, Clean Regency Romance Suspense, Clean Regency Romance Mystery Suspense, Gothic Regency Romance and Suspense, Gothic Historical Romance, Gothic Romance Marriage of Convenience, Gothic Romance Second Chance
For the Matthew Wolfe series:
(Only Book 1 qualified as a Regency Comedy, so my examples are from Books 2 & 3.)
Regency Historical Serial, Regency Historical Mystery Suspense, Regency Historical Adventure, Regency Historical New Adult, Regency Historical Friends and Family, Regency Historical Lighthearted, Regency Historical Rags to Riches
I consider myself pretty good at writing blurbs - I should be, since I've been doing it for so long! But Ms Sansevieri gives some very good advice for those struggling with this problem. (Frankly, if you could boil your story down to a Log Line/Subtitle, a blurb should be easy-peasy.)
From my personal experience over the years, I know my blurbs have gotten shorter, for the same reason a Subtitle is recommended. There are so many books and people are so busy, readers need a blurb to be "fast and easy" - maybe a single paragraph when we used to write two or three. I would not, however, leave off an Author's Note about something you feel is important. Reaching out to a reader, person to person, is always a good touch.
Most important: Start your blurb with a "grabber" sentence; i.e., something to catch and hold readers' attention, entice them to read the whole blurb.
Amazon allows 4000 characters (including spaces), which can include Review Excerpts, if you have them.
Smashwords requires a 400-character blurb (including spaces), as well as a 4000-character blurb (max). You need to prepare both before attempting an upload to Smashwords.
Below please find examples of "old" and "new" blurbs I wrote for Amazon and Smashwords. Note not only the style but the difference in length. Warning: length and content are up to you, but in the past few years it's become likely that "less" is better than "more." Make a real effort to find an opening "hook" and proceed from there with just enough snippets about main characters and plot to inspire people to read your book.
Smashwords "400": A Gamble on Love
To escape an unscrupulous uncle, Aurelia Trevor reluctantly accepts a marriage of convenience with a man outside her social circle. But in Thomas Lanning she gets a great deal more than she expected, discovering she must not only cope with the strong-willed stranger who is her husband, but with his unexpected young relatives and the dubious characters involved in his campaign for Parliament.
Amazon & Smashwords "4000": A Gamble on Love
Miss Aurelia Trevor has a problem. Until she reaches the age of
twenty-five, she will have no control over her beloved Pevensey Park,
and by that time her unscrupulous uncle will have run it into the
ground. Marriage to someone other than her uncle's leering son is her
only way out, but, one by one, she rejects the men on her list of
suitors. In desperation, Aurelia does the unthinkable. She hires a
solicitor to find her a husband strong enough to stand up to both her
uncle and her cousin. And soon learns the truth of that old adage: Be
careful what you wish for.
Thomas Lanning is man of the City. Unlike Aurelia, who stands to inherit vast land and wealth, he has made his own place in the world. He is not tempted by the suggestion of marriage to an heiress, but other considerations, such as a power base for a seat in Parliament, tweak his interest. Plus an unexpected twinge of chivalry when he hears the full extent of Miss Trevor's difficulties with her uncle and his family.
Aurelia, who only wants to live in peace on her acres, finds she has acquired a ready-made family in Thomas's younger sister and brother, as well as a head-strong husband whose campaign for MP fills her household with a shocking assortment of characters. It seems her marriage of convenience is fast becoming a marriage of inconvenience. Just how far will this strong-willed pair bend to accommodate each other? And will they do it before it is too late?
"Blair Bancroft's warm and tender [novel] boasts a great heroine in Aurelia: She's attractive, courageous, vulnerable and intelligent."
Robyn Taylor, Romantic Times
"Reading how they gradually learn to like and eventually love each other is wonderful. Blair Bancroft is now definitely one of my favorite traditional Regency authors and this book is a prime example of why."
Nicole Hurst, Romance Junkies
"Set against a backdrop of rural politics (and a fascinating look at the early world of "buying" votes) this is a story that entrances, enlightens and endears."
Celia at A Romance Review
Here is an updated version of the blurb for my very first book - The Sometime Bride:
A very young bride finds herself married to an enigmatic British spy
"for her safety." And is plunged into a seven-year, highly personal view
of the Peninsular War—ending, after years of blind devotion, in
discovering a betrayal of her trust so immense she can only wonder: Is
she the sometime bride of a man who never existed? A discarded mistress?
Or a beloved wife whose only rival is her husband's expediency in a
time of war?
Author's Note: In addition to being a saga of young lovers caught up in a war, The Sometime Bride is the history of the Peninsular War, Britain's fight against Napoleon in Portugal and Spain. The story moves from France's invasion of Portugal and British troops being driven into the sea at La Coruña to the return of British troops under General Sir Arthur Wellesley, the fortified lines at Torres Vedras, and the gradual push of French troops across Spain and back to France. Plus the chaotic times in Paris after Napoleon's surrender and the Emperor's triumph as he gathers up his old troops, only to be stopped in one of the most famous and bloody battles in history—Waterloo.
Reviewers Choice Award. "Sometimes a reviewer gets a book so powerful, it's hard to know where to begin to tell about it. The Sometime Bride is such a book. . . . Bride passes every criterion for a successful book that I was given as a reviewer. Ms Bancroft weaves a most unusual love story in among the threads of history that cover eight years. . . . I highly recommend both Tarleton's Wife and The Sometime Bride as companion books. They are totally independent, but together give a vastly enlightening and entertaining view of the period through use of wonderful characters and page-turner plots—definite keepers, both." Jane Bowers, Romance Communications
[Four other review snippets followed.]
Here is the blurb I used for The Courtesan's Letters when I uploaded my own version of my very first trad Regency for Signet:
Miss Abigail Todd, the very proper headmistress of an academy for young
ladies in Boston, arrives in England to settle her grandmother’s estate,
only to discover that her ancestor was la grande Clarisse, the most
notorious courtesan of her day. And, to her even greater horror, she
herself is the perfect image of her grandmother. Clarisse has left a
series of letters detailing commissions Abby must carry out in order to
obtain her inheritance (an amount far greater than anticipated). In
order to do this, she must accept the assistance of Jared, Earl of
Langley, grandson of the man who was Clarisse’s devoted lover for forty
years. Has Clarisse created these letters because of love, nostalgia,
mischief, vengeance . . . or is she perhaps more interested in
matchmaking? The most likely answer: all of the above.
Author’s Note: “The Courtesan’s Letters” is suitable reading for Ages 14 & up. Under the Signet title of “The Indifferent Earl,” it was nominated for a RITA award by the Romance Writers of America and was awarded “Regency Romance of the Year” by Romantic Times magazine.
"This story flows like fine champagne, full of sparkle, zest and energy."
Teresa Roebuck, Romantic Times
"The dialogue sparkles, the plot evolves at a brisk pace, and a diverse cast of secondary characters adds depth and texture to this well-written tale."
Susan Lantz, Romance Reviews Today
"I was completely and utterly seduced by this book. . . . The plot is exquisite, a sparklingly innovative, perfectly executed piece of craftsmanship. . . . It is books like this that restore our faith in the Regency genre. . . ."
Celia Merenyi, A Romance Review
My blurb for the more recent The Ghosts of Rushton Court:
A Regency ghost tale inspired by the classic saying: "Marry in haste, repent at leisure."
The widowed Lady Marian Talbot is keeping a low profile as her exquisitely lovely sister, Vanessa, makes her come-out. Yet somehow it is Marian who attracts the attention of the most eligible bachelor London society has seen in a decade, a marquess who has spent the last dozen years in India. After a whirlwind courtship, Marian—now the Marchioness of Rushton—arrives at her new home, only to discover she is expected to solve the challenges of dealing with her husband's hostile brother and sister, his illegitimate young son, and a staff at war with itself. And, as if that weren't enough, Marian must also adjust to a panoply of ghosts, all supposedly benign, but that becomes doubtful as someone—or some thing—makes repeated attempts to kill both the marquess and his new bride.
And finally, my blurb for The Making of Matthew Wolfe:
AUTHOR'S NOTE. Welcome to a Regency series with a twist! Although the
Matthew Wolfe books feature the adventures of a supposed nobody off the
mean streets of London, they are designed for Covid relief—light,
warm-hearted, even whimsical. Hopefully, by the time Matthew has found
his Happily Ever After, our World will have righted itself and we will
be well on our way back to normal. Meanwhile, here is the first in a
series of novellas told as an old-fashioned "serial," each book with a
Matthew Wolfe, born and raised in the squalor of London's inner city, should be a nobody, forever destined to obscurity, or the hangman. But wait . . . he can read and write, is a whiz at math, can speak like a gentleman, even knows more than a bit of French. And when the boy from London ends up on a hops farm in Kent, surrounded by the remnants of the Royal 10th Hussars and a passel of children, what will this fish out of water do? Retired military and their ladies, children, dogs, a regal cat, neighbors in need, and a determined twelve-year-old—all assist Matthew on his journey toward the person he is meant to be.
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My comments above barely scratch the surface of Ms Sansevieri's work, so if you'd like to learn more . . .
For a link to How to Sell Books by the Truckload on Amazon, click here.
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For Blair's updated Facebook Author Page, click here.
For Blair's website, click here.
Thanks for stopping by,Grace/Blair Bancroft