WARNING: Authors, blurbs can kill…your sales!

I offer this blog post up as a cautionary tale to authors. Especially to self-published authors who don’t have a publisher to tell them, “Um, NO, this is NOT a good idea.”

I had to unfriend a fellow author on Facebook tonight. The reason?

They were posting in multiple groups a blurb for their book. (No, I’m not going to mention the book or author.)

The problem?

The blurb they posted was a disturbing scene of domestic violence.

I’m sure the author thought that scene was fraught with suspense and tension. It was also fraught with something else: TRIGGERS.

I have PTSD. It’s not a fraction as bad as it used to be, but one of my triggers is the kind of violence portrayed in the blurb. And if someone doesn’t have PTSD, they might not even realize it’s a trigger. I’m sure the author didn’t realize it. (Well, I’m hoping they didn’t realize it. If they did and posted it anyway, it makes them an asshole in addition to being clueless. So I’m giving them the benefit of the doubt.)

If the scene had context, it likely wouldn’t have triggered me as badly (if at all) had I stumbled across it in the book.

However, the blurb triggered me so badly that I will not be buying this author’s book. Period. Because I’ve already been triggered.

Based on feedback from others on Facebook when I posted this, I’m suspecting I’m not the only sale they lost, and the sad thing is, they’re completely oblivious to that fact.

I considered writing the author, but there is no universe where anything I say will come out sounding even remotely helpful. “Hey, I wanted to buy your book, but the scene you used as a blurb totally turned me off. How about posting something not quite so triggering?” Or, “Hey, you made a really bone-headed decision to post a scene of domestic violence as your blurb, dumbass.” Or, “Hey, I can’t read your book, and neither will some others, but here’s what you can do to fix that to quit turning off potential readers.”

Ummm, yeah. I can’t see that going well, either.

I’m hoping this blog post reaches the author and they realize what happened and they quietly change the blurb. It would behoove them to do so. It certainly would help their sales.

Authors, blurbs should be and do many things. They should be funny, sexy, provide a hook, a LITTLE suspense or tension. They should NEVER be a trigger to turn off your buying public. EVER. I don’t care if it doesn’t trigger YOU. You have to yank yourself out of that tunnel vision you as the writer have with your book. YOU know the backstory. YOU know the characters. YOU know the circumstances bracketing that scene on either side of it for context.

Your potential readers, the ones you’re dangling your book in front of, are CLUELESS ABOUT ALL OF THAT.

So you do NOT, EVER, give up something that can be a trigger. You write dub-con? Do NOT use that scene as your blurb. EVER. You write a horror book that has a gory scene? Do NOT include that gore as part of the blurb. Stop with the tension high, but before you reveal a trigger.

And for crying out loud, make sure to LABEL your book with triggers. Rape, domestic violence, child abuse, animal abuse, violence — in addition to any labels you might need for the romance world. (Anal sex, BDSM, bondage, menage, MF, MM, MMF, MFM, FF, etc.)

“But…but…but…that might make some readers not buy my book!”

Um, well, guess what? It’s better they bypass THAT book and still read other books you’ve written, instead of stumbling across that in a book and then adding ALL your books to their future do not read list. Because nothing will piss off readers faster than getting triggered by a book when it should have been clearly labelled with the trigger in the first place. Labeling books is quickly becoming the NORM, not the exception. And guess what? There will STILL be plenty of people who don’t give a rat’s ass about that and will still buy the book. And you will have gained the readers’ trust by labeling, so they feel safe taking a risk on some of your other books in the future.

That’s a win, folks.

People will NOT like or read every book you write. They just won’t. Get over it. I’ve got readers who like some of my genres and won’t read some of my books because they’re in genres they don’t like. Or they’re romantic pairings they don’t favor. Or whatever. That’s FINE.

But to deliberately alienate a demographic of readers before you even give them a chance to show them your writing chops? That’s just stupid. And potentially terminally stupid in terms of your future writing career if you earn a reputation for doing stuff like that.

*rant/off*

4 thoughts on “WARNING: Authors, blurbs can kill…your sales!

  1. You should run an online workshop for authors on “What Not To Do,” Tymber. Triggers are everywhere. Responsible authors know how to address them with sensitivity and professionalism.
    THANK YOU!

  2. @LA – Thanks for stopping by! 🙂

    @nursewannabeinfl – Thanks. 🙂 I follow Kristen Lamb’s blog and her advice. It boggles my mind how many writers claim to hate hard selling, yet that’s exactly what they do to others. It’s about building relationships with your readers. The writers on my auto-buy list don’t hard-sell me. I’m a reader first.

  3. THANKYOU! Tymber. I think you just clarified an experience I had recently with a book. I was trying to explain to others on a readers group I belong to of my feelings about a book (without naming the book or author)and what I felt reading it. I felt it should have had a warning of extreme violence at the end of the blurb as it had several very disturbing scenes. The book was labelled BDSM except it was so over the top when the “Dom” became angry or stressed about things outside their relationship but the “sub” paid the price. I felt it was abuse as I would think when the Dom was angry would be a wrong time to scene. Just IMHO, thanks again.

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