This weeks blurb breakdown is Reverend Richard Coles’, Murder Before Evensong. At the time of writing it was No. 93 in the Amazon UK’ bestselling book charts.
Here’s the blurb…
Opening hook: THE INSTANTLY ICONIC NO. 1 BESTSELLER
This is a classic opener from a trad pub’d book. ‘Iconic’ isn’t really a word you see used in book publishing, so it sticks out – in a good way – and the no 1 bestseller is an obvious use of social proof. It’s really simple, yet it doesn’t tell you anything about the storyline, it just establishes authority.
‘Devotees of Midsomer Murders and Agatha Christie’s Miss Marple stories will feel most at home here’ Guardian
‘I’ve been waiting for a novel with vicars, rude old ladies, murder and sausage dogs… et voila!’ Dawn French
‘Cosy crime with a cutting edge’ Telegraph
‘Whodunnit fans can give praise and rejoice’ Ian Rankin
‘Charming and funny’ Observer
Even better than I knew it would be’ India Knight
‘Quintessentially English’ Sunday Express
‘An absolute joy’ Adam Kay
‘’Wry, tongue-in cheek and whimsical’ Daily Mail
‘Glorious’ Robert Webb
‘Beautifully written, charming, funny, intelligent and mordant too‘ Sunday Times
‘Pitch perfect’ Philip Pullman
‘A cunning whodunnit’ Daily Express
Right, I’m not going to run through all of these individually. It follows a structure, though. The first one gives readers a handy comparison so they nope outta there lickety split if it’s not their genre. The second quote reveals the characters and gives a sense of humour. Then we have a whole bunch telling you about the type of experience you’ll be getting. All polished off with a nod towards the author’s skill. They’ve stacked these reviews to build curiosity while signalling genre, and building the social proof. It frames the type of story it is and moves on to the blurb proper.
Side note: There’s a distinct lack of commas after the closing quotes, and not a full stop in sight. Now, unless they got the apprentice to copy and paste this bit, I’m guessing this is by design. I’m going to assume it’s purposeful to keep the copy uncluttered and cleaner looking. White space is easier on the eye.
Canon Daniel Clement is Rector of Champton, where he lives alongside his widowed mother – opinionated, fearless, ever-so-slightly annoying Audrey – and his two dachshunds, Cosmo and Hilda.
Ooof – ok, this first sentence is dense with info. We’ve got his job, his name, his place of work, where he live, who he lives with, his father is dead, his mother is annoying (among other things), and his two dogs and their names? How bits of info is that? I dunno… I’ve lost count.
For an opening line, this is long. It’s a bold move. But I think it works here because a) it’s probably had a fair bit of press thrown at it, so buyers have a higher awareness level before arriving at the Amazon sales page, and b) the social proof preamble above serves to build desire. Both of which lead to greater interest and increased buyer intent – or increased attention span.
When Daniel announces a plan to install a lavatory in the church, the parish is suddenly (and unexpectedly) divided: as lines are drawn, long-buried secrets come dangerously close to destroying the apparent calm of the village.
This sentence, although long, is the crux of the plot. The fact that the story is sparked by a toilet adds a certain amount of lightheartedness to it. It offers a couple of open loops: why is the parish so divided? What are these long-buried secrets? What can be so bad as to ‘destroy’ a calm village?
And then Anthony Bowness – cousin to Bernard de Floures, patron of Champton – is found dead at the back of the church. As the police moves in and the bodies start piling up, Daniel is the only one who can try and keep his community together… and catch a killer.
Now we dive head first into setting up the ‘why it matters’ and raising the steaks. We’re a bit name dense again here: Anthony Bowness, Benard de Floures, and a repeat of Champton, but now we know there’s a death. And there’s more to come by the sounds of it. Despite all the name drops, Daniel’s part in it is kept central. The blurb opens with him and it closes with what the stakes are for him, and what his challenge is.
We’re often told to keep sentences short, but here, in the main body copy at least, we have the opposite. The social proof is kept short and snappy, which allows them to move towards a longer sentence structure for the description.
The use of emboldening the character names to highlight them in the copy is interesting. It’s the first time I’ve spotted this tactic in a blurb.
What do you think?
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Want to suggest a book description to breakdown?
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