Writing The Headline for My Novel’s Blurb

[NOTE: Updated to reflect further revisions.]

So, while I was focusing on trying to figure out the book description for Not Famous, I’d forgotten something… the headline!  It seems like most books now have a headline above the description and it had completely slipped my mind.

So, I did some research. I looked up sample headlines from books and authors within my genre and sought to figure out how to approach mine.

I looked at the Amazon listings for High Fidelity and Juliet, Naked by Nick Hornby as a starting point.

Here’s the headline for High Fidelity:

From the bestselling author of Funny Girl, About a Boy, and A Long Way Down, a wise and hilarious novel about love, heartbreak, and rock and roll.

Here’s the headline for Juliet, Naked:

From the beloved New York Times– bestselling author, a quintessential Nick Hornby tale of music, superfandom, and the truths and lies we tell ourselves about life and love.

At least 50 percent of these blurbs are devoted to pumping the author… because, obviously, Nick Hornby is an established, bestselling author.  I’m neither. So, when we break these down to the actual novel pitch, here’s what we get “a wise and hilarious novel about love, heartbreak, and rock and roll” and “tale of music, superfandom, and the truths and lies we tell ourselves about life and love.”

I also checked out headlines on books by Jon Rance, Mike Gayle, Jonathan Tropper, and others in the genre. Here’s the headline on About Us by Jon Rance:

It’s about life. It’s about love. It’s about us.

When I compared these and other, similar headlines, I noticed that they basically adhere to the same formula. They pick three primary themes to sell the story to the reader. High Fidelity is about love, heartbreak, and rock and roll. The headline for Juliet, Naked gives us two simply stated themes (music and superfandom) and a third theme that is a bit more complex to explain (the truths and lies we tell ourselves about life and love) though you could probably boil it down to “communication.”

The headline for About Us  presents us with the themes life, love, and us. What makes this one particularly clever is that the that it simultaneously incorporates the title of the novel, and informs the reader this is a story will be relatable to them. It’s short and sweet and works very well.

Here’s what I came up with after my research:

A heartwarming and humorous tale of love, music, and the unexpected.

After showing this to my first beta reader I was advised to put more of a hook in the headline, something that draws upon the tension that is central to the novel’s plot. She suggested: Is he too damaged to love her? Is she hiding too much to let him? This was perfect, so I tacked that on to the front of the headline, and adjusted it to the following:

Is he too damaged to love her? Is she hiding too much to let him? Not Famous is a heartwarming and humorous tale of love, music, and the unexpected.

This really works for me. The relationship between the two main characters is the primary story, which is clear from this headline. The main themes are presented, and it establishes that the story has emotion, humor, and a twist. After some more tweaks of the headline and the previous verston of the blurb, here’s what I came up with:

For fans of Nick Hornby and Mike Gayle, Not Famous is a heartwarming and humorous tale of love, music, and the unexpected.

Nick Forrester thought he would spend the rest of his life with his girlfriend, Lauren—until he proposed. Instead of engaged, he ends up humiliated and alone. Then he meets Alli Conwell, a socially awkward nineteen-year-old barista, and Nick has hope again. Alli is trying to make a name for herself on the local music scene and might just be the next Taylor Swift. She’s ambitious, talented, and determined to succeed on her own terms.

But all is not what it seems. Is she “the one” or just “another one” who will break his heart? Alli has secrets about her life before moving to the city, and her innocence has left her unprepared for the temptations of Boston’s indie music scene. As their relationship blossoms, so do the tensions created by the past she’s trying to hide and the heartbreak he’s trying to forget. Is she hiding too much to let him? Is he too damaged to trust her?

So, what do you think? Am I on the right track?

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