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Marketing Copy: The First- Versus Third-Person Debate

[1]A few months ago, in response to a personal conundrum I shared with you, we debated the merits [2] of wrestling a novel that wanted to be written in first-person into third, and whether that would be wise from a marketing perspective. Positions were expounded, personal research advanced, and a few minds possibly changed or stretched. Well, my friends, if you are an indie writer, or traditionally published but able to influence your book’s marketing campaign, the first-third debate doesn’t end there.

You have yet another decision to make.

To wit, have you noticed the accelerating trend toward first-person marketing copy? i.e. taglines or back cover copy written from within the point of view of one or more characters? (Click here for a peek at the current #6 book [3] in the Kindle US store.)

At the time I was putting out Cold and Hottie, given its frequent use by some of contemporary romance’s bestselling authors, I certainly did. But would it be the right move?

To get a handle on best practices, I did an unofficial survey of followers on my Facebook page [4]—presumably people open to my fiction—and asked them what they thought of first-person book blurbs. Before I summarize what they said, I should make it clear that my author page skews heavily toward other writers. Their collective wisdom, therefore, might not extend to readers in general or your genre’s readers in particular. As you might have noticed, a good number of us get hung up on rules that readers don’t see as necessary.

With that said, here are the results:

In summary, I discovered that some people ardently love blurbs in first. Some people vehemently oppose them. Many people don’t appear to care.

Given the lack of clear direction, what’s an author to do?

Here are my thoughts.

As of April 2018, consider trying a first-person blurb if:

You might best avoid first-person blurbs if:

Final Thoughts

Ultimately, I’d encourage you to do your own market research for the type of book you’re writing, and the subset of readers you are serving. Then if you can afford the time, energy and expense, do market testing to see what works. After all, what people say and how they act aren’t always aligned. For example, those people who think they hate your first-person blurb? Perhaps they will be like the internet browsers who come to your website and excoriate you for your pop-up, even as they use it to sign onto your newsletter list.

By the way, in case you’re wondering what route I chose, I kept my book’s blurb in third. Though I made multiple attempts at a first-person blurb and ran it past people who would be open to the experience, consensus was that my third-person version did a better job. (Which Blurb Wore It Better? [6])

And now, for a discussion of all things related to first-person marketing copy, I’ll turn it over to you, Unboxeders. How do you feel about first-person blurbs? Have you bought a book with one yet? Will you try it with your fiction? And if you clicked on the above link and read both versions of my blurb, did I make the right choice? I value your opinion.

About Jan O'Hara [7]

A former family physician and academic, Jan O'Hara [8] (she/her) left the world of medicine behind to follow her dreams of becoming a writer. She writes love stories that zoom from wackadoodle to heartfelt in six seconds flat: (Opposite of Frozen [9]; Cold and Hottie [10]; Desperate Times, Desperate Pleasures [11]). She also contributed to Author in Progress, a Writer's Digest Book edited by Therese Walsh.

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