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I’ve started paying closer attention to the books marked down on BookBub. I started scrolling through them to find new authors since I’ve caught up on a lot of my favorite writers’ series. And I’ve been fairly lucky, downloading more good ones than mediocre ones.

What started out as me, a reader, scanning what’s available on sale morphed just as much into me, a writer, seeing what’s out there and how other authors market their work. There are a lot of great covers. And that’s the first thing that grabs me. Bright colors for cozies. Animals featured in the stories–dogs, cats, even parrots. Dark covers for thrillers. Kickass heroines for urban fantasy. A lot of gorgeous men for romance. Period ballgowns and tall, handsome men for Regencies. Once a cover tantalizes me, I read the short hook–the one or two sentences to intrigue the reader. And if that interests me, I read the blurb.

And the blurb is often the reason I pass and move on to the next book. Now, it’s not that the blurb is bad. Almost all of them are professional and good. But so many times, the cozy blurbs could be one and the same. Nothing stands out. “After inheriting her grandmother’s candy shop, Natasha finds clues to her aunt’s mysterious ….” or “Minnesota tearoom owner, Felicity, won’t let land developer Snidely Whiplash touch her mother’s land…” There’s nothing wrong with the blurbs. They’re often clever and give a gist of what the book’s about. But lately, I’ve yearned for something a little different, something that says this cozy is unique. Admittedly, it can’t be TOO different. When a reader buys a cozy, she WANTS a cozy. The same can be said for almost every genre listed. Thrillers have a certain structure and tone. In Regencies, Dukes and Viscounts who aren’t interested in marriage meet girls who are spunky and smart, who aren’t interested in proposals of marriage. Etc.

I admit I can be picky when I’m reading someone else’s blurb. When I’m writing one of my own, I wring my hands and light incense that I get it right. It’s easy for me to say what I want in a blurb. Not so easy to deliver it. But I remember a blog Ilona Andrews wrote a long time ago about how to write a query to an agent. One of the points she made is that your book has to be like the other books in the genre with an exception that makes it stand out from the others. Easier said than done.

I took a break from reading book ads for a while because my TBR pile is already intimidating, but I’m glad I started looking at them again. It’s a good exercise for seeing what covers, hooks, and blurbs stand out. I like to look at the Amazon top 100 list for different genres, too. just to see what’s current. Writers spend a long time trying to perfect their work. But it helps, once in a while, to look at what other authors are doing. If nothing else, it made me think!