Book Blurbs: Crafting the Blurb

While the hook is critical to a great blurb, the body of the blurb deserves equal attention. Consider it’s effectiveness as a whole as well as it’s individual parts.

Word Choice Matters

Choosing the right words can make all the different in a blurb. Be certain to make sure your word choice communicates the tone of the story by using words that fit the genre and situation. A dark thriller will use more intense wording while a rom-com will use light, fun words.

Word choice should also match the time period and regional setting. If you’re writing historical fiction that should be apparent within a few sentences through carefully selected words and phrases. Maintain regional accuracy without overloading the blurb with slang or colloquialisms.

It’s also all right to use hyperbole when appropriate, such as “unimaginable” for a shocking crime or “intoxicating” for a sudden and passionate romance, but don’t overdo it. Stuffing the blurb with hyperbole will exhaust the reader.

Avoid clichés, superfluous words, description, unnecessary adverbs, and “chatter” as much as possible. The blurb should be too the point and directly communicate the basics of the story to the reader.

Be Concise

Blurbs should run 100-150 words in most cases. Blurbs placed on the back cover of a book may be longer depending on space available during formatting. Blurbs for online retailers should be on the shorter end of the range since people browsing often skim.

Don’t try to tell the reader everything you think might interest them in a blurb. Stick to the important highlights and leave backstory, secondary characters, subplots, and similar information to be discovered when reading the full book.

It may be helpful to start writing a blurb with bullet points to sift out what should and shouldn’t be mentioned. Expand on the bullet points with 1-2 sentences about each point.

Utilizing Cliffhangers

This isn’t a must in a hook, but for many stories a cliffhanger ending in a blurb will be a good nudge for readers toward purchasing.

Cliffhangers can also help you avoid giving away too much in a blurb. Cliffhangers focus on the main conflict the characters face but only hint at a possible resolution. It’s important to present the problem and leave readers wondering how the character will overcome it.

The answer to how the story will resolve shouldn’t be too obvious.

Even with books that are more formulaic, it’s important to make the reader curious about how this particular story will unfold. While most romances end in a happily-ever-after scenario, they don’t (or shouldn’t) all reach it the same way. Hint at the uniqueness and leave it at that.

Formatting the Blurb

Once you’ve finished crafting the blurb, the work isn’t quite done. It’s important to format blurbs according to genre conventions. Each main genre has it’s own nuances when it comes to formatting. Fore example:

Contemporary romance tends to use short, 1-2 sentence paragraphs that highlight main points of the storyline.

Historical romance tends to use longer paragraphs with a more in-depth summary of each point of interest.

Study blurbs on Amazon in your genre to make sure you’re formatting correctly. Of course, sometimes you need to break out of conventions to highlight a unique aspect of your story, but make sure there’s a reason for using a unique format and that it conveys the tone or action of the story.

Effective blurbs intrigue readers. Highlight the most interesting aspects of the book that will hook readers and make the need to find out more great enough to click the buy button.

Book Blurbs: Irresistible Hooks

The first few lines of a blurb should contain the hook, the attention-grabbing snippet of information about the book that will entice readers to wonder what will happen next and hopefully get them to buy the book.

Crafting the Hook

A great hook catches readers’ attention, but there are different ways to accomplish that. Consider these examples from published novels:

Write something that startles the reader: “Shaye Archer’s life effectively began the night police found her in an alley, beaten and abused and with no memory of the previous fifteen years, not even her name.” Malevolent by Jana DeLeon

Open with the inciting incident: “When Willow is born with severe osteogenesis imperfecta, her parents are devastated—she will suffer hundreds of broken bones as she grows, a lifetime of pain.” Handle with Care by Jodi Picoult

Create intrigue: “Inspired by a terrifying true story from the author’s hometown, a heart-pounding novel of suspense about a small Minnesota community where nothing is as quiet—or as safe—as it seems.” Unspeakable Things by Jeffrey Eugenides

Introduce something ominous: “A bloodthirsty sheriff is terrorizing a small Texas town where justice has been buried with his victims.” In the Heart of the Fire by Dean Koontz

Make the characters sympathetic and relatable: “What happens when the most beautiful girl in the world marries the handsomest prince of all time and he turns out to be…well…a lot less than the man of her dreams?” The Princess Bride by William Goldman

Capture the reader’s heart : “Every so often a love story so captures our hearts that it becomes more than a story—it becomes an experience to remember forever.” The Notebook by Nicholas Sparks

Focus on the Main Characters

Introduce the main characters and leave the side characters for the reader to discover once they start reading. Trying to include side characters in a hook will make it too wordy and confusing for the reader. If a reader has to reread a hook to understand it, you’ve already lost them.

It’s important to get readers interested in the characters right away. That means focusing on the basics, the most intriguing aspects. Give his or her name, a few important traits that make the characters unique or interesting, explain what the situation is, and what dilemma or conflict the characters are going to face.

Staying focused on engaging and capturing the reader’s interest with a hook will help you pair down unnecessary details and highlight the strengths and uniqueness of your book.

Book Blurbs: Formulas and Pitches

I’m generally a big fan of carving your own path and ditching conventions that don’t work for you, but when it comes to blurbs, that may make you lose your mind. Blurbs are so challenging for most writers there’s no point reinventing the wheel and doubling the work. Start with what is time tested and reliable, then adjust and adapt to make it suit your work.

A Formula That Works

Below is a general formula that will get you started with writing a well-structured blurb. Once you have the basic elements, change it up in whatever way best portrays your novel and compels a reader’s interest.

The first 1-2 sentences should state the purpose or central theme of the story or character journey. These few words should also briefly introduce the characters and initial situation. It is critical that the reader finds the characters interesting and likable, or they will not want to spend hours with them reading the book. Lastly, the first few lines should introduce the main problem or source of conflict.

The first paragraph should indicate the twist without giving too much away. Don’t spoil the ending in the blurb or give away important details that will take away from the story’s suspense when reading. Limit yourself to establishing the stakes of failure or of the relationship not working out.

The last paragraph should wrap up the story introduction and entice readers to find out more. The desire to know more relies heavily on a connection with the characters. If the reader doesn’t care about the character, he or she will not care about what happens to the character, either. End the blurb with a question or with a sentence that sets the overall mood of the story. Again, do NOT give away the ending!

A blurb is not a synopsis. It’s a tease meant to make the reader need to buy the book in order to know how the characters’ story will end.

Crafting a Sales Pitch

Convincing the reader they need to know the ending starts with developing a connect between the story and/or characters and the reader, but it’s also important to realize the blurb is a sales pitch and needs to be written like one.

The first sentence must grab the reader’s attention. Readers have very short attention spans and tend to skim when browsing online. You have minimal time to hook them and make them ask what will happen next?

Think of this first sentence (two at the most) as an elevator pitch. It should capture the most interesting part of the story. That may be the conflict, mystery, romance, etc. When writing this sentence, consider what element of the story will have the biggest draw for readers and focus on that aspect.

Whatever will most make readers want to check out your book, mention it in the first line. This first sentence often sits by itself on retailer sites before the bulk of the blurb, giving it a better chance to catch the reader’s attention.

The preview on most ebook retailer sites barely gives you more than a sentence or two before readers have to click “read more,” so make that first sentence count!

Even though blurbs are sales pitches, don’t make promises the book can’t keep. Punching up certain elements to make a story seem more appealing will backfire when disappointed readers leave negative reviews.

Book Blurbs: What and Why?

Condensing a full story into a few paragraphs takes concise wording, understanding the purpose of the story, and developing a great hook. This blog series will dive into defining and book summary/blurb and the techniques of effective book blurb writing.

What is a blurb?

A book summary, or blurb, is a short description of a book used for promotional purposes, including the book description listed on retailer websites and the book’s back cover. The term blurb is often used in place of book summary, and I’ll use it throughout this series because it’s a common term and easier to type.

Blurbs give the reader a brief idea of the book’s content. They are NOT a full synopsis of the book and should not contain any spoilers of major plot points, including the resolution. Blurbs are NOT a summary of the first chapter, which is an all too common trap authors fall into when writing blurbs. Focus on the bigger picture.

A blurb highlights the genre/subgenre, purpose, situation, conflict, and characters of the story. It should give the reader a clear idea of what kind of book they are looking at and set expectations for what the book will deliver.

A blurbs style and formatting varies slightly depending on genre, and can change over time depending on industry trends. It’s important to occasionally review and adjust blurbs to fit current reader interests and expectations.

Blurb Writing Challenges

It’s always a challenge to boil down an entire story into a few hundred words. You’ve put endless hours into writing and editing a story, only to be asked to summarize it in a few sentences. The task often seems impossible, but there are ways to survive such torture.

Most writers hate this part of publishing. After developing so many details and intricacies to craft a well-written story, it’s a incredibly difficult to take all of those nuances and wonderful subplots back out of the story and convince readers to buy a book on only the highlights.

Boiling a full story down to a few paragraphs requires concise word choice, pinpointing the purpose of the story, and developing a great hook.

How to Write a Blurb

Traditionally, blurbs are written in third person present tense. This may feel odd at first, since few books are written this way, but it is one of those longstanding industry standards that remains despite so many other changes in publishing.

One of the few exceptions to this is contemporary, modern romance. For reasons that I’m not sure anyone really knows fully, contemporary romance blurbs are commonly (though not always) written in first person present tense. The most likely reason for this shift has to do with the recent popularity of writing in first person in popular fiction and the fact that many contemporary romance writers are independently published and have control over how their books are listed and portrayed on retailer sites.

Do you have to write your blurb in a particular tense or style? Not really. Consider what style matches the novel’s style and what format, tense, or styles will prepare readers for that point of view. It’s a good idea to study the top 100 blurbs in a genre or subgenre to decide which is best for a particular novel.

The Purpose of a Blurb

When considering how to craft your blurb, think about the book’s purpose. Readers want to know the main point or purpose of the book when reading a blurb. They want to know if a particular book is what they’re looking for and if it will fulfill their expectations.

When writing the blurb, focus on the main point or purpose of the story, first and foremost, the consider what need the book will fulfill for the reader. Readers often search for new books with search terms that describe what they are in the mood to read right in that moment. A blurb should tell a prospective reader if a book truly fits that need, such as escapism, sweet romance, excitement, suspense, etc.

Make the purpose of the book clear early in the blurb. This should be contained in the first one to two sentences. It should also be accurate and not misleading. Readers get very upset when they spend money on a book only to realize it was inaccurately portrayed.

An example of a clear and accurate blurb opener, consider White Rose, Black Forest by Eoin Dempsey: “In the shadows of World War II, trust becomes the greatest risk of all for two strangers.” The riskiness of trust during war times is the clear purpose of this story and is pointed out in the first line of this blurb.

Although condensing a story down to a few paragraphs is never easy, understanding what a blurb is and why you are writing one will help you craft a purpose-driven blurb that will entice readers.

Writing Professionalism: Responding to Criticism Effectively

Responding to criticism effectively can be challenging when dealing with clients, but these tips can help you assess and answer criticism in a professional manner.

Focus on the Objective

Make sure you are clear on the objective of the project as a whole and its individual components. If you’ve missed the objective in some way, the adjustments the client is asking for may be needed to more closely match the goal.

However, at times the objective of the project may be clear to you but a little more fuzzy for the client and his or her critique may reflect that. Make sure the client is clear on the objective and politely communicate how critique elements may negatively impact the project if changed. Back up your reasoning with research or expertise.

Be Specific and Take Action

If you disagree with a critique, explain concisely why you see it differently without attacking the client’s point of view. Being defensive or arguing hurts your professional image and is unproductive.

Take action on valid, specific criticism. Don’t be afraid to tell a client he or she is right or made a good point. Arguing based on ego will quickly lose return business with a client.

Assess Criticism for Merit

Determine what criticism is constructive and has merit and which is not. You can do this be asking a few questions.

Is the critique specific? If it is clear, logical, and defined, it most likely has merit because the client has thought deeply about it.

Is the critique actionable? Constructive criticism provides a path to correct or improve an element. If a client simply says they don’t like something, work with them to figure out why. The “why” provides a path to move forward.

Is the critique objective? When feedback is unbiased, it is much more useful. Consider the client’s perspective and why they feel the way they do. If the feedback is rational and appropriate, it usually has merit.

Think Before You React

Never respond to criticism automatically. Your first reaction is often the harshest and most difficult to moderate into a polite and professional response. Step away and take a breath to clear your mind in order to think rationally.

Reread the critique when you are more calm and note which points have merit and which don’t. Evaluate why some do not have merit and make sure ego isn’t the main reason.

Write out a response covering all points of critique. Accept those that have merit and address how you will correct them. Use logic, facts, and research in your response to those that do not have merit as if you were writing a literature review.

Do not respond by being defensive or attacking. This alienates the client and is unprofessional. Always be polite and professional.

Respond Professionally

Working with clients can be frustrating, however, you must never take it out on the client.

Alternative ways to handle criticism include:

  • Writing out your frustrations (pen and paper often work best for added physical element).
  • Talking to a friend (without divulging specifics that would compromise client confidentiality)
  • Doing a physical activity like taking a walk or exercising
  • Talking to another provider and asking for advice if the client is proving more difficult to work with than you know how to handle or you reach an impasse

Remember Whose Project It Is

The project is not yours. It’s the client’s.

You are helping them bring their concept to fruition, not creating your own book or cover design.

The most important aspect is that the client is happy with the end result. Strive for high-quality work, but be willing to bend to the client’s wishes to ensure their project is what they wanted it to be in the end.

Your job is to offer expert guidance, but the final decisions are the client’s, not yours. Personal preference should not factor into advice about changes or revisions. Stick with research, data, and industry trends.

“The client is always right” isn’t always literally true, but presenting suggestions in a way that allows the client to make the best decision for the project can make it true and make the project and relationship a success.

Successful interactions with clients assures continued work, a good reputation, and opportunities to improve your skills as a writer. Stay focused on the end goals when interacting with clients: a successful project and building a good relationship.

Writing Professionalism: Learning from Criticism

Handling criticism is challenging no matter the situation, but it can be especially difficult when coming from a client. Dealing with feedback and suggestions from clients can be viewed as a great opportunity to grow and improve.

Growing through Criticism

Criticism helps uncover blind spots. Habits become deeply ingrained over time and are often hard to change. An outside perspective shows where the weak areas are and where we need to improve our skills, whether that be writing, design, editing, or communication. When you receive feedback, especially if on the same topic from multiple clients, take it to heart and work on further developing that skill.

Criticism pushes you to challenge yourself. It can be easy to fall into the trap of reproducing something you know does well without working to be more creative, innovative, or aware of trends. Extending yourself to meet a clients needs encourages you to try new things and learn more skills, which will increase your chance at success in growing your business.

Criticism helps you develop communication skills. When conflict or problems arise, the issue must be dealt with using professional communication. Talking through problems and issues will benefit you with every new client if you learn from each discussion. If you find yourself having the same communication issues, make note and better prepare for the next client by addressing the issue sooner in the process.

Criticism provides outside motivation. When a client wants something out of your comfort zone or skillset, push yourself to learn about a new topic or develop a new skill. This is increase your value to clients and boost your reputation for being adaptable.

Criticism also provides a lesson on humility. You’re not always right and learning from others helps you grow and improve in many areas.

The Subjective Nature of Criticism

Remember that art, in all its forms, is subjective. Just because a client wants something different that you do doesn’t make them wrong. Accept that they come from a different viewpoint or life experience and are trying to communicate that through a story or design. Dismissing the client’s ideas is dismissing them as a person.

Taking criticism with a positive attitude can help you see the project from a new perspective. Critique of a project is exactly that. It’s not a critique of you personally. Not taking criticism personally is difficult, but practicing this perspective helps remove you from the criticism and keeps the focus on the success of the project.

It can be helpful to rewrite a client’s comments and replace any pronouns with the name of the book or “project.” This provides added distance and lessens the potential sting of feeling personally rejected.

Learning from Criticism

Take note of criticism from clients and analyze what it it really saying.

Do you need to update your skills or expand your knowledge base? Are you familiar enough with genre conventions or tropes? Are there too many similarities between projects? Does your wording or editing suggestions seem repetitive?

If you are getting the same feedback from multiple clients, it’s highly likely that you need to make an adjustment or work work on improvement in a specific area. Having this pointed out can be difficult, but it will ultimately make you a better writer, editor, or designer.

Focus on not making the same mistakes twice.

Writing Professionalism: Resolving Conflict with Clients

When working with clients, a service provider should always be prepared to handle conflict. Even with clients who are easy to work with, some small conflicts might arise which can slow progress. Significant conflicts threaten the completion and success of a project if not handled in a professional manner.

Assessing Points of Conflict

First, determine if the point of conflict necessitates a full discussion. Some issues which arise with clients are not worth the emotional/mental energy and time to debate. These are often preference items that will not affect the success of the project.

Examples may include a character name or setting you do not like. If it does not negatively impact the story and is simply your preferences not matching, remind yourself that the client’s desire takes precedence and move forward. Arguing will come off as antagonistic and unprofessional.

If the issue is likely to upset the client and will not negatively impact the project if not addressed, accept their preference and proceed to work with their preferences to the best of your ability. This shows respect and validates their ideas.

Examples may include the client having an emotional connection to a story and wanting it told in a specific way, even if that is not how you would typically write it.

Use the Right Nonverbal Cues

This is especially important if you do not have the benefit of face-to-face interactions with a client. Tone and attitude can still be conveyed in written communication and it is important to be aware of how your words are perceived by the client.

Short choppy sentences come off as brusque and formal, and can make a client feel as though they aren’t be spoken to respectfully.

Overly simplistic wording or overexplaining a concept may be perceived as condescending.

Harsh or aggressive words (dislike, absolutely, never, etc.) make the client feel attacked and can disrupt communication. If a client is afraid to speak up for fear of a negative reaction, it is unlikely they will get what they want from a project and may end up dissatisfied.

Focus On Facts

Facts are important when working through conflict. Opinions not backed up by something concrete come off as argumentative.

To be blunt, when writing or designing for a client, your opinion is not as important as your expertise, so lean on your industry knowledge to discuss a difficult situation.

Personal opinion is always slanted by preference, life experience, attitude, etc. Do not rely only on your personal opinion to make suggestions or offer changes to what a client wants.

Instead, use facts and writing or design experience to back up suggestions or persuade the client to make a change you believe is necessary to the project’s success.

Some examples include: Retailers bury “taboo” subjects in the rankings, alpha behavior and abusive behavior are not the same thing and there are clear distinctions in many genre conventions, and an ending that doesn’t answer all pertinent questions will disappoint readers.

Ask for Client Input

Before attempting to change a client’s mind or offer advice contrary to what he or she wants, ask for their input or to explain the reason or motivation behind a specific preference.

Clients who feel unheard or dismissed will find a new companies to work with. Do not downplay a client’s concerns or opinions. Address them directly and thoroughly so she knows she is being heard and that her opinion matters.

If you have a differing viewpoint, explain why what he wants may hurt the project in polite, but clear terms backed up by logical reasoning and industry standards.

Ask open-ended questions that are nonjudgmental when requesting clarification or reasoning for what the client wants. Don’t jump to defend your point of view. Listen first and, if needed, provide factual background information.

Choose Words Mindfully

Certain words often trigger defensiveness or mistrust.

  • “But” insinuates an argument is coming
  • “I” language makes the client feel like you aren’t listening and are more focused on yourself and what you want
  • “No” makes the client feel like she is wrong

Other words inspire cooperation and positivity

  • “And” instead of “but” acknowledges you are aware of both the client’s and your concerns and that you are considering how to address both
  • Focusing on the client’s needs makes him feel listened to and respected
  • “My concern is” instead of “No” tells the client you are aware of her wants, but your expertise suggests there are better options

Focus on the Goal

The end goal is producing a high-quality book, copy, or design that will engage readers and sell successfully. Any time there is an issue with a project, keep yourself and the client focused on the end goal and finding solutions to problems.

True problems are those that will negatively impact the project. Differences in preference or opinion on issues that will not affect the end goal should not impede progress.

When you use your expert knowledge to communicate to the client why something he wants will hurt the end product, it refocuses him on the end goal rather than winning a particular argument.

Be Empathetic

How you are impacted by the overall process of completing a client project should not be the focus in conflict resolution. The client’s satisfaction is the priority.

The client hired you to complete a project for him or her. It is ultimately the client’s product and he or she wants it to be the best it can be, but may not have the ability, time, or skill to produce it without help. Your purpose as a service provider is to meet the client’s expectations and deliver a high quality product.

The difference in skill or understanding between client and provider is often the root cause of conflict in working with clients. When the client can better understand the process, research, and technique involved, it will not only build trust, it will help avoid future conflicts.

Treat clients with respect and empathy, working with him or her to address conflict and reach a successful and satisfying end.

Writing Professionalism: Improving Communication Skills

Improving your professional communication skills is not only essential for building a successful business, it is integral to developing strong client relations.

Tips for Improving Professional Communication Skills

Avoid foul language. Never use profanity when speaking with a client, particularly new clients, even in a joking manner. The use of profanity can affect how a client perceives you and your suitability for their project. In reality, there may be specific clients you break this practice with, but the general rule should be avoidance of foul or crude language.

Expand your vocabulary. Use correct grammar and know key industry words important in communicating literary, editing, or design concepts. Don’t dumb down your language to a condescending level. Clients often have a strong working knowledge of the task they are hiring out and simply do not have the time, resources, or skill to complete it on their own.

Avoid gossip. Do not discuss other clients or projects and do not disparage popular authors or books, or other service providers. This sends the message to the client that you may also talk about them to other clients or industry members. Use market research or data when suggesting changes or differing trends.

Keep it positive. Keep communication upbeat and positive, especially during difficult situations where you might be at odds with the client. Discuss problems by asking for the client’s feedback and suggestions on dealing with the situation so the client feels like he or she is working with you to solve an issue rather than being attacked.

Leave your personal life at home. Do not discuss your personal life or problems with the client. If you have a situation affecting your ability to work, it may be necessary to give a general explanation that there is a personal situation requiring your attention which may cause a delay or necessitate changes. Be sincere and apologetic without getting too personal.

Communicating with Potential and New Clients

When meeting with a potential client, prepare your pitch ahead of time, including information about yourself, your services, and your prices.

Introduce yourself to potential clients and detail your qualifications briefly. Do not go overboard touting your skills or awards. Give enough information to instill confidence and move on.

With a new client, review all the provided documents at the start of the project and assure nothing is missing. Make sure you know what products you will be providing and whether you have all the necessary materials. If anything is missing, politely contact the client and let him or her know there are additional documents or information needed from them before you can get started.

Once you have assured that you have all the basic materials, review all the provided information and make a list of questions you need answered in order to get begin working, such as setting location, names, steam level, etc. for a fiction project. Politely ask for more information as needed. Never blame the client for forgetting something or not having all the answers. If he or she is unsure of certain aspects, work with them to determine the needed answers as a partner rather than as a demanding parent.

Let the client know when you will get started, if you need to conduct additional research first, and what order you will work on the requested products if more than one is purchased. Clearly communicating timelines helps avoids frustration or instills confidence in your abilities and professionalism.

Any time you are unsure how to handle an interaction with a client, remember the golden rule and ask how you would like the situation to be handle if you were the client. Kindness and respect will help every project flow more smoothly.

Writing Professionalism: Avoiding Miscommunication

Much of client work happens virtually, increases the chances of miscommunication due to a lack of verbal cues, delays in communicating, differences in communication styles, and more. Consider these tactics for avoiding miscommunication when working with clients.

Asking Questions

Missing information, assuming understanding, and differences in connotation are just some of the ways misunderstandings can occur when working with clients. Asking clarifying questions is an important method of avoiding these pitfalls.

Never guess at what your client wants if the original project proposal or material is unclear. Clients may not have a full picture of what they want out of a project or what type of editing they might need. In order to fill in any gaps, ask specific questions about anything you feel is unclear. Moving forward on faulty assumptions leads to rewrites/redos and delays.

With a book cover design project, you may need to discuss the tone and genre and what current trends are to flesh out what the client wants. With editing, discuss what the client feels are the main weaknesses or what they need the most help with. If character development of improving storytelling is needed, that is more of a developmental edit while cleaning up typos and misplaced commas is more in line with a proofread.

If information is missing from a project plan, politely ask for clarification or for the client to provide the information that is lacking. If the information is missing because the client is unsure of the answer, discuss elements of the missing information by asking specific questions, such as where a book might be located in a physical bookstore if the genre or subgenre is unclear.

If a client wants you to fill in any gaps on your own, first suggest ideas or propose a specific path before moving forward. A client may be unsure of what they want, but they are often quite sure of what they don’t want when it is presented.

Paraphrase and Summarize

After a clarifying discussion, it is important to paraphrase and summarize the information discussed in order to make sure both parties understand what was discussed and what the conclusions are.

If you discussed project details or story elements, take a moment at the end of the conversation to summarize the topics discussed and what decisions were made in your own words. This makes sure you and the client are on the same page about what was discussed and how you will move forward.

Summarizing and paraphrasing the information helps prevent communication errors due to lack of nonverbal language, misunderstood humor, differences in connotations, etc. This tactic also shows the client that you were making a solid effort to understand what he or she wants and that you are truly listening. Making a client feel heard and understood helps build a stronger relationship.

Following Up

Miscommunication can also arise from lack of timely follow up. Not hearing back from a provider can cause a client to doubt that he or she understood the plan and create a sense of anxiety and overthinking or frustration.

Do not leave clients waiting for a response or a follow up on decisions made. Respond quickly with a thorough response or an update on your progress. Of course, delays do happen at times, but it is still important to communicate any delays to the client. If you are unable to fully respond in the moment, acknowledge that you received their message or email and give a specific time when you will be able to follow up.

When a client asks questions, be sure to answer each one fully. Answering some questions but not others or only partially answering a question makes a client feel they are not valued and creates confusion. If there are multiple questions to respond to, it can be helpful to reply by copy/pasting the questions into your reply and addressing them one by one.

After answering all questions, ask the client if everything is clear and invite him or her to follow up with any additional questions or clarification on any of the answers. Including the client in the process of clarification not only improves communication, but also shows that you value their input and insights, improving the overall relationship.

The process of clarifying a client’s needs can be a lengthy process, but it will improve the overall chances of success on the project and the relationship with the client.

Writing Professionalism: Effective Client Communication

Communicating with clients effectively takes many of the same skills as in other important relationships.

Active Listening

Active listening is more than hearing, it’s fully concentrating on words, body language, and subtext, and internalizing the message without judgment or offering of advice. Active listening is the first step in understand what a client needs or what a problem entails. Fully take in what the client is saying with an open mind rather than planning a response of considering other options while the client is speaking.

After listening actively to the initial conversation, take the time to ask questions about anything you don’t fully understand or on issues you aren’t sure you are seeing in the same way as the client. Reflect back to the client what they said in your own words so you can check your understanding and so the client can clarify anything that isn’t being understood in the way he or she would like it to be understood.

Ask for clarification when needed rather than assume or guess. Lastly, summarize the message or problem for both yourself and the client. This process help ensure there are no misunderstandings or missing information.

Active listening shows respect, improves the chances of full understanding, and limits misunderstandings or missed information. To learn more about active listening, visit Very Well Mind.

Consistent Communication

Communicating with a client in a consistent manner is an important aspect of effective communication.

All attempts at communication with clients should be conducted in a professional manner. Even if you know the person personally prior to them becoming a client, adjust the client/provider interactions to reflect that new aspect of the relationship.

Avoid casual chatting, asking personal questions, or sharing personal information when engaged in business discussions. It is important to stay focused on the project and so you can ensure the client is satisfied. Use professional language, avoiding slang, excessive emojis, or profanity.

It’s also important to use a similar communication style in all interactions, so the client knows what to expect when they engage in a conversation with you. This helps clients become more familiar with your style as a service provider and allow them to anticipate how interactions will occur. Consistency improves chances of open communication and honesty.

Adapting your communication style to the client’s (in a reasonable manner) can help the client feel more accepted and heard. This doesn’t mean mimicking a client’s style of communication. Instead, adapt to what the client needs to feel comfortable during an interaction. This may mean detailed explanations or brief overviews, providing written notes or audio messages, scheduling chat sessions or dropping impromptu updates as you complete tasks.

Ask your client specifically about their communication style in order to know and meet their expectations.

Adapting Language

Another important adaptation to consider is that of adapting your language to the individual client. This includes word choice, determine what does or doesn’t need to be explained, or the level of technicality.

Few clients will be as well-versed in literary or marketing terms as the writer providing the service is. Simplify language when needed to fully explain a concept without over-simplifying it to the point of condescension. Explain issues or problems in plain language to avoid confusion.

Ask yourself how you learned a term or idea and if a lay person would have the same knowledge. Writers who are working with an editor for the first time may need grammatical or style changes explained, or a discussion on why a particular aspect goes against industry standards or retailer terms of service.

Don’t assume your client knows everything you do, but don’t speak to them like a they know nothing at all, either. Assess the client’s level of knowledge and adapt accordingly. Explain a concept as you would to a coworker who has asked for your expertise on a subject, not as a teacher would explain something to a child.

Clarity and Concision

Be clear and concise when speaking with clients in order to avoid unnecessary problems. When asking clients for feedback or to respond to a question, be clear in what information you need and concise in your wording so the client does not have to attempt to interpret your request or guess at what you want.

List specific details you need if you are requesting answers or information. Provide the list in whatever manner your client is most receptive too, such as a bulleted list, audio file, graphic, etc.

When requesting opinions or feedback, ask about specific items, not general concepts. “What do you think about this version?” is much less helpful than “Does this color palette inspire the emotional response you’re looking for?” If a client doesn’t like something, they often have trouble pinpointing exactly what they don’t like. Asking specific questions makes giving feedback easier for the client and avoids lengthy back and forth conversations guessing at the main problem.

Provide timely updates on your progress. Don’t leave the client wondering what you are working on or when they will next hear from you. Clearly communicate any delays and the reasons for the delay, without crossing a line of professional boundaries.

Focusing on your client’s needs and giving full effort to communicating effectively will help avoid confusion, disappointment, and frustration.