Writing blurbs

In my series: Tips for Authors

My son (as a child!) used to call them Blubs – my hubby calls them The Waffle. Both are referring to the Blurb on the marketing of a book.

It’s just a brief summary isn’t it? Guidance as to what the book’s about?

DON’T UNDERESTIMATE THE POWER OF THE BLURB!

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It’s the part of writing a lot of us hate – how do we squeeze all that book into 200-odd words – and why the hell should we? – and I’ve helped out a few fellow authors recently. It’s as much a struggle for me, believe me, but I’m starting to enjoy the challenge! And whether you publish with an agent or not, with a traditional or independent publisher, or self-publish, you’ll always be asked for input on a blurb.

After all, you’re the one who knows the book best!

In selling a book, the cover initially catches the eye, but I believe the blurb reels the reader in. Examine your own buying habits!

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I’ll be drawn by a cover, then will look immediately at the blurb. Firstly, I need to know whether it’s a book in my favourite genres(s) (though the blurb may tempt me to try).

Then – thanks to Amazon’s “read inside” option – I’ll read a sample to judge whether I’ll like the style. Again, the Blurb links in with this. A bland blurb (try saying that after 6 glasses of new year prosecco) probably won’t persuade me that this is a fresh, new, vibrant telling of one of the main tropes of fictionlandia.

For example, do you think…

Janette woke up at six, washed and brushed her teeth, then took the No. 65 to work in the local supermarket. At around 11 o’clock while she was stacking tins of beans in Aisle No. 32, she saw a young man watching her. She thought he was really handsome, but then he suddenly grabbed her arm and started pulling her out of the store behind him.

… could be better as? ….

Janette thought her life was horribly dull until the day she was snatched against her will from Aisle 32 of the local supermarket, by possibly the most attractive young man she’d ever met in her life – or he would have been, if he wasn’t pointing a gun to her head at the time.

 

TIPS ON WRITING GREAT BLURBS

I often write the blurb at an early stage of a book. It’s a different animal from a synopsis, but it helps me lock in the feel and voice of the characters. Here are some of the basic rules I follow, but of course it’s all up to your own style.

  • Keep the sentences short and snappy – you don’t want your reader to be confused before they’ve even started.
  • Mention only the main characters, for the same reason.
  • Don’t bother with much subtlety/mystery/lyricism – give information plainly but sparingly, to encourage the reader to look for more inside. That’s when and where they can discover your amazing story for themselves.
  • Use words that are emotive, exciting, dramatic. Shocked, astonished, sudden, amazing, aching.
  • Find a few key words (only) for each of the main characters, and also the theme. Workaholic, careless, loyal, passionate, shy, conflicting, hostile, desperate, hopeful.
  • Use evocative words, rather than description. Try making those few words tell your whole story by creating the mood!

I use three paragraphs usually, in this pattern:

(1) About Character #1 / about the tension in his/her life.

(2) About Character #2 / about the tension in his/her life.

(3) What they face together in this book, and a sentence to sum up the story in its entirety.

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Your blurb should address:

  • The genre (romantic suspense / romance / crime / paranormal etc).
  • Your main characters / protagonists.
  • The overall mood of the book (hard-boiled / sweet / erotic / thrilling).
  • The critical issues in the plot (though not in detail).

Spoilers?? Definitely not! We’ve all read blurbs/ reviews and seen movie trailers that show so much, you don’t feel you need to see the whole thing.

Intrigue the reader, if you can, though try not to manufacture needless melodrama. Will self-employed accountant and author Clare ever manage to escape the rabid robot werewolf and paddle up the Amazon in time to save the world?

Don’t lie! How annoying is it when you buy what appears to be a thriller but the drama is wrapped up in 3 chapters and the rest is steady plodding?

However, look on it as a sales pitch in itself – as a mini story. Use it to showcase your style, with a thrilling race against time rather than a trip to her auntie’s.

If your character is snarky, reflect that in the blurb. If s/he’s under pressure, use a clipped tone.

Should it end on a question? It’s a familiar technique. Will he or won’t he? Can it ever…? Who’s the person who’s…? I use them less myself nowadays – it feels too contrived. Your mini-story should create enough of a gateway to the book that you don’t need more teasing.

Good luck, and good blurbing! (yes, it’s a word, I just invented it 🙂 )

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