Key elements to writing a stellar fiction book blurb

So…you’ve written an awesome book, right? Of course you have. You’ve slaved over it, perfected it, edited it until you can’t even see the words anymore. You have a great cover, your beta readers have sufficiently fluffed your feathers and then you realise…oh shit…(sorry Chris,) that you need to have words on this cover other than your author name and the book title.

What do you say to describe an entire book in a few sentences? How do you approach this situation when you have so many great scenes running through your head and you can’t pick just one or two?

This is going to sound silly. Wait for the logic. (Yes, I can still produce some once in a while.)

 

Treat it like a love interest.

Seriously. Think of your potential audience like someone you are trying to attract and go on a first date with.

First, you need a hook (shout.) This is the opening line that will captivate the attention of the reader and give them a reason to keep reading. Think of this ladies and gentlemen, as your pick up line.

What should this line include? A few words that give an overall feeling of the book. Is it full of danger? Steamy romance? Heartfelt family ties? You can use a complete sentence, or just a few words. Examples: “You can run, but you can’t hide.” Or “One woman. One runaway child. Two lives forever changed.”

Once you have your hook in place, next comes the body. Of course if you are going on a first date, you want the body to be attractive, right?

You don’t want the blurb to be miles long and detract from the point in the story. Keep in mind that your characters play a vital role in the book and you need to mention the important ones. It is easy to lose sight of them in the rush to make an exciting blurb, but they lead the story and need proper mention. Include the major conflict in your story, but do not give away any plot points you want the reader to discover inside the book.

Again with date mentality: Give enough to be interesting and make your potential suitor want to know more, but don’t tell the life story of your book in a single shot.

An important rule: Online dating book blurb, if you will. Before you have even met your date you can destroy any potential relationship by building up hype and not being honest. Think that little 23 year old blonde with the trim waistline and perky boobs on the computer screen is the hottest thing you’ve ever seen? How will you feel when you find out she is a 6 and a half foot tall behemoth that has a love of fried foods and a butt to back it up, also she’s 62. Do not make promises in your blurb that you can’t deliver on. People will soon find you out and word will spread. If you have written a book about snails, don’t promise it will be “the best action packed ride of the year,” unless you have somehow figured out how to make that actually work. I’ve seen stranger things.

Writing a book blurb in present tense, 3rd person will make the action seem as though it is happening right now, and make the blurb more exciting.

Finally, the closing. You have attracted your dream date, they have eyeballed you appreciatively and you have  had dinner and a nice conversation. Will they call you for a second date?

You don’t have to end on a cliffhanger in a book blurb. Sometimes this actually bothers readers, but you do want to ensure that your last sentence is a memorable one. You can end with a question, “How will Jane return to the world she knows and save the ones she loves?” Or with a statement “Mary doesn’t believe in ghosts, until she encounters one that won’t let her go.” The idea here is to sum up both conflict and plot in a single line. Not easy, but not impossible. Make certain that date has your number and intends to use it. Hinting at a resolution to the conflict you mentioned prior is a good way to close.

Another option, if you choose not to put together this type of traditional blurb, is to let the manuscript do the work for you. If you can find a particularly good excerpt from your manuscript, sometimes that will suffice as a perfect blurb. Of course, you want to ensure that you choose piece that is both exciting and has the information you want to give, but does not reveal any major plot points and isn’t terribly long.

Five important points:

Mood is important and it needs to match your book.

Length is very important as shoppers will not spend a lot of time choosing.

What makes your book stand out? Why is it different?

Editing the blurb is very important.

Read other blurbs in your genre and use the advice of your readers. What was their favourite part, why were they intrigued?

 

No one said this was easy, but it can be done. Ask yourself what would make you read a book? What kind of back cover copy interests you?

Hook that date, plan a wedding. Long term relationships offer security. Go write.

 

 

 

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26 thoughts on “Key elements to writing a stellar fiction book blurb

  1. I love this. Excellent post. Important, valuable advice delivered in a fun manner and in a way that people can relate to. It is really interesting to see how to write this important part of your book, likely the first part that the ‘potential’ reader will encounter.

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  2. Great tips. I once learned a great method of writing a book blurb: Write a long blurb (up 10 500 words), pare that down to 250 words, then pare it down again to 100. This really helps you discover the most important bits of your book you want to get across. The real test comes when you knock those 100 words down into a 20- to 30-word sentence that you can use as a quick pitch.

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  3. Excellent Ionia! I am so grateful that you were honest with me about my original blurb. Refining it made me better understand how to present the work. Trimming a 100K word book down to 200 words is quite a feat.

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