Every time I blurb, my wife gets mad and opens a window. All joking aside, blurbs are an important part of selling a book. But, I find it rarely discussed in writing groups. This is because in a traditional market, blurbs are often left to the Editor to write. So, with my recent post on book covers, it seemed important that we discuss the back of the book.
Blurb Versus Synopsis
A synopsis is a very important part of pitching your book to traditional publishers and markets, but it is not a blurb. If you want to sell your manuscript to a publisher you need a synopsis. A synopsis is a summary of your story including key plot points and the ending. You provide this to editors and agents in an attempt to get them to read your manuscript (and hopefully sign it). It is not something you would use for marketing your book.
A blurb is that teaser you find on the back of the book. Think movie trailer in written form. It is a quick teaser. It provides just enough plot, character, and scene to entice someone to read your book. It is a tool for marketing your book quickly and effectively.
A self published author will find themselves writing more Blurbs. Where as traditional publishers will usually write the blurb for the Author. This goes back to what I have talked about in my post on self publishing, marketing is left in the hands of the author. But really blurbs are not that hard. In my opinion they are a bit easier, and certainly more fun, then a synopsis.
How to Write a Blurb
I mentioned this already, but you need to think movie trailer in a written form. You need to construct your blurb in a form to sell your book. Entice an audience. Get them to take your book home (virtually or physically).
The blur should be short, somewhere in the 250 to 300 character range. After all it has to fit on the back of the book but it also needs to be a quick “PICK ME” type of a sale. A short quick description will hold the reader’s attention long enough for you to finish. After all you want them to make a decision based on your whole sales pitch, not half of it.
Blurbs have three parts. You can divide these parts up as paragraphs if you are looking for a simple formula for an effective blurb. Obviously these would short paragraphs just giving a quick taste of what they can expect to read about. Or, you can use the parts in your own way to make a blurb that fits your style and book. Either way, you need these three elements to have an effective blurb.
Part 1 is typically a quick introduction to the setting and the characters. The “In a world” line we’ve heard so many movie trailers start with. The first line needs to hook them. Some blurb writers suggest starting with controversy or even asking a question. But a hook is more then a punch in the face. Sure a punch in the face gets your attention, but it would also piss you off. Think of it more as a tap on the shoulder. Get their attention, while giving them something to look forward to. Don’t give away too much plot and certainly not any twists. A question may work. Think about every time some one has sold you something. Most of the time they start with a question. Questions call for an answer. There is no formula for the perfect hook. Establish setting and character in a way the interests the readers.
Part 2 is typically where you introduce the conflict, the major one at least. Remember you are not highlighting plot points. This is where you want to introduce the same conflict that got your story going in the first place. Do NOT reveal the resolution to the conflict. Why read if you already know how it ends? Have you ever watched a movie trailer, thought it was great and went to see the movie? Only when you saw the movie you realized all the best stuff was in the trailer. You felt a bit disappointed with the movie, didn’t you? Use some good stuff, but save the best stuff for the book.
Part 3 is the hardest of the part. You need to lead the reader to the resolution with out giving it away. Leave the reader wondering: Will he escape? Does she defeat the empire? Is is possible they could fail? In fact many blurbs end with a question. Because once again our brains are wired to want an answer to a question. The only way to get the answer is to read the book.
- Read a lot of blurbs. Get some of your favorite books and read the back of them. Go to the book store and read the blurbs on books you’ve never read before. Take note of the blurbs that make you want to read the book. What was it about that blurb that hooked you? Identify it and learn from it.
- Make the reader care. Give them characters they can relate to and a plot they want to read. Provide an element most people can relate to. A tough work assignment, a romantic crush, a victim of something out of their control, an injustice, or anything else a reader can relate to.
- Use riveting words but use them the right way. Victim, hate, Peace, conflict, war, hopeless, are all words that bring a certain emotional impact. Find strong words that invoke the emotional impact you want your story to have.
- Suggest all the possible outcomes. You don’t want to give away the ending. The key word here is “suggest”. You don’t need to say: “Will she win the war? Will she die trying? Will she lose everything for this one cause? Or, will she triumph over all in everlasting glory?” First, saying all that is a mouth full. I got lost several times just writing it. But, you can hint that all these possibilities could happen.
- Shout lines. This is a term used to describe bold text or other text that is distinguished from the other text. It could be a short line that lets the reader know the type of book they are reading. Personally, I haven’t seen much need for something like that. But, if you are going to highlight a part of our blurb, make sure it is a strong part. A defining line.
- Look at your manuscript. Is there a great line in there that you think sums up the book well. The blurb I am putting together came from the lines I had written. Give you manuscript another read before you put together the blurb.
- Give your blurb the same love and care as the rest of your manuscript. Edit it, read it over. Give it to trial readers, and then edit it again. It is okay to start with more that 250 words. You can cut out what you don’t need. But look over your blurb carefully. Make a bad impression here and your book will sit. Remember you can have gold written on the inside pages, but if no one ever opens the book they will never know.
The cover of a book is important. The back cover may be even more so. The blurb is your chance to tell a reader why your book is worth their time and money. Sell them on your book with an effective, well thought out, attention grabbing blurb.