Marketing Text: Blurbs II

A good blurb can be hard to do. Authors moan at length about how hard it is to write a synopsis of their book. It’s not easy to condense a 100,000 word story down into two pages.

Even harder is to find the elements in the story that will draw readers in, condense that down to one or two paragraphs, and write it up in an enticing teaser that will increase the chances of someone buying the book.

Here are some tips that will help with the process of learning to write blurbs.

  • Structure
  • Read other blurbs
  • Start with a tagline
  • Practice and crowdsource
  • Structure: ask three simple questions about your novel. Who? What? and Why? That means, who are the main character or characters? The fewer, the better, preferably only one or two. What do they face? In other words, what is the problem that lies ahead of them? Why? What are the stakes, the win or loss for the book?

Your blurb’s job is to express, in the fewest possible words, the answers to these questions to the reader, in a way that will make them want to find out how the problem is solved, how the stakes are won or lost. And to leave them wondering – because the only way to find out these things is to read the book.

  • Read other blurbs: remember that when you decided to be a writer, it was most likely because you loved reading. Doubtless, you’ve heard the very important guideline to writing that you can’t get good at it without the tools, and the primary tool in your toolbox is reading.

The same is true for blurbs. I suggest taking a few minutes every day to randomly wander among the books for sale on your favorite ebook site – browse through them. Select covers you like, covers you don’t like, within and without the genre borders you’re used to. Read all the blurbs.

Read blurbs of books you have read, and of books you have not. For each blurb, consider whether it made you interested in buying the book. For the ones where your interest was increased, consider whether a specific turn of phrase caught your eye. Finally, consider whether you could have done it better, and how.

This may, of course, lead to increased ebook purchase – I’d say I’m sorry, but I’m not.

  • Start with a tagline: one thing that helps is to watch a lot of movie trailers. Don’t pay attention to the visuals: listen to the words. Often, the narrator will be giving what’s essentially a blurb over the video. But almost every promoted movie has a tagline, a single phrase or sentence that both sums up the movie and sucks you into it. “In space, no one can hear you scream.” Or, “They’re here!” Or, “Who you gonna call?”

Yes, that’s right… I’m asking you to condense your novel down into a SINGLE sentence. But this isn’t meant to tell everything about what’s happening in the story – just to tease. If you can do that, then nine-tenths of the blurb is going to write itself.

  • Practice and crowdsource: this one is simple. Write a blurb, rewrite it. Read it out loud, preferably in movie-announcer voice. (“In a world…”) The simple act of hearing it can make the lame bits stand out a mile. Chop those out. Keep tightening, reworking. The fewest words you can use – the purest possible distillation of the essential.

Once you have the best blurb you can possibly manage, bring it before other people. If you have a good critique group, that’s the best way to workshop it. If not, then read it out loud to some people who like books – watch their faces. Get an idea of where, in the blurb, that look of polite interest turns to real interest… and where does a confused look steal over their faces? What words did they respond to?

A single question can be asked then: did it make you want to read the book? That’s really the only function your blurb needs to fulfill – make the person reading the blurb want to go on and read the book.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *