Writing your blurb

The description on the back of your book is one of the most important pieces of writing you will do. The inside of the novel may be the greatest bit of literature ever written but if the blurb doesn’t capture peoples imagination it will never be read. A good blurb makes the difference between someone wanting to read your book or moving on metaphorically through the digital bookshelves and finding something else to read. It needs to capture the interest of the browser and make them desperate to read your novel but before we sort out how to write it, let’s get to grips with…

What not to do.

It’s important not to give everything away, particularly your well crafted spoilers. You want to tease the reader not tell them the ending.

Don’t ramble on and on so that you are creating almost another book full of blurb. Use snappy, brief sentences and keep it short and sweet. If it’s too long, the reader may not even get to the end, making the time you spent on it redundant. If it is easy to read, you have less chance of them turning away.

Don’t use clichés. A liberal sprinkling of ‘Riveting’ and ‘Ground-breaking’ can turn the reader off before they’ve even finished the first sentence. You have managed to write a novel without clichés (hopefully). Please leave them out of your blurb as well.

Finally, comparisons are always fraught with danger. You may well think you are the literary love-child of Stephen King and Anne Rice and your novel is the new ‘Twilight’ but you are setting up your potential reader with possibly misleading impressions.

You are not a copy of another author, however much you would like to be and your novel is also unique (unless you’ve copy and pasted!) which is a good thing. Have confidence in your work as a unique author creating a unique piece of work. You don’t want someone to read your book with preconceived ideas as they will automatically think unfavourably about your book if they disagree. Sell yourself and your work and let the reader see how fabulous you are.

How to go about it

All books for sale have had blurbs created for them and so initially, it may help to head over to Amazon or your electronic bookseller of choice and read a selection of blurbs from books in your genre. This should give you some idea of what works and what doesn’t. Jot down the parts of a blurb that made you interested and want to read the book. Making a note of how sentences have been phrased and how persuasive they are will give you some idea of what you need to do to be successful.

Broadly, the blurb must be in a similar style to that of the book you have written. There is no point having a descriptive, flowery and romantic blurb if your book is a fast-paced pithy murder mystery. It may appeal to many potential buyers but they won’t necessarily be the ones that will enjoy the book itself.

You need to mention the genre and give an overall impression of the type of story it will be, a dark and brooding thriller or sarcastic and jokey chick-lit will probably appeal to different types of reader. And you want the one who will enjoy your book to be the one to buy it.

What you should include

At the beginning of the blurb you need to have a brief description of your main character and a glimpse of their normal life. For example, the blurb for ‘Harry Potter and the Philosophers Stone’ begins –

Harry Potter has never even heard of Hogwarts when the letters start dropping on the doormat at number four, Privet Drive.’

Imagine we live in a world where people haven’t heard of Harry and Hogwarts. (I know, inconceivable right!?) At the very least, a reader of this blurb will have their interest piqued at this sentence.

Then you need to tantalise your reader more. Throw in the problem that your protagonist is faced with and a ‘could they possibly overcome this?’ type question. Dangle the thought that he might be able to but mention a seemingly impossible barrier that he would have to overcome. Make the success seem in doubt and then finish with either a question that will make the reader want to know what happens next or entice them with a loaded phrase. For example, the Harry Potter blurb finishes with…

Harry Potter is a wizard, and he has a place at Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry. An incredible adventure is about to begin!’

Who wouldn’t want to read more?

Let me know in the comments how you’re getting on and if there is anything you are struggling with.