Blurbs make your reader excited about your book (Part 3 of the #SelfPublishing series)
Your book blurb, also called as back-of-book description or your book’s cover copy, is probably the next most important element after your book’s cover. Most of the readers decide whether to buy a book or not after reading the blurb. So your blurb should be quite interesting and compelling for your reader.
Do I need a Blurb
There’s a general perception that a blurb is only relevant for printed book to publish on their back covers. For ebooks, there are no back covers; ergo, a blurb is not necessary. This is not true.
You can have a book blurb appear as a short description of your book on online sales pages like Amazon, Kobo, B&N and many more. You can also use your blurb as introductory content of the book page on your website or on your blog. It is necessary for submissions to any contests or awards. You can use it as a part of your email signature or in newsletters you send to your list.
If you're a soloprenuer or a freelancer and if your book is related to the products or services you offer, you can talk about it in your emails so that your leads can be more enticed into visiting your blog, website and eventually purchase your book and, even better, your products or services. You can use your blurb as a part of offline or online interviews, press or media coverage.
A long description of your book is not suitable for all the above situations because, well it’s long and there’s a limited space in all these situations. So you DO need a Blurb.
How should a Blurb be written
Every story has to start somewhere. As much as this is true for your book, it’s also true for your blurb too.
Every story, and every blurb, has a lead character. It has a problem. Something is at stake. A blurb should follow the same course a good story should. Starting with setting up a background to the story, your blurb should introduce lead character early on and show their emotional side. Then you need to let the reader know what the problem is, what is at stake and what stops your character from achieving her goal. The most important part of a great blurb is how you end it — a cliffhanger your lead character finds herself hanging from.
But never give away the end game. Don’t tell how the story ends. Your reader should feel connected with your lead character by now and be excited to know how she overcomes the challenge. Otherwise, your reader doesn't have any incentive to buy your book and read it.
How long should it be
The most common mistake indie authors do is having a lengthy blurb. After all, your book is your baby and you’ve invested hours and hours into writing it. So, obviously, when writing the blurb, you won’t be able to cut down the story, the sub plots, the major twists and all those interesting things. Then your blurb ends up being long and loses its compelling power.
Remember, your reader often reads your book’s blurb in a crowded place, a bookstore or a shopping mall where there are lot of sounds, shoppers running around and probably your reader’s little child crying for chocolates. So you need to have a short yet strong blurb.
200 to 250 words is a good length for your book’s blurb. If you can keep it under 200 and still make it compelling, that would be perfect. Split it into little paragraphs of one to three lines to give it a feeling of urgency.
So, can I write a Blurb
Sure, you can. You might be unable to trim it down because of, well, the above reasons. But you can write a blurb that best reflects your story and then have it edited by someone. This is where you need a fresh pair of eyes to go through your book, your blurb and then edit it to reflect your entire book but without giving away any crucial plot-related details or being too lengthy.
What are some tips on writing a perfect Blurb
A blurb should ideally have three important characteristics.
Clichés are boring and show you as an amateur writer.
Use the tone that conveys the genre of your book. Most of today’s books don't fit into one particular genre. They fall under a mixture of genres like romantic suspense, murder and psychological thriller or creative nonfiction. So your blurb’s tone should make it clear to your reader what kind of book he or she is going to read.
Quotes are a great way to present your book in short compelling manner. For both fiction or non-fiction, you can easily create blurbs with quotes. These can be testimonials from a readers, a mention in press or an award you got for the book. But don’t use more than 2 or 3 quotes.
Write your blurb in present tense. It gives the reader a feeling that the story is getting unfolded now, in the present, and also creates a sense of urgency. Blurbs written in present tense also has a freshness to them.
Let’s look at two examples.
This is the blurb of Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone as appears on Amazon.
Harry Potter is an ordinary boy who lives in a cupboard under the stairs at his Aunt Petunia and Uncle Vernon's house, which he thinks is normal for someone like him who's parents have been killed in a 'car crash'. He is bullied by them and his fat, spoilt cousin Dudley, and lives a very unremarkable life with only the odd hiccup (like his hair growing back overnight!) to cause him much to think about. That is until an owl turns up with a letter addressed to Harry and all hell breaks loose! He is literally rescued by a world where nothing is as it seems and magic lessons are the order of the day. Read and find out how Harry discovers his true heritage at Hogwarts School of Wizardry and Witchcraft, the reason behind his parents mysterious death, who is out to kill him, and how he uncovers the most amazing secret of all time, the fabled Philosopher's Stone! All this and muggles too. Now, what are they?
You can see Harry before your eyes; how he feels being trapped in a house, how he feels when he goes to Hoagwarts and what adventures get revealed in his life. Now, try imagining it written in past tense? Can you still feel the same? Or do you feel like the story happened to Harry in the past and there’s nothing adventurous happening in his life now? Which kind of blurb would compel you to buy the book?
This is the blurb of Kathy Reichs’ Bones Never Lie. It’s very crisp and short.
For a decade, Temperance Brennan has been haunted by the one who got away.
The killer of young women. The monster.
And the one who has now come back.
Feeding on fear, grief and rage.
Killing again. Killing girls.
Coming for Tempe.
This small blurb of 7 lines tells everything that’s needed to be told to make the reader feel adrenal rush. There’s intrigue. There’s suspense. Especially creating urgency with ‘Getting closer. Coming for Tempe.’
So there you go, the important aspects of a good blurb. But to stand out from the competition (read: fierce competition) from other self publishing writers and also from big players with a lot of bucks to boost marketing and distribution, you need more than a good blurb. Writing a perfect Blurb is not a science and cannot be explained in an article like this; it is an art but this article is a good start.
Busting the Myths of Self Publishing (Part 1 of the #SelfPublishing series)
5 Steps To Designing Your Book Cover (Part 2 of the #SelfPublishing series)
How to write Author’s Bio for your book (Part 4 of the #SelfPublishing series)
This is an excerpt from the chapter Writing The Book Blurb from my upcoming book Your Guide To Self-Publishing. In the original chapter, I discuss in depth about writing book blurbs that compete with those published by traditional publishing houses. We look at different styles of writing a blurb and which is right for your genre. We will look at more examples and go through a simple framework to write your best blurb.