Five Ways to Write a Blurb that Sells Your Book
Before we dive in, consider these reasons why readers buy books:
- They’ve read other books by the same author and trust he/she will deliver another awesome story
- The cover caught their attention
- The blurb—or story description—compelled them to read more
- They read the first few pages (the “Look inside”) and the writing was killer
- A friend recommended the book or author, maybe even loaned them a copy
Aside from #5, the buying decision pretty much happens in this order. That puts a ton of pressure on your story, especially if you hope to publish (read: sell) more of them. Is it smart, compelling, and polished? If so, readers will likely come back for more.
Next, design an eye-catching cover that captures the essence of your story. A good cover doesn’t have to break the bank, but it should set reader expectations—it should look like the kind of story that’s on the inside. Choose legible fonts, an appealing color palette, and only a few images/elements. Remember that readers are going to see a very small version of it in many places where they buy books. Be sure they can read it without squinting at words and details.
That’s a long post for a different day. When I personally buy books, the blurb is my number-one deciding factor. A notable author with a great cover and so-so (or worse) blurb won’t get me “looking inside”—even if a friend recommended the book. I know, it’s hard. Those 90,000 words flew from your fingers in six weeks or less. But that 200-word blurb? Fuggedaboutit. If it’s truly the bane of your existence, you can outsource this task, just as you can outsource much of your marketing. I know several excellent writers who will read your story and craft a sellable blurb. It’s not cheating; it’s being resourceful. You should still know what makes a blurb sellable, so you know if they’ve done a good job or not.
Here we go.
Capture the best of your writing style.
You’ve read the how-to books and honed your craft. You’ve self-edited to near exhaustion and hired a book editor, coach, or mentor to further sharpen your skills and polish your story. Use the best of what you’ve learned when crafting your blurb. This is not the time for passive language and narrative filtering, abundant adverbs and adjectives, weak verbs, and snoozy syntax. Bust out your best sentences and vocabulary. Demonstrate your command of language and enduring pledge to suck readers in. This book is for them—and they will love it. Do you believe that? Are you confident, determined to entertain them? Show up in the blurb. Give them a powerful taste of what’s in store.
Tease readers with what’s at stake.
What’s at stake is the most important element of the blurb. It’s the most important element of the story! What has our hero or heroine got to lose? A tease of what’s at stake telegraphs there will be all the tension, and tension (read: conflict) is the whole reason for your story. (Oh, it’s not? We should probably take a few steps back… Let’s talk about a manuscript evaluation, or “critique,” and make sure you’ve nailed down a central conflict, with a compelling character goal/motivation, and the opposing forces needed to develop said character—turning your manuscript into a story readers can’t put down.)
Try writing a “high concept” blurb.
Can you sell your book in one sentence? This practice can be a great way to start your blurb—literally the opening line, or “step one” in the snowflake method used to craft your book description. That one-liner can also be placed on the front cover of your book to draw in readers at first glance. Maybe yours isn’t “Quantum Leap meets Charlie’s Angels meets The Highlander,” but check out the one-liners stamped on these popular romance novels:
The blurb should also show off a killer premise and introduce dynamic characters.
Having an awesome story can make it easier to write a blurb. In some ways it can make it more difficult, trying to condense all that excitement into one or two paragraphs. Identify the most compelling elements of your story and present them in a strong narrative voice from your one or two focal characters. Think of your blurb as a mini-story infused with the tone and style of your novel. Not sure what I mean? Here are some of my favorites to illustrate these concepts.
Let’s close with a few “common sense” tips.
Word count: The length of a good blurb can vary from about 100 to 300 words. A shorter novel or novella should correspond with a shorter blurb, while a longer blurb is appropriate for a longer story.
POV and tense: Be consistent with your novel. Is it written in first person, present tense? Third person, past tense? Something else? Write the blurb in the same point-of-view and tense as the manuscript itself.
Blurb vs synopsis: These are not synonymous. A blurb is a short teaser; it should not describe major plot events or spoilers. A synopsis is typically one or two pages detailing the plot and character arcs in your story, including spoilers.
You worked hard and you love your story. Pair it with a blurb that sells your book! Have questions about book editing, blurbs, or something else? Feel free to leave a comment or email me: firstname.lastname@example.org.