Most authors hate writing book blurbs. I’m definitely one of them. How can you condense hundreds of pages with multiple characters and a complex plot into a few paragraphs? This can be absolutely mind-boggling. And as if that’s not bad enough, there are some promotional sites where you only have 100 characters! Are you kidding me???
One place I’ve found it helpful to start is with your story’s theme. Do you even know what it is? If not, you should. This is what gives it meaning. This is the message you want to deliver to your reader, their “take away”, if you will. If necessary, start with your genre. If you don’t even know that, then you’re really in trouble. And believe me, been there, done that, got the t-shirt!
The most basic ingredients are your main character, what s/he wants, what’s in the way, and will s/he get it? Once you have that, you can fill in a few background and/or setting details and you should be close.
One thing to avoid is spoilers, of course. You want your reader to want to find out how things work out. Sometimes you can plant a teaser by finishing the blurb with a question. Give it a try. Feel free to comment below on any tricks you may have for one of the hardest things author have to tackle.
Many authors note that writing the book blurb and slug are as difficult as writing the book itself. I certainly agree. These are extremely important, since they introduce and hopefully lure potential readers to your story. Give it all the time necessary to do the job.
It’s a good idea to have your book blurb in several different lengths. What you include on the back cover can be fairly long. However, when you post your book on certain sales or promotional sites, they may have a word limit, sometimes as short as 100 characters! Thus, it’s handy to have them already written so when you’re in the middle of posting your book somewhere you don’t have to stop and edit it down on the fly. Thus having one ready that is full, medium, and super-short in length will save time and frustration as well as assure top quality.
Many authors will tell you, including myself, that book blurbs are harder to write than the book itself! After creating numerous characters, devising a complex plot, and describing the time and place over hundreds of pages, distilling this down into a few sentences is no easy task.
Some great advice from author Nicholas Rossis that he passed along in a recent writers conference stated that the main elements to include are your main character, what s/he wants, what’s in the way, and the consequences of failure. Whatever you do, don’t include any spoilers or too many extraneous details. You want the reader’s curiosity to be aroused enough for them to want to read the story.
When promoting your book, comparing it to similar stories with which everyone is familiar can help find readers who will like yours. Of course you have to do this is a way that’s not arrogant or could get you in trouble for infringing on copyright laws.
Nonetheless, if your book has similarities to the Harry Potter series, readers who love that series might be delighted to find another source of fantasy. There’s a risk, however, because if you fall short when they can’t find adequate parallels, their disappointment may result in a rather brutal review.
Thus, weigh the pros and cons carefully before using this method. A safer approach is to simply refer to some of the elements your story has in common with a popular series or movie. Sometimes you get lucky and a reviewer makes the comparison for you, in which case you can quote them and let any ire at possible deficiencies fall on them.
Make sure your book’s description fits its content. If a reader is disappointed it’s likely to result in a poor review, not necessarily because your book is bad, but because it didn’t meet expectations.
I’ve had this happen to me with both fiction and nonfiction. In one case, the blurb was probably misleading while in the other, the reader obviously didn’t even read the book description, which was particularly annoying.
Your “book blurb” is what goes on the back cover and describes your story on sales sites. It needs to capture the essence of your story in such a way that it grabs potential readers’ attention hard enough that they can’t wait to buy your book. These are not easy to write. Most authors have less trouble writing the entire book. Similar to an “elevator pitch”, but a little longer, you can embrace more detail. Don’t say too much, however, and by all means leave them wondering how it turns out! If you’re really stuck writing one, read a few online or in a bookstore to get ideas and also sense what works and what doesn’t.