Aside from the title and cover, the blurb (defined as “a short description of a book, film, or other product written for promotional purposes”) is widely acknowledged as the most critical part of selling books. It has the power to suck a prospective reader into the world you have created, or send them running for the hills. For that reason, the blurb is also one of the most difficult aspects to get right. What it boils down to is distilling the essence of your book into a few short sentences. This is, of course, a lot trickier than it sounds.
While there is no exact formula, here are a few tips to help you build the perfect blurb:
Captivate the reader
Readers are busy people. Chances are they’ll be quickly scanning bookshelves, or browsing online market places, meaning you only have a limited amount of time (mere seconds!) to make your book stand out from the crowd. Try to start with a hook, and finish strong. If possible, leave the reader with an unanswered question or two, and try to make them feel as if they simply must know the answer…something that can only achieved, of course, by reading your book.
Brevity is your friend
A common mistake among amateurs is making their blurb too wordy or overly long. Do this and you run the dual risk of straying too far from the point, boring the reader, or giving too much of the plot away. Remember that the objective is to entice the reader into buying the book and, if you summarize the entire story for them, they won’t need to. Keep your blurb punchy and to the point. Around 150 words is the optimum length, and use short, simple sentences to drive the points home.
Take a step back, and try to put yourself in the position of someone coming across your book for the first time. What would make you take the plunge? Some market research could be helpful! Analyze bestselling books in your genre, and determine which blurbs immediately grab your attention, and why. Are there any common denominators among the blurbs for those best sellers?
You immediately make a personal connection with the reader so they can identify with your work. So, for fiction, name a main character(s) (just one or two), and briefly explain the central theme of the book without going into too much detail. No spoilers! Let the reader work for them. Say something about your character’s motivation, or the predicament they find themselves in, and, if you can tug on a few heartstrings in some fashion, all the better.
For non-fiction, use the storytelling technique to draw in potential readers. See:
Use the right tone
Write the blurb for your novel in the third person, and pay close attention to the language you use. It sets the tone, and helps convey the mood, all of which enable you to deliver your message on a more subliminal level. For instance, if your book is a murder mystery, use dark, foreboding vocabulary.
For all genres, avoid bestowing superlatives on yourself (“This book is amazing!”). That’s not for you to say. And, don’t use too many cliches because that’s just lazy.
Hone your skills
Like anything else, writing a powerful, effective blurb requires practice. When you finish writing your book, and have gained some perspective on it, get some words for your blurb down, and spend some time experimenting and polishing. Some writers find it helpful to begin with a one-line ‘elevator pitch,’ and expanding it from there. Hone your skills by writing blurbs for other books you’ve read, and comparing them after the fact with the actual blurbs for those books. Don’t be afraid to be inventive and creative, but also don’t stray so far from the norm that you alienate potential readers.
The devil is in the detail
This should go without saying, but pay close attention to syntax, grammar, spelling, and punctuation in your blurb. Essentially, the blurb is an advertisement for your book. If it is poorly written, and littered with mistakes, the reader will assume the book is poor-quality, and contains more of the same. Nothing is more off-putting than an error-ridden blurb.
Christian Saunders, who writes fiction as C.M. Saunders, is a freelance journalist and editor from south Wales. His work has appeared in over 80 magazines, ezines and anthologies worldwide and he has held staff positions at several leading UK magazines ranging from Staff Writer to Associate Editor. His books have been both traditionally and independently published, his latest release being Tethered on Terror Tract Publishing. You can find out more about his work here: https://cmsaunders.wordpress.com
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