Writing an Effective Blurb: 6 Simple Steps
So you’ve finished the final draft of your book. You have the perfect cover design. You’re mere weeks away from going to print. Now you just need to work on that final touch: the blurb. Easy, right?
For many writers, the prospect of whittling that 80,000-word manuscript, toiled over for the best part of a year, down to a handful of introductory lines is…alarming. Besides the attractive cover and a healthy supply of glowing reviews, the blurb is perhaps the single most important selling point of your book. Its job is to inform your prospective reader what your title is about, who it concerns and—crucially—what sets it apart from the rest.
The average customer will dedicate no more than a handful of seconds to glancing over your book description before making up their mind, so those 150-odd-words must be enticing, efficient and effective!
Here are six simple tips on how to go about writing your best blurb:
1. Research your genre
It sounds obvious, but is astonishing how frequently book blurbs miss a beat when it comes to genre-appropriateness. However tempting it may be to declare your 650-page history of 18th century candle-wax production a ‘tour-de-force’, you’re really kidding no one.
Take time to research within your genre and learn its tropes from the perspective of your reader. Check out comparative best-selling titles online and note which ‘buzz words’ (if any) are most commonly used in their descriptions. In doing so, you will quickly be able to discern what works well, and what…doesn’t.
Genre-specific research will also help you with the overall structure of your blurb. In fantasy for example, the world is nearly always introduced before the protagonist, whereas in contemporary fiction, we will likely always see the reverse.
Getting a feel for your genre outside of your own writing is seriously important.
2. Avoid cliché
Now you know what your blurb is supposed to do, it’s time to break a few rules. Whilst it is important to incorporate the key features of your genre into your book description, overuse of certain phrases or clichés will leave potential readers exasperated and rolling their eyes (I’m looking at you, Tour-de-Force).
The blurb should ultimately aim to reflect the tone of your prose. If you wouldn’t use a particular word or expression in your writing, don’t attempt to include it in your blurb!
3. Start with a bang
The first line of your blurb is just as important as the opening line of your book. If it fails to hook your reader with a burning-question, surprise, or promise (as is more often the case in trade non-fiction), it has not served its purpose.
When in doubt, a strong, pithy quote from your book can prove a very useful opener.
4. Spare the details
A solid blurb should prompt questions without giving away any of the answers. They’re coy like that.
This goes for both fiction and non-fiction titles. If your book revolves around a pivotal event, character or time-frame, it should be introduced alongside the primary ‘issue’ it raises, whilst avoiding to share its trajectory or conclusions. In theory this may seem straightforward enough, but striking a balance between giving away just enough to draw your reader in, and not so much that you’ve lost their curiosity entirely, can be tricky to put into practice.
This also means keeping it brief. Books descriptions typically range from around 100-200 words at most. A shorter blurb is more likely to capture your readers’ attention, and less likely to allow room for oversharing.
5. Learn what makes your book unique
Why should somebody read your book and not another? What makes your novel…novel?
Whether it’s your distinctive characters, original lyrical style, or new-wave-candle-wax-production-perspective, you need to identify your title’s USP: its Unique Selling Point.
When browsing for their next book, readers want blurbs to feel familiar to those of titles they have previously enjoyed…only without feeling like they are stuck in a time-loop.
Be sure to highlight your book’s USP’s in its blurb. Novelty, (in the guise of familiarly), sells.
6. Get a second opinion
Two pairs of eyes are better than one (or eight if you both happen to wear glasses). As authors it is easy to become lost in the details of our work and struggle to see the bigger picture.
Ask a few trusted friends, colleagues or relatives who have read over your manuscript to summarise what their own take-aways were. This can be an invaluable way of distancing yourself from your work and reviewing its plot, themes and style in a fresh light. Be sure to approach them with your drafted book description afterwards for some constructive feedback. Does it match up with their synopsises? Is there a stronger quote you could have used? Or have you neglected to include something they found fascinating?
The added input of others can make constructing a blurb a lot less of a daunting task, and the result will be all the stronger for it.
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