The Oxford English Dictionary describes a blurb as ‘a short description of a book, film, or other product written for promotional purposes’. It’s all well and good reading on, and knowing what one is, but how on earth do you write one? It takes a certain craft to pull it off correctly.
How Do I Write a Blurb?
A blurb needs to grab a possible reader’s attention and create a desire to read more. As a writer, blurbs can be hard, especially if you’ve just finished taking a whole book to tell a story and now need to work out how to explain it in a few sentences, but they are vital.
It’s a Blurb, Not the Full Story
If somebody picks up a book, it’s because something has caught their eye: the cover, the title, the author. If they flip the book over to keep reading, it means they want a taste of what’s inside. So give them that taste. A blurb is your sales pitch, use it to briefly describe the setting, central character or characters and give a hint of tone and themes. And this is vital: no spoilers! You need to tell them why they should read your book, not give them the ending so they don't have to.
Get 'em Thinking
So how do you make the reader curious about your book? Give your future reader a question. A reader wants to know why the story is fresh and interesting and stands out from something they’ve already read. Maybe it’s simply a plot question: Who murdered Mr. Black? What happens to the world after the apes take over? How can you lose four stone in two days? Or maybe you have a specific style or voice, maybe you are playing with structure or perspective. If you’re doing something interesting then tell your audience about it. Anything to excite is good as long as it’s genuine. It’s like the trailer to a movie.
Size Does Matter... and Shorter is Better
The blurb ought to be brief. It needs to act like a fishing line; something attractive to immediately draw the reader in and hook them. Once they have the little worm of intrigue in their mind, they hopefully won’t be able to shake it and will feel compelled to read your book. The contents will tell the story, so you need to tell the reader why to read it as simply, speedily and as effectively as you can. Like all great jokes, the shorter, the sweeter. It’s all about packing a punch.
Clichés are as Old as the Hills
Nothing packs a punch less than a cliché. Writing a cliché as a convincer for why somebody should read a book sounds not only lazy, but also comes across like you aren’t a particularly original writer. In the early stages of trying to market your book this is clearly not a good thing when you’re trying to convince somebody of the opposite. Also, clichés can sound like hyperbole and makes a potential reader feel you are trying to hype up the story more than it deserves. Use your own words and present what is actually there because, after all, that’s what they will be reading in the rest of the book.
It’s Not All About You!
Most people don’t turn to a blurb to learn about the author. They don’t want to know a writer’s interests and tastes or even what other books they’ve written. They want firstly to know what the book will do for them. Nothing turns off a reader quicker than blatant self-publicity or self-praise, something we cannot stress enough. You can use jacket puffs for that (those lines quoted from reviews telling the reader this book is a tour-de-force or unputdownable). This is the sales pitch for the story as it stands on its own, not for you as the author.
For inspiration and to get the feel of how well blurbs can do, go to your bookshelf and read some blurbs. Research has never been easier. Take a look at the blurbs of books you’ve read so you can see how much of the plot they introduce; surprisingly little in the majority of cases.
Understanding how to write a good blurb is crucial for any author as it’s one of the most important selling tools you’ll have for your book. Writing such an important piece of text can take time and patience and is a learning curve in itself. Be sure not to confuse writing a blurb with writing a synopsis as they serve a different purpose completely.
If you are ready to get writing your book check out our free writing resources.