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Writing Great Blurbs
A great blurb can make the difference between a customer reaching for their wallet to buy your book or putting the book on the shelf. Great blurbs sell books.
But what is a blurb, exactly?
A blurb is the copy on the back cover of your book. After the cover, the blurb is the first thing a customer will check when considering buying a book. It should entice, intrigue and grab the reader right away.
“Book blurbs are sweet for the consumer,” says publicist Penny Sansevieri, founder of Marketing Expert Authors.
Not just to customers. A great blurb can also help you find a publisher or agent.
Last year I sent dozens of query letters in my search for an agent. As you probably know, most query letters consist of a book pitch (the hook), some information about the book (genre, word count, etc.), and a brief biography of the book. author or a list of qualifications. The agents who answered said “No thanks.” I am not surprised. The blurb was as flat as a French crepe. One of these agents wrote to say that she wasn’t particularly enthusiastic about my book, but asked if I had anything to show her. At this time I improved my blurb and had a completely new version. I mentioned this to him and asked him to consider my edited blurb, which he did. His response was “Well, I have to admit that’s a pretty convincing blurb.” She requested the first three chapters. To make a long story short, it grabbed me based on the strength of those three chapters. In this case, my blurb was the key factor in getting the agent’s attention.
This is the blurb I included earlier in my query letter:
Can a good man be persuaded to commit murder and still retain his goodness?
Lullaby is about the restless soul of an aborted child who, in order to become powerful enough to be reborn, must tempt humans to do evil deeds. Having temporarily acquired the form of a beautiful woman, this being plays mind games with the protagonist, bringing back memories of his tragic childhood. As deeply buried feelings of hatred and revenge rise to the surface, the protagonist must wrestle with his conscience to do the right thing. But he, when his ideas about justice and the highest good will tell him that it is right to kill?
Now compare it with the second one that caught the agent’s attention:
In a fashionable Turkish tavern on a Friday night, the astrophysicist Gabriel Diaz meets a mysterious young woman. Captivated out of his senses by her physical perfection and her views on good and evil, he spends the next few days with her. After some time, however, he begins to notice something strange about her – the abnormally high temperature of her skin, her obsession with dairy products, her childish and strange behavior, as she seems to take pleasure in playing with the his conscience
The young woman, Kamilah, invites him to Rize, Turkey, where she claims that her family owns a cottage in the woods. Despite his heavy workload and disturbing visions and nightmares about his sister’s soon-to-be-born child, Gabriel agrees to go with her.
But nothing, not even the amazing beauty of the Black Sea, can disguise the horror of its nature. In a place where death dwells and illusion and reality seem as one, Gabriel must now come to terms with his own demons to save his sister’s unborn child, and ultimately his soul. ..
Here are some guidelines to help you create great blurbs:
* Keep it short (100-250 words). The goal is to convey what makes the book unique in a small amount of space.
* In this it sets the mood, the scene and the conflict or riddle.
* It should have an increasing voltage. The beginning should have a “hint” of conflict or threat, but remain fairly innocuous (look at my blurb number two: boy meets girl in a tavern). At the end of the blurb, the conflict or threat must be imminent (protagonist must save the unborn child of his sister and his soul).
* Think about the best angle to approach your story. Both of my blurbs describe what happens in my novel, but the second one sounds much more exciting.
* As with a good book review, never put “spoilers” in the blurb. You can do this in a book summary or synopsis, but never in a blurb. (Look again at my blurb number one. In it I made the big mistake of revealing the nature of my “evil” female protagonist – she is the soul of an aborted child. In blurb number two, I suspect that there is something wrong with her. , but she doesn’t know what. It leaves you wondering).
* Think about what makes your book different.
* Question marks can be used to leave the reader intrigued.
* Often ellipsis are used at the end to leave the reader asking questions.
* Keep adverbs and adjectives to a minimum and use action verbs.
* Needless to say, make sure there are no spelling or grammatical errors.
* If your book is non-fiction, does it have special features such as pictures or diagrams? What is the purpose of the book? What are you trying to do? Does it teach anything? How is this book different from others in the field?
*Remember blurbs are not summaries! Don’t tell the whole story – just the exciting part so the reader will want to know more.
* Do not exaggerate or sugar. Be professional.
* Study the blurbs from your bookshelves, paying particular attention to their style, language and content.
* Write and rewrite, rewrite, rewrite. So show people that they can offer honest feedback.
One last tip:
You know that powerful, dramatic voice you hear in movie theaters during movie trailers? That seductive, often exaggerated voice that describes the movies? Well, read your own blurb with this voice in your mind, matching its pitch and tone. You will be surprised to know how much it helps!
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