That Pesky Information
You’ve been offered a contract and suddenly you’re dropped into a mass of information about what’s going to happen next. There’s cover art to decide on, an editor is being assigned, you need to get your social media cleaned up or even create pages on those sites in order to promote.
There’s one other little bit of information you need to give your publisher—information about you that will be included in the back of your book. You glance at the request to get that information to the as soon as possible. There’s a lot they want.
A blurb for your book that must be 125 to 250 words. It has to tease and tantalize, but never give anything away. Just how are you expected to write this? Isn’t that their job? You have too much to do. You blow off this important job, expecting the editor in chief to assign someone to write a blurb from your synopsis. After all, you sweated for hours making that. They can do this job. It’s too hard for you to do.
Well, it is your job to provide a blurb if you’ve been asked for one, and it does sound very hard. And not being able to let people know important things about the book, like how you threw the main character to the curb when he got a bit whiny, but all is okay since you brought him back stronger than ever near the end. Or you absolutely have to tell everyone about how your female lead can kick butt with the best of them. After all, that’s why you wrote this book, but she doesn’t get that far until the reader gets close to the end.
Actually, here’s the course in Book Blurb Writing 101. You’ll love this assignment. Get away from your computer. That new book you’re working on can wait a few days. Go on down to your local bookstore and start skimming the shelves. Look for books in the same genre and of similar style to yours. Turn them over and read what’s on the back cover. Or troll through Amazon or Barnes and Noble and read the blurbs there. Notice the style and voice used. Compare the short ones that have you panting to read the book versus the longs ones where you say “meh” and move on. Why is that? Because a short, tight blurb doesn’t give away a single plot point or conclusion, but it does tantalize you to open the cover and get to work.
Next thing this editor in chief wants is a bio, an accounting of who you are. Your eyes sparkle with anticipation. You rub your hands together. This will be so much fun you think as you settle down to pound out a treastise about your life, starting when your parents framed the ultrasound pictures of you at seven months of the pregnancy until the moment you received your contract.
Stop right now. Save that page for notes. Then start cutting. Harshly cut away at that blurb until it is no more than three paragraphs, although two is better. Here’s a clue. Make the blurb as active and reader friendly as your book. Tell a story about yourself. Use active verbs and enticing wording instead of a biography sure to put them asleep. Instead of saying “I played basketball, football, and baseball in school and was a so-so student” go with a more active phrasing. Something like this: “My experiences with sports in school define my characters, who often exhibit the same goals I had.” Don’t introduce yourself like this: “Jane Doe grew up in major city, well known state and has always wanted to be a writer. She spends hours a day writing about things she’s always dreamed about.” Go with “Raised in major city, well known state, John Smith traveled extensively in name a country until settling down in small town USA. Despite the demands of a family, he spends hours every night translating what he experienced into stories, where his characters often go through situation similar to what he faced in name a country while attempting to make himself understood.” This kind of bio is a bit more difficult to write, but will give your reader a great idea of who you are and what drives you. The second paragraph should be a recounting of your publishing experience.
Remember, don’t tell your reader everything. Keep some mystique. Let them wonder.
Finally, you may be asked for a dedication or acknowledgements, or both. Be ready with what you want in your book. Make these as tight as you’ve done for your bio and blurb, and be certain that anyone’s name you use won’t mind it being in your book.
Now it’s time to get to work on those social media links, but that’s a subject for another day.