Blurb Writing 101



Dear Author,

I speak to all authors as an editor in chief, as someone who must ask you to do a certain thing you may find repugnant. This is necessary, vital to the timely publication of your book, and yet you seem to think it is a responsibility you can pass off on an individual who is responsible not just for your book but many, many others.

What is this items you find so difficult to accomplish? Writing your blurb .

Most authors prepare these requested items without too much fuss. If necessary, your editor in chief can provide you with a quick lesson in writing a blurb. It’s not all that hard, even though it may seem like the most difficult task you have ever had handed to you.

We, as authors, love our words. In our books, we have learned to show not tell. When it comes to a blurb, we forget that lesson and tell, tell, tell. I see all kinds of blurbs every day and some of them need serious editing. A few have been between 350 and 500 words. That’s beyond a little too long.

Think about it. You are writing the most important piece of promotion for your book and you’re going to write a short story? Do you honestly think this extra-long blurb will fit on the back of your print edition and be readable?

If you think people actually will read that long a blurb on the back of your print book, you are about to have a wake up call. A blurb needs to be short. A mere two-hundred-fifty words at the most. More than ten is also good. Tease the reader with what lies beyond the cover art. Tantalize them with hints of the character’s motivations. Leave your potential new fans panting to know more, more, more.

Or as I point out in Blurb Writing 101, never give away any important plot points or use an excerpt from your book.

The best way to learn how to write a blurb is to do a lot of leg work, or finger work if you don’t have many bookstores near you.

Go to your local bookstore, or any store that sells books. I’ve even seen them in supermarkets lately. Haunt the book section. Pick up books randomly and read their back covers. Make notes on how those authors have done their best to drag you into the story behind the cover art. At the same time, let the plot of your book flow through your head. Listen when your inner author begins to talk about this or that will work in the blurb. Jot down notes on a separate page—single words—that will allow you to string together a blurb that will wow readers.

Don’t have a good store to visit personally to learn about blurbs? Try the local library. A whole building full of books that is just aching to have you wander through its many aisles pulling out tomes at random, peeking at the back covers. Or you can go to Amazon and look at books in your chosen genre. Read their blurbs. Make more notes.

Now it’s time to rest. Take a day or two to let the inner author build your blurb. Don’t worry if it’s too long at first. Simply use that as a rough draft. Then it’s time to revise, edit, rewrite, and polish.

Once you have all this done, zip that blurb off to your editor in chief. He or she might do some tweaking, both minor and major. Don’t get upset. This is part of their job—to make your new book fabulous.

What you should never do is decide a blurb is beyond your scope as an author and ignore this task completely. Your editor in chief works on many, many different books every day. They might not actually be doing hands on work, but they are coordinating the editor, proofreader, cover artist, and formatter. All of this is an effort to ensure you have the best book possible. If you have decided for whatever reason that you aren’t going to write a blurb, don’t be surprised to find on you absolutely hate used for your book. That means the editor in chief had to write one on the spur of the moment, usually as they’re sending the book for upload, and they went with whatever information they could glean from your submission’s cover letter.

I now return you to the task of pounding the keyboard on your latest novel, with a question…

Have you started the blurb for this one yet?

Comments

Cyn Ley said…
The blurb is not the story. The blurb is the hook for the story. Great post, KC! :-)