Like novel writing, blurb writing is an art form in its own right. I’ve seen it compared to copywriting; I’ve even seen it compared to poetry. But, when discussing how to write a book blurb, no one ever claims it’s anything like the process of writing the book it’s meant to describe.
What is a Book Blurb?
A book blurb is a short description of a book that goes on the back cover and on the book’s sales page. You can also use it when self-editing or give it to your story editor to check that your scenes all stay focused on the story goal.
To learn more about how providing a book blurb can benefit your story editor, read Why Does a Story Editor Need a Blurb? on the Fictionary blog.
The ideal length of a blurb is 150-200 words, but this can vary somewhat according to genre.
How do You Write a Book Blurb?
In my opinion, so many novelists have trouble writing blurbs because the question they ask themselves is, “How do I summarize my 90,000-word novel in 150 to 200 words?” They think about everything that makes their book babies special to them and try to condense it all.
Authors would do better to take a step back and ask themselves a number of targeted questions instead:
- Who is my main character?
- What story goal is she trying to achieve?
- What’s the major obstacle that stands in her way (the central conflict)?
- What’s at stake (what consequences will there be if the protagonist does not succeed)?
What Makes a Great Blurb?
There are elements that must be written into any book blurb in order for it to be effective, and there is little hope of writing a great blurb without them. These are:
The hook is the first sentence—or two, or three, depending on how you structure it—of the blurb. It should be something attention grabbing that will entice the reader to read the rest of the blurb.
Make your hook great by using strong verbs and adjectives that are catchy, emotion-evoking, and genre-specific. For example, the hook for one of my books reads:
An elusive A rogue wolf-shifter. If they can’t unite a divided kingdom, their world will be lost forever.
The main character(s)
The protagonist is a must, but other important characters can be included as well.
To make your use of characters great, go deep enough to build sympathy for the characters and allow readers to relate while still leaving them wanting more. For example, the line following the hook in my example blurb is:
After her father’s tragic demise, Maelona keeps her powers close and pushes everyone else away.
Readers can sympathize with Maelona and potentially relate to her because her father was tragically killed and, as a result, she pushes people away. But we are still left with questions:
- How was her father ‘tragically’ killed?
- Why has this caused her to keep her powers close and push people away?
The story goal(s)
Using the same book blurb as an example, the external goal is stated in the hook: they have to unite a divided kingdom. Reading further in the blurb, more specific information is given:
Tasked with an impossible mission to unite all paranormal beings in the fight against evil, she fears long-held divisions could spell their demise.
The external goal, then, is for her to unite all paranormal beings to fight against the evil sorcerer in order to save the kingdom.
This also leads to the internal goal. It was previously stated that Maelona tends to push people away (her flaw), but now she has a mission where she has to unite all paranormal beings. To do this, she will need to move past her wound (her father’s death) so she can stop holding people at arm’s length.
Things that make this use of story goals great are genre-specific tropes are shown (“the chosen one,” “the reluctant hero”), and genre-specific terms are used (paranormal beings, fight against evil).
The conflict in a book blurb is born out of the story goals and their obstacles. In the example previously given, the protagonist has to combat her own nature to heal past wounds, and she will have to unite the heretofore divided people to fight the evil sorcerer.
Ensure the stakes are high enough or there won’t be enough tension and conflict to make the reader care. In my example, the world as she knows it will end if she can’t stop the dark sorcerer. And if the world is at stake, then lives are at stake as well.
The “mic drop moment”
Leave the readers with a strong closing sentence—a final image that will leave a lasting impression. Do not give away the ending of the book, though.
Make this moment great by leaving readers with a question they will want to read the book to find the answer to. The final question I leave my readers with in my book description is:
Will Maelona bring the realm together before a sinister foe divides and conquers?
3 More Tips for Writing Great Book Blurbs
Tip #1: Pay attention to word choice
Earlier, I mentioned that book blurb writing has been compared to both copywriting and poetry. This is because copywriters and poets know how important it is to choose the right words and position them well.
- Use strong words that are evocative of the genre (e.g. evil sorcerer [fantasy]; disillusioned detective [crime]; arrogant billionaire playboy [billionaire romance]).
- Use literary devices, such as alliteration and assonance, to help your blurb flow well and catch readers’ attention.
- Play on words, especially if you can do so in a way that reflects the tone, genre, and subject matter of the book.
For example, the book Him by Sarina Bowen and Elle Kennedy is a gay sports romance where the two main characters are hockey players on rival teams. The hook of its book description reads:
They don’t play for the same team. Or do they?
Tip #2: Study the blurbs of best-selling novels in your genre
Look at as book blurbs many as you can. To find great blurbs in your genre, go to the Amazon bestsellers list for that genre and look at the book descriptions of the highest-ranking novels.
Tip #3: When possible, use keywords in your book blurb
What terms are people likely to type in the search bar on Amazon when looking for books in your genre? Choose the ones you can fit in naturally.
To learn more about book blurbs and how to write them, check out my article, What is a Book Blurb, on the Fictionary blog.
To write a great blurb, begin with the essentials:
- Conflict, and;
Then add in details, strong words, and imagery that are catchy, emotion-evoking, and genre-specific. Read as many other blurbs in your genre as possible, especially those that rank among the bestsellers.
If you do your research and follow the advice in this article, you will be well on your way to becoming a great blurb writer.
Article Written by Sherry Leclerc
Sherry Leclerc is a Fictionary Certified StoryCoach editor, Fictionary content creator, Writer’s Digest certified copy editor, and independent author. She is a member of Editor’s Canada, the Canadian Authors Association (CAA), and The Alliance of Independent Authors (ALLi).
Sherry holds a B.A. in English Language and Literature and a B.Ed. She is the sole proprietor of Ternias Publishing, through which she offers various editorial services. She also has a YouTube channel where she has a vlog about writing and editing, titled The Mythic Quill. You can find it on Youtube .
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