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Writing a Knock-Out Blurb

Dec 21, 2015

There has been a lot of discussion in my writing circle lately about blurbs and covers. As in, some of us in our niche genre (Historical Westerns) are deeply concerned about the quality of blurbs and covers we’re seeing. So we’ve been doing what we can to help newer authors to put their best foot forward.  

I’d like to extend that here, to you. So this week I’ll be talking about blurbs, and later I’ll be discussing the good, the bad, and the ugly of covers. 

So. Blurbs. We hate writing them. We just do. Because how do you summarize an entire novel in just a few paragraphs? And how do you do it in such a way that you’re intriguing the reader, convincing them to buy your book, but not giving too much of the story away? 

The purpose of your blurb is to tickle all potential readers, to leave them feeling like they HAVE to read your book to find out what happens. You want to introduce them to your characters, explain the problem they have, and convince them to care what happens to those characters. Here’s an example of a blurb that does all that: 

SummerWithAStarAll Tasha Pike has wanted for the past twenty years is to rent Sand Dollar Point for a summer. The grand Victorian on the beach of Summerbury, Maine was the object of her childhood fantasy and her standard of romance—and it was finally happening. Her dream summer is ruined, however, when she arrives in Summerbury to find that Hollywood superstar Spencer Ellis has muscled his way into the house instead. His offer that they share Sand Dollar Point is not only infuriating—it’s insulting.  

He’s a celebrity, and one she’s determined to hate. 

Spencer’s summer in Maine was supposed to help him get his head screwed on straight. One look at Tasha, however, made that impossible. She’s beautiful. She’s angry. She doesn’t care who he is. She doesn’t care about his fame. In fact, she doesn’t even like him. 

She’s irresistible.  

He’s only got the summer. She’s only got her heart. They’ve only got each other.  

Okay, admittedly, that’s a blurb for one of my books. A blurb I didn’t write myself, I might add. My amazing friend and colleague Anne Chaconas of Badass Marketing wrote it. She nails it on the head, really. The characters are identified, an emotional connection is forged between them and the reader, and you find yourself wondering what’s going to happen between these two. 

Now, a bad version of this same blurb might look something like this… 

Tasha shows up at her summer rental only to discover that it’s been given to someone else, a Hollywood celebrity. They decide to put up with each other and share the house for the summer. They end up liking each other, but when people figure out a celebrity is in town, their privacy is invaded. They manage to have a summer fling anyhow, but have to decide whether it can continue once summer is over. 

Yep. Every bit of that is true. But it’s more like a book report than something that would suck you in, spark interest in the characters, and get you to read more. Remember, it’s all about reaching out and grabbing the reader, and making them care about your characters to the point where they have to read the book to find out what happens to them. 

emma of kentuckyMy friend and fellow savvy author, Peggy L Henderson has this rule of thumb for writing blurbs: First paragraph tells a little about the heroine and her dilemma. Second paragraph tells about the hero and his dilemma. Third paragraph ties the two together. Each paragraph is no longer than three sentences. 

That’s the most concise and straight-forward way to think of it, and she’s right. Three paragraphs is a great way to organize a blurb. We’re talking Romance here, but it can be extended to any genre. Who is Character One and what is their problem? Who is Character Two and what is their problem? How do their problems collide, and what is at stake if they don’t reach their goals? Right there. That’s the bones you need to build your blurb on. 

I also find that it helps to imagine the blurb being spoken aloud by that guy who used to do all the movie trailer voiceovers. You know… “In a world where blurbs don’t write themselves and authors struggle with words….” Silly, yes, but it helps! 

So get out there and write some blurbs! They’re one of the two most important things you need to draw a reader in and sell a book. Next time, we’ll talk about covers.