This is the first in a series of ‘How to write…’ blogs. Keep an eye out for the next one! The series includes how to write the best blurb, compelling characters, opening to your novel and I’m open to more suggestions if there’s anything you’d like me to tackle? You might wonder why I’ve decided to focus on the minutia but I’ve found that the seemingly small things in writing can be the most difficult. I’m not an author but I am an editor, writing coach and reviewer – so you could say that my life revolves around the written word – and more importantly supporting the writer.
How to write the best blurb for your novel
Why start my blog series with the blurb? Simply – I think the blurb is often overlooked. I’m a member of loads of writing groups on Facebook, LinkedIn and Goodreads – they’re really helpful and allow me to find authors that are looking for support. It struck me recently, that the writers all rely on a blurb, to attract beta readers, critique partners, agents, reviewers, bloggers, publishers and ultimately their target reader. Obviously, there are different types of blurb, those that are to sell your book to your reader and those to attract a publisher – a query blurb. This blog is focusing on the former, the ‘back-cover blurb’. I’m going to argue though that it is in an author’s best interests to write their blurb early on in the process, to attract their test readers – once it is written it will then be adaptable for other uses.
If you don’t write a decent blurb to sell your book, it doesn’t matter how good it is, no one is going to read it! Don’t underestimate its importance, a good blurb is vital.
What should your blurb do?
Your blurb isn’t meant to show your skills as an author, it is ultimately a sales pitch. Writers are often, like me, introverted types who struggle with confidence; selling ourselves and our creations doesn’t always come naturally. Some writers looking for betas are almost apologetic, ‘I’m looking for someone to read my book, I’m not sure if it’s very good, it’s a bit like Hunger Games mixed with Lord of the Rings.’ That may be what they think but it isn’t very attractive to a potential reader, even at the beta reading stage – you should use a good blurb to attract the right betas and ARC readers for you. We all have our favourite genres and what is attractive to one reader would be off-putting for another, in my case – I am instantly put off by the inclusion of dragons! (Sorry to all you dragon lovers out there but I’m not your target reader.)
Your blurb should be written with your target reader in mind. What is it that the reader is looking for? Well, that depends on your genre. If it is a crime thriller, it should include genre appropriate adjectives, like in the *Blurb examples here by Robert Bryndza: ‘chilling’, ‘terrifying’ or in Carole Matthews’ romance or women’s fiction: ‘single’ ‘relationship’ and ‘emotional’. Include things that your reader expects to see in their favourite genre. Stick with the voice you have used in your novel don’t repel your reader by trying to be something else.
*A read only, Word document with annotated blurb examples, please have a look!
Things to remember when writing your blurb:
- Create curiosity, possibly ask a question, so your reader is intrigued and wants to know more.
- Don’t be afraid to use hyperbole, like I said earlier it might not be in your nature to say your work is “incredible” but try your best to sell its best bits. This is where the difference between a back-cover blurb and a query blurb differ the most. Publishers don’t want to read your opinion about the quality of your book.
- An ideal blurb would be around 100-150 words, if it’s too lengthy sites like Amazon will cut it short.
- Use brief sentences, important in a blurb as the reader is often skimming several books in a shop or on Amazon, anything too lengthy will lose their attention.
- Remember a good blurb attracts a customer – then a reader – who could become a fan.
- Write many versions, get test readers to help you chose the best, most effective one.
- Set the scene, the where and when, is really important to readers when they are choosing what to read.
What your blurb shouldn’t do:
- Be written in a hurry, your blurb shouldn’t be your last priority.
- No spoilers!
- Use clichés.
- Make comparisons to bestselling books or authors, this is up to the book sellers to do, don’t allow anyone to think that your ideas aren’t original.
What do published authors say?
In order to give the best possible advice in my series of ‘how to write the best…’ I’ve contacted lots of authors – some published, some seeking publication and some self-published. My experience since I started this new career is that the writing (and editing) community is extremely helpful and really friendly. If you aren’t already on Twitter I’d encourage you to join and use #amwriting or #writingcommunity, you’ll be amazed at the amount of fellow writers there and the support you’ll get from them.
All of the authors I spoke to agreed that the process of writing their blurb wasn’t easy. Some of the self-published writers had joined an online group for help and also relied on friends and colleagues for critique and feedback. Successful author, Conrad Jones explained that he wrote his own blurbs, until his 12th book! Now that he is more well-established, it is more of a collaboration – between him, his editors and publishers. He believes that a combined effort produces the best blurb, as what works for him isn’t always what the reader is attracted to. Carmen Radtke agrees that the collaborative approach works for her – she uses another author and friend as an editor and sounding board to come up with the best possible blurb.
Get in touch if you’d like to talk about your blurb or feel free to comment with examples of blurbs that have attracted you.