I’m sure you love writing blurbs (book descriptions) for your novels. No? Join the club. I hate them too. Here’s a secret: I procrastinate on blurbs more than on anything else in my fiction.
Last week we discussed blurb-writing at our writers’ group, and came up with some great tips. They should make writing blurbs a lot easier.
You may decide, as I did, that you’d add “blurb-revision” to your To Do list for your currently published novels.
Writing blurbs for your fiction: start with people
To prepare for our discussion of blurbs, we each collected two blurbs we thought were excellent. This meant that we had quite a collection of blurbs to analyze.
Firstly, we discovered that the blurbs we liked most focused on the characters. If a blurb featured an intriguing character, we were much more likely to check out Amazon’s Look Inside excerpt.
Here are our tips, in no special order.
1. People: we read to learn about people
This was our top tip, and the tip which impressed me most.
All the favorite blurbs we’d collected featured the story’s characters — they were people we wanted to know more about.
One fantasy writer had a light-bulb moment. His novels weren’t selling. He decided that he’d revise all his blurbs, so that they starred his characters, rather than the worlds of magic and mystery he’d created.
2. Forget the synopsis, remember the mood
Another author had a light-bulb moment too: “I’ve been trying to squash my story into the blurb — I don’t have to do that.”
Yes. If you’ve been summarizing the plot in your blurb, avoid that. Your blurb is a tease. You might want to include a synopsis of your novel when you’re creating a book proposal for a traditional publisher, but you should avoid it in your blurb.
Here’s what’s important: mood.
Read the blurbs of bestsellers in your genre. Look for blurbs which nail the mood of the genre:
- Thrillers: excitement;
- Romance: duh… romance :-):
- Mystery: intrigue readers.
3. Write the blurb first, before you write your novel
I’ve started to do this, primarily because I hate writing blurbs.
I found that when I wrote just 200 words of a blurb — even if the novel ended up completely different — not only did it make writing the “real” blurb easier, I had an easier time with plotting the novel too.
4. Remember: yes to situation, no to plot
Speaking of your plot. Avoid retelling your plot, as you’d avoid a synopsis. The world’s most amazing plot can make your eyes glaze over when you relate it moment by moment.
Instead, focus on the situation.
Here’s an example of a wonderful situation, from the blurb for Agatha Christie’s famous novel, Murder on the Orient Express:
Just after midnight, a snowdrift stops the Orient Express in its tracks. The luxurious train is surprisingly full for the time of the year, but by the morning it is one passenger fewer. An American tycoon lies dead in his compartment, stabbed a dozen times, his door locked from the inside.
5. Add a Call to Action (CTA) at the end of your blurb
This is good advice. It came from an author who’s heavily into Amazon ads (AMS.) I intend to try this tip too.
This author told us that he’d revised his blurbs to include a CTA when he saw what a difference a CTA made in the results of his advertising.
Here are some examples of CTAs, I’m sure you can come up with lots of your own:
- To discover why…
- Wondering what happens next?
- And then, when…
You can eliminate the paralyzing terror from writing blurbs
Since I’m such a coward when it comes to writing blurbs, I decided to write some for book ideas I’d developed in various genres. After writing a dozen, my terror has gone, and my inspiration has risen.
Try it yourself. When you practice writing blurbs, you’ll enjoy writing them, and you might just become inspired.