I’ve been working on blurbs for some upcoming releases these past couple weeks, so the topic of this week’s Pen to Pen post by gay-romance writer Clare London has been fresh on my mind. She’s got some great tips for luring in new readers with the power of your words. And since you’re a writer, isn’t that what you were born to do? —Dale
Write Blurbs that Sell More Books
by Clare London
My son (as a child!) used to call them Blubs—my hubby calls them The Waffle. Both are referring to the blurb on the marketing of a book.
It’s just a brief summary isn’t it? Guidance as to what the book’s about?
Don’t Underestimate the Power of the Blurb!
It’s the part of writing a lot of us hate—how do we squeeze all that book into 200-odd words and why the hell should we?—and I’ve helped out a few fellow authors recently. It’s as much a struggle for me, believe me, but I’m starting to enjoy it. And whether you publish with an agent or not, with a traditional publisher, small press, or independently, you’ll always be asked for input on a blurb.
After all, you’re the one who knows the book best!
In selling a book, the cover initially catches the eye, but the blurb reels the reader in. Examine your own buying habits!
I’ll be drawn by a cover, then will look immediately at the blurb. I need to know it’s not a book about a genre I don’t like (though the blurb may tempt me to try).
Then—thanks to Amazon’s “read inside” option—I’ll read a sample to judge whether I’ll like the style. Again, the Blurb links in with this. A bland blurb (try saying that after six glasses of new year Prosecco) probably won’t persuade me that this is a fresh new telling of one of the main tropes of fictionlandia.
For example, do you think…
Janette woke up at six, washed and brushed her teeth, then took the No. 65 to work in the local supermarket. At around 11 o’clock while she was stacking tins of beans in Aisle No. 32, she saw a young man watching her. She thought he was really handsome, but then he suddenly grabbed her arm and started pulling her out of the store behind him.
… could be better as? ….
Janette’s life was routine and, sad to say, quite ordinary, until the day she was snatched against her will from Aisle 32 of the local supermarket, by possibly the most attractive young man she’d ever met in her life—at least, he would have been, if he wasn’t pointing a gun at her head.
I often write the blurb at an early stage of a book. It’s a different animal from a synopsis, but it helps me lock in the feel and voice of the characters.
Guidelines for Writing a Blurb
Here are some of the basic rules I follow, but of course it’s all up to your own style.
- Keep the sentences snappy—you don’t want your reader to be confused before they’ve even started.
- Mention only the main characters, for the same reason.
- Use words that are emotive, exciting, dramatic.
- Find a few key words (only) for each of the main characters, and also the theme. Evocative words, rather than description.
I use three paragraphs usually, in this pattern:
- About Character #1 and the tension in his/her life
- About Character #2 and the tension in his/her life
- What they face together, and a sentence to sum up the story in its entirety.
Your blurb should address:
- The genre (romantic suspense/romance/crime/paranormal etc.)
- Your main characters/protagonists
- The overall mood of the book (hard-boiled/sweet/erotic/thrilling)
What to Skip in Your Blurb
Include spoilers?? Definitely not! We’ve all read blurbs/reviews and seen movie trailers that show so much, you don’t feel you need to see the whole thing.
Intrigue the reader, if you can, though try not to manufacture melodrama. Will self-employed accountant and author Clare ever manage to escape the rabid werewolf and paddle up the Amazon in time to save the world?
Don’t lie! How annoying is it when you buy what appears to be a thriller but the drama is wrapped up in three chapters and the rest is steady plodding?
Final Thoughts on the Power of the Blurb
Look on your blurb as a sales pitch in itself—as a mini story.
Use it to showcase your style, with a thrilling race against time rather than a trip to her auntie’s.
If your character is snarky, reflect that in the blurb. If s/he’s under pressure, use a clipped tone.
Good luck, and good blurbing! (Yes, it’s a word; I just invented it.)
About Clare London
Clare London took her pen name from the city where she lives, loves, and writes. A lone, brave female in a frenetic, testosterone-fuelled family home, she juggles her writing with her other day job as an accountant.
She’s written in many genres and across many settings, with award-winning novels and short stories published both online and in print. She says she likes variety in her writing while friends say she’s just fickle, but as long as both theories spawn good fiction, she’s happy. Most of her work features male/male romance and drama with a healthy serving of physical passion, as she enjoys both reading and writing about strong, sympathetic, and sexy characters.
Clare loves to hear from readers, and you can contact her here:
Photo at top of post by Stanley Dai on Unsplash.
6 thoughts on “Pen to Pen: Write Blurbs that Sell More Books with Clare London”
I love blurbing as a verb 😉 good article. I found the bullets helpful.
This reminds me of the classic Calvin & Hobbes cartoon: http://www.strangehorizons.com/2006/20060313/verbing_weirds_language.gif (via Two Views: The Complete Calvin and Hobbes by Bill Watterson.
Excellent advice! Not to mention very true. Thank you for sharing it! Also, thank you, Dale, for bringing this helpful blog to our attention!
My pleasure! I learned a lot from it too!
LOL I think we should all aim to add new words to the world’s vocabulary 🙂
rhodrymavelyn: many thanks! I’ve actually grown to *like* blurbing over the years, though I know so many authors dread it.