What is a blurb? It’s a bit of copy designed to make readers want to buy a book. Authors spend hours poring over 3-10 sentences to tweak them for maximum impact without giving away the story while remaining true to said story. We take classes on this, float them with our fellow sufferers, and think hard about hitting things. Then we give up, barf the stuff out because we have to, and move on.
Why do we hate them?
>I’m a fiction writer, Jim. Not a copywriter.
>I just spent 3-9 months writing and revising this book, and now you want it condensed into a snappy few paragraphs? *rage-filled bellow*
>“Buy this book, it’s awesome.” doesn’t work. Damn you, reader. Damn you.
Some tips to help you get your blurb going:
1. Make a list of all the words that might apply to your book’s theme, plot, and characters. Include nouns (proper or not), adjectives, and verbs.
2. If your book has more than one main character, pick the most important one or two. If you pick two, be aware most readers will expect a romantic plot or subplot involving them, unless you make it clear that won’t happen. Mention they’re siblings, bitter enemies, or whatever.
3. Avoid the verb “to be”. In fiction writing, you generally avoid this verb anyway, right? (Hint: you should. Only use it when there’s no better verb to express something.) This verb is nothing more than an equal sign. Your blurb needs action words loaded with meaning.
4. If you write for an age category that isn’t adults, the main character needs their age stated. Such as, “Sixteen-year-old Claire wants her father back.” If, instead, you write for adults, do not include the age of your protagonist. Likewise, if you write about non-human beings, age is irrelevant.
5. Go to Amazon and browse to the appropriate subcategory for your book. Read some blurbs. Get the feel for how they sound and look.
6. Read this: http://graemeshimmin.com/writing-a-logline-for-a-novel/
7. Use the logline from Step 6 and your word list as a starting point. Barf up a couple of paragraphs. Try to hit about 200 words. Anywhere between 100 and 400 is fine, but 200 is a good length. Avoid giving away spoilers, twists, or the plot. Don’t summarize. Instead, set the stage. Who is the protagonist? What are the stakes of their journey What’s super-cool about that journey? What kind of book is it (mention the fantasy kingdom, the dragons, the space station, the backwoods resort, or whatever to give readers an extra clue about the genre)? Anything that happens in the first 3-4 chapters is fair game, but don’t bring up stuff from later in the book.
8. As with all writing, let someone else read it. Preferably, ask veteran indie authors to read it and offer suggestions.
9. Revise it 1-500000 times.
Yay! You’re done!
Even though this is a short piece of work, set aside an entire day to get to Step 8. Writing a blurb is like writing poetry, in that every word has to be deliberate and packed with meaning. It also needs to sell the book, which is hard work when you normally write fiction. Take your time and get feedback, even after you’ve been doing it for a while.
Lee French lives in Olympia, WA with two kids, two bicycles, and too much stuff. She has published over a dozen fantasy and science fiction titles, including the bestselling SPIRIT KNIGHTS young adult urban fantasy series. She is an active member of the Northwest Independent Writers Association (niwawriters.com), the Science Fiction and Fantasy Writers of America (sfwa.org), and the Olympia Area Writers Coop, as well as being one of two Municipal Liaisons for the NaNoWriMo Olympia region and a founding member of Clockwork Dragon Books. Find out more about her work at authorleefrench.com.