The Little Blurb That Could
Ah…the little gem that is the book blurb (or book synopsis/summary). It can be a total pain to write, especially if you’re the author and are expected to write it yourself. Not everyone has a great editing/publishing team behind him/her to write the inescapable book blurb, but I promise you that with some practice—and my guidance—writing a compelling book blurb doesn’t have to be very painful.
As an aside, I really don’t care what everyone else says about book blurbs—though I’ve included a link to a post about blurbs below. I think that when we get too caught up in the opinions of others, we get sidelined and confused. That being said, as a trained copywriter, former marketer, and someone who has been writing quite a few book blurbs this year, I’ve come to understand what does and doesn’t work in regards to writing a “hooky” summary for a book.
Let’s begin, shall we? Here are my 3 tips, and then I’ll give you some actual structure so you can create your own blurb.
1. Write it in present tense
Writing a book blurb in present tense (which is standard practice, by the way) gives the reader a sense of urgency AND puts him/her right there with the story. It doesn’t matter if you have written a book in past tense; you MUST write your blurb in present! Don’t switch the tense, and try to avoid first person pronouns. I’m sure it can be effective to do so once in a while, but the ones I’ve read that are styled in that way just make me cringe. Please don’t make me cringe.
2. Make it concise
Do you know what a log line is? It’s typically the one-liner for a movie, or even your book’s “elevator pitch.” Nowadays, you can think of it as the tweet-sized summary of your book. When you start writing a blurb with a log line in mind, you can build from there.
After you’re satisfied with your log line, write a few more sentences (or bullet points, if you prefer). In my opinion, 4-5 sentences are great for your book’s summary, but sometimes less OR more is needed. Proceed with caution and test it out on others as you revise. If you write too many sentences, you’ll need to take out your editing cutting board and chop the heck out of the blurb until all the excess junk is gone.
3. Remember that you’re SELLING something (AKA: copywriting)
WHAT, exactly, makes me want to read your book? Don’t tell me the obvious. When you do so, you make me feel like an idiot, and I’m actually a very smart person. Give me a few details while giving me the overall arc of the story. Make me want MORE from you. Make me want to wrap myself like a burrito in a fleece blanket next to a blazing fireplace while holding onto your book for dear life, eager to turn page after page. That, my dear writer, is what your book’s life goal should be. And please don’t give away the ending!
Don’t be scared of that word “copywriting,” either. It’s not complicated, really. Think about your favorite product, book, thing…whatever. Now, think of all the times you became an evangelist for that thing. How did you get someone else to try this life-changing thing? Incorporate that passion and knowledge into writing your book blurb. You MUST become an evangelist for your book, because no one else will be as fanatical about it if you’re not. And, if you don’t feel that way in the first place, why are you writing a book? For reals. *gives you my best evil eye glare*
But, Teacher, How Do I Actually Write The Book Blurb?
So, now that you know the top 3 things to take into account, how do you actually write the bloody thing?
- Think about the important things to highlight about your story—what makes me, the reader, want to read your book? Write down those things using a numbered or bulleted list. Then, limit it to 3-5 points. (I like writing things out on paper, but if you’re more of a “type everything” person, do what makes you comfortable.)
- Take your points and make them full sentences. Then, play around with order. You may find the final sentence would actually be better placed at the beginning.
- Though the whole blurb will be in present tense, thus already making it have a level of urgency, be intentional about conveying a sense of urgency in every sentence. You can do this by remembering what most of us were taught in elementary English class essay structure: use the proverbial “attention getter.” Sometimes, I like to use a question to garner the interest of potential readers. If they have a question that they want to find the answer to, chances are they’ll pick up your book to find out.
- When you have some strong, clear, and concise sentences, string them together to see if they make sense. Then, edit the crap out of them until you are ready to let someone else (or a few someone elses) look over it for you.
- Test it out. Send to friends, family members, or even your arch nemesis. Tell them to pretend it’s not you who wrote it, so they’ll give you truthful feedback rather than a cupcake-with-lots-of-frosting pat on the back. Remember: if you can’t take even a small amount of criticism about a book blurb, imagine how much crying you’ll do if people don’t like your book. WRITING IS NOT FOR THE WEAK OF HEART—or the easily offended, for that matter! Take it all in stride and revise and perfect as necessary. (And, for good measure, I’ll still love you even if you don’t take my advice. RUDE.)
If you feel so inclined to read more about writing a book blurb, here is a post on the subject from CreateSpace: https://forums.createspace.com/en/community/community/resources/blog/2014/10/21/how-to-craft-a-compelling-book-description
Of course, before testing it out on others, check your spelling and grammar. If you’re lucky enough to know someone in marketing and/or advertising, ask if they’ll take a look at it for you. OR if you know a copywriter, and they’re willing to read it, send it their way!
Until you become more accustomed to writing blurbs with ease, I’m afraid that the best thing to do is keep practicing over and over. Also, take note of blurbs you think are great. Study them, analyze them, deconstruct and reconstruct them. It’s taken me a few years to become decent at writing blurbs, but I would never call myself a “master.” Yes, I have a natural affinity for the written word, but I still have to practice to make even writing a blog post look easy. But, if you want to think I’m just naturally brilliant, well, hey…who am I to stop you?
What’s that, you say? You want to see an example of a book blurb? Glad you asked! Your wish is my command. Just click your ruby red heels together three times and…
An Actual Example Of Revising A Blurb For A Client:
Original blurb (NOT created by me):
Three remarkable women are faced with challenges concerning their faith, love, and friendships. Jasmine is a wealthy doctor who is the head of her own medical practice, and she is happily married. Topper is single and promiscuous. She is determined to have all of the finer things in life, at any price. Life suddenly changes when her 17-year-old daughter wants to live with her. Monica is a successful educator at an exclusive private school, is married, and has a teenage daughter who struggles with a healthy self-image. Throughout the story, the ladies learn that they can conquer any circumstance through the love of God and the support of one another.
Is it really possible to have it all? Jasmine is a happily married, wealthy doctor, who is the head of her own medical practice. But when her Yale honor student daughter starts to develop mysterious mood swings and a nonchalant attitude about maintaining good grades, Jasmine’s perfect little world comes crashing down as she tries to hold her family together. Topper, an extremely gifted makeup artist who struggles with alcohol abuse and promiscuity, is about to get everything she wants. She is determined to have the finer things in life—at any price—but her dreams come to a sudden halt when her estranged 17-year-old daughter wants to come live with her. Monica, a successful educator at an exclusive private school, seems to have the perfect relationship with her husband who treats her like a queen. But their teenage daughter struggles with a healthy self-image, and is harboring a dark secret under the guise of binge eating. As the women face painful challenges and unexpected life lessons, they learn what it really means to rely on God—and a deep bond of friendship—in order to find their happy ending.
The revision was a bit longer than I usually prefer, but, hey…sometimes that happens. Notice how I began with a question and didn’t give away the ending. THAT’S what you should be aiming for.
Did you like what you read? Do you think I could work some magic for you? HIRE ME so I can buy myself chocolate, because my friends don’t!
You can HIRE ME by contacting me HERE.
And, if you have something to add to the conversation about writing book blurbs, leave a comment below. 🙂 Unless you’re a spammy bot, that is.
All images via Meme Generator.