12 Tips for writing effective book blurbs
Following on from last week's post on book blurbs (those pesky but very necessary teasers that are used in query letters and back copy / book descriptions on retailer websites) here are some more handy tips on how to write effective blurbs:
Read other blurbs. Head on over to Amazon and read lots of blurbs for the best-selling books in your genre. What works for you, and what doesn’t? What entices you to read the book?
Practice. Try writing and re-writing your own. Good blurbs aren’t dashed off in ten minutes and never thought of again – they’re worked and re-worked and tweaked until they sing. Writing a really good blurb should take as long as writing an entire chapter!
The One Third rule: don’t reveal more than a third of the story. If you give it all away, why would anyone still want to read the book?
Always write your blurb in present tense.
Make use of white space. Great big blocks of text are off-putting to readers, so when writing blurbs for retailer websites, break your text into shorter paragraphs.
Avoid long, run-on sentences. Just because you're limited to a few sentences doesn’t mean you need to make each sentence 100 words long so you can cram all the sub-plots into your query letter. This is a teaser, not a synopsis.
Show rather than Tell. It’s tempting to want to tell the story, but Showing will engage the reader more. Use your own voice, not a narrator style that is completely divorced from the book they’ll be getting.
Do NOT give in to the urge to tell us how great your story is. Don't waste precious word count telling a prospective agent that 'this is better than The Hunger Games' or 'the best thriller you will ever read'. Leave the praise for your reviews. Saying 'This is a fast-paced read which will make you laugh and cry' won't be believable if the blurb is long-winded, so show us fast-paced, or fill the blurb with emotion if your book is a tearjerker. Especially do not say 'this is the laugh-out-loud romantic comedy of the year' if the blurb is dry and dull!
Include a hook. What is the most interesting aspect of your book? Is it an unusual trope or setting, a moral dilemma, a plot twist? Use that as a starting point to build your blurb. For example, my book Last of the Summer Vines could be described as 'a workaholic fixes up a house she inherited and re-discovers herself along the way' but that's nowhere near as enticing as mentioning that the book is set in Tuscany. Read the blurb in last week's post and you'll notice how the setting suffuses the blurb. If you’re not sure what is unique about your book, because you’re still too close to the story, then ask a beta reader to tell you what they think makes your story unique.
Avoid tired, over-used phrases like 'this is a story of love, life and redemption'. Editors and agents see dozens of new query letters every day, and readers have their pick of thousands of books, so make yours fresh and unique so that it stands out from the crowd.
Be specific. Don't use vague phrases like 'her life turned upside down' or 'she got more than she bargained for'. Your blurb is more likely to attract attention if, rather than telling us 'she is haunted by the demons of the past', you say 'she is haunted by the loss of her twin in a freak hiking accident'.
Who’s story is this? Keep your blurb relevant to the main character's story. Avoid any characters other than the hero/heroine and don't mention the sub-plots. Notice how this blurb for the movie Sweet Home Alabama mentions the heroine and her ex-husband, and that's it. No mention of her soon-to-be groom, her future mother-in-law, her BFFs, or her parents. That's information you leave for the synopsis or the actual book.
Do you have any other tips for writing attention-grabbing blurbs? Do you have an example of a book blurb that was so good it made you want to buy the book right away? Share them in the comments below.