If there’s one thing authors hate more than bad reviews and empty coffee mugs, it’s writing a book blurb.
Book blurbs are the paragraphs on the back cover that grabs the reader’s attention and gives them a taste of the story within, and a well-crafted blurb will do more to sell a book than any other marketing tactic out there.
However, what constitutes a well-crafted blurb? And why do they seem to be the bane of an author’s existence?
Well, it all comes down to compression.
The goal of a blurb is to introduce characters, outline the plot, and provide a hook for the reader without revealing spoilers. Otherwise, there’d be no reason to read beyond the back cover.
But how do you actually write a blurb?
Step 1: Know Your Genre.
Every book is different, and that difference will impact the style and language of the blurb.
For example, if you’re writing a non-fiction book about foraging for herbs, you don’t want to use the same language or style as an erotica novel set in the 1800s.
Using one genre style to define a different genre will confuse the readers and make them leave your work on the shelves for something more cohesive. So, before writing the blurb, do a keyword search for your book and see what other authors have done. Check out the language and structure used in their blurbs, peep the popularity, and use that info to guide your blurb.
Step 2: Know Your Audience
People buy books for a reason, and your book is no exception. However, in order to make sure it falls into the right hands, you need to know WHY someone would buy your work.
A person reads for several reasons, but the big three are Entertainment, Information, and Escapism.
- Entertainment because of the drama, comedy, mystery, and exciting emotions that reading can bring.
- Information because books are fountains of knowledge and can cover virtually any topic known to man.
- Escapeism because it’s nice to retreat into someone else’s world for a few precious moments of peace.
When you know why your ideal audience reads, you’ll have a better idea of how to craft a blurb that will grab their attention.
Step 3: Use a Snappy Opener or Hook
If you don’t have their attention by the first sentence, you’ll never have it. The first sentence is the hook that makes a reader go: “huh, I wonder what this book is about,” and keep reading.
Start your blurb with something dramatic (if fiction) or that showcases your expertise (if non-fiction).
For example, here’s the first line of the blurb from The Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins:
“In the ruins of a place once known as North America lies the nation of Panem, a shining Capitol surrounded by twelve outlying districts.”
Right off the bat, we learn two things:
- Something terrible happened to the world, but the people survived and rebuilt.
- The outlying districts aren’t as “shiny” as the capital, implying classism and potential intrigue.
It’s a great hook that prompts the reader to read more, and you can use a similar one to entice your audience.
Take some time to craft the perfect hook. Don’t worry about summarizing your plot into a single sentence- instead, try to capture the hearts and minds of your readers. You could ask a question, describe the setting (like the hook above), or introduce your characters and their troubles.
Once you find the right hook, the rest of the blurb is a breeze!
Step 4: Use Third Person
Even if you write the book in the first person, you want to use the third person to write the blurb.
The third person point of view lets the reader glimpse the bigger picture and helps pique their curiosity. It’s also easier to describe the drama, introduce the characters, and insert emotion than any other POV- making it the perfect bait for your target audience.
Step 5: Try the Formula
Instead of throwing sentences together willy-nilly, try crafting your blurb using this formula from the Self Publishing School website:
- Situation–introduce your character. Who are they, where are they, and what are they doing?
- Problem–what pressing issue does your character have to face?
- Obstacles–what’s stopping them from solving the problem?
- Stakes–what does the character have to lose?
If your blurb seems well-crafted and cohesive, then there’s a chance that potential readers will believe your book is as well. Plus, it’s nice to have a structure for your blurb- otherwise, you may have trouble organizing your thoughts!
Step 5: Check your Word Count
Blurbs aren’t long by nature, so watch that word count!
According to Amazon’s book guidelines, a blurb for print and Ebooks should run around 150 words, but you can use less (or slightly more) if needed.
I’d stick to a minimum of 80 words and a maximum of 200- that way, you’re not overloading the reader with information, but you’re not selling yourself short, either.
Besides, you can do a lot with 150 words if you choose them carefully!
Step 6: Ask for Advice!
Another pair of eyes can be the difference between a well-crafted blurb and a string of incoherent words, so don’t be afraid to ask for critiques and feedback on your blurbs!
Reach out to beta readers, proofreaders, editors, and anyone else who’s read your work. They know the story, so they’ll be more equipped to give constructive criticism than some random person you met in the writing group on Facebook (though their advice could be helpful).
Ask them if the blurb accurately reflects the tone of the book, if the hook is effective, and if there are any spoilers you may have missed. Then, use their advice (with a grain of salt) to make your blurb truly unforgettable!
Book blurbs may be the bane of every author’s existence, but they don’t have to be! By using the advice above, you’ll soon have a blurb that’s enticing, well-crafted, and will draw the readers in like a magnet!
All you have to do is get writing!