Friday, January 30, 2015

How to Write a Blurb for your Book

Writing a blurb for your own book can be agony. As authors we know every strength and flaw of our characters, we know their motivations, and their actions. We even know their innermost thoughts and feelings.  I think this is one reason some of us find it so difficult to boil our work down into a one or two paragraph blurb. We simply know too much.

But blurb-writing is a skill that can--and must--be learned.  My first editor had to write my first blurb, how embarrassing.

Now, I think I've got it figured out.

I start with a synopsis of the entire book--usually one or two pages. I've usually done this part already, epecially if the book has been submitted to a publisher or agent. But if you haven't done the synopsis yet, don't despair, simply use the 5 Ws to describe the book: Who, What, When, Where, and Why. Write it quickly, without worrying about sentence structure or punctuation (you can rewrite it later if you want to keep it). And yes, this step looks a lot like free-writing.

When you are finished, put it aside for a day or more. Then come back, pull it out, and see what rings true. You may be surprised to find how much of what you wrote now seems superfluous.

Now edit, edit, edit. Narrow it down to the three most important ideas: who is doing what and why.  That's all. Once you have answered those three questions in your own lovely prose, you've got your blurb.

I use this fill-in-the blank sentence: My novel is about ________ who must ________ in order to ________.

Now, simply expand on that sentence. Make every word count. For example. I used that sentence to write the blurb for my book ALL FOR LOVE. It looked like this: My novel is about Liz who must learn to let go of the past in order to survive

Here's the blurb I wound up with: Liz falls in love with Quinn the moment they meet in college.  He professes to love her, too.  She begins to think about the future, but his past rips them apart.  What Liz does next impacts the rest of their lives, but she feels it is the only way… she does it all for love.

Remember, this is the paragraph that will sell—or not sell—your book. If it’s dull, the reader probably won’t take the bait. You’ve got to make certain you hook the reader.  Many times they are simply trolling for entertainment. First, they will see your gorgeous, eye-catching cover and short, snappy title, then they will check out the blurb. If you’ve done your job and the blurb hooks them, along with the tagline, a topic for another blogpost, then they will either go to the reviews or proceed directly to the sample pages.

I don't know about you, but I seldom buy a book without reading a few sample pages first. But first, I have to fall in love with the blurb!