Of all the posts I’ve written on my blog over the last two years, the one that shows up again and again in my stats for visits is Back Cover Blurbs.
How hard can it be to write a back cover blurb? You’ve lived with your book and its characters for all this time, surely you can sum up what the book is about in three catchy paragraphs that will make someone want to read more? Only, you can’t tell anyone what happens, or they won’t need to read your book. And if you tell them the wrong thing, they’ll decide it isn’t for them. And if you don’t give it enough sizzle, they’ll think you and your book are boring... But too much sizzle may make readers think there’s nothing in your book except sex.
Hmm. Some readers might like a book about nothing except sex. (Makes note to self).
So keep this in mind: All the blurb lives for is to get readers to buy the book. Easy-peezy, lemon-squeezy.
I found some great ideas for blurb writing at: http://www.palmerhiggs.com.au/blog/back-cover-blurbs-sell-your-book
They say you should start with two questions:
1) Who is your book being marketed to?
2) What is the most interesting aspect of your book?
Palmer Higgs also told me about the one-third rule, which says don’t reveal anything in the blurb that occurs more than one-third of the way through the book.
Palmer Higgs has more tips like avoiding cliches, avoiding using too much detail, using evocative words and using active instead of passive verbs (but we’re writers, we know that bit, right?)
But if you look on Amazon at the moment, it looks to me as if the rule book about blurbs (if there ever was one) has been thrown out completely. I’ve seen ‘description’ sections that begin with “From the best-selling author of X,Y or Z comes this ball-tearing thriller that Hunger Games fans will love...”
I think that’s cheating! But if it sells your book... why the hell not?
The other trend I’m seeing at Amazon is to use the book description to quote from reviews, as if what someone else has thought about the book can pack more of a sales pitch than what the book is actually about. I’m currently trying this style with my Fairway To Heaven e-book, with two reviewer quotes leading the description. At this stage, my jury is still out.
And length! How damn long is a blurb supposed to be? Palmer Higgs says, for a short novel, two to three paragraphs, and for a longer novel, three to four paragraphs. Okay, so now you have to decide whether 80,000 words is long or short. For me, I wrote my The Goodbye Ride novella at 32,000 words and so gave it a three-paragraph blurb. For my two longer novels I wrote four-paragraph blurbs. For structure, I recommend the following:
First paragraph — Introduce characters and give basic plot outline.
Second paragraph — More detailed plot outline (what is the conflict/dilemma/challenge of the characters).
Third paragraph — It can be effective to have questions here, and you see that a lot in blurbs. I tried it with The Goodbye Ride: How far will Liv go to make the motorbike hers, and is the Queen's Birthday Long Weekend long enough for Owen to convince Liv he's interested in more than just a holiday fling?
What do you think? Do you have a great tip about blurb writing? Have you ever seen The Ultimate Must-buy-book-now Blurb? I’ll offer a prize of Fairway To Heaven (e-book) for a truly great blurb example if you mention it below.
Happy blurbing. (I really wish someone would come up with a better name for these darn things than ‘blurb’... if you think of something tell us in the comments and the ninjas will find another prize for you. There must be a merkin floating around here somewhere!)