Blurb writing is an extremely important, necessary and difficult to do. Your book needs it as it is the selling point and a badly written book description can deter people from buying it. I know it has stopped me in the past. I have been doing some research and I have complied all that I have learned in this post along with a workbook to help you.
I have recently been asked by one of my lovely author friends to help her review her blurb she had written for her self published books. It got me thinking about the science behind the makings of an intriguing blurb. I have taken two books from my shelf which I personally think have great book descriptions and with their help I will show you what makes a eye catching blurb. The first is The Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins and the second is Red Queen by Victoria Aveyard. The latter I initially picked up for the cover, but once I turned it over and read the blurb, I distinctly remember nodding to myself and thinking ‘damn that’s a well written blurb’. I bought it two seconds later.
Before You Start Writing
Don’t put pen to paper before you get these things straight. I suggest you write the answers down and use the workbook available to download for free below.
- Who is the main character/s?
- What is the characters objective?
- What is the setting?
- What is the main problem?
- What are other main areas of conflict?
- What is the possible solution?
What will intrigue the reader for more? Are there elements of mystery caused by the setting, character themselves or the problem? (Can hint to subplots)
What You Should Keep in Mind
- Keep your blurb within 250 words.
- It is okay to use quotes, but usually in place of the Tagline.
- Don’t give away spoilers.
- Never begin by saying “In a world”.
- Don’t talk about yourself in the blurb
- Don’t compare your work to another writer
- Don’t say, “You would love this book because” or “you should read this book because”.
- Your blurb cannot be just quotes or an excerpt.
- Just talk about the main plot, not subplots (can hint to subplots if relevant i.e. Red Queen).
Using the information gleaned from the above questions you should follow this particular formula:
- Tag line
The Hunger Games: “Winning will make you famous. Losing means certain death.”
Red Queen: “This is a world divided by blood- red or silver.”
I love blurbs with taglines, especially well written ones. The tagline should emulate the essence of the plot (The Hunger Games) or succinctly describes the nature of your complex world (Red Queen).
- Describe Your Setting
The Hunger Games: “In a dark vision of the near future, a terrifying reality TV Show is taking place. Twelve boys and twelve girls are forced to appear in a live event called the Hunger Games. There is only one rule: kill or be killed.”
Red Queen: “Reds are commoners, ruled by a Silver elite in possession of god-like superpowers. And to Mare Barrow, a seventeen year old Red girl from the poverty stricken Stilts, it seems like nothing will ever change.”
This should be short and approximately three lines. You want to get the landscape of your book in its essentials and it would be handy writing these down as dot points before turning it into the first blurb paragraph.
- Introduce the problem
The Hunger Games: “When sixteen year old Katniss Everdeen steps forward to take her sister’s place in the games, she sees it as a death sentence.”
Red Queen: “That is, until a twist of fate brings her before the Silver court. Here, surrounded by the people she hates the most, Mare discovers that despite her red blood, she possesses a deadly ability of her own.”
This is why people are reading your book- to see how you came up with the problem and the way the characters overcome it. You should talk about the pivotal moment that sets them on their course. With any spec-fic it can be hard to choose what that moment is, however let me clarify it should be your first plot point.
- Introduce a possible solution
Red Queen: “Fearful of Mare’s potential, the king hides her in plain view: betrothed to his youngest son. Trapped, Mare decides to use her new position to bring down the regime- from the inside.”
As you can see, I included only Red Queen in this section as The Hunger Games introduces a possible solution in the same line as the element below.
This section of the blurb should show how your character will turn the bad situation into one which they can work to their advantage. It is a good to maintain as aloof as possible but not too much... Tell them what they need to know. I have read blurbs that describe the problem and solution in one sentence. To me, it is frustrating beyond belief when they do this, but I can see how many authors can fall into the trap because they think they are inciting intrigue. But they are not, they are just making their blurb fall short and therefore, making the reader think that the book will also not live up to expectations.
- Incite the intriguing elements, promise of mystery or questions to be answered
The Hunger Games: “But Katniss has been close to death before. For her, survival is second nature.”
For me, when I read this I gasp and think about what the author means by this? I really want to know why she has been close to death and if she can survive the main plot problem.
Red Queen: “But this is a game of betrayal and lies, and Mare has entered a dangerous dance- Reds against Silvers, prince against prince, and Mare against her own heart...”
When I read this, it shows the complexity of the elements within the book and shows the various hurdles the character has to go through. I instantly want to know about the intricate lives of the characters and to see the outcome of this struggle.
You can play around with this to make sure you are pointing out important and intriguing things. You want to create mystery and most importantly you want people to care about what you are writing about. This is where you hint to (The Hunger Games) or explicitly state (Red Queen) other elements your book explores.
I hope this helps you and if you want to share with me the blurbs you have written to see if it grabs me, send them my way! You are absolutely welcome to and people are already doing it, so don’t be bashful.
Email me at: firstname.lastname@example.org