Tips on Writing an Engaging Book Blurb
What is a Blurb?
A blurb is the short description of a book usually found on the back cover of the book, the inside jacket of a hardcover or online as the brief text that describes what the book is about.
Blurb writing is more fun than writing the actual book for some. You can liken it to the voice in movie trailers than describes the movie. Writing a blurb is almost like writing a script for the voice actor in your very own trailer. The blurb is how you seduce the reader and persuade them into reading your book. Convince them that the book they hold in their hands is the book they must own.
Your blurb should be about 250 words (word count greatly depends on the publisher’s preferences). A brief overview of your book keeps the reader’s attention longer than an extensive overview.
Your blurb should consist of three or four paragraphs. Each paragraph should typically go like this:
First paragraph: introduce your character and the setting.
Second paragraph: set the mood and the conflict.
Third paragraph: steer toward the resolution and keep the reader wanting more.
Use these paragraphs to answer or ask the vital questions: Who, what, where, how and why?
Below is a blurb from a YA romance novel I wrote in 2007. I will dissect the blurb and point out the good things and the not-so-good things to instruct you better.
Being an African American senior in high school and a victim of racism for most of her life, Brandy turns to her beloved journal to express her thoughts.
When Brandy develops a crush on Ian, the most attractive boy in school, she decides to befriend him. She then realizes that being friends with Ian isn’t as easy as it once seemed. In Ian’s eyes, being privileged is being well known, handsome, and white, all of which he is. He fears that being friends with Brandy will destroy his reputation.
A math quiz starts the beginning of a series of tutoring sessions that brings the two together, but it also starts a series of assaults on Brandy and Ian that are fueled by hate. Brandy’s left to wonder if her written thoughts can help heal her pain, and if fate would allow two teens to fall in love against the odds.
Rule 1: Do not give away too much of the plot, twists, or ending.
Rule 2: Hook the reader. The first line should pull them in. Ask a question or state something controversial.
The first paragraph of the blurb above sets the story but can use a boost in holding the readers attention. Today, I would rewrite it like this:
What if you were an African American senior in high school and a victim of racism for most of your life?
A question automatically makes the reader imagine himself in that situation and put him in the right frame of mind for the story. Another rewrite:
“Is my black face as foul as they say it is?” Brandy writes in her journal. That beloved journal allows Brandy to feel human along with the feelings she has for Ian, the most attractive boy in school.
With this rewrite, you get the overwhelming sense of what Brandy has been through in her life. The quote is enough to wow you into reading the next paragraph.
The second paragraph is where you state the issue, the problem, the conflict:
She then realizes being friends with Ian isn’t as easy as it once seemed.
This sentence alone pushes the reader to read further because they want to know what makes it difficult. Immediately they get their answer, which is also the conflict of the story:
He fears that being friends with Brandy will destroy his reputation.
Hopefully, a sentence like this one will have the reader instantly wondering why Ian is this way. However, they will not care until you give them a reason to.
The third paragraph continues toward the resolution but leaves the reader wanting to know more:
Brandy’s left to wonder if her written thoughts can help heal her pain, and if fate would allow two teens to fall in love against the odds.
The reader should wonder: Will they fall in love? Will it work out at the end? For readers to care about your characters and their fate you have to present them with a character they can relate too. In the same blurb, we find information to help readers relate:
Brandy is a high school student who is also a victim
We sympathize with victims.
Brandy develops a crush.
We all had a crush or two in our lives and can understand her attraction.
Ian (her crush) fears that being friends with Brandy will destroy his reputation.
What a blow. Here we sympathize again. We have all been hurt. It’s not fair. We do not like injustices.
A math quiz starts the beginning of a series of tutoring sessions that brings the two together.
This forces the two to interact. We feel the tension, especially after knowing how difficult it is or unacceptable is it for them to be together.
It also starts a series of assaults on Brandy and Ian that are fueled by hate.
Hate is intolerable and we put ourselves in Ian and Brandy’s shoes seeing that they both become victims of injustice.
All this information should leave the reader wondering: Will the injustice bring them together? Will they fall in love? Will it work out at the end?
If you are successful at producing those questions in the reader’s mind after he reads the blurb, then you already have a buyer.
- Find riveting words that stirs emotions in the reader. Examples (pulled from the blurb above) Victim, racism, beloved, hate, express, develop, fears, destroy, fueled, heal, fate, love. Work up different powerful emotions in your readers. Reading each word takes your emotions on a rollercoaster ride but they are relevant to the novel.
- Suggest the many different outcomes. Do not give away the novel’s ending in your blurb. If the reader thinks they know how the story will end, then why would they want to read the book? A book can end three possible ways: happily, tragically or ambiguously. Leave the reader wanting to know so much that they buy the book to find out.
- Write more than 250 words. Write as much as you can about the book and then narrow it down. Do not focus on packing 250 words into your blurb the first time. Write what flows and then cut and edit just as you did your novel.
A blurb is an essential element to selling your book. A blurb is the tease of your masterpiece; write it to grab your readers.
Leslie Lee Sanders
Example blurb from Bittersweet: The Diary of Brandy Morgan (2007) by Leslie Lee Sanders