I’ve often heard other writers say how much they dislike writing book blurbs. They say it feels a bit like writing the dreaded synopsis, which involves condensing your story into a few pages—or in the case of a book blurb, a mere two hundred words. To make matters worse, all your hard work in writing a page-turning novel is likely to go unnoticed unless you can convince a potential reader to hit the ‘buy’ button in a few paragraphs or less. Scary stuff!
To help you, I’ve put together my top tips for writing your own book blurb based on my time as both a self-published author and my years of experience as a marketing copywriter.
Let’s start with what a book blurb is NOT.
A book blurb is not a synopsis
First things first—a book blurb is not a synopsis. I’ve seen quite a few book blurbs resemble a synopsis and it’s not going to do your book any favours. A synopsis is details rich, outlining the main characters and the complete story arc. Spoiler alert, anyone? Effective book blurbs are as much about what you don’t say, as what you do say. They should entice, not explain. Intrigue, but not give the game away.
Remember, a blurb is not a book!
I might be stating the obvious, but a book blurb should be short and sweet (as much as this may hurt). As a rough guide, I recommend anywhere from 180 words to 250 words or 3 to 4 paragraphs at the most. Potential readers skim book blurbs and if you can’t grab them in a few paragraphs, then you’ll lose them. The harsh reality is in our attention poor society where we are bombarded with media messages constantly, your book blurb needs to cut through. Often less can be more.
Now we know what a book blurb is not, here are the essential elements of an effective book blurb:
A book blurb is sales copy
I think this is where a lot of writers come unstuck when writing their own book blurbs. You would be forgiven in thinking that writing the book blurb should be simple because, come on, you’ve just written an entire book so writing a couple of hundred words should be easy, right?
It can be easy . . . if you take your creative writing hat off first and put on your sales hat. Like writing a book, writing sales copy is something of an art. The best place to start is to read the book blurbs of other successful authors in your genre to get a feel for what works.
Set the scene and convey the genre clearly . . . in as a few words as you can
Effective book blurbs don’t mince words. They get straight to the point. Whether you’ve written a sweet or sexy romance, a suspense or a mystery, make it clear upfront. This goes for romance tropes too.
It may seem obvious to you because you’ve just spent the last weeks, months and possibly year writing your book, but you need to make it clear to your audience. Readers generally know what they like—perhaps they love friends to lovers stories, sexy billionaires or second chance romances. The genre and theme of the novel is one thing you don’t need to keep readers guessing about! Also, if your setting is an important part of your book, be sure to convey this in your book blurb too.
Pinpoint the main conflict and then keep raising the stakes
In most genre fiction, it’s the conflict that first hooks the reader and keeps them reading. Every blurb should highlight the main conflict in your story and then keep raising the stakes, leaving the reader in a situation where they want to buy your book to find out what happens! Achieving this is not always as simple as being descriptive; you want to aim for an emotional response too.
A note about taglines, point of view and tone of voice
I come from a marketing background so I’m a huge fan of taglines. In my experience there is nothing more effective than a tagline, which in a few words, can capture the heart of a story and elicit an emotional response from the reader. A well-written tagline can act as a hook for your readers, giving them a compelling reason to learn more.
If you’re writing in third person, it generally wouldn’t be advised to write the blurb in first person. If however you’ve written the book in first person, it’s usually okay to write the blurb in either first or third person—it’s one of those quirky convention things.
Oh, and just because you’re writing sales copy doesn’t mean the tone of voice of your blurb needs to be different. As a general rule, make sure you keep the tone of voice in the blurb consistent with the actual book. You want readers to feel a sense of continuity when they commit to buy otherwise they may feel like they haven’t got what they paid for.
There you have it, my top tips for book blurb creation! Good luck and remember, don’t be afraid to revisit a book blurb if you feel it’s not working.
About Belinda Williams
Belinda is a marketing copywriter who allowed an addiction to romance to get the better of her. She was first published by Momentum Pan Macmillan before taking the leap into self-publishing and writes contemporary romance including romantic comedy in the ‘City Love’ series and romantic suspense in the ‘Hollywood Hearts’ series.
When she’s not writing, she’s . . . writing! A marketing professional with twenty years experience, Belinda has worked as a freelance marketing copywriter for the last decade writing sales and marketing copy about everything from financial services to wine (and yes, writing about wine is more fun).
She also offers a book blurb writing service, Blurbs By Bel, to help other authors create sales worthy blurbs (and because she genuinely enjoys writing blurbs!)