writing book blurbs

A Definitive Guide to Writing a Great Book Blurb

Conventionally, a blurb is a short promotional piece that accompanies a creative work. In other words, a blurb introduces an artistic work, like a story, an article, or a book. A blurb on a book is one of the most essential parts of your book.

Some people call it the book blurb; some call it the book back description; it is also referred as the dust-cover copy. No matter how it is called, a book summary is not only an indispensable element of your novel, but it is crucial for your books marketing plans as well.

Why are book blurbs important?

Although people preach not to judge a book by its cover, not many practice it. The first thing that attracts us in a bookstore apart from the books title is its cover. If you are like me, you will immediately flip the book and read the book blurb to know if the book is interesting or not.

Even while shopping for a book online, the first thing we read is the book blurb/book summary followed by the reviews. Furthermore, even book review bloggers will take a call on if they want to review your book or not by reading your book blurb.

In short, book blurb is important as it can make or break your novel.

Five elements to consider while writing a book blurb

Writing a book blurb is not a child’s play. It is not our primary school summarization exercise, where you just summarize the whole story within 200 words. There are certain elements that you need to consider while writing a book blurb.

  1. Start with a bang!

Yes, the first line of your book blurb is the very first line your readers will be reading in your novel. As the saying goes, “First impression is the best impression.” To make the best first impression, think of an innovative, intelligent, and engaging line. No matter if you want to introduce the protagonists or the antagonist first, the first line of your book blurb should be unusual and exciting.

You can start with a question, a quote from the novel, or a scintillating fact. To make a huge impression, you can use minimal words and set the scene of the story in a compelling sentence like Sally Gardner did for her novel The Double Shadow. This book has an interesting book blurb with an attention-grabbing first sentence.

War clouds gather over Britain.

Amaryllis Ruben is hiding a secret even she does not understand. In a bluebell wood stands a picture palace. Her father built it to house his invention; one that could change the war-torn world forever. He plans to give it to her on her seventeenth birthday.

But it’s a present Amaryllis doesn’t want, and in it is the past she must come to terms with and a boy whose name she can’t remember”

This blurb is not only unique, but it also creates curiosity. Furthermore, the first line of this book back description is quite eye-catching.

  1. Discuss, don’t introduce!

Your books blurb is not the place you must introduce your characters. You can introduce and describe your characters in the first few chapters of your novel. The blurb must talk about the characters, the issues they face, their specialty, etc.

If you are describing your characters nativity, skin complexion, hair color, beauty, etc. in the blurb, it might not interest your readers. As a writer, you are supposed to give as much information as possible about your characters to fuel readers imagination. However, when it comes to the blurb, give only the vital and intriguing information.

  1. Don’t give away any spoilers!

As much as you are tempted to do this, do not give away any spoilers. If there is something that the reader will not explicitly know from the first three chapters, then it should not be on your book blurb. You can play with the words to create curiosity, but at the same time, you must make sure that you don’t reveal any twists, no matter how big or small they are.

One of the best ways to not give away spoilers is to keep your blurb short; do not exceed 150-200 words. We do understand that it can be quite intimidating to the writers who just finished writing some thousands of words. We do have a hack that will resolve this issue. Keep reading!

  1. Don’t deceive your readers!

When we asked you to keep your blurb intriguing, we didn’t mean that you should mislead your readers with false facts or information about your book. While you have all the freedom to play with words, don’t be dishonest about your book.

It would be disheartening for the readers when they read the book and find that the blurb was misleading. Do not write a book back description to suit everyone as it could be too generic. Write the blurb for your target audience. Don’t dress a crime thriller as a romantic story just because it has romantic elements in it.

  1. End with a bang!

Yes, writing a great book blurb is one of the few things that you must start and end with a bang. Once you have created an interesting description, you must know where to stop. Your blurb must end with a solid, cordial, yet unsubtle cliff-hanger. In short, your blurb must keep your readers wanting more.

You can end the blurb with a question, a hint of the potential danger, a conflict, or a high-intensity drama. Take a decision on which type of cliffhanger you are going to use based on your book’s genre. A tragic quote or conflict might not work if your book is of the comedy genre.

A Scandalous Proposition by M.M. George has one of the captivating book blurbs that was finished with a question.

Can Mira overlook Ranbir’s indecent proposal and give love a chance?

In fact, the back-cover description started with a piece of dialogue from the novel, which is an interesting way to start a book blurb with a bang.

It started with,

What is your price, Mira?

You’ll never be able to afford it!

Seven tips/hacks to create an exceptional book blurb

Writing book blurbs may not be every writer’s cup of tea. However, these tips can help you create an outstanding book blurb.

  1. Take your editors or friends help

As we mentioned earlier in this article, it can be quite intimidating to the writers, who just finished writing some thousands of words, to write a book summary in mere 150 words without giving away any spoilers.

To resolve this issue, take your editor’s or close friend’s help. If your friends are avid readers and are good in writing, ask them to beta-read your book and write a book blurb for you. Alternatively, you can ask your editor to write a book blurb for you.

  1. Write, re-write, re-re-writes

I wrote just one book blurb for my novel, and it is perfect, said no author ever. No book blurb will be perfect in one shot. You need to re-write and fine tune it as much as possible to make it a captivating one. The book blurb is not something that you should do hastily at the last moment.

You must write at least five different versions of book blurb, pick one later, and fine-tune it.

  1. Your vocabulary must cater to your audience

You must use the words that will meet the expectations of your target audience. For instance, if your book is of the horror genre, consider using words like dangerous, gory, encounter, angry, evil, etc.

A Definitive Guide to Writing a Great Book Blurb

R.L. Stine, the author of Goosebumps books, is not only well-known for his gripping narration style but is also known for his captivating book blurbs.

  1. Read sample blurbs

Read one, two, and even a hundred book blurbs if needed. You don’t have to buy all the books in your genre. You can just go to Amazon or Goodreads and pick the bestselling or most-rated books in your genre and read the book descriptions.

Save the ones that you loved. Analyze what worked in those blurbs. This analysis will help you in creating a book blurb that will cause a positive impact on your potential readers.

  1. Keep your sentences short

Mostly, readers will just skim through the book blurbs. Therefore, to entice your readers, you need to keep your sentences precise and concise. Also, try to break down the book summary you write into series of short blocks of sentences.

Tea for two and a piece of cake is one of the novels written by one of the bestselling Indian authors, Preeti Shenoy. This book’s back-cover description works well because the sentences are short, and the whole blurb is concise.

A Definitive Guide to Writing a Great Book Blurb

  1. Quotes to the rescue

Even after re-writing your book blurb a lot of times, if you feel that your blurb is not making an impression that you expect, start the book blurb with a quote or a dialogue piece from your book.

If you are sure that one of the quotes that you have written in the novel is eye-catching, use it in the book blurb. Alternatively, you can also write a quote specifically for your book blurb.

Here is an example of one such book  Reese Witherspoons Luckiest Girl Alive, which uses a quote in the starting of the book blurb.

“Her Perfect Life is a Perfect Lie.”

 

A Definitive Guide to Writing a Great Book Blurb

 

  1. Add reviews and praises to improve credibility

If you are not a debut author, use the best reviews and compliments you received for your previous books in the book cover of your current novel. By doing so, you can improve your credibility among new readers.

Furthermore, if any reputed bloggers, influencers, or celebrities beta-read your book, then you can add their views and appreciations on the book cover. Furthermore, you can gather the good reviews and add them in the subsequent reprints.

One of the book blurbs that had all the crucial elements mentioned here is book description of  The Girl on the Train by Paula Hawkins.

The book blurb reads,

The debut psychological thriller that will forever change the way you look at other people’s lives.

EVERY DAY THE SAME

Rachel takes the same commuter train every morning and night. Every day she rattles down the track, flashes past a stretch of cozy suburban homes, and stops at the signal that allows her to daily watch the same couple breakfasting on their deck. Shes even started to feel like she knows them. Jess and Jason, she calls them. Their life as she sees it is perfect. Not unlike the life she recently lost.

UNTIL TODAY

And then she sees something shocking. Its only a minute until the train moves on, but its enough. Now everythings changed. Unable to keep it to herself, Rachel goes to the police. But is she really as unreliable as they say? Soon she is deeply entangled not only in the investigation but in the lives of everyone involved. Has she done more harm than good?

The book blurb is precise and not too big. It has short and very much readable sentences. The author has deployed a clear writing strategy in the blurb.

  • It starts with a situation: Rachel taking a train every day.
  • It introduces a problem: Rachels life is not perfect.
  • It guarantees a twist to the readers: She sees something shocking.
    Here, the author has not revealed anything more than what is necessary as she doesn’t tell us what Rachel sees or understands.
  • It ends with an intriguing question that leaves us wanting for more: Has she done more harm than good?

We hope, by now, you have a definite idea on how to write a great book blurb. What are some of the book blurbs that you liked a lot? Share it with us in the comments section

 

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Aishwarya Mukundarajan

Aishwarya is an MBA graduate from Symbiosis International University, Pune. When asked what her hobbies are she points to an overflowing bookcase.

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