Better Book Blurb Copywriting for Fiction

book blurbHaving trouble selling your novel? Could your blurb be the problem?

Book blurbs are difficult to write. And when they’re done wrong, they tend to be done horribly wrong.  So wrong, in fact, that someone like me might remember them more than a year after reading them and include them in a post about book blurb copywriting as examples of what not to do. I submit to you:

Just another joyous erotic romp in the strange journey that actress, Tasha Felding calls life. And perhaps, the most important. For nearly four years, Tasha and her roommates were the undisputed goddesses of their liberal arts college in Topanga Canyon, CA. With distinct talents, beauty, and accomplishments, each goddess appeared pre-destined to be forever traveling on that path called the Charmed Life. But, in a tragic twist, just before graduation and with the in advertent help of Tasha, one of the journeys takes a drastic detour. For the next two decades, Tasha enjoys success as an actress, wife and mother, but keeps her eyes open for that elusive path that will help her undo the earlier damage. And it is Ojai, a few months before her 20th college reunion that Tasha decides the elements are ripe for exonerating one former roommate, rekindling the lost passions in the other two, and while she is at, seducing that gorgeous stranger on the motorcycle. Divine intervention was never so much fun.

Just Another Elysian Sidetrip

and

When a wildly eccentric family living in Greenwich Village circa 70s and 80s adopt a paranoid dog, all hell breaks loose in the neighborhood.

A cute, mischievous winning animal? Yes, but this wire-haired terrier could, at times, become completely unhinged, affecting the lives of those around him.

Mom-participating in various art forms, but always distracted by the madness around her. The Big G.-father,complex, wounded opera singer, fierce personality. The kids-having many different interests between them, but absolutely fascinated by Pip’s singular talents.

Paranoid Pip and family are beset by evil-doers, creeps, thugs and drugs.

As told by mom, the story of Pip will take you on a journey through the ever-fascinating world of artists, writers, louts and lovers in the still-vital pub culture of beloved Greenwich Village, New York City.

Paranoid Pip

But looking at bad examples is only so helpful. If you’re going to write one yourself, you’ll need some guidance and lots of practice, so…

Lead off with a hook.

Book blurbs are sales copy. They should hold a reader’s attention better than Velcro, and the way to do that is with a solid hook. Assuming your entire book doesn’t already suck, this can be done effectively by getting the reader interested in your character or setting.

“A gripping vision of our society radically overturned by a theocratic revolution….”

The Handmaid’s Tale

“Though he may not speak of them, the memories still dwell inside Jacob Jankowski’s ninety-something-year-old mind. Memories of himself as a young man, tossed by fate onto a rickety train that was home to the Benzini Brothers Most Spectacular Show on Earth.”

Water for Elephants

Keep the teaser spoiler-free.

You know how Marilyn Monroe said, “Your clothes should be tight enough to show you’re a woman but loose enough to show you’re a lady”? Well, it’s kind of like that with your blurb copy. It has to reveal just the right amount of plot; shoot for a sentence or two. Notice in the following blurb we aren’t told what Katie’s dark secret is.

“Despite her reservations, Katie slowly begins to let down her guard, putting down roots in the close-knit community and becoming increasingly attached to Alex and his family.

But even as Katie begins to fall in love, she struggles with the dark secret that still haunts and terrifies her . . . a past that set her on a fearful, shattering journey across the country, to the sheltered oasis of Southport.”

Safe Haven

Highlight the conflict.

You’re going to need a clincher at the end that leaves readers hankerin’ for more, and you do that by making them wonder how in the world that mess is going to turn out. So, set up the conflict or obstacle. Give this your all, because ultimately it’s the reader’s need to know the resolution that’s going to make the sale for you.

“John Perry is taking that deal. He has only the vaguest idea what to expect. Because the actual fight, light-years from home, is far, far harder than he can imagine—and what he will become is far stranger.”

Old Man’s War

Add review quotes if you’ve got them.

Let me begin this section by saying that no one cares what your mother thinks about your book.  Quotes of praise should really only be included if the person or organization being quoted holds some clout—it’s a famous author, critic or media outlet for example. If you don’t have anything, don’t sweat it. Outside praise isn’t essential, it just helps.

“A glorious account of a magnificent adventure, filled with suspense and seasoned with a quiet humor that is irresistible . . . All those, young or old, who love a fine adventurous tale, beautifully told, will take The Hobbit to their hearts.” – New York Times Book Review

The Hobbit

Keep it short.

Great blurbs are concise. Some of the best, most professional ones I’ve read hover in the 130- to 170-word range, not including quotes. If you’re over 200 words, you’re pushing it. If you’re over 250, you’ve failed. Try again.

Plagiarize.

Just kidding. But there is a certain art or rhythm to blurb writing that you can learn to mimic through repetition. Pull a dozen books off your shelf and type or write the blurbs out verbatim. It’s old school, but it works.

Outline. Edit. Storyboard. Write. Get Scrivener for Mac and Windows.

About Emily Suess

Emily Suess is a technical marketing writer by day and a freelance copywriter by night. And, no, she's not related to Dr. Seuss.