Writing an awesome book blurb

This post is the forty-first in a series about writing a novel. You can check out the list of past topics at the end of this post.

Last week, I wrote about designing your front cover to entice readers to pick up (or click on the link for) your book. Now that the cover has done its job, you need an awesome book description to convince the reader to purchase your book.

A good book blurb is an essential element in selling your novel. Some people find writing book blurbs easy while others struggle with exactly what to say and how long to make their description. The important thing is not to dismiss this significant element in marketing your novel.

The purpose of the book description or blurb is to grab the reader’s attention. Think of the blurb as a movie trailer. A good blurb hints at the story but doesn’t give everything away. A well-written blurb can be the deciding factor on whether the reader purchases your book so definitely spend some time perfecting your copy.

For a short story, the book blurb should only be one or two paragraphs. For novels, consider three paragraphs of no more than 250 words total. Here is a brief overview of what each paragraph might contain but worry more about good prose instead of following this formula.

First paragraph: Introduce your character and the setting. Or open by building the overall plot and setting.

Example: At the age of four, Lina discovered she could start fires with a mere thought – a trait which had died out long ago. Cautioned by her telepathic cat, Tosh, she kept this Elemental power a secret to avoid being an outcast. That was easy to do growing up in the remote grasslands of Zena.

Second paragraph: Set the mood and the conflict. In other words, delve a little deeper into the plot.

Example: Now an adult, she had no plans to leave her beloved homeland. So when a strange urge compels her to travel north to an unknown destination, Lina resists this unnatural feeling. But her plans to stay in Zena are taken out of her control when she is kidnapped by gypsies and wakes in a foreign land. The desire to travel north is as strong as ever. She fears she will have no choice but to give into the compulsion. When a raging fire prevents her return home, she realizes she must find out once and for all what or who is summoning her.

Third paragraph: Steer toward the resolution (Remember to hint at it and not give it away.) Leave the reader wanting more.

Example: On her journey, Lina befriends an odd assortment of allies. Together they battle mystical creatures and unnatural forces despite the fact that such magic had died out over 800 years ago.  Lina reluctantly begins to use her innate Elemental power as she becomes more certain that someone is using magic against her. When she discovers the shocking truth, it will change her life in ways she could never imagine.

I read a lot of book blurbs through the authors I feature on this blog every Friday. I lot of them are not doing their job of enticing me to buy their book. They are chocked full of unnecessary information and often are too long.

Questions to consider so you don’t reveal too much of the plot.

Does the reader really need to know that? (And be harsh when answering this.)

Could what I wrote be a spoiler?

Am I revealing how the conflict was resolved?

Use Action and Emotive Words

When writing, pick words that show action and evoke emotions.

Here are some powerful adjectives often found in book blurbs: devastating, heart-wrenching, harrowing, passionate, terrifying, joyful, entrancing, searing, unforgettable, enchanting, chilling, heartbreaking, heart-rending, pulsating, bewitching, captivating, shocking, endearing, and spell-binding.

But make sure if you use these terms that they are accurate. Don’t tote your novel as fast-paced, action adventure when it isn’t.

End with conflict

Always leave the reader wanting more. The last line should have them dying to know what happens. You can end with a question or hint at future danger. But most of all, do not hint at how things will be resolved. You want them to read the book for find that out!

Remember, the book blurb is your sales pitch. Don’t skimp; spend time polishing it. The well-written blurb really can make all the difference.

Previous topics

#1 – Deciding to write a novel – Writing Myths

#2 – Three areas to develop before starting to write a novel

#3 – Finding a Story Idea and How to Know if it “good enough”

#4 – Developing Characters for your Novel

#5 – Major characters? Minor Characters? Where does everyone fit in?

#6 – Developing the Setting for your Novel

#7 – The importance of developing conflict in your novel plot

#8 – To Outline or not to outline 

#9 – The importance of a story arc

#10 – The importance of tension and pace

#11 – Prologue and opening scenes

#12 – Beginning and ending scenes in a novel

#13 – The importance of dialogue…and a few tips on how to write it

#14 – Using Internal Dialogue in your novel

#15 – More dialogue tips and help with dialogue tags

#16 – Knowing and incorporating back story into your novel

#17 – Hinting at what is to come with foreshadowing

#18 – Tips for writing different scenes in your novel

#19 – Dealing with Writer’s Block

#20 – Killing a Character in your Novel

#21 – Keeping things realistic in your novel

#22 – Establishing Writing Goals and Developing Good Writing Habits

#23 – Using the five senses and passive voice in your novel

#24 – The benefit of research in fiction writing

#25 – Novella or Novel, Trilogy or Series – decisions for writers

#26 – Avoiding Plot and Character Clichés

#27 – Novel Writing – Endings and Epilogues

#28 – Fantasy Novel Writing – World Building, Dragons, Magic and More

#29 – Finishing your First Draft

#30 – Your Second Draft and Beyond

#31 – Picking Stronger Words and Watching out for Homonyms

#32 – Omitting unnecessary words in your novel

#33 – Beta Reader, Proofreaders and Copy Editors

#34 – Knowing your grammar or at least using a grammar checking program

#35 – Using a Revision Outline during your Novel Editing

#36 – Editing Techniques: Taking a Break and Reading Aloud

#37 – Publishing Options for your book

#38 – Self-publishing an ebook decisions

#39 – Picking Your Book Title and Your Pen Name

#40 – Investing in an eye-catching book cover

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How important are book reviews?

As an independent author, I often hear about how important book reviews are. But is this the real make-it-or-break-it item for authors?

Years ago before the Internet, many readers bought their books from brick-and-mortar book stores. They would find a book with an interesting cover, read the back blurb, and if it sounded intriguing, they would buy it. Unless the story was already a best-seller, reviews were probably not even considered but a friend’s recommendation might have been. When deciding between two books, readers are probably far more likely to pick the one recommended by a friend.

But nowadays we have the Internet and a mass of independently published books. Whether right or wrong, some readers have a poor perception of those books. Perhaps they think because they were not traditionally published, they are not as good. Of course, that is not true. There are many reasons people decide to self-publish.

This is where reviews can come in handy. A good, well-written review can do wonders for your sales. But so can word of mouth recommendations. In 2011, Smashwords creator Mark Coker did a survey asking readers to select the biggest deciding factor in choosing a book to read.

Twenty-nine percent of respondents said they selected books based on recommendations from readers on forums, message boards and blogs. This implies that it isn’t so much reviews on a book-buying website but the reviews of peers elsewhere that influence the purchase of a book.

This makes sense as the trustworthiness of online book reviews have been called into question. Some authors pay for top reviews (though paying for a review is not always bad) or the reviews obviously sound like a friend or family member posted them. Sometimes online reviews on places like Amazon are thoroughly unhelpful to other readers as all you get is an “I liked it.” quote.

That is the problem with reviews found at online book retailers. They can be written by anyone, including someone who doesn’t read or like your genre or someone who has a beef about something totally unrelated to your book. But when these point-of-sale reviews are detailed and positive, they can reap rewards in the additional sales.

Whether the reviews are on a blog/forum or at the point of sale, these reviews are a form of social proof that readers liked your book. How much other readers value these reviews depends on their trust of that reviewer. Perhaps they will believe a fellow reader on a forum or book-viewing website more than someone on Amazon or Barnes & Noble. It is hard to predict.

And while I believe reviews do matter and help sell books, you need to remember that book reviews are only one small piece of the book marketing puzzle.

Not sure how to get book reviews? I’ll address that next week.