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How to Write Better Book Blurbs

FEATURED IMAGE New York Book Editors 10 25 2021 How to Write Better Book Blurbs

Now that you’ve confronted your inner demons, killed your darlings, and finally wrote your story, there’s one last challenge on your path: the big, bad book blurb.

Not intimidated by the book blurb? That’s reasonable. At first glance, a book blurb doesn’t seem that scary. It’s only 100 words, which isn’t a big deal since you’ve already written close to 100,000.

But when you realize that the entire fate of your book rests on those 100 words, you may start to panic a little.

Or a lot.

And that’s also reasonable.

Your book blurb is a big deal. It’s what will persuade a potential reader to give your book a chance. Or not.

Along with your title and cover, your blurb is the most important marketing tool for your book. Why? Your blurb is the last thing most readers will see before deciding to buy. So, you have less than 200 words to convince the reader that your book is worth their investment of time and money.

Pressure.

And adding to that pressure is the fact that book blurb writing is an entirely different skill than narrative writing. Book blurbs are focused on sales, which means that you must employ copywriting tactics, such as urgency and curiosity, to make the reader buy.

Book blurbs are focused on sales, which means that you must employ copywriting tactics, such as urgency and curiosity, to make the reader buy.

In this post, we’ll discuss how to write a book blurb that gets results.

What is a Book Blurb?

How to Write a Book Blurb

As mentioned above, a book blurb is part of your marketing package. It’s a brief description, typically found on the back of a book. On some hardcover books, the book blurb may also be found on the front and sometimes back flaps of the dust jacket.

A book blurb is a literary equivalent of an elevator pitch. Imagine you’re in an elevator with someone and have less than 30 seconds to explain your book (without spoiling it). Of course, because it’s written and not spoken, a book blurb tends to be more dramatic and poetic, and less conversational, but you get the idea.

There are actually two types of book blurbs. There’s the blurb you write for your book, which can show up on the book’s cover and on listing pages like Amazon and Barnes & Noble. This is a description and a tease of your book’s contents.

Then there’s the blurb that literary outlets or other authors write for you. This blurb can accompany your own book blurb. Because it’s written by a respected voice in your genre or industry, this type of blurb serves as a recommendation or an endorsement. This weighted blurb adds respectability to your book.

You can use both blurbs, but since you obviously can’t write the second type, we’re only focusing on the first type of blurb in this guide.

How to Write Better Book Blurbs

Now that we’ve discussed what book blurbs are, let’s discuss how to write one that sells your book.

Read Other Blurbs in Your Genre

Your path to writing an amazing book blurb starts by reading.

Study the blurbs for books in your selected genre. Go through at least 100 blurbs and take note of the following:

  • The length of the blurb - How many words is the average book blurb in your genre?

  • The way the blurb starts - What’s the most common starter for book blurbs in your genre?

  • How the blurb ends - Does it end with a question? With an ellipsis? With a promise?

  • What you like about it - What did the writer get right with the blurb?

  • What you don't like about it - What do you think the writer could have done to improve the blurb?

It’s crucial to stay in your selected genre when studying blurbs. Each genre has its own set of standards when it comes to book blurb structure. It’s in your best interest to follow these standards or else you may turn off a devoted reader of that genre.

Collect the Top Blurbs

Collect your favorite book blurbs (or links to them). This way, you can easily refer back to these book descriptions when writing your blurb.

How to Write a Book Blurb

Distill the Story

When thinking of how to structure your book blurb, consider these two questions:

  1. What is the basic story?

  2. What is the main conflict?

Your book blurb will follow the main story, not the tributaries. So focus your blurb on the basic plot.

Write in the Present Tense

Write your book blurb in the present tense.

The idea behind writing in the present tense is to give the impression that the story is happening right now. Present tense creates a sense of immediacy that will make the reader want to keep reading to see what will happen next.

Focus on One Character

Instead of discussing multiple characters in your book, focus only on one: Your protagonist. This way, you won’t risk overwhelming the reader by introducing too many characters. However, if you have multiple main characters, you can bring them up in your blurb.

Watch the Word Count

Book blurbs are typically between 100-200 words. It’s rare for a book blurb to go over 300 words. That’s because they need to fit on the back cover, and you can only cram a limited amount of words onto a page, or else it becomes too tiny to be legible.

While you have 200 words to play with, you don’t need to use up all of those words. Don’t write any more than you must to tell the broad story and pique the reader’s curiosity.

Don't Summarize

Remember that a book blurb is not a summary of your book. It’s not a book report either. Instead, it’s a written trailer to help you build interest and excitement for your book. It shouldn’t contain any spoilers and it shouldn’t explain all of the plot.

Instead, introduce the main character, share the problem, and tease why it's going to be hard to solve the problem. Also, set the stakes. Why is it important to solve the problem right now?

Then, end with a cliffhanger. Or a question. Or a dilemma. It should make the reader wonder what will happen to the characters.

Edit Your Blurb

Blurbs, like any other form of writing, must be edited. Otherwise, they’ll never live up to their potential. After writing a blurb, take a few days or even a few weeks to let the blurb sit. Then return to the blurb with fresh eyes to edit it.

Write Several Book Blurbs

Book blurbs are only a few paragraphs, so consider writing more than one. This way, you can share multiple versions with test audiences (i.e., your friends and family) to find out which blurb is best.

Ask Other Authors to Share a Review

Remember the two types of blurbs? Don’t forget to ask other authors, especially those who’ve found success in your genre, to write a recommendation blurb for your book.

Create a list of authors to query. Then, when reaching out, keep the request short and sweet. The worst they can do is say “no,” but what if they agree to do it? It’s worth the risk of rejection for a notable recommendation that will sell your book.

A Word About Biographies

Should you include your author bio in your blurb? The answer depends on the genre of your book. If you’re writing a blurb to accompany your novel, the answer is no. You can write a bio separately and add that underneath your blurb or, even better, inside the book’s back cover.

However, if you’re writing a blurb for your non-fiction book, it’s a good idea to weave your bio into the blurb. But only share relevant information about why you’re an expert in the subject matter.

What’s your favorite book blurb?

Share your favorite book blurb in the comments below. Tell us what you like about the blurb.

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