Getting Started – Getting Better


The Blurb


Authors agonize over every word of our books. We love/hate our work, and there’s no sense of relief like knowing the first draft has been edited within an inch of its life, all tweaks are finished… it’s finally done!

Nothing should take away from the relief or the pride in knowing you’ve written a whole book, and have it ready for publication.

Nothing should… but one thing often does. It’s the dreaded blurb: the short, catchy bit of text decorating the back cover of a print book. It’s the text advertisement which entices a reader into the story. It’s only 150-200 words. After writing a whole book, how hard can 200 words be?

For virtually every author ever born, it can seem harder to write a good blurb than to write the entire book. No matter how familiar your story, getting a blurb right can result in hair loss (from pulling it out) and maybe alcoholism.

Hopefully not either of those afflictions, but blurbs can be a pain.

The good news is a successful blurb usually follows a specific pattern and set of rules. Start by keeping it close as possible to the 150-200 word count, total. Less is fine for KidLit. Much longer and you’ll lose readers before they crack open a page.

Fiction Blurbs

Write a simple, one- or two-sentence description per item like this to narrow things down.

  • The one unusual or shocking takeaway from this book is _____________. (This will be your hook. It shouldn’t give away a surprise ending; but might tease it, such as “Sometimes the only way to save the world from darkness is to find the darkness within”)
  • The main character’s name is and their MOST IMPORTANT goal for this book is to __________. It’s important to him/her BECAUSE _____________. (This should be personal and emotional – it’s a way to get readers to invest in your main character before they ever open the book.)
  • The second most important character to the main character in this book is ____________. This person is connected to the main character by _____________. This person is connected to the main character’s goal because _____________. (If they’re not directly connected, they don’t belong in the blurb.)
  • If the main character doesn’t achieve his or her goal it would be terrible for him/her/the world because _____________. (This is what’s at stake; the consequences of failure. And bonus points if you can also highlight the potential pitfalls of success!)

Keep names to a minimum. Using more than two character names and more than two place names will lose a reader in a hurry. No matter how complex the story, keep the blurb simple.

Once all these are filled in, it’s what your blurb needs to cover – anything else is superfluous and confuses things. Take your answers above and flesh things out, organizing as needed so everything flows together in a logical — and exciting! — way.

Non-Fiction Blurbs

Write a simple, one- or two-sentence description per item like this to narrow things down.

  • The biggest theme of this book is _____________. If possible it should be worded in a humorous or outrageous way. This is your “hook” and should be something to make a reader do a double take.
  • The reason a reader will gain something from this book is __________. The reason you as a writer are qualified to write this book is _________. You did it for ________ years. A PhD isn’t required, but if you have something to back up your qualifications, it should be cited here.
  • List at least five examples of the theme of the book. As a non-fiction book this is where you can begin turning your blurb into a call to action (CTA). This paragraph can begin “Read about when [the author] witnessed these things” or “Join [the author] on a journey through these places
    • Example 1: ________________
    • Example 2: ________________
    • Example 3: ________________
    • Example 4: ________________
    • Example 5: ________________
  • Wrap up with a paragraph about why this matters to a reader (i.e. “This could happen to anyone” or “Travel without leaving home!” etc.)

All the above is what your blurb needs to cover – anything else is superfluous and confuses things. Once you’ve filled in the blanks, take your results and flesh things out, organizing so everything makes sense.

Anthology Blurbs

Anthologies are collections of short stories published in a single volume. Unlike the other blurb types, this tool isn’t all fill-in-the-blank, but a general guideline. Please note while this is a recommendation, the strongest recommendation is to use what works for you. It might require fine-tuning to suit your genre and other details.

  • Open with a quick, catchy single-line overview: what ties the stories together? Are they all horror? Humorous? Travel-related? Sci-Fi? Start with a thematic hook. If more is needed, make it a second, short paragraph.
  • List titles and a one-line description of at least four or five of the stories. This is literally an advertisement, so keep it short and catchy!
    • Story 1 [short description]
    • Story 2 [short description]
    • Story 3 [short description]
  • Wrap up with a quick recap and maybe a humorous comment. Example: Curl up with a cup of cocoa and enjoy – but leave the light on. Don’t say we didn’t warn you!

You can have fun with these, and should. Short story collections don’t have to be tough.

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