Writing the Perfect Blurb

by CJ McDaniel // November 16  
This guest post was written by Rayne Hall. Rayne has authored over sixty books and is an expert at crafting blurbs that grab readers and sell books. Visit her website raynehall.com, or follow her on Twitter  https://twitter.com/RayneHall for writing and publishing tips.

Why does your book not attract big sales? The problem may not lie with the book, but with the blurb. Once a reader’s interest has been whetted by the title and cover, they’ll glance at the book description, the so-called ‘blurb’ that decides what the potential reader clicks next. If they click ‘Buy Now’ you have an instant sale. If they click Download Free Sample, your book has a chance to dazzle them with its brilliance.  But if the blurb fails to hook them and they click ‘Back To Search Results’, your book never gets a chance.

Is your blurb the power tool your book deserves?

Here are four steps for writing a blurb to boost your books success: Simplify—Shorten—Sharpen—Stir.

1. Simplify

Show the premise, not the plot. Focus on the core dilemma the main character faces.

Keep the writing so simple the reader can understand it during a quick scan, without needing to think.  Leave out anything that might confuse the reader.

Where possible, delete unfamiliar place names, and refer to characters by their roles rather than their names.  (Examples: her father, the queen, a powerful warlord)

2. Shorten

Most readers who browse online in search of their next read decide within ten seconds whether they want to find out more about this book or not.  Your blurb needs to hook in those first few seconds, or they’ll click on to another book.

Keep the blurb so short that the reader can absorb it in a few seconds. Don’t give them time to get bored.

Don’t leave the reader satiated. Leave him wanting more. Then they’ll download the sample and start reading.

Model the blurb’s length after that of recent bestsellers in your genre. Most of the time, 100-300 words  are enough. Don’t go over 700.

Leave out subplots, backstory, world-building and explanations as well as all plot developments during the novel’s middle or end.

Don’t explain who the main character is. Simply give his first name, his role and one dominant characteristic. (Examples: shy art teacher Marius, rebellious debutante Amelia.)

Instead of:  “Dominic Wennering is a journalism student who is ambitious. When he discovers the dark secret of a senator’s past…”
Write:When ambitious journalism student Dominic discovers the dark secret of a senator’s past…” 

Delete endorsements, review excerpts, testimonials and whatever else is cluttering your current blurb.

Place essential information in ‘shorthand’ at the end. This does not need to be in complete sentences.  (Examples: British English. Contains graphic violence. Suitable for ages 8-11.)

3. Sharpen

Use a sharp, tight, pithy writing style.

Prune content-less words. (Examples: really, start to, begin to, realize, then, somehow.)

Instead of: Amelia begins to realize that she has no choice but to escape write before her captors start finding out who she really is.
Write: Amelia must escape before her captors find out who she is.

Change Passive Voice constructions to Active Voice.

Instead of: Her brother gets captured by enemy soldiers.
Write: Enemy soldiers capture her brother.

Use the most specific, vivid words you can think of to convey the meaning. Pay special attention to verbs.

Instead of: She goes to visit her mother in hospital.
Write: She rushes to visit her mother in hospital.

Use short words, avoiding any with more than three syllables.

4. Stir

People make book purchasing decisions based on their emotions. A blurb has to arouse emotion in the readers, otherwise they won’t buy the book.

For a novel, try to stir curiosity or excitement. For a biography. you could inspire sympathy or admiration, and for a self-help book aim for confidence or hope.

Plant a question in the reader’s mind, so he feels compelled to find out the answer and clicks the ‘Buy Now’ button.

Consider spelling out the question as part of the blurb. (Examples: How can Lila save her people without betraying her lover? How can Jon stop the serial killer from striking again?) You may be able to simply rephrase one of the sentences from your old blurb as a question.

Instead of: Mary doesn’t know whom she can trust.
Write: Whom can Mary trust?

Open questions work better than yes/no questions because they stir more emotions. The answer should not be obvious. If your old blurb has a question that can be answered with an obvious yes or no, simply add the word how before the question.

Change: Can Mary and John overcome their differences and find true love? (to which the obvious answer in the romance genre answer is yes)
To: How can Mary and John overcome their differences and find true love? (which stirs the reader’s curiosity).

As an indie author, you are in control of the book description text. Consider writing a blurb with pithy descriptions and watch the difference.

Rayne's cat Sulu enjoying "Writing Book Blurbs and Synopses"

Rayne Hall’s guide not only shows you step-by-step how to perfect your blurb but also shows you five other short forms that help sell your book.

Writing Book Blurbs and Synopses by Rayne Hall is available as a Kindle ebook and in paperback. Here’s the URL to the book’s page on Amazon: myBook.to/Syn. Click ‘Download Free Sample’ to read the first chapters for free. As you can see at left, even Rayne’s cat Sulu enjoys Writing Book Blurbs and Synopses 🙂

rayne-hall-author-photoRayne Hall is the author of over sixty books and has been both traditionally and indie published.

Her acclaimed Writer’s Craft series has 22 titles so far: Writing Fight Scenes, Writing Scary Scenes, Writing About Villains,Writing Deep Point Of View, Writing Vivid Plots, Writing Vivid Settings, Writing Vivid Characters, Writing Vivid Settings, Why Does My book Not Sell? 20 Simple Fixes, Getting Book Reviews, Writing Book Blurbs And Synopses and more. These are guides for writers who have progressed beyond the basics and are ready to take their skills to the next level, and for indie authors who want to boost their books’ success.

She has worked as a museum guide, belly dancer, bilingual secretary, apple picker, development aid worker adult education teacher, magazine editor, literary agent,  publishing consultant and tarot reader, often in several roles at the same time. Now she writes full-time.

After living in Germany, China, Mongolia and Nepal, Rayne has settled in a seaside town in England. She enjoys reading, gardening and long walks along the seashore, braving ferocious seagulls and British rain. Her black cat Sulu – adopted from the rescue shelter – likes to snuggle between her arms while she writes, purring happily.

Visit her website raynehall.com, or follow her on Twitter https://twitter.com/RayneHall  for writing and publishing tips.

About the Author

CJ grew up admiring books. His family owned a small bookstore throughout his early childhood, and he would spend weekends flipping through book after book, always sure to read the ones that looked the most interesting. Not much has changed since then, except now some of those interesting books he picks off the shelf were designed by his company!