I just finished signing my contract with my publisher and, just as the ink finished drying, I received my next assignment: to think of a cover for my book and to write the back of book blurb.
In this blog post I will focus on how to write the “dreaded” back of book blurb.
Spoiler Alert! A book blurb is NOT the same as a synopsis. Let me break it down:
Sarah Campbell (author of Paranormal Thriller novel Butterfly Harvest) explains that a synopsis is “a condensed statement giving a general overview of a subject” INCLUDING THE ENDING to your novel, short story, play, etc., and a book blurb is “a brief advertisement…to praise something” to capture the interest of a potential buyer; a blurb does NOT spill the beans on your ending.
(You can read the full blog entry on Sarah’s website here: http://www.sandrarcampbell.com/book-blurb-vs-synopsis-whats-the-difference/ )
Yes, there might be some key elements where the two terms will blur together. For instance, you might write a synopsis in a query letter which sells your book to a potential publisher or literary agent, some of whom might ask for the ending of your novel, short story, or play and some of whom may not. Which is why it’s important that you research before you query.
In short, a synopsis SUMMARIZES and a blurb SELLS. Get the picture?
Well, what do you need to include in a blurb? What key points will sell my book?
Here are some things to consider:
What is/are your favourite book(s)? How did you decide you would buy it/them? Did it/they have a blurb and, if so, what did that blurb include?
Look at books that have sold hundreds of copies. Do they have blurbs? What did they say? What did you or didn’t you like about them?
I would tell you to look at books that have sold millions of copies, but odds are the only blurbs that are on the back of those books are praise from other well-known authors and publishers about that book or other books the author has written (which are good too, but in my opinion they serve to sell the author rather than the book itself).
If you’re still struggling to figure out what to write here are a few tips from Marilynn Byerly (author of Science Fiction Romantic Adventure novel Star-Crossed):
For Science Fiction and Fantasy:
• In sf and fantasy, the setting itself usually needs to be set up even before the main character (first and second paragraphs).
• Simple plot set up, and the main character’s emotional involvement with it. What is the exterior conflict of the novel? (What is the hero fighting against and why?) What must the main character achieve or defeat and what does he have to lose? This can include plot set up, place set up, the important secondary characters, and the villain (third and fourth paragraphs).
Marilynn gives a few more tips for other genres, including Mystery and Suspense, as well as how to shorten your blurb if it is too long. You can read her full article here: http://www.marilynnbyerly.com/blurb.html
The key is to know your audience. To whom are you trying to sell this book? What buzz words will grab their attention? Also make sure your tone is appropriate for the type of book you are trying to sell. A happy tone in a blurb does not necessarily convey the more suspenseful tone in a Thriller novel, for example. This might seem obvious to some writers, but you never know.
Also, a good way to challenge yourself and to keep in blurb writing practice is to see if you can shorten your already trimmed blurb down even more. If it’s 400 words try to cut it down to 300. From 300 to 200. 200 to 150. 150 to less than 100.
For my blurb I was told to write a 200 word back cover blurb for my Horror novel Existence. Using the tips and guidelines from the previous two articles I wrote mine. Here’s what I have so far:
Back of Book Blurb
“Over a hundred years into the future, humanity has reached the point where it would rather eliminate itself into extinction than risk becoming infected by what they think is a virus. Mutated creatures, born from the virus and human blood, roam the Earth in search of food – human food. When it seems all hope of saving the human race is lost, rumours circulate about a New Government who claim to have found a “cure”.
A young woman named Margot, armed with only a samurai sword, enters the woods alone knowing she may never come out again. In a sudden face to face battle with a man she followed in the hopes she could steal his food, Margot realizes she’s too weak to fight back and waits for death.
Three days after her capture, the man offers Margot food and water after forcing her to promise she won’t run or try to kill him. Suspicious of his sudden gesture of kindness, Margot resolves to run at the first opportunity. However, the more time she spends with him the less she wants to run away, regardless of the many secrets he is hiding from her. She begins to trust him, something she’ll have to learn to do all over again after being alone for so long.
It’s not until they come across an abandoned house surrounded by huge a metal wall does Margot start to suspect she’s put her trust in the wrong person. A scientists journal is found and the horrible truth behind the virus is revealed. Margot has to figure out exactly who her mysterious companion really is before it’s too late.”
Just sent this off to my publisher (she asked for 200 words and I gave her 272. Oops!) and when I get her feedback I will post her suggestions and comments in my next blog post.
Until then, Happy Reading and Writing!