Most new authors think of blurbs as an afterthought, something to throw together and slap on their newly finished book, but if you want people to read your work, it’s actually some of the most important writing you can do for your book.
Let’s say your cover caught someone’s eye enough to click, well now it’s all down to your blurb to pique their interest and secure a sale. If the blurb is tedious, cliche, or contains errors, that person will toss your work aside and move on so fast your book won’t even have a chance to develop low self-esteem before sinking into the abyss. There’s always another book in this crowded market, so if you want people to read your book, you’d better make sure you put out a quality product, and that includes a blurb.
Here are are a few quick tips that should help you craft blurbs and improve sales.
1. Check out the competition
Check the bestsellers in your genre on Amazon and take a look at what’s working for other authors. Note down any blurbs that catch your eye and copy them into a swipe file; deconstruct them, play around with them, figure out why you like them. Once you have a grasp of what makes a successful blurb, you’ll better understand how to create your own.
2. Keep it short and simple
If a reader sees a wall of text in your book description, they’re likely to move on. Keep your blurb short. 100-150 word is the sweet spot on Amazon.
In our age of social media induced, quick-fire dopamine hits, it’s not surprising that people skim almost everything they read. Make your blurb easy for them to take in — use short, simple sentences to keep their attention.
3. Use present tense
Present tense is best for blurbs, for the same reason it sees so much use Young Adult fiction: it’s immediate and intense, showing change as it happens, which happens pretty damn quick when you’re trying to sell a novel in just a few sentences.
4. Avoid spoilers
You’re not writing a synopsis, so no spoilers. You wouldn’t want to ruin your story for people would you? A hint of plot is necessary, good even, but don’t give anything away.
5. Use a hook
The first line of your blurb, much like your book itself, is the most important. Hook the reader from the start with an intriguing idea or concept — a promise that reading your book will be time well spent.
Take the first line of the Harry Potter blurb for example:
“Harry Potter has no idea how famous he is.”
That one simple line leaves burning questions that make you want to keep reading — who thinks he’s famous? why doesn’t he know? how did he get famous? These questions might be answered in the very next line, but if someone keeps reading, the hook did it’s job.
6. Use active verbs
Create motion and excitement in your blurb by using active verbs. It is essentially a sales pitch after all, so you don’t want it to plod along, boring people. Avoid the verb “to be” as much as possible (are, is, be), it can usually be replaced by something more interesting, and inflates the word count by often needing another verb anyway.
7. Avoid cliches
It might be tempting to throw in a classic cliche to make your book sound exciting, but no cliche is going to help you here; readers have seen them all before and seeing one will just make them move on to look for something original.
8. Introduce your main characters
Introduce your characters, preferably just your main character, by focusing on the problems they face. Don’t give us a paragraph about what they had for breakfast because no one will care. Show some interesting dimension and give readers a reason to get invested.
9. Use a formula
If you feel lost in the woods, use a basic structure. Most blurbs do this.
Start with a hook (a), introduce the main character/situation (b), introduce a cliffhanger twist or stakes question (c), and end by emphasising the mood (d).
Here’s an example from one of my own books, which is by no means perfect, but serves to demonstrate the point well enough:
(a) A canyon city. A fallen society. A survivor driven to discover the truth.
(b) After his wife’s mysterious disappearance, Aiden Fielding sets out on a treacherous journey into the shattered remnants of civilisation.
Alone, desperate, and crippled by guilt, he faces imprisonment in the criminal underbelly of a rotten city. Caught in a violent bid for survival where basic supplies are paid for in blood, he must evade corrupt police, murderous inmates, and a secretive cult watching from the shadows.
(c) But escape is only the beginning – deep in the ruthless wasteland, primal forces lie in wait. When the time comes, how much will Aiden sacrifice in order to learn the truth?
(d) Buy Forged in the Dawn now, and strap in for a thrill ride of suspense, betrayal, and intrigue as you enter the world of the post-apocalyptic Fielding Series.
Like all writing, the magic is in the edit. Once you’ve got a blurb you’re happy with, put it away for a day or two. Then come back to it, realise you hate it, and rewrite it. Keep doing this until you have something decent.
Blurbs are one of the most important parts of capturing the interest of potential readers; you spend a lot of time and effort writing your book, so give it the chance it deserves by creating a killer blurb.
Image by Gavin Zanker, licensed under CC BY-NC 4.0.