Authors are good at writing the story in all its interesting details, but when it comes to writing a promotional piece to sell it, it takes a different state of mind. The book becomes a product you need to promote. Here are a few tips to make sure your blurb will attract the right kind of readers, those most likely to like your particular story.
In a bookstore or on the web, readers only take eight seconds to make up their mind about whether or not they want to buy a book. The first hook is the cover. The second is the blurb, also called back cover blurb for print books. This is your only chance to convince them that they really want to read your book, and you only have about 100 words to do it. But for now just write the slightly longer version, you’ll cut it down later.
Elements of a good blurb:
- A hook - something intriguing to draw the reader into the story
- A powerful or atmospheric opening statement.
- Emotion to engage the reader
- A pay off or a promise that leaves the buyer wanting to know more.
The question technique: To grab the reader, one technique is to play the WHAT IF? game and place the reader in the protagonist’s shoes. Example: What would you do if the US President was shot in front of your eyes and you knew the killer?
Use present tense. It works better, more immediate, more active, even if the novel is written in past tense. Use active form and buzz words (death, betrayal, secrets, murder, intrigue, abduction, etc.) Strong words bring strong emotional responses.
The first sentence should tell us the most important element of the story. It could be the shorter version of the blurb when only a few words are allowed. Example from my novel Alien Lockdown: “The year is 3033, in the Andromeda Galaxy, and in the bowels of the underground intergalactic prison, something has gone terribly wrong.” Immediately, the reader knows what kind of book this is, and will expect lots of action in a science fiction setting.
The blurb should also reflect the tone, the author’s voice, and the atmosphere of the book. A Regency Romance will give us the flavor, if not the language of the time. An action thriller will use different buzz words than a humorous rump or a slapstick comedy, or a chick lit novel.
The premise and theme technique works well with relationships and romance novels and other popular fiction genres, using these simple guidelines:
- He wants (state his goal)
- She wants (state her goal, and it should conflict with his)
- But (state his internal conflict, his fears, his weakness)
- And (state her internal conflict, her fears, her weakness)
- Then when (state the external conflict, what prevents them from realizing their goals and sets them on a collision course, or will complicate the story – often, a villain intervenes to thwart their plans)
Tell the information in order of importance. Often the blurbs are cut or only the first part is shown on a website. If you have your main hook in the very first sentence, it will be shown. But if your main hook is towards the end of the blurb, the reader will never see it. For a longer blurb, make sure that if only the first paragraph is posted, it will still hook the reader.
Other techniques include the list, which might work better for a suspense. Example:
The prize: His two kidnapped children
The rules: Trust no one, betray anyone, win, whatever the cost
The pawns: His lover and his best friend
The opponent: The most dangerous terrorist in history
The game: A game of betrayal
After you have defined all these elements, you must cut your blurb down to about 100 words in most cases, and that’s the most difficult part. Shorter blurbs are more powerful than longer ones.
Here is my blurb for the series: CURSE OF THE LOST ISLE:
From history shrouded in myths, emerges a family of immortal Celtic Ladies, who roam the medieval world in search of salvation from a curse. For centuries, imbued with hereditary gifts, they hide their deadly secret... but if the Church ever suspects what they really are, they will be hunted, tortured, and burned at the stake.
Here is the blurb for PRINCESS OF BRETAGNE, Book One in that series, out in March 2012:
806 AD - Alba (Ancient Scotland) - As the Vikings raid the coast of Alba, Pressine of Bretagne sets out to seduce King Elinas of Dumfries, chosen by the Goddess to unite the tribes against the foreign invader. Elinas, still mourning his departed queen, has no intention to remarry. Head-strong and independent, Pressine does not expect to fall for the very attractive, wise and noble ruler... Furthermore, her Pagan nature clashes with the religious fanaticism of the king’s Christian heir, who suspects her unholy ancestry, and will stop at nothing to get rid of her.
When Trixie's starfreighter, Noah's Ark, drops out of jump space in an uncharted part of the universe, she believes the M‑class planet on her viewer represents hope and salvation for her motley crew, and the ragtag settlers aboard her ship.
Kostas, ex Space Marine, the expert survivalist recruited for this expedition, doesn't believe in coincidences, and knows that when something looks too good to be true, it usually is.
Everyone on this voyage to seed a new planet with life, is running from something, and harbors dangerous secrets... including Trixie, who vowed to never let a man control her life again. As for Kostas, he would get lynched on the spot if anyone suspected who he really is.
But on this seemingly abandoned planet, others are watching, herding them for evil purposes... And when the truth emerges and secrets unravel, Trixie and Kostas will have to fight for survival, for freedom, and for the right to love...
Born in France, award-winning author Vijaya Schartz never conformed to anything and could never refuse a challenge. She likes action and exotic settings, in life and on the page. She traveled the world and claims she comes from the future.Her books collected many five star reviews and literary awards. She makes you believe you actually lived these extraordinary adventures among her characters. Her stories have been compared to Indiana Jones with sizzling romance. So, go ahead, dare to experience the magic, and she will keep you entranced, turning the pages until the last line.
*Edited by Teresa Crumpton*