5 March 2022

Special Guest Post by Kat Sheridan, Author of Blurb Your Novel: How to Write Book Descriptions For Fiction


Available from Amazon UK and Amazon US

The Blurb: Your Second Most Powerful Marketing Tool!

You’ve written a great story and have the perfect cover for your novel, so why aren’t you getting the sales you deserve? Why are readers looking but not buying?

Tony, thank you for having me on your blog today. I’m excited to be able to show your readers how to convert book browsers into book buyers!

Wondering why your sales may be lagging? Maybe it’s not your book. Maybe it’s your blurb.

Most folks use the terms cover copy, jacket copy, product description, and blurb interchangeably. For this article, I’m using the word “blurb.” So often, I’ve heard of folks who easily write an 80,000 novel who run away screaming when asked to squeeze the exciting bits into 150-200 words.

But you can do it and I’m going to show you how!

What makes a good blurb?

A good blurb is like an advertisement for a striptease joint: enough is revealed that the customer is enticed, but enough remains hidden that the customer has to pay the admission fee to see more. A good blurb creates an emotional response in the reader that makes them want to read your book!

Your blurb is your first, best, and strongest piece of marketing material. Along with your tagline and logline—offshoots of the blurb—you’ll use it everywhere: book retailers, your website, guest blog posts, social media, etc. It goes in your marketing budget, whether that budget is paid with your time or with your dollars. You can hire a professional, like me, or you can learn to do it yourself.

Let me tell you a secret: there’s a formula for writing enticing fiction blurbs, and you can learn it! Ready?

Step 1: Create a character description of no more than two main characters in the format of adjective-noun-character name. Done right, you can pack a lot of info into these few words. The adjectives and nouns you choose generally describe the character’s role, job, rank, status, relationship, or notable characteristic that is important to the story. For science fiction/fantasy/paranormal it may be a creature type, tribe, planetary affiliation, etc.

Example:

Spinster Jane Eyre (relationship, plus the word “spinster” gives a sense of time period)

Home-loving hobbit Bilbo Baggins (notable characteristic, creature type, genre)

Down-on-his-luck private eye Dirk Dangerous (status, job, genre)

Paraplegic war veteran Jane Braveheart (physical characteristic that is integral to the story, status/role)

In general, the first character named in your blurb will be the character with the most at stake or who will transform the most by the end of the story.

Step 2: Define the G.M.C. for your protagonist(s).

G.M.C. stands for Goal, Motivation, Conflict (Conflict is also called Risks, Obstacle, Stakes). Here’s a tip to concisely define the GMC for a character: try filling in this sentence: character wants (goal) because (motivation) but can’t have/get it because (conflict)

Step 3: Mention or imply your setting and/or time period.

You don’t have to jut baldly state the setting. Use other elements, such as character description to get it out there. “For Manhattan socialite Gennifer Gemsly, opening a bed and breakfast in Spittoon, Montana was more a leap of insanity than a leap of faith.”

Step 4: Identify the inciting incident.

The inciting incident—the catalyst—is what sets the story in motion. It’s the one plot point that’s crucial to include in your blurb. You can give a bird’s-eye view of other plot points, but the inciting incident is essential. A blurb isn’t a road map to the entire story; it’s an invitation to begin the journey and discover the path for themselves. You always want the reader to ask, “And then what happens?” Your blurb should never tell a reader how the story ends, but should always tell them how it begins. The only way to find out what happens next will be to buy your book.

Step 5: Create a killer last line or call to action for your characters.

There are two schools of thought on whether it’s better to end a blurb with a question or with a statement. Either one can work. Direct statements tend to work better than questions because the question asked is too often just rhetorical—something that’s asked to make a point rather than to actually elicit an answer. If you want to end with a question, asking “how” in your last line is a better option than “will” or “can.” Ending your blurb by asking “how” sets up a question that can only be resolved if the reader purchases the book:

• How can two such opposite lovebirds resolve their differences?

• How can Dirk Dangerous stop such a fiendish criminal?

• How can these brave fighters win against unstoppable alien forces?

Another powerful option for a killer last line is to directly state the consequences of failing to resolve the book’s primary conflict:

• If these lovebirds can’t compromise, they may lose their chance at love forever.

• The killer has a list of targets. And Dirk Dangerous’s name is at the top.

• If these warriors fail, all of Earth will be destroyed.

Another fun option for a killer last line is to try to work in the title of the book, or at least some reference to it. This doesn’t work for every book title, and you shouldn’t twist your words into pretzels to try to make it work, but when it does, it can have a great effect. For instance, for a book titled “Loving Mr. Wrong,” a possible last line might be “How can it feel so right to be loving Mr. Wrong?” If a book is titled, “The Last Days of Earth,” a killer last line might be, “If the warriors fail, the last day of Earth will be today.”

Extra bonus for creating a killer last line? It often makes a great tagline to use in other marketing materials!

General notes to make your blurb stand out:

Use vivid words: In a blurb, hyperbole is your friend! Use emotional, juicy words to connect to your reader on a visceral level. Create tension and get colorful!

Use keywords: You know your genre, you know your target audience, and you know the words that hit the sweet spot for them. Readers are looking for keywords to help them decide to buy your book.

Use the right tone: Match the tone and voice of the blurb to the tone and voice of the book. Don’t write a funny blurb for a serious book and vice versa. If your book is lighthearted, funny, and sassy, the blurb should be as well. A dark, angsty, dystopian novel should have a blurb in that same style.

PROOFREAD! Readers, right or wrong, will assume sloppy cover copy also means a sloppy book.

A note about Non-Fiction: There’s a formula for writing non-fiction blurbs, just like fiction. Briefly, your table of contents is your best friend: List three or four of the most compelling chapter titles and a line describing what they’re about. State the problem your book aims to solve. List specific ways buying your book will benefit or educate the reader, again using those juicy words, and numbers if applicable (“will help you boost sales by 40%, “will shave six weeks off your job search”). The author bio is also critical to selling non-fiction. Your personal bona fides will help sell your book.

Interested in learning more about how to do it yourself?

My book, Blurb Your Novel: How to Write Book Descriptions For Fiction, goes into more detail, with specifics for different genres. You’ll learn how to write powerful product descriptions and blurbs that will convert book browsers into book buyers!

Prefer to get help from a pro?

I’ve been writing blurbs for over a decade, helping hundreds of authors just like you. Click here to see what BlurbWriter can do for you! https://blurbwriter.com/


Kat Sheridan

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About the Author

Kat Sheridan provides book cover copy, product descriptions, and author bios for writers. She splits her time between the Midwest in the summer and the South in the winter, sharing her home with the love of her life and an exceedingly dignified Shih Tzu. Find out more at BlurbWriter.com, and find her on Twitter @KatSheridan

14 comments:

  1. Thanks for the post! I've recently begun revisiting several of my indie blurbs and I realize this is the resource I need. Great tips here. I will absolutely give them a try!

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    1. Thank you for pointing out that blurbs aren't just for newly published books. A new blurb is an opportunity for an author to "re-launch" a book and generate new sales!

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  2. I use Kat, the Blurb Writer, for all my blurbs!

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    1. Jan, I love your books and it's always a delight to work with you!

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  3. It's interesting how many elements a book has, including typeface, cover illustration and design, page composition, spelling, grammar, story arc and author voice. A key marketing element is the cover copy which is often the single most important feature that sells a book...or doesn't. If you want to make a sale, getting expert help in this area is cost-effective and important. I'm with Kat on this 100%.

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  4. Write! I shall bookmark this and try it out with my critique group friends

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    1. Sounds like an excellent exercise for them, Sheila!

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  5. Thanks for this great step by step approach to writing a blurb! You've made a daunting task more doable.

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  6. Great information presented in an enjoyable way. Thanks, Kat.

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  7. Kat, this is a really useful article! I'm gonna share it!

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  8. Great blog, Kat! What's your opinion on using ellipses ... in the blurb. I heard a speaker addressing book descriptions, or blurbs, recently who suggested using them repeatedly. Thoughts?

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    1. Great question, Donna. I think it's a matter of taste. I use them rarely, and when I do, it's only on the last line. So I might say "But sometimes, fate has other ideas..." Now think about how different the sentence feels if instead, I say, "But sometimes, fate has other ideas." The first one has a "wispier" feel to me, and might work best for a romance. The second one is straightforward, and could possibly even sound menacing, depending on what came before it. What's most important is that the blurb match the tone and voice of the book, so a lot would depend on that as to whether or not I'd use ellipses. And for me, using them more than once might be visually distracting.

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  9. I hope you give it a try and have great success!

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