I don’t know why when I’ve merrily completed a novel or two, the idea of writing a blurb always strikes fear into my heart. Perhaps it’s the sheer impossibility of condensing all of that wonderful prose down into a few lines. I expect there’s a niggling worry that I’ll get it wrong and then no one will want to read my book. It’s a different kind of skill to writing fiction: essentially, what you’re doing when producing a blurb is writing advertising copy, designed to hook in the casual browser who may never have heard of you before. Blurbs don’t just need to convey the basic premise and tone of the book – they need to entice and seduce potential readers to part with some of their precious cash.
I hate writing my own blurbs, and am heartily glad that Samhain do such an amazing job of polishing up my efforts into something much more appealing. However, since writing blurbs is an essential part of the submission process (most publishers require them in the cover letter and/or synopsis), I’ve come up with a few ways of making them less painful.
Write them early
Preferably before finishing the novel. I always come up with a very rough blurb early on to put on my WIP page here on the website. Although these might not bear much relation to the final product, I find it really helpful to get thinking about them early. It’s much easier to tweak and build on something that already exists, than to start with a blank page. And I don’t know why, but the earlier I am in the writing process, the easier that rough blurb comes. Perhaps it’s because the novel is still mainly potential, so it’s easier to see the key things that matter.
Choose your keywords
This is a list of the kind of things you might want to tag your book with Amazon, for instance. I’m not talking about the obvious ones like the genre, but the things that make your book different from others. For instance, for The Hot Floor I came up with the following:
glassblowing, England, spanking, BDSM, threeway, ménage, plumber, geek, Asian hero, multicultural, neighbours, boy next door, kink, British
These were all aspects I wanted to make sure I touched on in the blurb, too.
Don’t give away too much
I stick to the first third of the book when giving detail in the blurb. Any further in than this feels like too much of a spoiler. After all, if the reader knows the story almost all the way to the end already, what’s the point in them reading it? Sometimes I need to hint at stuff later on, but I keep it pretty vague.
What’s my conflict?
Sometimes, by the time I’ve finished a novel I have a hard time remembering what my most central conflict was, because I layered on so many other smaller conflicts while writing. It’s essential for me to take some time out to think about what the most important one was, and stick to talking about this in the blurb.
Avoid the cheesy rhetorical question
You know the ones – the blurbs that end with a “but can Chad convince Brad he really loves him for his brains, not his brawn?” Well of course he bloody well can. Right. I don’t need to bother reading the book now, do I? I’m always tempted to write these kind of blurbs because they’re so easy, but I squash that urge whenever it comes up.
Write a tagline
Taglines can be an utter bitch to come up with, but they’re incredibly helpful when marketing your story. I’m really pleased with my final one for The Hot Floor: Two plus one equals scorching hot fun. It’s catchy and it captures the fun tone of the novel. Writing one early on is a must. In fact, coming up with a whole list of them is a great idea, and then…
Get some help
My beta readers know what my story means to them, so I ask them to critique my blurb and pick their favourite taglines. The blurb is the one place in your book where it’s definitely better to go with what readers want, rather than being too precious. Sometimes I even enlist the help of people who’ve never read my story, and ask them if my blurb sounds appealing enough.
And coming up next, with fortuitous timing, I’m going to be revealing the cover art and blurb for my next novel, The Hot Floor. Watch this space!
So, any other authors out there have some blurb writing tips to share? And readers – what kind of things do you find appealing or a right turn off in a blurb?