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Tuesday, October 23, 2012

How to Write a Blurb - guest post by @thewritershouse


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The following is a guest post by Claire Pickering and Rebecca Richmond at The Writers' House UK.

Blog: http://www.writershouse.co.uk/blog
Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/WritersHouseUK
LinkedIn: http://www.linkedin.com/pub/claire-pickering/25/7a8/200




Have you ever wondered how to write a blurb or indeed what one is?


A blurb is the text on the back cover or jacket of a book – or these days increasingly online – that gives an insight to what the book is about, like a summary describing the contents, and it is what sells your book and engages your audience. A synopsis is a summary of the entire story, beginning, middle and end. A blurb is much shorter and doesn’t give the game away.

Other than your title and the picture on the front cover, it is what will tell your reader that what they are expecting from the cover and title is what the book is actually about. They usually include a piece about the author as well and when you bear in mind that you will only have room for about 250 words, including the ‘About the Author’, it is an art form in itself. You may have taken many months, perhaps even years to write your book and now you are being asked to condense your work into just a small number of words! A daunting task for anyone! So have you ever wondered how to write a blurb? Well, below we have provided you with some guidelines and alternatives to help get you started:

1. Consider your target audience.

2. Use attention-grabbing action verbs, adjectives or phrases to promote your book, such as ‘sizzling’, ‘heartbreaking’, ‘heart-wrenching’, ‘spine-tingling/chilling’, ‘earth-shattering’, ‘mind-blowing’.

3. Comparisons to other, more established authors can be made, such as ‘ranks among great novelists such as Catherine Cookson’ or ‘has been likened to Andy McNab and Chris Ryan’. This can be especially useful for debut novelists.

4. A popular method is to omit the subject of the book and instead write a description, such as ‘A wild romp through the ages – must read’; ‘sweeping epic – not to be missed’.

5. End with a bang or a reason for the reader to buy or read the book, such as a repeated recommendation of the book, using words such as ‘must read’, ‘unputdownable’.

6. Describe the journey, such as ‘the author takes us through …’ or ‘warned that her husband would not survive the week, the author …’; ‘in this valuable reference book, the author shares …’; ‘this entertaining diatribe …’

7. Create intrigue, stimulate interest and pique their curiosity.

8. Introduce your hero/heroine/protagonist and any conflict or goals they may find themselves up against. What do they have to lose?

9. Consider your setting or era.

10. This is probably the only place where you can get away with using plenty of question and exclamation marks and are a must when compiling a blurb. An example of this would be: ‘it was love at first sight and they were lost in each other’s presence – or were they?’; ‘… but will the kids find out on time?’ You can also use ellipsis to great effect, leaving it to the reader’s imagination or leaving the reader asking questions.

11. Note down words, quotes and phrases from within the text that appeal or that create an atmosphere or sense of mystery.

12. Include a quotation from someone famous in italics that is displayed at the start of the blurb, before the actual text begins.

13. Ask someone famous or someone who specialises in the field in which you have written to endorse your work.

When considering how to write a blurb, there are certain things to avoid:

1. Using plot spoilers, where the author divulges something that the reader should be left to figure out for themselves.

2. Don’t reveal too much that there is nothing left to discover, but make sure you reveal enough to capture their attention.

3. Poor grammar, spelling and punctuation.

Who should write the blurb:

As the author of the book, you are invariably the most knowledgeable about the contents, so you are probably the person best qualified to write the blurb. However, you may also be too close to it. By this, we mean that you won’t be impartial and you will probably want to include more information than is necessary. While it may be cheaper to write the blurb yourself and there is an argument for the fact that it needs to be written in the same style as the book, to have another take on it can be a good thing, almost like a fresh set of eyes, which may mean they can even bring a certain vitality to your work.

The idea behind a blurb is to sell the book and to capture your audience, be that a reader or potential bookshop, so that they want to find out what it’s all about. And if you have been working on the book, living and breathing it for months, perhaps even years, you may be stale. If you don’t feel able to compile the blurb yourself, you could always ask your editor or publisher/agent. They will also know the book’s strengths and be able to capture this in the blurb. Failing that, you could also employ the services of a copywriter, who are dedicated wordsmiths who are able to get a message across using few words. Have a look at other blurbs, selecting from genres you have written in, and see what words, phrases and techniques they have used to capture their audience.

When considering how to write a blurb, keep in mind that blurbs are a way of showcasing your work with the promise of a good read, whetting the reader’s appetite and appealing to their self-interest, and it is not something you can put to one side and avoid doing altogether. Good luck and enjoy experimenting and playing with words!



About the Authors


Author of Forget Fibromyalgia: Putting the Pieces Together and My Guide: How to Write a Novel, Rebecca Richmond has enjoyed a highly successful career within global organisations, later going on to become a coach. Having triumphed over adversity and cancer, as a qualified coach, master practitioner of NLP, hypnosis and Time Line Therapy, she is ideally equipped to help you achieve the success you deserve.

A qualified proofreader and editor, Claire Pickering knows her subject and has an amazing attention to detail. Having worked in the publishing industry for many years, My Guide: How to Write a Novel is her first published work – unless you can count the hundreds of manuscripts she has worked on over the course of ten years, which are now in the general market.

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