Ciao, amici. We’re wrapping up the Story Bible series of posts today. If you missed one or more of the posts, you can find them, in order of post date, by clicking the following links:
Today, we’re discussing how to write the back-of-book blurb.
You’re probably wondering why a blurb, which isn’t needed until you’re ready to publish, is something I include in a story bible, which I create before I start writing even the first book in the series.
One, your blurb covers only the most important and most marketable parts of your story. Keeping that in mind as you write will enable you to stay focused on what the most crucial parts of your story are.
Two, when you have a series, you want all your blurbs to follow the same format. That’s easiest to do when you have them all at your fingertips and can compare one to another. For example, my Cathedral Lake series blurbs all begin with two sentences, three words each. If I didn’t have them in my story bible, I may have neglected to follow the format. And it’s important for the series to have unifying features in as many places as possible.
Three, when you’re marketing your novel, you will often be asked for your blurb. Having them all in your story bible makes it easy to find. You won’t need to search for it on Amazon or navigate three menus deep on your website. It’s right there in your master file.
There are dozens of formulas out there for blurb writing. I can’t say which is right and which is wrong. I can only tell you what works for me.
- Read blurbs of bestsellers in your genre.
Doing this helps you learn what appeals to readers. You might notice repetition of certain words or a specific structure to the blurb that you are unfamiliar with. Emulate these features in your own blurb.
- Come up with a good tagline.
Taglines aren’t sentences or fragments that summarize the plot. They don’t even necessarily reveal the theme. The tagline just needs to set a tone, project an image. Some of the most recognizable taglines are from films. Here are a few you’re sure to recognize:
• You’ll never go in the water again. (Jaws)
• In space, no one can hear you scream. (Alien)
• Whoever wins… we lose. (Alien Vs. Predator)
- Focus on only one character.
My WIP is a multiple-POV book. Series. I can’t write a blurb that covers all of the cast. I chose one character, the one I thought was most in the center of everything. His is the only plot thread I mention in the blurb. Paring things down to their simplest form will make the blurb clear and compelling.
- Focus on only one problem.
Multiple characters and multiple plot lines can make for an incredibly interesting story. But not a blurb. Just as you had to choose the most important character, you also have to choose the most important thread of that character’s plot. Again, simplicity will make for the most dynamic blurb.
- Raise the stakes.
Conflict and tension are what move plot forward. They’re also what makes for great ad copy. And make no mistake, your book blurb is essentially ad copy. The conflict and tension increase as the book progresses. Focus primarily on the last bits, so the stakes are at their highest.
- End with a zinger.
Readers need to know this book is for them. End your blurb by making it impossible for them to not read the book. Pose the question that the book is supposed to answer (and no, it doesn’t not need to be in question form). Leaving the reader with that unknown will compel them to take the next step.
- Be cognizant of voice.
If you wrote a comedy, you don’t want to use sad and morose terms. If you wrote a thriller, you don’t want flowery language. Use the tone of the story and the voice of the POV character when you write your blurb. It’s the best way to introduce the reader to the material inside. If they like the way the blurb is written, they know they’ll like the way the story is written.
- Use dynamic words.
Passive voice and vanilla words make for lousy ad copy and lousy fiction. Do you want to read about a very pretty girl or a stunning blonde? Tight writing is always important, but never more so than in your blurb, where you only have one to two hundred words to say what you need to.
Here’s an example from one of my novels, Love Set in Stone.
A cold stone heart breaks more easily than it beats. Than it loves.
Damien was a loyal warrior, killed in battle in 1203. Because of his true heart, he was given the option to pass on to his eternal reward or exist in another state of being as a protector… until he could resume living the life he’d been cheated of. A soldier by nature, he chose the latter. And he waited centuries—as a gargoyle—growing increasingly bitter about his choice. Then he sees her.
Rina is a hard worker and loyal friend. But she has the worst luck. One night, after saving her best friend from a violent assault, she finds herself at the attacker’s mercy. Then, out of nowhere, a savior comes and rescues her.
With only an angel to guide him, Damien must make the right choices to win Rina’s heart, or be forever damned as a grotesque mockery of the guardian he once was.
As you can see, I began with a tagline. I focused on the main character. (In this case, it’s a romance, so I focused on the couple, not just one or the other.) I outlined the stakes. And I ended with an unanswered question—would he get the girl or be cursed as a gargoyle forever? I used dynamic words (warrior, bitter, violent, grotesque) to make the blurb more vibrant. This is the same kind of blurb the bestselling paranormal romances use.
You don’t have to follow the formula step by step. Make the blurb and the style your own. But if you do most or all of these things, you’ll end up with a solid blurb. A solid series of blurbs that match each other in tone, style, and content.
And you’ll complete your story bible.