Writing a blurb is probably about ten times harder than writing a synopsis, but back-cover blurbs are one of your main selling tools. In my case, I’d say that it’s the blurb (rather than the cover) that influences my decision to buy or not to buy.
First of all, go into your local bookstore – or, even easier, open the Amazon site – and look at the blurbs of the same genre books as yours. What attracts you to a book? What puts you off? What clues did the blurb give you about the characters and the setting? Did it give you too much information, or not enough?
Here I’m going to talk about the blurb for romance novels, since that is what I write. Blurbs for thrillers, science fiction, paranormal etc may be different, of course.
When I was writing romance in the sixties and seventies, the publisher wrote the blurb for me. My first novel had this back-cover blurb:
Christine thought it was too good to be true when Don Bowden, whom she had loved for so long, confessed that he felt the same way about her. It was too good to be true ...
Short, but straight to the point – and, of course, it raises an immediate question in the reader’s mind. Why was it too good to be true?
The setting for this story wasn’t mentioned in the blurb because, in this case, it didn’t form a pivotal part of the story. The two main characters were teachers but they could quite well have been in any other profession, since the emphasis was on the relationship between them and not on the setting.
In my second novel, however, the setting was paramount to the story, and this was reflected in the blurb, which was longer this time:
Janet Harris and Philip Morton were on opposite sides of the fence. The future of Janet's beautiful Lakeland village home was at stake, and she put the blame squarely on Philip. Falling in love with each other should have been the solution. But somehow it only complicated an already tense situation. Then Fate took a hand. But was it too late?
Even though it’s over forty years since those blurbs were written, this is one occasion where things haven’t changed much over the years. Blurbs continue to be the ‘sales’ pitch, and should arouse curiosity. You’re seducing the reader and persuading them to buy your book. Give enough to whet the appetite, and don’t give too much away.
For romance novels, the blurb needs to concentrate on the characters—who they are, the first major ‘plot point’ of the story, and what stands in the way of their happiness together. If the setting or their occupations are a contributory part of the challenges or conflicts facing them, then these get a mention too. The blurb should also leave the reader asking questions (even if you have to spell it out for them!).
This is the blurb I wrote for ‘His Leading Lady’:
Jess Harper’s predictable life is turned upside down when she discovers that Lora, her twin sister, has disappeared. It’s just a week before rehearsals are due to start for a new West End musical in which Lora has the lead role. Jess decides to pose as her sister in order to save Lora's career, and this brings her into close contact with arrogant theatre director Kyle Drummond. Attraction sparks between them but there’s also evidence that he had been dating Lora. So is Jess simply a substitute – in real life as well as in the show? And what will happen when Lora eventually returns?
Two years on from when I wrote this, I can already see ways I could improve it! But the salient points are there – characters, first plot point, reference to the setting/occupations, the potential conflict(s), and finally, the question.
Basically, the blurb ‘leads’ the readers into the story, but without giving too much away, and provides a ‘hook’ which hopefully will leave them wanting to know more.
Here's the blurb for my latest release, Changing the Future:
How do you write your blurbs?