#WriteTip: How to Write a Book Blurb

Jeri Walker
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Jeri Walker

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#BookReview: Ava by Ashley Barron https://t.co/CfcPjtQY5R - 2 hours ago
Jeri Walker
Jeri Walker
Jeri Walker
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Many readers seek new books by browsing their favorite genres. Beyond that, catchy titles and intriguing cover design aligned with genre expectations further entice. Hopefully, the potential reader takes that all-important next step and reads the back blurb or online description. How to write a book blurb is rather straightforward, but the process can be infuriating due to the emotional connection to your own work that often makes it hard to boil the story down to essentials.   

 

Optimization Basics to Keep in Mind

For better or worse, writing entails not only writing to entice readers but also writing to appease the online parameters placed on the text.

 

1. Genre Appropriate: Make sure your book blurb reads like those that are selling well. Do your research. Collect, print, highlight, compare and contrast.

2. Length: Aim for a word count in the vicinity of 150 words (1-4 paragraphs). Amazon might allow 4,00o characters in the book description box, but nobody wants to wade through a long blurb. Rather, use some of that space for snippets from top reviews.

3. The Hook: Hook readers with an irresistible first couple of lines. This is common sense, but more importantly, you want potential readers to be tempted to click the “read more” button. It’s also possible to use basic HTML tags, so consider making the leading line bold.

4. Keywords: Incorporate 3-5 important keywords, phrases or categories readers are likely to use to find books like yours. If the search terms can’t be easily worked into the book blurb, it’s perfectly acceptable to incorporate them as a list after the main description.

5. Efficient Summary: Capture the gist of the story without giving the ending away.

 


Newspaper publisher and world traveler JJ Cavendish continually feels pressured to live up to her Miracle Girl nickname. Not many people know she’s living a carefully crafted lie. She may not hide ties to the LGBT community, but she does hide past struggles with addiction.

When the Colorado native is handpicked to take the helm at a dying Denver newspaper, she ends up reconnecting with her long lost love in this contemporary lesbian romance. Only there’s a catch. If JJ fires the most belligerent editor at the paper, she risks losing the love of her life.

Mid-afternoon office romps abound in this romantic comedy while also focusing on what it takes for a newspaper to remain relevant in this age of social media.

Must JJ lose everything in order to gain a life more fully her own?

 

Image of Rita Mae Brown Quote

 

A Template for How to Write a Book Blurb

This template will help you get the job done when it comes to what elements to emphasis. Whether to focus more on internal or external conflict will vary by genre.

 

1. Hook: Focus on the main character and the pickle they’re in. Name the protagonist and possibly one more significant character. Work in a reference to their socioeconomic status via job title or family role.

2. Conflicts: Establish the main conflict in the hook, and then take it a step deeper in the next section.

3. Setting: Work in a brief mention to the setting whether it be real or imagined.

4. Theme: Hint at larger societal issues that may be at play within the story.

5. Cliffhanger: Leave the reader wanting to know more by ending with a question, alluding to imminent threats, or by re-emphasizing all that’s keeping the main characters apart. Whatever you do, don’t let on to how issues will be resolved!

After a near-fatal drug overdose in the late 1980s, Gerry Freeman leaves England in search of a better life and spiritual awakening. While hitchhiking around the South of France, he and his friend Jan meet an eclectic mix of carefree hippies, dashing celebrities, and kind-hearted strangers.

Wine and parties abound—on the streets and beaches, wherever they find themselves—but the good times often come at the price of begging and having to steal food to survive.

Past mental and physical abuse haunts Gerry, but he begins to realize happiness is a choice. Sometimes it takes a journey that spans lazing on the beaches of the French Riviera, harvesting grapes in the serene hills of wine country, and washing dishes at a ski resort in the Alps to learn answers that lurked inside all along. Anyone can start caring again.

 

Language Pointers

A blurb is not the place to be sloppy. Afterall, it’s a crucial component in selling your book. Though short, it’s a given good ones take a considerable amount of time to write. It’s best to let the first draft rest for at least a day before making further revisions. This will enable you to truly see it anew.

 

1. Characters: Readers connect with stories on a human level, so emphasize characters and their actions over setting, historical significance, or jargon.

2. Tone: Does your diction capture the feel of your book? Select words that best convey whether the tone of the book is dark, comical, or melancholy?

3. Imagery: Pick evocative words that will strike a chord with readers of your genre and conjure relatable images.

4. Rhythm: Shake things up with varied sentence structure. Writers often err on the side of length when trying to fit so many details in, but punctuation can indeed shake things up and keep readers on their toes and wanting more as opposed to slogging through marathon-length sentences.

5. Repetition: Be wary of having emphasized the same thing three different ways with only little to no variation. This happens quite often.

 

Graduate student Lizzie Petrie feels more comfortable around books than people. Although an expert in the Hitler Youth, she’s a novice in love. Her former lesbian lover is blackmailing her, and not even those closest to Lizzie know the full story of their abusive relationship.

When visiting high school English teacher Sarah crosses Lizzie’s path at the campus, their attraction is instant, but not without complications. As they start to spend more time together, suspicions arise from both women in this sexy piece of LGBT fiction.

Plenty of good-natured teasing takes place between lovers as well as between PhD students in this lesbian contemporary romance. No relationship path ever runs smoothly, and oftentimes, those who can’t keep their mouth shut hasten necessary confrontation.

Lizzie finds herself buried in a mess of lies in this romantic comedy. The harder she tries to keep Sarah and the rest of her friends from finding out the truth about her first girlfriend, the more endearingly clueless she becomes.

 

 

What tends to capture your interest when browsing book blurbs?

 

RECENT GUEST POSTS: I’ve written a post titled Who am I? Life After Divorce for Lizzi Lewis over at Considerings as well as a post titled Narrative Identity and Photographs for author JT Twissel. As always, your support is greatly appreciated.

 

 

Jeri Walker will shower you with editor love if you share the quote image in this post!

Author: Jeri Walker

Need help writing that book blurb, bio, or newsletter? Give your book the attention it deserves. Book your copy edit, manuscript critique, or proofread today. Make every word count.

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47 Comments

  1. I was wondering how I was going to do with the blurb once I’m ready to write it. You’ve taken most of the worry away. Having the examples to illustrate helps tremendously.

    Post a Reply
    • Glynis, I’ve found I really enjoy writing blurbs for other people. It’s the perfect follow up after I’ve copyedited a story since it’s still fresh in my mind. I do however dread writing one on my own material.

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  2. These are stellar examples! Funny how the repetition thing rings true…I’ve read blurbs by noted authors that are often repetitive!

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    • Jacquie, it just floors me how short blurbs can contain so much repetition at times. It’s a big pet peeve of mine. To get that feeling of deja vu only two sentences later is not good at all.

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  3. Great pointers on how to write a book blurb. And the examples really illustrate the points. I hadn’t thought about making use of search words in a blurb. In this online age, it makes a lot of sense.

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    • Donna, a while back TB and I brainstormed what keywords best fit her books. It’s a creative challenge to fit at least one into each short paragraph, but I can usually pull it off. It’s paramount in this day and age to think of all the information inside of a book as metadata that can be searched, not just the title and blurb.

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  4. Great post, Jeri. It’s so important to keep these tips in mind when writing a book blurb. We, as authors, always wish people would buy our books without needing encouragement, but it’s all a matter of discovery. I heard something yesterday that reminded us that no matter how good you are at something, it won’t matter if no one knows about you/your talent. So true.

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    • Doreen, writing talent really is only part of the equation. Every aspect of getting a book in front of potential reader’s eyes must appeal to their innate sense of discovery. Sadly, many book blurbs are too vague or too detailed. It can be hard to find the right balance.

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  5. Little different for non-fiction, particularly in the self-help niche, but the bottom line is the same. There are some who promote the longer descriptions, but I agree with you Jeri, I prefer it to be shorter. In fact, I don’t think I’m the only one who decides in the first couple of sentences whether to keep reading the description short or not. Thanks for the advice and template.

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    • Marty, in this an age I think most of us are only willing to give a description a first sentence or two to capture our interest. The online environment encourages us to be skimmers and move onto the next shiny object. I often skim book blurbs that are quite long and focus on the opening and closing.

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  6. I’m an advocate of reading out loud. Whenever I fail to do this (probably on the 3d draft), I risk the misery of “Oh, my! Why? Why did I press ‘send?'”

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    • Al, I’m a big fan of reading aloud as well. I kicked myself just this morning for not doing so on a document I was collaborating on with someone with. Without fail, every time I don’t, glaring mistakes come back to haunt me 😉

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  7. Thank you for sharing your knowledge with us once again. There are many elements to writing a book. At times it feels overwhelming but I know it will be worth it! I am trying to enjoy the journey too.

    Post a Reply
    • Phoenicia, enjoying the journey of writing and marketing a book is the best way to look at the whole experience. We learn from our mistakes, and eventually start getting more things right. It’s just important to remember it’s possible to build up a team that can help with various parts of the journey.

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  8. The samples are great. If I picked up the Miracle Girl and read that blurb I’d buy it. Don’t like that title though so I might not get to the blurb. I do like the title of I don’t Believe God Wrote the Bible. That would immediate get me interested..

    Post a Reply
    • Ken, the journalism aspect of The Miracle Girl story might be to your liking. I agree too that the title of Gerry’s memoir is great. It’s a bit shocking and hints at the personality that within the pages of his memoir as well.

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  9. I hate writing book blurbs but this takes some of the terror out of the process. Thank you. 🙂

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  10. Jeri, your book blurb information also works for bloggers – point: hook the readers right of the bat. I’m printing this off and adding it to my “do before you hit publish” list.
    I would never choose a book without reading the book blurb first.

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    • Lenie, like a blurb, the first paragraph of a blog post does need to pull a reader in while also compelling them to read more. The process is neverending.

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  11. This is wonderful, Jeri. Thanks for sharing. I don’t plan on writing a book anytime soon. But, this really does help break down the process of writing an intro. Quick question, could these steps also be used to introduce shorter ebooks on social media? Thanks for sharing. I will be bookmarking this one for future use.

    Post a Reply
    • Sabrina, these steps would absolutely work for introducing shorter e-books on social media.

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  12. Very interesting and useful, dear Jeri … I like the way you dissect the main points and provide further examples that support the structure that you have detailed…
    It is interesting how an open question could totally catch a potential reader…. This is a device which also appears in movie trailers and I think that in that light, it is proven to be efficient…
    I am now also noticing that connectors -conjunctions play such an important role…
    I have always felt that they add so much depth when we write as they aim to establish different types of relationships between words or sentences…
    By the way, and on a side note … Which is your favorite connector?, If I am allowed to ask… (which I already did 😉 )…
    I have always liked `nevertheless´… And have recently learned that `notwithstanding´ is a synonym …
    Thanks for the reading… All my best wishes. Aquileana 🙂

    Post a Reply
    • Aquia, connectors really are such an integral part of solid writing. I’m probably most fond of using albeit rather although. Nonetheless is also another one I tend to use a lot, so now you have another synonym for nevertheless in addition to notwithstanding.

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  13. So true that blurbs are at the helm of selling a books. They’re enticing. Many blurbs follow the same formula you mentioned regarding what sells. And ending with a question is very popular.

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    • Denise, I go back and forth on how fond I am with the ending with a question tactic, but ultimately it works. It’s so hard to not give too much away in a book blurb and the rhetorical device of wrapping it up with a question puts the pull of curiosity back on the reader.

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  14. If I ever write a book in English and need a blurb I will let you know. It’s very much like journalism and you seem to have the hang of it.

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  15. Jeri — I loved your book blurbs. I definitely go directly to the blurbs when I’m browsing new books. A blurb has to be a real grabber to get me to potentially buy the book. If it’s a new author I’ll also read book reviews. I believe a blurb is the most crucial element for a new writer who is trying to build an audience. Terrific post.

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    • Jeannette, after perusing blurbs on books that catch my interest I tend to then read reviews as well. I always read the three-star reviews first since too many people who leave five-star reviews just tend to gush about how great a book is. Those are aren’t afraid to call a book average are more my speed. Lots of books are average and very much still worth reading.

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  16. Thanks, Jeri! I’m currently working on the query and synopsis for my mystery and the book blurb is sure tied in with those. They are the toughest part of writing a book! You’ve explained nicely and included well written blurbs.

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    • Rosemary, your comment reminds me I need to do a post on writing a synopsis as well. Surely synopsis and blurb writing are their very own special world of torture in the writing world!

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  17. Hi Jeri, writing a catchy book blurb is definitely a skill. You did a fabulous job on mine I must say. 🙂 if it wasn’t for those blurbs most people wouldn’t buy the books they do. They really are compelling and crucial in pulling the reader in.

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    • Susan, I’ve enjoyed writing the blurbs for your first two volume of childhood stories and can’t wait to see what the next three blurbs for upcoming volumes hold in store. It’s even more difficult to encapsulate the content of an anthology into a concise blurb that compels.

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  18. Excellent pointers Jeri. Setting the breadcrumbs and dangling the carrot is what a blurb is all about. 🙂

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    • Debby, I’ve found too I pay much more attention to blurbs now that I download an audiobook every month. Since I limit myself to one per month, I have to be picky and good blurbs help with that, though the quality of the narrator plays a big role when it comes to audio versions of stories.

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  19. I think writing a good blurb may be almost as hard as writing the book! It’s a daunting task to try to summarize just the right parts that will get people interested. Sort of like creating the perfect tweet. 😉

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  20. I’m pretty positive that if I ever wrote a book, writing the blurb would be my least favorite part. I struggle when trying to summarize things in a way that is captivating and interesting. I love these tips for writing a good book blurb. They seem practical and a great way to make the most of your 150 or so words.

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    • Erica, book blurbs and synopses tend to be quite painful indeed. Though I’ve always taken to such writing more so than creative writing.

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  21. Jeri, I always look at the book blurb. It is important to get it right because if the reader likes it he or she will want to read the book. Great advice! 🙂

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    • Crystal, book blurbs make or break so many books. Though sometimes I will be forgiving if the first paragraph can pull me in.

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  22. Jeri, I needed to read this again. It is true that the first couple sentences need to capture the potential reader. Or else you lose them. 150 words is a great count. I am always writing book reviews on my blog and it is important to keep honing my skills in having a great hook. 😉

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    • Crystal, the 150-word mark is a great guideline. Lately as I’ve been writing blurbs for clients I try to keep it closer to that mark rather than the 175 or 200 word mark. Many of mine tend to come in around 165 words for some reason.

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