I am not sure anything is more commonly disliked in a Writer’s world than drafting blurbs or synopses. I believe it is especially hard for a Fantasy writer to condense over 100,000 words into a 3 paragraph summary, or at least that has been my experience. There is also the added pressure for a self-published author to include marketing elements such as a “hook” or “call to action” which is an entirely different part of your brain than creative writing comes from.
I will be the first to say that I am still learning. That said, I felt that I needed to share what I have learned about Blurbs along the way, so that perhaps I could save someone some unnecessary floundering. But what I also know is that learning everything you can, applying what speaks to you, and testing the results, is how you give purpose to your floundering. At least, that is how I’ve been looking at it.
So today, I am going to pass along my condensed and blended version of what I have learned about blurbs, and my process for creating one. I am saying right here and now that this is not the “right” way to do things, only my way 🙂 I will go over my understanding of blurbs from a marketing standpoint, the process by which I develop one, and areas of a platform where blurbs are important. Ready to stop floundering and dive in? Let’s begin!
Blurbs For Marketing
Now that I have been at this for a few years, I can tell you what I wish I knew before I started. An effective blurb is like fishing. First you hook them, then you tug on the line a bit, and then you reel them in. My first attempts at blurbs were three paragraphs of telling the story. What they needed to be was language that compelled the reader to read more and ultimately make a purchase. The blurb is way less story, and more ad copy than I had originally realized.
For anyone just starting out, I highly recommend any of the Self Publishing 101 Courses by Mark Dawson. They have online courses for everything you will need to know to bring your book up to the next level. If nothing else, be sure to subscribe to their podcasts which are free. Had I found this years ago, I probably wouldn’t have swam around aimlessly for the first few years.
Anyway, the simple act of thinking of this content from a “would I want to read more” standpoint, will save you so much agony! The blurb is not a synopsis of the book, you don’t want to describe what is going on in your story at this stage. For print versions of the books in stores, shoppers generally see a cover that interests them, then pick up the book and flip it over to read the back. Online shopping has changed some shopper’s habits, so if you have both ebook and print you really need to keep both types of shoppers in mind when you develop your content.
In the online world, you want to evoke an emotional response and get the reader to push the purchase button. That is your #1 goal. Once they have your book, they will learn all they need to know about the world and characters you have created. If they fall in love with your world, they will be back to purchase more from you. In reworking my blurbs, the basic pattern I have decided to use, which seems standard with some of the Traditional Publishing examples that I have come across, is: Hook, Content & Call to Action.
Hook: The hook is generally the first thing that folks see, and will be placed high enough so that it is above the “see more” link on your sales page. Some folks use bold or italics for this area, to draw special attention to it. It is generally a line or two and its entire purpose is to get folks to click on the “see more” link. All of my blurbs were lacking this, so it is the first thing I will be changing. I would highly recommend looking at the top sellers in your genre and seeing what these folks are doing since that will be a good indication of what is working for them. I looked at both Indie and Traditionally published works.
Content: Once folks click on “see more” link, it opens the rest of the blurb. The trick here, is to be sure that your content relays the story, but isn’t so overwhelming that folks won’t read through it. People are pressed for time and when they make a decision to purchase it is quick, so you need to keep them engaged. Your content should get the point across without giving away too much of the story and this will also be genre specific. What works for Romance might not work for Thriller.
Call To Action: The final piece is your call to action. This is a place where you are enticing the reader to do something. It could be, make a book purchase, or sign up for your newsletter, or even follow you on social media. It should be one action, not several, and can be a good place to mention that the book is part of a series, which is what I ended up deciding on.
Drafting A Blurb
Once you have the pattern, the hard part begins. What I have found is that it is easiest for me to come up with several variations of the blurbs, and have folks tell me what is working for them. If you can find someone that reads the genre, it is a bit more helpful, but really anyone can let you know what lines intrigue them.
What I have found is that some folks like the hook from Blurb #1, but the content from Blurb #2, so oftentimes it ends up being a mix of pieces pulled from each draft. What I did this time, was number each of the key sections and then created a sheet at the end of the packet that they could mark their favorites. The sections in Blurb #1 were numbered 1.A, 1.B, 1.C, etc. Blurb #2 followed suit with 2.A, 2.B, and so on. An image of the “favorites” sheet is below.
Ultimately, if you ask for 5 different opinions, you will get 5 different answers, but there is often a bit of cross over for the favorites which will give you a good idea where to focus. This also gives you a pretty good idea what isn’t working at all.
This exercise is wonderful for not only completing your blurb, but also developing advertising copy. So make sure you keep all of these since you never know when you might need a line or two for something else!
Where Blurbs Are Used
Blurbs aren’t just for the back of your book cover. They will be used on the sales page of the sites where you sell your books as well as your website. You will also find that they will be requested for author interviews, book contests and free author sites. What is important to remember is that you don’t have to keep everything identical on these sites, and you can post variations of your blurb on various sites as a way to see what is working and what isn’t. There is a whole rule of thought as it relates to keywords as well, but since that is not something I am familiar with yet, I won’t be going into that. Suffice it to say, it is next on my list of things to learn about!
As I mentioned before, portions of your blurb will come in handy for advertising, which has become a necessary evil in order to get anyone to find your book in the sea of titles out there. I highly recommend learning how to use a software program such as Canva or BookBrush in order to create your own graphics when the time comes. Save your money for the cover and editing which are, by far, the two most important things to spend your cash on. This is something I came up with quickly in Canva to announce my award earlier this year.
Blurbs can also be placed in the back of your other books, as a way to entice your reader to check out other titles. The “back matter” of your book is a great place to give readers a call to action to sign up for your newsletter after giving them a taste of your other offerings.
Lastly, portions of your blurbs can be used as “elevator pitches” which come in handy for not only in-person pitching opportunities (which you should always be prepared for), but also for events like #PitMad. For any writer who isn’t on Twitter currently, you may want to consider checking it out. There is a huge #writingcommunity where folks chat about their #writerslife and provide support for anyone working on a #WIP. PitMad is held quarterly and pitches are “liked” by agents, editors and publishers who are interested in seeing more from you. Be sure to check it out, and while you are there, be sure to look me up! I can be found at: https://twitter.com/SarayBooksDA!
Writing an effective blurb can be time-consuming, but will also be something that will help you learn how to find new readers for the books you have worked so hard to bring into the world. Anytime you can use your piece for more than one thing is a win win!
Happy Writing everyone! XO