When I talk about blurbs, I’m talking about the blurbs on the product page for your book. In most cases, those blurbs are your main marketing tool, outside of your cover. They will do the most to convince a reader to buy your book, so getting it right is important.
What Are They For
Before you start writing a blurb, the most important aspect is to understand what a book blurb is. And yes, I’ve seen some people call them blurbs. No, I’m not going to.
Your book blurb is a marketing tool – it’s your sales pitch to get someone to read your book. It is not a summary of your plot, a press release or announcement of your work or a review. It is an advertisement.
Before we get into writing the blurb, it’s also worth remembering the context that your blurb is going to appear. The blurbs I write for this site are very different from those that I write for Amazon. On this site, I can go as simply as ‘Book 8 of the System Apocalypse has John and his friends fighting for their lives 4 years after book 7 on a Rebel Star.’ on the series page.
On a product page, it’s very different. The people who arrive on my series page are generally all readers. On the top of the page, I’ve already discussed the basics of the series. I don’t have to go into detail. And anyone looking for book 8 is looking for release dates and links, not a blurb.
On Amazon (as an example), people might be stumbling across the System Apocalypse Short Story Anthology because they’re random browsers who have found it via also-boughts. Or had it shared to them.
I need to provide much more information to draw in readers. But what I do know, on the Amazon page, is that there will be a cover, an ‘Add to Cart’ button, and potentially audiobook and paperback links too. In addition, if the reader scrolls down too far, there’s going to be a lot of other books that will catch their interest, so I don’t want them to scroll. You want them to stay above the fold to use online marketing parlance.
What a Blurb Needs
So, what does your book blurb need? Well, to me, it needs a few things:
- A point of interest (the unique selling point)
- The setting and main character (or hints of it – what you’re selling)
- The challenge (specifically, what the protagonist is going to be dealing with. Not necessarily the big challenge, or the main thrust of your novel, but the challenge the character faces at the start. Again, you don’t want to give away too much plot)
- The hook (what makes them choose to buy. Also known as the call to action in some circles, though I wouldn’t go that far in this case).
- Lastly, and this is debatable if needed, the basic facts about the book. (Book title, Series title, book number x of series, genre, etc.). Many people would say all this should be part of your cover already, and thus doesn’t need to be repeated. I would not say they’re wrong.
The Unique Selling Point (Point of Interest)
You wrote a book. As the writer, you should know the most important, most interesting, most unique thing about your world. It could be it’s setting (an RPG apocalypse in the real world), it could be the premise (a gamer given a wish receiving magic powers), it could be a twist on an old idea (a hero who is disabled who yearns to join the military).
Knowing what makes your book unique will allow you to hook the reader in. It also focuses your blurb / advertisement.
Now, realise that this USP doesn’t necessarily have to be super unique. Mercedes sells itself on safety. But really, all cars these days are very safe – they have to go through numerous tests. Yet, they focus on that one aspect more than anything else. It’s not that they’re lying, it’s just their focus.
Coke is the Original. Pepsi is new and cool. Avis is number two.
Another thing since we’re talking about books. Your USP will differ depending on your target audience. An example – System Apocalypse’s USP is that it’s an apocalypse caused by a RPG system coming to the world. An apocalypse in a typical post-apocalypse novel isn’t a USP. It’s part of the setting, the minimum requirements of your book. The only way you’ll be able to draw out your USP is by knowing your genre / target market.
Decide on your USP. Embrace it and channel it into your blurb.
Constructing the Blurb
There’s a few ways to construct a blurb, just like there are a few ways to make an advertisement. None of those are necessarily wrong, but for me, I prefer a combination of two different methods.
- Tell a Story
- The Inverted Pyramid
In both cases, your first line is going to be the most important line. If you don’t grab interest by the first line, you’re in trouble.
Telling a Story
In telling a story, you’re giving the reader a very, very small glimpse into your world. You lay down the draw, the USP first, then you set the scene of your world. You end with the hook, the question that makes people want to read more.
Here’s a great example from the Mistborn box set. Ignore the bolded part in the product page – you aren’t Sanderson. He can sell himself on his name. 😉 (btw, the bolded part is basically the details of the series and author too, so they put that up front because Sanderson’s USP is that he’s Brandon Sanderson). Italics are mine below.
Once, a hero rose to save the world. He failed. (the USP)
For a thousand years since, the world has been a wasteland of ash and mist ruled by the immortal emperor known as the Lord Ruler. Every revolt has failed miserably.
Yet somehow, hope survives and a new kind of uprising is being planned-one that depends on the cunning of a brilliant criminal mastermind and the determination of an unlikely heroine: a teenage street urchin named Vin. (setting and challenge in 2 paragraphs)
Once, a hero rose to save the world and failed. This time, can a young heroine succeed? (the hook)
Nice and succinct with a hook that makes you want to read more. It’s a little ‘typical’ but there’s a reason why the old forms are still used. They work.
The Inverted Pyramid
Alright, the inverted pyramid approach is stolen from press releases and is also used a lot in web copy. The idea is that readers are easily distracted and have little time. So your goal is to get them the information they need as quickly as possible.
In that sense, line one contains the most important information you have. After that, you can start talking about your plot, the setting, etc. However, the first line, the first paragraph should contain everything the reader needs to know and to make a decision about your book. That means your hook is also in the first paragraph.
You end, with the inverted pyramid, with just basic information about your series because you don’t need to have the hook there. People are reading downwards for more details in this format, not because they need to be hooked. They already are.
You can, and it might work better to have another hook at the end. Again, depends on your book & writing style. And testing (more on that later).
This is a blurb that I helped J.S. Grulke with Leap of Faith. Here’s the original:
EVERY FROG HAS ITS DAY.
Deep in the bayou of Louisiana, Henry’s family is shattered. He wanted out, but never expected to have an option upon his death.
DIE OR START OVER?
Thrust into an overgrown wilderness where everything wants him dead, he must work hard, discover how to use his new abilities, complete tasks, lead his newly formed army, and build his kingdom.
Being reborn as a walking, talking frog?
That was the easy part. An evil is racing over the lands of Anura sending it spiraling into chaos with no one willing to stand up against it.
HENRY HAS ACCEPTED THE CHALLENGE.
He’d do anything to be with his family, now is his chance to earn it.
It’s not a bad blurb, but here’s how I’d edit it.
Every Frog Has His Day
Deep in the bayou of Louisiana, Henry’s life is shattered. He never expected a second chance, a way to to redeem himself. He’s given a chance to see his family again, if he can fight off the evil threatening to take over Anura.
All Henry has to do is understand his new abilities, build a kingdom and form an army to stand against the evil in this new fantasy world.
Just one problem.
He just had to do it as a frog.
This is a combination story and inverted pyramid one. The USP is that he’s a frog, which is hinted at on the first line. The setting goes on, giving you a rough idea of the plot and what you can expect in a LitRPG and then the challenge. Then, at the end, you have the hook.
It’s not perfect (I rewrote this in about 10 minutes and on re-reading, I can see the use of ‘chance’ twice). JS will likely rewrite it again. Among other things, as the writer, he KNOWS his book and can find better things to highlight perhaps. I can just work from the details of the initial blurb to give it a little more oomph.
Obviously, you might think my blurb is off. And that’s great! After all, this is how I see the blurb is written, but I don’t expect to be correct all the time. In addition, there’s one last thing this blurb doesn’t have… (well, beyond title and series information which should be added at the bottom of that pargraph).
One of the best ways to know if your blurb is good is to test it. We can guess that a blurb is good, but testing it will tell you the truth. There are a few places to test:
- Facebook advertisements
- AMS ads
Run A/B tests with your current blurb and a few different variations. See which works best at getting click-throughs (and sales!). Use those. Watch your sales after you’ve made the changes and test again if necessary.
Just don’t spend all your time on that. Your next book will likely do more to sell your current book than numerous tweaks to this one.
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