Saturday, March 24, 2012

How to write a blurb for your book

Easy, right? Just sum up your entire novel in a few sentences? Nbd.

Sarcasm abounds. Writing the blurb was one of the hardest parts of self-publishing my book, and I suppose I have to be honest: I didn't write mine.

After sitting around for an hour and trying to figure out what to write, I finally snapped and realized that I was the wrong person to do that. Here's the deal:


1. Ask someone else to write your blurb for you.

I know I sound like a crazy person, writing a how-to and telling you to make someone else do the thing I'm teaching you. No worries, I know my crazy better than anyone else. But basically, having someone else write your blurb enables you to step out of the lead position and allow a reader to emphasize the things that they liked about your book. It's like asking someone to write a review with no spoilers, in some sense.

Make sure the person you ask has read your book, and then tell them to write your blurb.

2. Edit the blurb they have written.

Wonderful! Blurb written. Great. Edit the living daylights out of it.

I read over the blurb that my minion wrote for me and I filled out this criteria:

a. What is the biggest central mystery/uncertainty/conflict/shocker in your book?
b. What makes your book different from similar books in your genre?
c. What are readers going to like about this book?

So take a famous blurb like the Lovely Bones:

(a) "My name was Salmon, like the fish; first name, Susie. I was fourteen when I was murdered on December 6, 1973."

So begins the story of Susie Salmon, who is adjusting to her new home in heaven, (b) a place that is not at all what she expected, even as she is watching life on earth continue without her -- her friends trading rumors about her disappearance, her killer trying to cover his tracks, her grief-stricken family unraveling. (c) Out of unspeakable tragedy and loss, THE LOVELY BONES succeeds, miraculously, in building a tale filled with hope, humor, suspense, even joy.
-What I like about this blurb is that fact that it draws me in. The book quote is a fine tool, demonstrates the voice of the speaker, and it's shocking. In terms of what sets this book apart, the blurb gives the idea that we're about to get a newer conception of heaven, contrary to the typical one that most people would anticipate. Lastly, readers will connect to this book on an emotional level, as indicated by the numerous sentiments listed.
And Why We Broke Up:
(a) I'm telling you why we broke up, Ed. I'm writing it in this letter, the whole truth of why it happened.

Min Green and Ed Slaterton are breaking up, so Min is writing Ed a letter and giving him a box. Inside the box is why they broke up. (c) Two bottle caps, a movie ticket, a folded note, a box of matches, a protractor, books, a toy truck, a pair of ugly earrings, a comb from a motel room, and every other item collected over the course of a giddy, intimate, heartbreaking relationship. Item after item is (b) illustrated and accounted for, and then the box, like a girlfriend, will be dumped.
-I like that this blurb starts with a quote. YOU DON'T HAVE TO START WITH A QUOTE. But it's a good way to set the tone for your book. If you have an awesome opening line, you might as well use it. We get a sense of the speaker's voice, and we know that she's about to go on a teenage girl rant. Next, this book is different because it uses illustrations. Cool, the blurb mentions that. Finally, readers are going to like this because this list of weird objects incites curiosity. You've gotta wonder, how on earth does this box of hoarder treasures lead to a breakup? Great.

3. Keep it short
Don't get cocky. People have really short attention spans. Put the most interesting stuff up front and then unpack it quickly. no more than 3 paragraphs, no more than three or four lines per paragraph
4. Don't sell the farm
Leave a little intrigue--people want mystery or they're not going to read at all. Leave some questions in there!
5. Don't scare people off
Keep your wonderful world of characters and places and languages behind the curtain. Don't jump in with so many proper nouns that mean nothing to people who haven't read the book before--avoid too many character names, made up places, anything like that. You really should only list the name of one or MAYBE two characters, depending on your book, of course. When discussing characters in your blurb, describe them. "the handsome boy from the run-down  house on the corner," "the mysterious janitor with a graphing calculator," you get the idea.

6. Don't make up acclaims
When I see selfpub blurbs that say things like, "John Smith follows in the footsteps of Orson Scott Card and Douglas Adams," I'm like, what? Seriously? Says who, your mother? Try to be humble. It works.

7. List REAL acclaims
If your book won any accolade, just list it at the bottom. You need all the validation you can get.

8. State your target audience
Keep it broad. Don't say: "For any girl who has ever been hurt by a boy and then found another one who was even better." Say something like, Ages 12+. Or, "A science fiction novel." Seriously, don't isolate people.
9. Don't be a douche
 Let's be real, there is ZERO screening process on self-publishing. Don't think you're important just because you clicked a button on Amazon.com. Unless you sell like Stephen King, you have no business acting like Stephen King. Be humble, be human, and don't include inside jokes. Just don't. It's not funny. None of us is that funny.

-CZ

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