We all know the saying: ‘the best things come in small packages’, and this includes your book’s blurb. But how do you condense down hundreds of pages of story into a few brief sentences?
As the author of those hundreds of pages, it can be a real struggle to work out what to include, and how to give an overview but still be brief.
So, if you’re striving to perfect your synopsis, here are 5 things you can do to create the most impact with such little word-count:
Make a first impression – you won’t get a second chance
Treat your blurb as your only chance to communicate with your prospective reader. The first sentence needs to work hard – if it’s not right, people won’t even read on to the second sentence. You need to hook the reader in immediately and entice them with the story.
Try to re-write your first paragraph in at least 4 or 5 different ways. Then see which way of explaining the story has the most impact. You may even settle on a combination of sentences from all the different versions you created.
This is where it can be good to get someone (or two) involved who’s read your book, as they will have the objective viewpoint needed to know if your summary is a good one.
It’s ok to mention something in the first sentence or paragraph that doesn’t come chronologically at the start of your story, or that you want to refer to again in your blurb.
Play your best cards in your opening sentence or paragraph, don’t hold back. This is your chance to get your reader hooked.
Give readers enough information to make a decision about whether your story is right for them
You need to convey all the information in a punchy and enticing way, but should mention the setting and time period, introduce your main characters, outline the plot, and create enough suspense that your reader wants to find out more.
Coupled with you cover design, your blurb should also identify clearly the genre of your book.
If possible, show your blurb and cover to someone who knows nothing about your book. If they can’t identify the genre, then one or both needs changing.
Keep it short
This is HARD! The less your write, the harder it is, but your blurb should only be around 150 to 200 words maximum. Any more will seem overwhelming to your potential readers, and will look squashed on the back cover.
Too much text can also be intimidating for a potential reader. They make up their mind in a few seconds whether to try your book. The more text they have to plough through, the more likely they are to think your story will be too long, or too complicated for them.
Shorten the sentences where possible
Your blurb is like a film trailer for your book. It has to convey the main points of your story in a snappy way, and attract your reader to want to find out more by buying the book!
Remember, readers have no other context about your story, and may just be skim-reading the back. Make your blurb easy to read, and readers will understand your book quickly, and make a quick decision.
If the sentences are too long and convoluted, your readers will put the book down and walk away.
Analyse every sentence on your back cover to see if it can be shortened and made more clear and punchy. If there’s a more pithy way to say something, rephrase it.
Don’t use cliches or comparisons
Time and time again you’ll hear this advice, and it’s for a good reason. Using cliches like ‘must-read’ shatters the credibility of your book.
If your blurb reads like a collection of over-used off-the-shelf phrases, there’s nothing to set it apart from all the other books available.
Plus, readers will assume that what’s on the outside is a reflection of the writing on the inside, and that your book may be poorly written with a cliched plot too.
Lastly, don’t liken yourself to other writers. It appears arrogant and try-hard. It’s one thing if you have genuine reviews and testimonials comparing you to well-known writers, but quite another to draw this comparison yourself.
What tips do you have for writing the perfect blurb? Let us know what you think in the comments section below.
We’re Peter and Caroline O’Connor. Creating beautiful book cover designs for authors all over the world is our passion. Every author should be able to benefit from a beautiful book cover design (not just the lucky few who get signed by a big publisher). We design, podcast, and coach authors full-time so we understand your struggles. Currently accepting new clients.