Imagine if someone asked to you to summarise your whole life so far in one page of text.
How would you go about it?
Which events would you describe, and which would you leave out? Which loved ones, family and friends would you include, and how would you talk about them?
It seems like a difficult task, doesn’t it?
Many authors feel like this when trying to write the blurb for their back covers. How on earth can I sum up my whole book in just a few paragraphs? Then there’s the added pressure of knowing readers will make a judgement on the whole book, based on just this brief bit of text.
It’s a tall order, but if you follow these tips you’ll be able to write a blurb that shows off all the features of your story, and will have your readers dying to get to the rest of the book.
Keep in mind that while the first thing that will grab readers’ attention is your cover, the second thing is the back cover blurb.
It needs to be:
- And leave your audience wanting more
The trick is to give away just enough to get the reader hooked, but not so much that they won’t need to buy the book to work out what happens.
How long should your blurb be?
As a rule of thumb, the blurb should be around 150 words. This is generally accepted to be the optimum length. Long enough to give people a good idea of what your book is about, but short enough not to give the game away. However, don’t be too afraid of giving away some details about your story, just remember the most important bit to withhold – the ending.
Set the scene
When outlining the plot, keep it fairly brief. You need to set the scene, but leave enough detail open to your readers’ imaginations. Focus on the setting, the potential journey your characters will go on, and then pause at the fork-in-the-road point of the story. Leave your reader guessing about the twists and turns ahead.
Mention the key characters, and the personality traits that will help your readers identify with them – or love to hate them.
What is the conflict they are about to face?
And what will influence the decisions they make?
Do your best to bring your characters to life in the short amount of text you have available. Your readers need to care enough about your characters to spark their interest in the rest of the story.
Mind your language
Use language that’s appropriate to the genre of your writing, and write in the same tone as your book. This will help your readers get a feel for the atmosphere and setting, and decide whether your book is for them. But remember not to mislead your readers into thinking your book is something it isn’t. You want your readers’ expectations of the whole story to be appropriate to what it actually delivers.
Another key tip is to try to be specific. Don’t make sweeping statements that have ‘cliche’ written all over them.
‘In this tale of two halves…’
‘Will love save the day?’
These do nothing to tell the reader why they should read YOUR book.
Write for skimmers
Keep in mind that your readers probably won’t read every word of your blurb. They’re likely to skim the text. So focus on words and phrases that will jump out and grab their attention.
Hook them in
You can also consider creating a tagline to entice your reader. This can be placed at the top of the back cover, above the blurb, as a bold introduction to hook your reader immediately.
Your tagline should be around 12 words or so. You’ll probably need to work on this for a while before you get it right, but for the impact value alone, it’s definitely worth it. A great tag line can hook a reader all on it’s own, no back blurb needed.
A great tagline needs to do four things:
- Convey the genre of your book
- Show the play between characters
- Imply the tension or drama
- Create intrigue
It’s a big ask for a few words. Take some time to study taglines that other authors have created. This will help you analyse why they work, and how they manage to channel the message in so few words.
Even if you don’t want to use a tag line, it’s actually a very useful exercise to consolidate your story into a few (carefully chosen) words. These words are the key reason for people to read your book. So it’s really helpful to have them at the forefront of your mind.
Every word counts
Remember, with such a short space available to summarise your story, every word counts. Take your time to get it right. You want your blurb to read as though it just rolled off your tongue, even though it’s probably taken hours to get right!
How have you written your blurb?
Leave your answer in the comments 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.