If only! In a very short space with the average person’s very short attention span, we have to capture the buyer. And different writers will produce widely different blurbs but all blurbs have the same function – to convince a bookshop customer to buy the book they have in their hands.
So what are the basic concepts of a blurb?
– they are short
– they tend to have attention-grabbing words
– they use active rather than passive voice
– they tend to pose questions
– they might end with an ellipsis (…) so the reader has to imagine an outcome.
Other factors to consider:
– Who is the book being marketed to? The blurb must speak directly. A blurb for a teenage reader will be very different to one on a picture book bought by an adult to read to a child.
– What is the most interesting aspect of your book? Is it the character, the setting, the moral conflict? As we emerge from the fog of having written the book, we often can’t find an aspect to focus on. Get a friend to give you another crisp slant on the story with a few phrases and words.
– Make a list of words that give insight into the story. Find exciting synonyms that evoke atmosphere – replace ‘scared’ with ‘terrified’, ‘lonely’ with ‘desolate’, ‘hiding’ with ‘lurking’, ‘very’ cold with ‘murderously’ cold (see below). Okay this is ABC stuff for a writer
– Never summarize the story. You want to keep the reader guessing.
– Perhaps find a particular phrase or piece of dialogue in the story to use as a tagline.
– Don’t introduce too many characters. Don't confuse.
Marcus Sedgewick’s blurb for his book, Revolver, ticks all the boxes.
‘It’s 1910. In a cabin north of the Artic Circle, in a place murderously cold and desolate, Sig Andersson is alone.
Except for the corpse of his father, frozen to death that morning when he fell through the ice on the lake.
The cabin is silent, so silent and then there’s a knock at the door
It’s a stranger, and as his extraordinary story of dust and gold lust unwinds, Sig’s thoughts run more and more to his father’s prized possession, a Colt revolver, hidden in the storeroom.
A revolver just waiting to be used …’
Why am I so blurb obsessed? Because I’ve just written one for my latest book, Oliver Strange and the Ghosts of Madagascar and have fallen into and have tried to drag myself out of all the pitfalls – which included making reference to the ‘place du diable’, the place of the devil, which works in the context of the entire book but not in a blurb where someone might think the book is about devil worship!
Here’s the final result (cropped to make it legible) for a mid-range book… easy language, questions, quite different to a teenage novel, but should I have started with the tagline: ‘A modern day pirate story…’ ? I’m not sure.
If you have any blurbs to share – your own, or a brilliant one you’ve come across, please put them up or share any other recipe tips for a ‘tasty’ blurb.