Boob blurbs are on the front line of battles for book sales. The Reedsy website defines book blurbs as: “a short description of a book that is written for promotional purposes. For a paperback book it usually appears on the back cover. Generally, 150-200 words are more than enough for a full blurb. In the modern publishing landscape, where more books are being purchased online than in bricks and mortar stores, you are more likely to encounter blurbs on the product page of Amazon or any other digital retailer. Sometimes, you will hear them referred to as ‘book descriptions.’”
“The opening of your blurb has to be incredibly precise and dynamic,” says editor Rebecca Heyman. “For a lot of first-time authors, I think there’s an instinct to make sure readers understand everything that happened in the book’s universe before the beginning of the actual story. That’s generally a mistake.”
So if it shouldn’t set the stage for a reader who’s about to dive into your book, what should the blurb do?
Reedsy recommends a four step process as follows:
1. Introduce your main character(s)
“Your blurb has to be about characters. Consciously or not, readers check out the synopsis to see whether they want to spend time with your main characters. They don’t need to know their entire backstory, though — just enough to understand how they figure into the story’s primary conflict…
2. Set the stage for your primary conflict
“The primary conflict is what drives your story. Without a real-world conflict, you don’t have a story readers can sink their teeth into.
“It‘s tempting to talk about “interior journeys” in your blurb, but that’s something best avoided in most cases. While a character’s compelling internal conflicts might turn out to be an aspect that reader enjoy once they read your novel, they don’t work well in a blurb. “Your primary conflict has to exist in the physical world of your manuscript,” says Heyman. “That’s not to say that character arcs are not a critical part of what makes a plot dynamic, but they are certainly not going to hook most readers.”
3. Establish the stakes
“Without consequences, a conflict lacks drama. A blurb that says “Jack Ryan has 24 hours to rescue the Russian ambassador,” isn’t as impactful unless we know what’s at stake: “…his failure will result in certain nuclear war.”
“In JoJo Moyes’s Me Before You, a young woman becomes a caregiver for a quadriplegic millionaire and begins to fall for him. “When she learns that Will has shocking plans of his own, she sets out to show him that life is still worth living.” This single sentence not only establishes the external conflict (“Louisa must convince Will to live”), it also lays out the stakes, which are literally life-and-death.
“To show your story’s full potential, the reader must be aware that something hangs in the balance for your characters.
4. Show the reader why this book is for them
“Most readers have an idea of the book they’re looking to read next. A well-tuned blurb won’t try to sell everybody on the book — it will help people who already want a book like yours see that it’s for them.
“It’s important subtly highlight how your book is familiar by including elements that readers are already excited by,” says Sione Aeschliman, an editor who regularly helps authors through events such processes. The key is to imply similarities between comparable books without sounding derivative: ensure you also distinguish what makes your book unique.”
In my experience, it’s best to be quite choosy about the words you select: they should be clear and they should convey the feelings you want the reader to have about the book. Set it aside and keep improving it. The first shot is never good enough.