Today, I’m going to go over the Do’s and Don’ts of writing a summary for your book!
You’ve spent a bunch of money (or immorally bribed a close friend) into making the perfect cover art for your novel. People are intrigued and they’re tempted to pick it up.
And what’s the first thing people do when they pick up a book?
They flip it over.
Once you’ve hooked the reader with an awesome book cover, you’re halfway to making that sale. When they flip over your book, you’ve got t-minus 2 minutes to knock their socks off, or they’re going to abandon that beautiful book of yours with all the other rejects.
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Since I just recently jumped into writing my own book blurb, I wanted to share with everyone all of the things I learned along the way.
Without further ado, let’s jump right into it!
I’m weird because I thought this part was so exciting! I think it’s important to be mindful while I’m reading a book, so that I can learn as a writer what works and what doesn’t. The same should be applied to blurbs. How many back covers have you read in your lifetime? Probably a lot. But how many have you read and considered as a writer instead of a reader? Probably not a lot.
In business, you always have to be on top of what’s trending. To do that, you need to incorporate a little research into your routine. Since you might not be writing in the same genre as I am, I’m going to highlight what my research looked like so you can do it for your own genre.
Before I set out on writing the first draft of my blurb, I took to Amazon. I only looked at books in my target category and I only looked at successful books. Whether they were ten years old or ten days old, if the book made a big splash I took it into consideration. I then made a huge excel spreadsheet of the book title and it’s corresponding blurb. I read through each one of them and deleted ones I didn’t personally like. But I kept the ones I felt “meh” about. Why? Because in the next column I wrote down the things I either loved about them, or things I didn’t want to accidentally do in my own blurb.
After spending a few hours looking at what was already out there in my genre, I had a really good idea of what I wanted. So if you have no idea what to write for your blurb, you need to break out your inner Hermione and do some more research!
As I said before, your back cover is a sales pitch for your novel. Your blurb should entice the reader and serve as a mini sneak peak into the action of your story. Incorporating the intriguing parts of your story ensures that the reader knows what they’re getting into. Not only that, but you want the reader to be interested in finding out the solution to this big problem.
While highlighting the main conflict of your novel, don’t give away any big reveals. Like the low-point that your character experiences, you want your reader to feel like there’s no obvious solution to the character’s problems. If the reader takes one look at your blurb and feels like there’s an easy solution, then you haven’t done your job well. More than likely, they would put your book down because nothing’s making them stay. Some great ways to build some intrigue for your conflict is by asking questions or using hyperboles. “Can she stop the Alabaster King in time to save her family?” or “The consequences of not succeeding are unthinkable.”
This is something you can learn from your research phase – an ideal word count goal for your blurb. Some genres could generally have longer blurbs than others, so it’s important to stick with what you’re writing in. I found that most YA fantasy novels tended to have around 170 words. While I’m not shooting for exactly 170 words, I’m making this my absolute limit.
You should also be concerned with how your genre’s blurbs are typically structured. For example, most fantasy blurbs focus first on introducing the world, and then on introducing the character. This is because the world your character is in plays a large role in how the story progresses. Romance novels, on the other hand, always bring in the character first as the world-building isn’t at the forefront.
Here’s a crazy statement: paragraph breaks are your friends. You don’t want to scare your reader away with one gigantic paragraph of information. Break it up! Space it out and make it look easy to read. If your blurb looks dense, then your target audience better enjoy dense reading. Take it from me, though, a large portion of fiction readers don’t.
So pay attention during your research phase so you know what proper formatting for your genre looks like!
This is something you should generally avoid in the entirety of your novel, but particularly in your blurb. You want to limit the number of eyerolls you receive when someone readers your blurb to…zero. I’ll be the first to admit that I use cliches in my everyday speech, because they’re just so darn convenient! But when you’re writing, you have plenty of time to come up with a better way to say something rather than employing an overused phrase. Your word choice should always match the tone of your novel, and clichés are typically wasted words!
Yes, I still use some cliches but I get rid of the big offenders. Generally speaking, you want your novel to stand out to the reader and cliches are a good way at staying hidden amongst the masses. If you find yourself tempted to use a cliche in your blurb, write it down for now and then edit it out later when you find the right words.
Here’s an example of a good blurb without cliches from Passenger by Alexandra Bracken:
In one devastating night, violin prodigy Etta Spencer loses everything she knows and loves.
That sounds a heck of a lot better than:
In one devastating night, violin prodigy Etta Spencer’s life changes forever.
We’ve seen that line soo many times. You want to come across as clever, not as cliched! So refrain from the over done cliches before you scare away your readers.
There’s probably going to be some disagreement on this topic, but drawing similarities between your novel and a well-known novel isn’t your job. When you’re querying agents or publishers, it might be a good idea to cut to the chase and make comparisons, but it does not belong on your blurb. We’ve already established that you have a very limited number of characters, so don’t waste them on discrediting yourself. More often than not, these things go on the front of the cover or in the online description, not in the blurb.
“Vivien, you’re an idiot. I see comparisons on books all the time.” Yeah, and it’s typically quoted by someone else. If you say your novel is a cross between The Hunger Games and The Maze Runner, and it’s not? Guess what? You just made yourself seem untrustworthy. Then the reader might think you were just trying to piggyback on someone else’s success just to get people to pick up your book. And then they tell all their friends about it, and then…you see where this is going.
If a person (who already has established their own credibility) says that about your novel, then it’s not your fault if your reader doesn’t agree. Because you know what? You can’t please everyone. Just make sure that their claim is indeed true, otherwise you could have some negative reviews coming your way. Word of mouth is an amazing thing, but not if someone thinks you’re an idiot.
That’s all I have for you guys today! Remember, a blurb is ultimately a sales pitch to get someone to buy your novel. If your blurb doesn’t make your novel sound awesome and epic and fantastic, then get to revising!
Feel free to add in your own suggestions for blurbs in the comments section – I love hearing from you all! There’s so much information on blurbs out there, but I want to hear what you’ve discovered along your journey.