By Suzanne D. Williams
The first two things a reader sees that causes them to buy your book are the cover and the blurb. I know I have downloaded books because of the cover and in the same vein, I have also downloaded books with bad covers that had a great blurb.
There are a number of key factors that go into writing a well-crafted blurb, but the most important one is SUSPENSE. A blurb shouldn’t tell the story, but make the reader wonder what the story is. It causes the reader to guess ahead of time the scope of the plot.
One way to do this is through questions. Where I want the reader to guess at what happens to the main character, I insert doubt. Take a look at the blurb for my book, Love & Redemption.
Take a trip into the past and fall in love with an Irishman.
Michael O’Fallen simply wants to survive. A poor Irish boy living in post-Civil War New York, the events of one horrible night send him running–far south to unsettled Florida and an unplanned marriage with a girl he doesn’t know.
Now, he must protect her from the lust and greed of evil men and figure out how to make their escape. Will the dangers and perils they face tear their marriage apart? Or will he finally find true Love & Redemption?
Notice, first, I introduce the main character, Michael O’Fallen. I have found sticking to one character, even if you have several who carry the story, helps the reader focus. Next, I give a couple key features about Michael; he’s poor, Irish, and from New York. I also give a hint as to the setting for the story, “unsettled Florida.” All of these together paint a general picture for the reader.
Yet what draws the reader in and makes them want to read are the questions about the storyline – He’s forced to marry a girl, but what happens to the marriage? And what happened in New York to send him running? Can he survive it?
Now, they want to know.
A good blurb actually keeps the story a complete secret. With Love & Redemption, you have an idea of the story, but you don’t know who the antagonist is, how he functions, who the girl Michael marries is, how Michael feels about her, or what Michael will have to do to hold his marriage together. Frankly, none of that is necessary.
Which leads me to a pet peeve of mine. Don’t tell me everything, and similarly, don’t make me afraid to read the story. I will explain. In a series of books that I happen to love, the author wrote a blurb that, because I loved the character so much, gave me a hard time picking the book up. I would have rather the blurb left me a little more in the dark, so that I could grab my chest at the moment I realized it and not before I ever read the book.
Here’s another pet peeve. Length. Long blurbs will not be read unless you have a huge fan base waiting on the book’s release. So keep it short and sweet. And here’s something that works well for me. Create a byline. For Love & Redemption, I use, “Take a trip into the past and fall in love with an Irishman.” For Me & Timothy Cooper and I Kissed the Boy Next Door I use, “Fall in love all over again.” In both cases, these bylines sum up the story. The reader knows the one book is about an Irishman who they might grow to love and that the other two stories are romances meant to win your heart.
Bylines can also be series of words. In an upcoming book I will release next year I could use, “A rock star. A church girl. A healing God.” I think you get the picture, and I didn’t have to tell you anything, not even the title.
That leaves me with my final piece of advice, and I’ll phrase it this way: Write a tweet. Write a blurb. I learned to write better blurbs learning to write better tweets. Writing a tweet is saying the most in the shortest amount of space. Forget hashtags for a moment and think of the words themselves. What do you want the reader to see? First, the title. I usually put that in all caps. Second, some catchy line that causes the reader to click on the link. Some of my post popular are:
I stood there, my skin tingling, wanting it to go on forever. CHRISTMAS ANGEL
Skinny Dipping, not the best place to meet a man. LOVE & REDEMPTION
The Good Lord made him beautiful. That’s for sure. ME & TIMOTHY COOPER
I kissed him and I ran. But then they dared me. I KISSED THE BOY NEXT DOOR
Now, of course, a blurb is longer, but with each of these, there is something left for the reader to wonder about, and wonder sells books. Because here is the basic fact of marketing. You, the author, know how the book ends. The reader does not. In writing your blurb, keep it that way.
I KISSED THE BOY NEXT DOOR.
Young Adult / Romance
ONLY 99 CENTS
From the author of ME & TIMOTHY COOPER. Fall in love all over again.
There’s a new boy next door. Then again, not so new. Because to Lucy McKinsey, he’s a face from her past and a childhood memory of summer camp and a dare. Kiss Jackson Phillips. But what a fourteen-year-old would do to impress her friends, changes in three years. Right?
Yet this time Jackson isn’t the same as he was. He’s taller, more handsome, and far wiser. What is the pain that he carries inside? And can something as simple as a well-meant kiss cure the boy next door?
Suzanne D. Williams is a native Floridian, wife, mother, photographer, and writer. She is the author of both nonfiction and fiction books. She writes a monthly column for Steves-Digicams.com on the subject of digital photography, as well as devotionals and instructional articles for various blogs. She also does graphic design for self-publishing authors.