The blurb is the most important sales pitch of the book, the first thing a reader will see and form an opinion on next to the book cover. As a co-founder of Yaybooks.com, I’m required to read blurbs every day, and over time, have seen a number of common mistakes that always put up a red flag and, frankly, cause me to bypass a story.
Setting overdone plots aside (and I have a list of those, too), I’ll concentrate on the “don’ts” an author should definitely avoid to get readers’ attention.
“This story is about …” (Telling)
These four words will always cause me to move on. I am aware it’s a story, but if the author cannot be more creative than this one canned line, I have doubts that the story is worth my time. READ OTHER BLURBS to get hold of proper style, and don’t limit yourself to your two friends’ books. Look at the genre you are trying to represent, books with lots of positive reviews, and decide what first few words you want the reader to see. I’d also shy away from using the character’s name at the very beginning of the first sentence, though that isn’t always a huge negative for me.
“Lee is a …” (Passive tense overkill)
Believe it or not, I see people use passive tense throughout the entire blurb. “Lee is an assassin. Lee is sent to kill a seemingly harmless woman, but Lee is taken by her charms.” If you use a lot of passive tense in the blurb, then I assume you used it a lot in the story. This generally tells me the writer is immature (meaning new to writing). Also, it isn’t necessary to keep repeating the main character’s name. I got it the first time.
“1,500 words later” (Too long)
Do NOT repeat the entire storyline to me. Why would I read the book if you just told me how it ended? (Good general rule of thumb: The blurb should not take up the entire back cover of a 6”x9” paperback.) The purpose of the blurb is to give me a taste of the storyline and that means creating imagination in the reader’s mind. Leave the blurb on a note that makes the reader want to buy the book and find out what happens. Also, regarding length … if I see the blurb is so long, often, I don’t stop to read it at all. Concise is very important because readers will drift once they hit the one hundred word point.
“Dzedia from the planet Parmethria” (Unpronouceable names)
You’ve written a fantasy or sci-fi book, your planet and characters have unpronounceable names … first off, maybe you shouldn’t have done that to begin with … but I get it and have seen books of this nature where I actually want to read them. But too many authors slap the names in the blurb (usually within
the same sentence) and my brain checks out. BE CREATIVE. Spread the words out or write the blurb so that I get the sense of the story without choking on consonants.
“Angle instead of Angel” (Misspellings)
Yes, people misspell words in the blurb. Please, please have someone edit it for you. I assume your book will also have misspellings and probably grammar mistakes as well if I find them in the blurb.
Here’s a handful of other things worth mentioning in your blurb:
If you have questionable content (the characters have an illicit affair, your MC is a vampire, etc.) put it in the blurb. This saves people buying the book, returning it, and leaving you a one-star review because they were surprised. PEOPLE DO NOT LIKE SURPRISES when it involves money they’re spending.
Along that same line, also mention cliffhangers (for some reason people hate not knowing there is one). Be sure somewhere the book shows the length of the story (on the cover, in page count, etc.). There are haters who will rate short stories low just because they are short (and sometimes even when they knew it was short and downloaded it anyway).
If the story has “clean content” but is not labeled blatantly “Christian” it’s worth mentioning (or if it doesn’t and needs an age warning, please include it). If it’s “YA” or “New Adult” (a label I personally dislike, and don’t get me started on why) it’s worth mentioning … and in books for children as well. Parents also dislike buying chapter books, expecting a picture book.
Lastly, offer a summary at the end. “This is book 1 of 3 …” if it’s a series. You can sell the next book by mentioning this book is the first or second. You can also mention genre or style of writing in your summary. “This is a fun action adventure,” or “A wild sci-fi tale ….” This gives a flavor for the story and takes the guessing away. You (usually) won’t get a buyer who’s into fantasy, but bought your mystery novel by mistake.
In short, always assume readers are dumb and crotchety, present the best side of your story, and make those three or four paragraphs the best ones you’ve ever written. Blurbs matter to readers AND to promotional sites. Take it from someone who is both.
Teen Romance/Science Fiction
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ABOUT THE AUTHOR:
Best-selling author, Suzanne D. Williams, is a native Floridian, wife, mother, and photographer. She is the author of both nonfiction and fiction books. She writes devotionals and instructional articles for various blogs. She also does graphic design for self-publishing authors. She is co-founder of THE EDGE.
To learn more about what she’s doing and check out her extensive catalog of stories, visit http://www.feelgoodromance.com or link with her on Facebook at http://www.facebook.com/suzannedwilliamsauthor or on Twitter at https://twitter.com/SDWAuthor.