Book blurbs

A recent challenge on a Writers’ group made me think about the importance of book blurbs. Once the cover has attracted a reader’s interest, it’s normally the blurb which is the make or break for whether they move on or press the buy button.

A synopsis is a summary of the story, including the ending, often used to submit a pitch to publishers. A blurb should introduce the main characters, the conflict they face and the outcome if they don’t get it right. To attract the reader without giving the game away is an art in itself, and can be more difficult than writing the actual book.

A movie tagline is a short text designed for dramatic effect, and done correctly becomes a slogan immediately identified with the film, and can even become part of everyday speech.

Just when you thought it was safe to go back in the water.

Who you gonna call?

In Space, no-one can hear you scream.

I’m fairly certain you will guess immediately which films I’m talking about.
Would they have the same impact if they were the following?

People swimming near the beach.

I’m not sure who I should phone.

I want to shout but there’s no one around to hear.

A blurb needs to invoke emotion and make readers want to know more. An element of comedy can work well with certain books, or words which inspire ‘the feels.’

Question: How long should a blurb be?
Answer: How long is a piece of string?

It is traditionally between 100 and 200 words, which would fit neatly onto the back cover of a paperback. The advent of eBooks changed many aspects in the publishing industry, but this remains a good guideline.
A mistake many newcomers make is to try to tell the whole story.

‘A meets B and they fall in love, but after a misunderstanding they break-up, and she moves away and takes a new job. After a few years her boss retires, and when a new man takes over it turns out to be B. Everything is explained, they get back together again, and live happily ever after.’

Fascinating right? except I already know the full story so I won’t bother to buy it!

Every writer is different but my blurbs tend to err on the short side – probably too short. Recently I had to prepare a summary of all my books for a guest blog post. Although there are currently only six novels, plus three anthologies, it was a surprising amount of work. Categories, genres, sub genres, cover photos, links and blurbs all had to be collated, but at least I now have the details all in one place.

It was just as well I wasn’t paying by click, as it involved frequent trips to Amazon to check the final blurbs. Although I had saved them under individual folders for each book, there were so many options, I had to confirm which was the version used. Having learnt more over the years, I can see how they could be improved, and some need to be rewritten. Another thing for the procrastination list.

I’ve just had a count up for one of my books and there are twenty-four blurb options. Most say roughly the same thing, but each in slightly different ways. Here are a few of the earlier examples:

‘This is the story of a naïve young man’s transition as he leaves his village home and discovers the bright and seedy lights of Soho in the 1960s.’

If Romance isn’t your scene, why not accompany a naïve teenager as he journeys from a quiet Mediterranean village and discovers the seedier side of life in London’s Soho? Set in the 60s, it’s a gritty story of what can be achieved when pride and wealth supersede conscience.’

‘It’s a rocky and unfamiliar road between an insular country village and the seedy realities of Soho in the 1960s. Can a naïve, illiterate peasant find his way and achieve the reverence and respect he craves?’

‘The hard-hitting story of a naive young man’s journey as he escapes from a traditional, old-fashioned family life, and discovers the seedier side of Soho in the 1960s.

How much will he gamble to achieve his dream of becoming a major player in a very different environment?’

Which, if any would make you want to read more? Do they give you an indication of the genre? Do you feel there’s something missing? These were early examples, and even the current versions need updating. Although taglines are more usual for films than books, the part I intend to keep is
‘With each retelling the story evolves.’

Originally intended as a stand-alone, the intention is to make the book the first of a series of three. If you’re intrigued, you can find details here, and use the ‘”Look Inside” feature for a better flavour of what it is all about.

Now all I have to do is defeat the WordPress demons, and try to get this to post. See you on the other side. 😀

© Voinks September 2020

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