You've finally finished your hours of researching, writing, and editing! You've sent in your manuscript and your publisher asks for a book description... That shouldn't be hard, right? All you have to to do is condense everything you know about your book into 250 words or less that convince readers they can't live without your book without actually giving away any spoilers.
Writing a book blurb for your back cover and other promotional uses is one of the hardest steps for many authors. Even good writers can write bad book blurbs. To help prevent you from falling into this unfortunate group, we've put together a few tips that should help you write a winning book blurb, whether it's for the latest fantasy novel or for a non-fiction self-help guide.
Typically book blurbs are no more than 3 paragraphs, or 250 words. So your biggest challenge will be to condense your manuscript into a few key points. To help you get started, ask yourself these questions:
1. What's the overarching question/conflict in my book?
2. If readers will take away just one thing from this book, what do I want it to be?
3. What's special about my plot/advice? Why is this book different from any others?
Depending on your answers to these questions, those are the main points you'll want to focus on in the content of your book blurb. Award-winning author, editor, and speaker, Laura Taylor, has some excellent advice on writing an enticing book blurb. In her blog post, she says:
"Now for the fun part ... the real key to writing book cover blurbs is to begin with the broad landscape of the story, and to condense, condense, and then condense some more. Ask yourself the following questions: What are the most important points of the story? Why would those points interest a reader? Is there a specific genre language base I can employ to entice my potential readership demographic without the use of clichés? Once you've dealt with the preceding, write it all down. You may end up with one or more pages of text. Not to worry. Condense, and keep condensing until you've synthesized your book into one or two essence-capturing paragraphs."
Typically, book blurbs are structured following a basic pattern:
- Open by building up the overall plot and setting. For a nonfiction book, this could be your main "thesis" statement.
- Follow up by delving a little deeper in to the book's blot.
- Introduce the conflict. For a nonfiction book, your "conflict" is the problem you're helping readers to solve or the question you're helping to answer.
- End by hinting at resolution, without giving away the ending. Leave the reader wanting more. Many books use an enticing question to hook the reader.
Above all else, avoid any spoilers! Giving away too much information is a sure way to kill your book before it even sees the light of day.
You also want to be honest in your blurb. Don't promise the reader something you won't deliver. Time and again, blurbs commit the sin of false advertising. This leaves the reader dissappointed, annoyed, and alienated. Nobody wants that.
Here are a few sample blurbs to get you started:
Healing Maddie Brees by Rebecca Brewster Stevenson (Literary Fiction)
A debut novel from a promising new voice in fiction, Healing Maddie Brees is the story of a marriage and the memories that pit themselves against it, of the uncanny power of the body in both disease and desire, and of whether true healing ever really happens.
Maddie Brees has been given bad news: She is seriously ill. But she also has an old friend, an ex-boyfriend who might be able to heal her. She was witness to Vincent Elander’s so-called miracles in the past. But that was a long time ago, a memory that she would rather stay buried.
Now she is happily married to Frank and mother of their three young boys. The religion of her past is behind her, along with any confidence she once had in it. With the onset of her cancer, the memories of Vincent won’t leave Maddie alone, and before long they are affecting everything else: her marriage, her husband, the things they thought they agreed on, the beliefs they thought they shared. Soon Frank, who was to be Maddie’s rock throughout her treatment, is finding fault-lines of his own. In this exquisitely written narrative, Stevenson explores the questions of honesty and commitment, of disease and isolation, and of the many shapes healing takes.
Real Birth: Women Tell Their Stories by Robin Greene (Non-Fiction)
Intimate and intensely personal, the forty-five first-person narratives contained in Real Birth: Women Share Their Stories offer readers a window into the complex and emotionally exciting experience of childbirth. Women from a full range of socioeconomic backgrounds and circumstances recount the childbirth choices they’ve made and the ways those choices have played themselves out in the real life contexts of their everyday lives. Readers meet women from all over the country who speak to us directly––no interviewer intrudes, no judgments intrude, and no single method of childbirth is advocated. Instead, these women offer us their candid experiences, presented clearly and unflinchingly.
Medically reviewed by physicians Dr. Richard Randolph for the first edition and Dr. Deborah Morris for this second edition, Real Birth offers readers a plethora of correct information as well the kind of real scoop that other books and health care professionals are often reluctant to reveal. The result is a well-grounded book that reaches across the boundaries of childbirth literature.
Real Birth is introduced by Ariel Gore, journalist, editor, writer, and founding editor/publisher of Hip Mama, an Alternative Press Award-winning publication about the culture of motherhood. Also included are an extensive glossary of medical terms, a thoroughly researched selective bibliography, and a list of resources of interest to pregnant women and new moms.
Remember, exactly how you structure your book blurb is completely up to you, but a good blurb will include the main elements listed above: setting, character, conflict, enticement to learn more.
So tell us, what's the worst book blurb you've ever read? The best? What do you look for when you read a book's back cover?