Writing Blurbs

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I don’t know about you, but summing up a book into a blurb is one of the most difficult chores I have as an author. Trying to succinctly convey what it is about, to allure the reader into paying money for the story and amusement value it contains, but not to give too much away… Well, it’s not easy for me.

I have a tendency when I am first creating a blurb to make it very passive. There’s no action, no ‘hook’ in a passive blub, so when I showed the one below to my mentor, she told me to change it.

“Earth is at the center of a galactic power struggle, but humanity is unaware. Only when an alien delegation suffers a fatal accident do the unravelled plans come to light, centering on the wreckage in isolated Alaskan wilderness. Caught in the turmoil, infectious disease expert Gabrielle McGregor begins to get an idea of what is really happening, and the repercussions it will have for her and her family… and the rest of humanity.”

So if the one above wasn’t good, too passive, take out all the “is”s and make it move! The we came up with the next iteration, below. It’s better. Sets the stage: Earth. Gives us a ‘what happens first?’ with the fatal accident. Introduces the main character, and ties her into the story, then sets up her conflict. So, better, but still…

“Earth sits at the center of a galactic power struggle humanity knows nothing about. Then an alien delegation suffers a fatal accident and hidden plans unravel around the wreckage in the Alaskan wilderness. Infectious disease expert Gabrielle McGregor discovers the hidden machinations and what they’ll mean for her and her family.”

Now, we decide that this is space opera, it needs hyperbole, let’s pulpify it! An alteration in wording here or there, and suddenly a sense of urgency unfolds. It’s a bit more dramatic, and that suits the story perfectly. Finally, a blurb that might help sell the story.

“Unknown to humanity, a galactic power struggle surges over the Earth. When an alien delegation suffers a fatal accident, hidden plans unravel around the wreckage in the Alaskan wilderness. Infectious disease expert Gabrielle McGregor discovers the hidden infiltrations, and neither her life, nor her family’s, will ever be the same.”

Will this process work for you? Well, not every genre has the same conventions, so keep that in mind as you prepare yours. Fantasy, science fiction, or other genres will need wording that is more closely associated with that genre. Start by looking for story blurbs that catch your eye as a reader. Dissect them a bit, see what it is that caught your attention. Once you have a feel for that, looking at bestsellers in your genre, and making notes, draft your first blurb.

Set it aside for at least a few hours, maybe a day or so, then look at it again. Rewrite. See if you can find a friend who reads the genre (very important. If your friend never reads, say, mil-SF and that is what you are writing, they won’t be able to help you) and have them look at the blurb. Networking is a wonderful asset, I have found. If you give as good as you get, then everyone wins.

You may have to work over the blurb a few times until you feel it’s right. But this is the first impression, when your reader sees the cover, reads the blurb… if they like them, then they may go on to look inside and see the quality of the writing and story. But a bad blurb can prevent that from happening, so this is a very important step.

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