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Writing Blurbs That Sizzle--And Sell!


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Make your book fly off the shelves!


Are you an author who dislikes or dreads trying to write back cover blurbs for your stories, or have you started one and want help making yours sizzle with intrigue and impact?


Would you like to utilize a series blurb but you're not sure where to start in covering all the books in your series in one succinct, powerful paragraph?


Would you like to have a short, punchy version of your blurb that can be used in your marketing and author/series branding?


Are you a publisher with a stable full of books that need blurb overhauls?


Every author knows what a back cover blurb is, given its high-profile placement on the back cover of every book. At its crux, a back cover blurb strives to be a concise, breathtaking summary of the entire story that includes the major internal and external conflicts and the goals and motivations of the main character(s). 


Unfortunately, crafting an effectively good back cover blurb is no easy task, and many writers outright dislike writing them or dread the process because so much is at stake if the blurb fails to engage. A sizzling back cover blurb needs to convince readers they absolutely have to read the story inside the pages... or they'll set the book down without ever opening it. Additionally, a powerful series blurb can sell not just one book but all of them in that set! High-concept blurbs are necessary in every author's marketing to provide intriguing "sound bites" for books and series'.


WRITING BLURBS THAT SIZZLE--AND SELL! will teach writers and publishers: 

  • The basics of blurb crafting: When to write them, how long they should be, and the three types of blurbs including back cover, series, and high-concept blurbs. 
  • Tips and tricks for crafting blurbs including worksheets and checklists to make the process foolproof.
  • Techniques in sizing blurbs for a variety of applications as well covering the timely and viable topic of branding with blurbs.
  • Step-by-step, do-it-yourself exercises using published works to help you develop blurb writing, revising, and evaluating skills.

       

The genre-diverse, multi-award-winning author of almost 130 titles, including 19 series, provides an in-depth reference to all things blurbs that may help sell your books to publishers and readers alike. Karen Wiesner is the author of the bestselling FIRST DRAFT IN 30 DAYS, BRING YOUR FICTION TO LIFE: Crafting Three-Dimensional Stories with Depth and Complexity, and WRITING THE FICTION SERIES: The Guide for Novels and Novellas, all available now from Writer's Digest Books. Additionally, COHESIVE STORY BUILDING is available from Writers Exchange E-Publishing. 


Karen has crafted back cover and high-concept blurbs for all of her own books and series as well as those for the stories in several award-winning anthologies. She's also evaluated, revised and crafted back cover, series, and high-concept blurbs for the entire backlist of nearly five hundred books in one publisher's catalog. She runs a blurb service for authors called Karen's Blurb Service http://www.angelfire.com/stars4/kswiesner/BlurbService.html, where you can find more details and gain access to a massive sampling of blurbs she's written and revised in nearly every category of fiction, nonfiction, and everything in-between. You can also find more information about signing up for her blurb workshops. 


WRITING BLURBS THAT SIZZLE--AND SELL! is the definitive guide on how to craft back cover, series, and high-concept blurbs!


  • $9.99

Make your book fly off the shelves!


Are you an author who dislikes or dreads trying to write back cover blurbs for your stories, or have you started one and want help making yours sizzle with intrigue and impact?


Would you like to utilize a series blurb but you're not sure where to start in covering all the books in your series in one succinct, powerful paragraph?


Would you like to have a short, punchy version of your blurb that can be used in your marketing and author/series branding?


Are you a publisher with a stable full of books that need blurb overhauls?


Every author knows what a back cover blurb is, given its high-profile placement on the back cover of every book. At its crux, a back cover blurb strives to be a concise, breathtaking summary of the entire story that includes the major internal and external conflicts and the goals and motivations of the main character(s). 


Unfortunately, crafting an effectively good back cover blurb is no easy task, and many writers outright dislike writing them or dread the process because so much is at stake if the blurb fails to engage. A sizzling back cover blurb needs to convince readers they absolutely have to read the story inside the pages... or they'll set the book down without ever opening it. Additionally, a powerful series blurb can sell not just one book but all of them in that set! High-concept blurbs are necessary in every author's marketing to provide intriguing "sound bites" for books and series'.


WRITING BLURBS THAT SIZZLE--AND SELL! will teach writers and publishers: 

  • The basics of blurb crafting: When to write them, how long they should be, and the three types of blurbs including back cover, series, and high-concept blurbs. 
  • Tips and tricks for crafting blurbs including worksheets and checklists to make the process foolproof.
  • Techniques in sizing blurbs for a variety of applications as well covering the timely and viable topic of branding with blurbs.
  • Step-by-step, do-it-yourself exercises using published works to help you develop blurb writing, revising, and evaluating skills.

       

The genre-diverse, multi-award-winning author of almost 130 titles, including 19 series, provides an in-depth reference to all things blurbs that may help sell your books to publishers and readers alike. Karen Wiesner is the author of the bestselling FIRST DRAFT IN 30 DAYS, BRING YOUR FICTION TO LIFE: Crafting Three-Dimensional Stories with Depth and Complexity, and WRITING THE FICTION SERIES: The Guide for Novels and Novellas, all available now from Writer's Digest Books. Additionally, COHESIVE STORY BUILDING is available from Writers Exchange E-Publishing. 


Karen has crafted back cover and high-concept blurbs for all of her own books and series as well as those for the stories in several award-winning anthologies. She's also evaluated, revised and crafted back cover, series, and high-concept blurbs for the entire backlist of nearly five hundred books in one publisher's catalog. She runs a blurb service for authors called Karen's Blurb Service http://www.angelfire.com/stars4/kswiesner/BlurbService.html, where you can find more details and gain access to a massive sampling of blurbs she's written and revised in nearly every category of fiction, nonfiction, and everything in-between. You can also find more information about signing up for her blurb workshops. 


WRITING BLURBS THAT SIZZLE--AND SELL! is the definitive guide on how to craft back cover, series, and high-concept blurbs!

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TABLE OF CONTENTS


I. Introduction: Judge A Book By Its Back Cover Blurb

A. What is a Blurb and Where Did They Come From?


B. The Purpose of Blurbs

1. Reader Ratings in the Book Buying Process:

a. Step 1: Author 

b. Step 2: Cover 

c. Step 3. Genre 

d. Step 4. Book size/word count 

e. Step 5. Title 

f. Step 6: The Turning Point: The back cover blurb


C. The Purpose of and How to Use This Book  

D. Getting Started


II. Chapter One: Crafting Blurb Basics

A. When to Write Blurbs 

B. How Long Should a Blurb Be? 


C. How to Write Blurbs

1. Three Types of Blurbs


a. Part 1: High-concept Blurbs 

1) Practice Makes Perfect Session

2) Craft Your Own


b. Part 2: Back Cover Blurbs 

1) Internal Conflict

2) External Conflict

3) Goals and Motivations

a) Practice Makes Perfect Session

b) Craft Your Own


c. Part 3: Series Blurbs 


1) Types of Series Ties

a) Central Group of Characters

b) Premise/Plot Series

c) Setting Series


2) Finding the Focus of the Series 

a) Story Arcs

b) Series Arc

i. Practice Makes Perfect Session

ii. Craft Your Own

d. Blurb Order


III. Chapter Two: Specialized Blurb Writing

A. Nonfiction Blurbs 

B. Anthology Blurbs

C. Children's Books


IV. Chapter Three: Blurb Do's (But Mostly Don'ts)

A. 35 Tips

1. Should My Character Be Invited to the Party? 

2. A Rose By Any Other Name 

3. Descriptor Punches

4. Right Place, Right Time 

5. Bring the Past to the Present

6. Keep It in Perspective

 7. Establish the Genre Through Mood

8. Watch Your Language

9. Shame on You

10. Be In Control of Your Hyperbole 

11. A Good Title is To Be Chosen Rather Than Riches

12. Make a Mountain Out of a Molehill

13. Should I Resist Asking Provocative Questions? 

14. Enough With the Questions Already 

15. Quick, Tell Me in One Sentence… 

16. Pardon My French, But Blurbs Need to Use Strong, Visual Language

17. "Stop!" she said. 

18. Keep the Peek in the Pages

19. Good Fiction: Character, Plot, and Setting. Always. 

20. The Mirror of Blurb and Book

21. You Want to Get Naked? 

22. Information Overload! 

23. Information Under-whelm

24. Say What?

25. Your Synopsis is Showing, Dear

26. Colloquialism and Cliché

27. Save Your Bullets

28. The I'm-Without-Equal Author Review Slant 

29. If It Can't Stand Alone, It Can't Stand. Period. 

30. Don't Give It All Away on the First Date

31. The High Note

32. I'm Embarrassed to Have to Say This… 

33. You've Gotta See the Baby

34. A Blurb is For the Reader 

35. Please, Sir, I Want Some More


V. Chapter Four: Blurb Sizing and Branding 

A. The Art of Whittling

1. Practice Makes Perfect Session

2. Whittle Down Your Own


B. Blurb Branding

1. Author Branding


2. Series Branding

a. Rule 1: Associate the Series With Each Title

b. Rule 2: Utilize Series Blurbs 

c. Rule 3: Encourage Series Recognition


VI. Conclusion: Crafting Effectively Good Blurbs


VII: Appendix A: Blurb Evaluations 

Evaluation 1: Dangerous Waters Series by Dee Lloyd

Book 1: Change of Plans

Book 2: Ghost of a Chance

Book 3: Unquiet Spirits

Evaluation 2: Jane Doe Mystery by Wendy Laing

Book 1: Flowers from the Grave

Book 2: Severance Packages

Book 3: Haunted Heart

Evaluation 3: The Rowland Sisters Trilogy by Catherine Dove

Book 1: Mr. Harding Proposes

Book 2: The Lazy Bachelor

Book 3: Cecilia and the Rake

Evaluation 4: Wild Sorceress Series by Margaret L. Carter and Leslie Roy Carter

Book 1: Wild Sorceress

Book 2: Besieged Adept

Book 3: Rogue Magess

Prequel: Legacy of Magic

Evaluation 5: Ancient Scythian Trilogy by Max Overton

Book 1: Lion of Scythia

Book 2: The Golden King

Book 3: Funeral in Babylon

Evaluation 6: Castle Trilogy by J.H. Wear

Book 1: Fall to Domum

Book 2: Return to Domum

Book 3: The New King

Evaluation 7: The Islands of the Sixteen Gods by Stephen Symons

Book 1: The Amulet of the Hunter God

Book 2: Beloved of the River Goddess

Book 3: The Stones of the Sleeping God

Book 4: The City of the Swan Goddess

Book 5: The Sons of the Silent God

Evaluation 8: Broken But Mending Series by Dale Mayer

Book 1: Skin

Book 2: Scars

Book 3: Scales  

Evaluation 9: The Shadows of Mallachrom by Michelle Levigne

Book 1: Blue Fire, A Novel

Book 2: That Synching Feeling, A Novella

Book 3: Starblue, A Novel

Evaluation 10: Retreat House by Sarah Yasin

Evaluation 11: Mind's Eye - The Imagery of Remembered Scenes by Wendy Laing

Evaluation 12: Time Thieves by Dale Mayer

Evaluation 13: Second Chances by Dale Mayer

Evaluation 14: Riana's Revenge by Dale Mayer

Evaluation 15: Gem Stone, A Gemma Stone Mystery by Dale Mayer

Evaluation 16: Age of Jeweled Intelligence Series, Book 2: Time Blade by Christina Greenaway

Evaluation 17: Greenspell: A Fantasy Anthology by Kathy Ann Trueman

Evaluation 18: Crimson Dreams by Margaret L. Carter

Evaluation 19: Hearts Desires and Dark Embraces by Margaret L. Carter

Evaluation 20: From the Dark Places by Margaret L. Carter

Evaluation 21: Passion in the Blood by Margaret L. Carter

Evaluation 22: Sealed in Blood by Margaret L. Carter

Evaluation 23: Sealing the Dark Portal by Margaret L. Carter

Evaluation 24: Shadow of the Beast by Margaret L. Carter

Evaluation 25: Windwalker's Mate by Margaret L. Carter

Evaluation 26: Different Blood: The Vampire as Alien by Margaret L. Carter

Evaluation 27: Dance of Desolation by Jenna Whittaker

Evaluation 28: Dreamscape by Jenna Whittaker

Evaluation 29: Watership by Jenna Whittaker

Evaluation 30: The Last Immortal by Jenna Whittaker

Cheat Sheet: Karen's Revised Versions


VIII: Appendix B: All-in-One High-Concept and Series Blurb Crafting, Blurb Revision, and Blurb Sizing Exercises

Exercise 1: The Midnight Line, A Jack Reacher Novel by Lee Child

Example 1 by Karen Wiesner: The Midnight Line, A Jack Reacher Novel by Lee Child

Exercise 2: Among Wolves, Book 1: Children Of The Mountain Series by R.A. Hakok

Example 2 by Karen Wiesner: Among Wolves, Book 1: Children Of The Mountain Series by R.A. Hakok

Exercise 3: The Storm Sister, Book 2: The Seven Sisters Series by Lucinda Riley

Example 3 by Karen Wiesner: The Storm Sister, Book 2: The Seven Sisters Series by Lucinda Riley 

Exercise 4: Obsession by Amanda Robson

Example 4 by Karen Wiesner: Obsession by Amanda Robson 

Exercise 5: Sleeping Beauties by Stephen King and Owen King

Example 5 by Karen Wiesner: Sleeping Beauties by Stephen King and Owen King 

Exercise 6: Neverwhere by Neil Gaiman

Example 6 by Karen Wiesner: Neverwhere by Neil Gaiman


IX: Appendix C:  Worksheets and Checklists 

Worksheet 1: High-Concept, Back Cover, and Series Blurb Worksheet

Worksheet 2: Blurb Evaluation Checklist

Worksheet 3: Blurb Crafting, Revision, and Whittling Worksheet


INTRODUCTION

Judge A Book By Its Back Cover Blurb


"The blurb is the sizzle that sells the sausage." ~KJ Charles from The Art of the Blurb: How to Write Back Cover Copy


In 1939 Nazi Germany, the country is holding its breath. Death has never been busier…and will become busier still.

     Liesel Meminger is a foster girl living outside of Munich who scratches out a meager existence for herself by stealing when she encounters something she can’t resist--books. With the help of her accordion-playing foster father, she learns to read and shares her stolen books with her neighbors during bombing raids as well as with the Jewish man hidden in her basement. (The Book Thief by Markus Zusak) 


               There are very few people who wouldn't be enticed to read a book with a blurb this compelling. 

               A blurb is the smell of cookies baking, tormenting us so we eat a half dozen as soon as they're out of the oven and burn our hands carelessly doing so. It's two pairs of eyes meeting across a crowded room and bonds you to one who's no longer a stranger but destiny. It's the flirting before the kiss. It's the thrill of what's to come from finding something that feels like you've waited your whole life for. A blurb is all this and more. Or more precisely, it should be all this and more.

               But the word "blurb" can be utterly confusing because the usage has become muddled with the passage of time and different functions. For that reason, when people in the book industry talk about blurbs, it's important to be clear on what exactly is being referred to since the evolution of this one word has come to mean many different and, in some ways, disparate things. Even the dictionary and Wikipedia seem unsure which idea to pursue. Depending on which dictionary you use, you'll get versions like this: 


"A brief description of something, often intended to make it seem attractive when offered for sale."


"A brief advertisement or announcement, especially a laudatory one."


"A promotional description, as found on the jackets of books."


"A short promotional piece accompanying a creative work."


So what is a blurb? Call it a summary, a synopsis, a story description, body copy or body content, cover, flap or jacket copy, a back ad, or the horrifyingly generalized product description (which are what ebooks displayed online these days amount to), a teaser or trailer, an endorsement or book review, quote, or "puff" from a fellow author or celebrity--any and all of these are blurbs in one form or another. 

               Where did all this confusion come from? The word "blurb" (intended as a flamboyant, mocking advertisement) was actually coined by American humorist Gelett Burgess in 1907 when his short book, Are You a Bromide?, was presented at an annual trade association dinner. The dust jacket of the work actually showed "Miss Belinda Blurb" in the act of "blurbing". From that point on, the term "blurb" became known for any publisher's contents on a book's back cover. So, in essence, a blurb can be any combination of "pull quotes" directly from the work; reviews; a summary of the plot; an author's biography; or merely claims about the importance of the work either by the publisher or the author. These days, the word "blurb" really means anything that's slapped into a blurb--a combination of all of these willy-nilly. You never know what you're going to get when you're browsing books. 

               Reviews look good and can be included with any book advertisement, but they're used solely for promotion. They rarely tell the reader what the book is actually about. Research firm Codex Group CEO Peter Hildick-Smith says that, even when a review is given by a reader's favorite author, "such recommendations have only a modest influence on their buying habits". Only about one percent were persuaded to buy a book because of the endorsement--and that percentage equals the number of readers who discovered the last book they read through a search engine. I wouldn't call that truly effectively. Maybe endorsements have value, maybe they don't. 

               Essentially, review blurbs are separate from story summaries, as is the author's biography. Quotes directly from the work are best used inside the book, on the initial pages or on a blap--the glossy page covered in blurbs that immediately follows the front cover, or around the story summary on the back cover. As for pompous assertions written by the author or the publisher about the work, think about it this way: Saying something is fantastic doesn't make it so. Given that most people assume the author wrote the cover copy, making superlative remarks about your own work will make it sound like you're exaggerating, arrogant or pathetically desperate--producing a childish desire in some readers to want to prove you wrong. Yet the use of these ridiculous assertions is so prevalent, I sometimes wonder if authors think it's necessary to include comments filled with overinflated, self-love in blurbs. I call these "review-slanted" blurbs, and I decry them as the worst form of blurb imaginable…but more on that in Chapter 3. 

               For the purpose of Writing Blurbs That Sizzle--And Sell!, we're going to focus solely on the book blurb throughout this reference, meaning the very short summary of the story plot (essentially what the story is actually about), though I will mention some of the other versions of "blurb" referring to endorsements, excerpts, biographies, or inflated claims later. 

               Keep in mind a two-fold truth that will guide us throughout this book: a) a blurb shouldn't tell the story; it only tells the potential buyer about the story in hopes that he or she will part with hard-earned money to read what's inside, and b) the purpose of a blurb is to sell the book. 

               Consider the shocking, disheartening facts: In 2016, Bowker reported that more than 700,000 books were self-published in the United States while the number of traditionally published was over 300,000--not including thirteen million previously published books still available. Bookstore sales in 2015 were down 37% with about 2.7 billion books sold in the United States (Statista, www.statista.com). More books are competing for shelf space at physical bookstores as well as those at online distributors than ever before. With oversaturation in every genre, it's becoming more and more difficult to make any one book stand out. Every new publication vies with more than thirteen million other titles available for sale as well as alternative media claiming people's time and monetary resources. As if all that came before wasn't depressing enough, authors are being forced to do more promotion on their own because publishers can only invest a few books in marketing campaigns that are certain to cover all marketing expenses and generate profits. Author promotion is a subject that could and has filled whole books and yet there is no surefire strategy for everyone.

               Suffice it to say that all of this leads us to one inescapable conclusion: Our blurbs have to stand out. As KJ Charles puts it so eloquently in her article mentioned at the start of this chapter, "...the blurb should be the most polished passage of writing you do--including the manuscript. Labouring over a [manuscript] and then knocking out a quick blurb is like spending hours creating a marvellous feast of molecular gastronomy and then serving it on paper plates off which your toddler has eaten jelly." 

               Additionally, remember that the last words most authors write for their books are usually the first that the audience will read. Less has to be more out of necessity. When books were only available in print, a back cover could literally only support around 450 words (and that maximum-amount-you'd-ever-want-to-have might force a small font that's hard to read while also taking up more of the margins). These days, an author has around 75-300 words to "raise a question that can ONLY BE ANSWERED when the reader BUYS and FINISHES the book", according to Michaelbrent Collings.

               Now for a little more bad news: While some publishers have in-house blurb writers, for the most part, author themselves are called upon to write their own blurbs--either for an initial submission to get an agent or publisher interested in buying the work or for the actual publication of the book. That's a catch-22 in and of itself. Who's more qualified to write about the novel than the author? On the other hand, who's less qualified to market books than most authors? 

               But, let's really get down to the cold, hard truth here: Authors hate writing blurbs. Want to hear how much? I went eavesdropping around the internet to find out exactly how bad it is and overheard these comments:


"I hate writing blurbs… I cull, switch, tear out my hair."


"I used to hate blurb writing with the heat of a thousand suns. I used to think blurbs were a challenge set by the devil to test my resolve in being a writer."


"For me, writing a blurb is sheer agony. The part I find most frustrating is the word count limit. My publisher requires 150 words or less. Virtually impossible to condense an entire novel to so few words!"

     

"I dread writing blurbs and put it off for as long as possible."


"I'm forever editing my blurb. You should hear me groan."


"I find writing the blurb more difficult to write than the whole bloody book."


"The only thing more difficult than breaking the entire 400-page book down into 2-3 paragraphs is, perhaps, reviewing the edits of said book!"


"How do you summarize an 80,000-word novel into a 100-word, must-read-this-book summary? It's like squeezing yourself into a string bikini two sizes too small! How can you pull that off and make it look pretty?"


Apparently, Tolstoy downed a gallon or two of vodka while trying to write the blurb for War and Peace. I doubt there are many authors who could blame him (even as I wonder how he wrote anything so sloshed). There is no better way to test an author's ability to write concisely in a way that engages and entices the reader into wanting more than with a book blurb. The back cover is such a crucial part of the reading experience I don't think it's possible to overemphasize its importance. How many of you have read a story without first knowing the premise? I've never read a book that I haven't read the blurb for first. I'm not alone in that. Most people like to know what they're getting into in advance.

               On that note, let's discuss specifically what readers are looking for when shopping for books.


The Purpose of Blurbs


Fact 1: Readers judge books by their back cover blurbs just like they might a cover. 


Fact 2: Authors and publishers want them to! To have a reader judge a book by its back cover blurb is our goal


               The only problem with this is that we want readers to judge our books to be worthy of taking the risk of buying and reading it, not the opposite. For that very reason, an effectively good back cover blurb is absolutely crucial to our success.

               Let's define our terms before we go any further. Ultimately, it doesn't matter a whit if it's long or short or somewhere in-between. We have a misconception these days that being short by definition makes a blurb good and effective while a long blurb is by default in opposition of that, but both flavor-of the-day trends are illusions that you can't afford to rest on. You can have a thousand word blurb that's so amazing readers devour it and immediately want to read the book just as you might see a short, punchy blurb that's incredibly well-written but doesn't make someone want to read the book. Hence, effectively good means it's both well-written and makes a person want to read the story inside the pages, not just the back--want to enough to actually pay money to do it. If a blurb isn't good enough to make someone want to open the book and read, it's not effectively good. An effectively good blurb either is effectively good in making a reader open the book or it's not. That's the bottom line, and all that matters. A blurb can be good and not effective, or effective and not good, but either it's both or it won't work. End of story. (That could be literal, you know.)

               Beyond this, most authors don't realize that there's a sort of order to the steps a reader goes through in the process of deciding whether or not to purchase and read a book. While the first five steps can go in any order and all degrees of importance are completely individual to the preferences of the reader, the steps are critical for all authors, publishers and distributors to note and address, since overlooking even one can mean the difference between a lot of sales and little or none. 

               Visualize a reader either in a physical bookstore or a virtual one like a publisher's website or that of a distributor like Amazon. Your reader is perusing a selection of books, interested but not yet motivated to buy. Now imagine that each of the steps below elicits a rating scale in the reader's brain that he might not even be aware has been triggered. Each step can get a rating of anywhere from 1 (drop-it-like-a-hot-potato bad) to 5 (do-not-pass-go Buy This NOW!).

               The initial scan of a book will factor in all of the following steps, in any order depending on reader preferences:


Step 1: Author. Some readers are loyal and buy anything and everything by certain authors. If they're obsessed with the author, that's all that's needed to prompt a purchase sometimes. If this isn't a must-buy author, then the author in question will play a large, small or anywhere in-between role in whether the rating the reader unconsciously gives is high or low.


Step 2: Cover. A lot of people think cover art plays such a huge role in whether or not someone will buy a book that there may be an overcompensation in the industry and thousands of dollars may be spent (needlessly? a moot point) on cover art. The fact is, some readers might be turned off by certain covers, for a variety of reasons that may or may not have anything to do with how attractive or high quality the cover actually is. From my point of view strictly as a reader, while something that catches my eye will be given the full evaluation, a cover that doesn't appeal to me much doesn't automatically put the book out of the running. Regardless of what the cover looks like, if I'm interested in the book for any other reason, like the other steps in this process, I'll give it a closer look. Even if I hate a cover--because it's ugly, doesn't tantalize me, or the design is of poor quality--I may buy a book if the other factors I prize get the thumbs up. But I know cover art does play a larger part in some reader's buying decisions, so it's something I have to be aware of and address as an author. 


Step 3. Genre. Many readers have only certain categories they're interested in reading in, some only one. I know non-writers who'll read nothing but romance, or another only mystery. That's the go-to category for them. But most of the writers I know read everything, or read in a lot of different categories. But, for many readers, genre does play a factor in whether or not to buy. So genre will play a role, whatever degree, in whether the reader gives this step a high or low rating.


Step 4. Book size/word count. I've heard readers say they never read anything shorter than standard-size novel, not even in a collection, mainly because they believe the reader won't or can't create a fully-fleshed out story in the page limitation. Others won't read anything that's too big and intimidates them on size alone because, after all, if you can't say something concisely, then maybe it's not worth saying at all. Most larger books are physically bigger and cost more, and therefore size could be a limitation. That's true of even ebooks, though maybe less so. In this step, extremes in either direction are almost always what tip the balance in favor of or against a buy. 


Step 5. Title. While there are very few people who would dismiss a book from consideration on the sole basis of the title, or even buy one because of a good one, this is a factor, however small, in a book purchase. Some people would never buy a book if the title was too racy or implied a subject matter they're not interested in or they're flat out against. On the other hand, I have a friend, humorous mystery author Christine DeSmet, who always comes up with these amazing titles: Misbehavin' in Moonstone, When the Dead People Brought a Dish-to-Pass, Five-Alarm Fudge, All She Wore Was a Bow, Sex with the Man in the Moon… You get the picture. Her clever titles crack me up and entice me to want to read the stories. Others might have other examples, but titles play their part in making the decision to buy, however slight that part is. 


As I said, these five steps can register in a reader's brain in any order and with varying degrees of importance, all based on individual preference. That book can have any conceivable amount of stars, from 0 to 25 at this point, after this first scan is completed. Anything really low will probably be dropped back on the stack (or the page left on a book website) without further ado. Now, imagine, if all five of these factors result in a good amount of stars (the book in question has 25 possible stars that could be awarded at this point--and 25 would practically guarantee the move to the next, most pivotal step...)                  


The Turning Point…


Step 6: Reading the back cover blurb. Like it or not, this is almost always the open-or-oust deciding factor for a reader. Either step 6 gets him to open the book and move into the final step in the process, which is reading an excerpt, or all scanning stars are removed and the book is forgotten, ousted from his thoughts, and he moves on to something else, starting the process all over again. This is the get-off-the-fence point, the denouement, the make-or-break, life or death sentence. If the back cover blurb attracts him, he may read an excerpt and that will seal it for him either way. Some readers will buy then and there if the back cover blurb sufficiently excites them, especially if the book already has 25 stars in the decision-making bank (another reason to do everything right and not neglect but address each step successfully).


The sad part is that you can lose a reader completely at any step, at any time, even if he's bought the book but he doesn't enjoy it--that will factor into whether you get another sale from him in the future. Those dollars are the only ones you'll see from that reader. Depending on how vindictive he is, you may find yourself with a bad review posted online for the whole world to see, or he may choose to spread that bad review by word of mouth. Ultimately, it behooves us as writers, publishers and distributors to make sure each step is the best it possibly can be. 


THE PURPOSE AND HOW TO USE THIS BOOK 


Every author knows what a back cover blurb is, given its high-profile placement on the back cover of every single print copy of a book and now as the accompaniment of electronic copies of the same. At its crux, a back cover blurb strives to be a concise, breathtaking summary of your entire story that includes the major internal and external conflicts and the goals and motivations of the main character(s). All of these things should and have to make the reader want to know more.  

               Unfortunately crafting an effectively good back cover blurb is no easy task, and many writers outright dislike writing them, or simply dread the process perhaps because so much is at stake if the blurb fails to engage agents/publishers (for authors submitting) and readers (after you're published). Your back cover blurb can make or break a sale to a publisher as well as to potential readers trying to decide whether or not to fork over the money to purchase your work, given that it's one of the first glimpses of the story and that glimpse had better be utterly intriguing. You may not get a second chance to capture your audience. Many publishers you submit to and certainly readers buy based on a sizzling back cover blurb that convinces them they absolutely have to read the story inside the pages…or they simply set the book down without ever opening it. Additionally, a powerful series blurb can sell not just one book but all of them in that set! 

               I've been writing my own blurbs from the beginning--hundreds of them now, considering I'm the author of almost 130 books (including 19 series), and I've also helped other authors with theirs for many years, along with writing and/or revising the blurbs for many award-winning anthologies. I'd never done it "professionally", though I have had New York editors tell me I should be writing back cover blurbs for a living. In 2017, on the suggestion of my fiction publisher, I decided to start a small side business. I offered my skills as a blurb writer to other authors and publishers. My first client was that publisher, who had a backlist of well over five hundred blurbs she wanted me to evaluate, revise, worst-case-scenario rewrite from scratch, and also provide series blurbs for all that needed them. Additionally, she wanted me to do the same for all upcoming and future releases. A massive undertaking that took me a few weeks that, hey, I didn't sleep much during, but I was in blurb heaven (have I mentioned how much I love all things blurb?). After that, I started putting on blurb workshops and decided to write this book. It was then that I started looking around to see what other resources were out there about blurb writing. The internet is absolutely flooded with articles written about blurb writing, and I found one 67-page ebook about them at Amazon, but there's not a single other book reference out there that I could locate that definitively discusses everything important to know about blurbs. Talk about a niche crying out for filling! 

               To that end, the purpose of Writing Blurbs That Sizzle--And Sell! is to teach writers and publishers how to craft effectively good blurbs, whether the author is unpublished and submitting to agents and editors or published and writing their own blurbs for books that will go directly to readers, whether the books are large or small, fiction or nonfiction or anything in-between, and whether blurbs need writing from scratch or an existing blurb revised. 

               This book is broken down into five chapters followed by three appendices. 

               Chapter One explores the basics of blurb crafting: When to write them, how long a blurb should be, and the three types of blurbs including high-concept, back cover, and series blurbs. Here we'll fill out the High-Concept, Back Cover, and Series Blurb Worksheet that covers all the bases. 

               Chapter Two will go over how to write a few very specialized types of blurbs including nonfiction, anthology, and children's books that require different techniques than other fiction blurbs.

               Chapter Three focuses on a huge selection of tips for crafting blurbs. There are so many pros and cons when writing blurbs a whole chapter is needed to cover them all. Our Blurb Evaluation Checklist is formed from these tips.

               Chapter Four offers techniques in sizing blurbs for a variety of applications as well as covers the timely and viable topic of branding with blurbs (and you need various sizes for that).

               The final chapter concludes what we’ve learned about the vital role of crafting effectively good blurbs.

               The three appendices contain all the supplemental materials you’ll need to work your way through the blurbing process:

-Appendix A offers blurbs from published works for you to evaluate with the Blurb Evaluation Checklist in order to hone effectively good blurb writing skills. 

-Appendix B gives exercises to help develop series, high-concept, and back cover blurb evaluating, writing, and revising skills--using an All-in-One Worksheet that provides the means to whittle blurbs down to three different sizes.

-Appendix C contains the blank worksheets and checklists we've discussed throughout the book that you can use to craft, evaluate, revise and whittle your own blurbs.

               

Some clarifications about the examples from published novels I've used that you'll find in this book: Fabricating material from published books to fit into sections of my worksheets isn't easy. While I have used examples from other published books, in many cases, I've also used my own books in the examples you'll find in order to rid myself of the discomfort of having to "work backwards" with something not my own too often. Additionally, I use a lot of examples from the works of the authors I've evaluated, crafted and revised blurbs for (through my Blurb Service). Finally, one last note about the examples: Many of them surpass what we'll soon establish as the "maximum word count" for sizing. My critique partner commented on how long most of them were, wondering often if they exceeded the limits I'd set. Remember a few of things when you encounter long blurb examples in this text: 1) Size doesn't matter--effectively good blurbs can come in any size. What I've suggested as ideal isn't in any way set in stone. The sizes are simply goals to shoot for when crafting or revising. 2) Resizing blurbs is mainly a promotional concern, which we'll discuss in-depth later. Again, the sizes I'll suggest as ideal should in no way force an author to conform if effectively good is otherwise at odds with length. 3) These are examples, and I have little or no control over the sizes of them as they come to me. Unless our point is to utilize the blurb as an exercise in resizing, assume the length of any example is beside the point I'm trying to make.

                A couple of notes: Throughout this book, for consistency, I'll refer to characters in the female point of view. To offer distinction, I'll refer to readers and writers in the male POV. Clearly, characters, readers and writers can be of either sex, but, to prevent an erratic jump from one to the other, I've done it this way. 

               One other thing to take notice of is that a number of the examples used throughout this book are from movies. The reason for this is because that medium is so much more visual and also because the sad fact is that there are more movie-goers than readers these days. 2014 statistics pointed to nearly a quarter of Americans having not read a single book during the year while more than two-thirds of the population went to the cinema at least once during the year and frequent moviegoers attended at least once a month. Safe to say, the fiction in movies may be better known than that in books, although those reading this reference probably read more books than they do watch movies. Ultimately, all the examples are fictional, so I saw no reason not to use some from each medium.

               Additionally, I'll note upfront that I believe a series name is part of its branding (see my book Writing the Fiction Series). Not only should the series title be included everywhere the name of a book is spoken or written about, but the world “series” or “trilogy” should be capitalized in order to further solidify the branding. In other words, I never refer to my series Family Heirlooms as simply that. Always, I refer to it as the “Family Heirlooms Series” because that’s the full title and most effective way to brand it to my readers. That’s why you’ll see every series mentioned within this book with the word “series” or “trilogy” capitalized. We'll talk more about this in Chapter Four.

               Note that errors made in any original blurb examples were retained here from wherever the blurb was taken. I didn't correct mistakes anywhere except in my revision example of that original blurb.

               One final note of clarification: Keep in mind that you don’t have to perform every step in this or any other writing method. Authors are all different, we all think and perform differently, and ultimately it makes no sense to do more work than you need to. The goal for each writer should be to find what works for you personally, as an individual. Most of the time that means finding what doesn’t work first. My motto is, utilize what works for you; discard the rest. The point of worksheets and checklists is to give help in pinpointing problem areas. If you're not having an issue in a certain area, go ahead and skip the in-depth processing. In my writing methods, in particular, my goal is to make sure authors have everything needed to learn to write instinctively. What I mean by that is that through years and endless practice, your brain begins to grasp the basics and even some of the harder concepts of writing, like blurb writing. If you don’t feel like some or any of this is instinctive for you, go through the steps as I’ve set them down, aware that every author's endgame is and should be instinctive writing.


GETTING STARTED 


There's no doubt that learning to write effectively good blurbs is critical to your success as an author. There are techniques that can help and may even infuse you with the same enthusiasm I have for writing blurbs. I am wildly, wonderfully in love with writing, revising and evaluating book blurbs--for my own books and for the books of other authors, regardless of the genre. Even the most shockingly underwhelming blurbs I've been asked to write or revise have thrilled me with their challenge. My hope is that Writing Blurbs That Sizzle--And Sell! will give authors a solid plan of action from start to finish through in-depth discussions, examples and exercises, with leave-no-stone-unturned aids, and a process that will allow you take everything mentioned here into your own blurb writing. Let's get started! 


 

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