Thoughts on the Art of the Book Blurb

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If you follow my blog, you know I do a weekly report on New Releases in my three favorite genres – scifi romance, fantasy romance and paranormal romance. I also scoop up a lot of new books that aren’t strictly in those three categories (urban fantasy, cozy paranormal mysteries etc.) and then I also add what I call ‘releases of note’, which may be hard scifi or other related genres that I find interesting and think maybe the readers perusing my list might be intrigued by.

I typically have 50-60 books each week. This is a curated list, by which I mean I don’t do any automated process and I certainly don’t cover every book released. I have my methods and my sources and I look at factors including but not limited to the covers, the reviews, the author’s past reviews, sometimes I read the “look Inside” feature to see how the author’s ‘voice’ is – I cover books in some areas I don’t personally read often, like dark romance and MPREG but which I do know the readers enjoy and would like to see…now, I don’t necessarily do all that up front checking for every book. I only have so much time and my primary priority is writing my own books! Gotta pay the rent and buy cat food for Jake the Cat…and I trust the quality of books by authors well known to me in those genres. But especially if an author is new-to-me, or has no reviews yet, or has a couple of iffy reviews…

But my main tool is the blurb the author or publisher has provided. This is the book listing’s description of who the main characters are, the challenges facing them, etc.

So today I have a little bit of a rant about book blurbs.

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To me, the main purpose is that after your professionally done cover intrigues a reader enough to click on the sales page, they’ll read the blurb and decide YES, they want to one-click this book and read it. Now I’m no authority on blurb writing. I used to have the wonderful Cathryn Cade do mine, when she was the Blurb Queen and since she stopped providing that service, I try to model my blurbs on what she did. I write M/F, so I briefly introduce the heroine, the hero and one paragraph usually about the challenge – escaping the evil alien scientists or solving the mysterious outbreak or defeating the interstellar crime syndicate. I may pose one of those “Can their love survive while escaping this disaster…?” type questions at the end. This approach seems to work for me.

When doing my new releases post I see everything from literally no blurb at all (what???! Yes, really, there are some out there) to a sentence or two, to the 3-4 quick paragraphs approach I use, to lengthy lengthy blurbs that try to give every plot point, to excerpts from the book standing in as blurb.

I kinda ruthlessly truncate the overly lengthy blurbs, frankly. I only want my already voluminous posts to be so long and OMG, just whet the reader’s interest, don’t tell try to tell them everything! (Reminder: This is all my opinion so your mileage may vary, as we authors say BUT I do see a ton of blurbs every week.) I do indicate there’s more blurb on the ebook seller page.

The ones that really puzzle me are typically on the later books in a series where the author blithely assumes anyone checking out their book must have read the entire series to this point and will know what is meant by something along the lines of “Frank and Sallie go to Weird Town to tell the wamluks the silver talzq is broken. Harry rides along.” Huh?

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(Shaking my head in sorrow for lost opportunities.) Okay, maybe your loyal readers will snap this up. Anyone seeing a mention of your series for the first time at around book #three to book #ad infinitum most likely won’t.  I don’t know about you but I always want new-to-me readers so I try to give an enticing blurb, and maybe (but not always) add a general paragraph about the series itself – here’s what I say about my Badari Warriors, for example:  Genetically engineered soldiers of the far future, the Badari were created by alien enemies to fight humans. But then the scientists kidnapped an entire human colony from the Sectors to use as subjects in twisted experiments…the Badari and the humans made common cause, rebelled and escaped the labs. Now they live side by side in a sanctuary valley protected by a powerful Artificial Intelligence, and wage unceasing war on the aliens. 

Sometimes, if I’m feeling extra helpful or I loved the cover or I really want a book in that genre to include, I’ll go searching for book 1 in the series and pull part of that blurb, where hopefully the author did explain the overarching concept of the series, and I’ll include that information properly labelled in my Wednesday listing along with the cryptic blurb for the latest book. But not always…it’s not really my job to sell your book.

I may also do this if the blurb really doesn’t explain the scifi or paranormal element of the plot but there’s more information in the blurb for an earlier book.  (And no, this post wasn’t inspired by the last authors I did this for – it’s been on my mind for a while!)

But what a missed opportunity to have the hundreds of people who kindly come and view my new releases report every week at least consider your series, all for the want of a little more information to intrigue them.

OK and if you’re on book #37 of a really well selling series, maybe you don’t need to bother with a blurb in any detail but how many of us enjoy that lovely state of being?

I’m not generally in favor of the excerpt approach either. For one thing, that’s what the ‘look inside’ features does to some extent, as far as allowing the reader to sample your style and the flavor of the story. For another thing, it’s often hard to know what to make of a random excerpt from a novel out of context. Personally I have a hard time relating to characters who just start ‘talking to me’ when I’m not invested even a little bit in the story yet.

And I certainly don’t think an excerpt should be your only blurb! If your characters have to carry the load of explaining who they are and the plot and everything else in an excerpt, maybe you have too much backstory and/or ‘telling’ in your novel?

Another thing to watch out for is having typos, misspellings or editing issues in your blurb. Sure we’re all human and mistakes do happen but wow, what a turnoff to a reader (speaking for myself) to see a blurb that commits multiple slips. I’m likely to pass on that one.

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I do applaud authors who include a little extra information at the end, whether it’s a serious trigger warning (I’m not getting into the whole trigger warning debate here) or a clarification that the book is reverse harem, or a bully academy, or contains material suitable only for mature readers or has a cliffhanger ending…and some people have funny taglines about general information in the series (mermaids solving cozy murder mysteries and baking cupcakes in a town where it’s always summer solstice [which I just totally made up]).

After the cover, your blurb is your most important tool to get your book into the hands of the readers (or onto their ebook readers) so even if you loathe writing blurbs (and there are still people who write them for a fee out there by the way), be sure you have a nicely polished not-too-long, not-too-short piece of prose to make us highly intrigued and need to know more!

Readers – what do you think? What kind of blurbs work or don’t work for you? Any tips for authors, including me?

reede finalAnd here’s my latest, by the way:

REEDE: A BADARI WARRIORS SCIFI ROMANCE NOVEL (SECTORS NEW ALLIES SERIES BOOK 9

Lt. Fallyn Damara was sent by the Sectors to investigate a strange transmission from an isolated planet and determine whether the residents of a vanished colony had been transported there by alien enemies. Fallyn’s ship crashes and she’s taken prisoner by the Khagrish scientists, to await her fate in the slate of horrifying experiments being conducted.

Reede, the second ranking enforcer in the Badari Warrior pack, volunteers to be recaptured by the Khagrish in an effort to locate and rescue Fallyn inside the deadly lab complex.

While a prisoner Reede discovers Fallyn is the woman destined to become his fated mate but the moment is bittersweet because Fallyn will be leaving their world at the first opportunity, to report back to the Sectors. He refuses to complete the mate bond, believing to do so will lead to nothing but lifelong misery for them both, separated by lightyears and interstellar politics.

For her part, Fallyn wants to shake up the rule-bound enforcer and persuade him to take a chance on love.

But first they have to escape the Khagrish.

Amazon      Apple Books     Kobo     Nook    Google

Award winning Badari Warriors SciFi Romance Series!

9 comments on “Thoughts on the Art of the Book Blurb

  1. I think you hit the nail on the head with this. I agree with every single point. I’m one of those readers who lets the cover capture me, but the blurb better hook me. Then I’ll open the cover and look inside.

    • Thank you! When I’m writing a blurb it’s hard to separate myself from the story and trying to tell too much…but as a reader (and as a person deciding which books to mention every week), the blurb is so important! And I do see these common ‘mistakes’ fairly often…happy reading!

  2. So glad you wrote this! Some years back, some judges for a major contest mentioned this problem. They had sorted the books they were to judge by the blurbs and then found, as they were judging, that the books they liked the most had the worst blurbs. Sometimes I’ll get a book with a bad blurb but ONLY if someone I trust recommended the book. So sad, because I’m sure I miss books I’d like to read. Thanks so much for writing this!

    • I think it can be sad – sometimes the impression I get is that the author hates writing blurbs or was too tired or whatever and just threw out a few sentences as a blurb…and may never get anyone to READ their wonderful book. It’s been on my mind for a while because I see so many blurbs every week and I hoped it might be helpful. THNX!

  3. Love this post! I’m a writer, but I’m a reader first and I read a lot (hence my kindle Unlimited subscription) so vague blurbs and blurbs with errors, are a no. I don’t claim my blurbs are perfect, but I do try. One of the things I haven’t done is include a series sum up at the beginning, but as I am on the final book in my Chimera Series (number 7) I think it’s something I should have done a long time ago! Thanks for the great tip!

    • I see the “series” blurb more often at the end of the specific book blurb, come to think of it, but I do think it can be helpful to a new reader who has just found a later book by a new-to-them author in a series and might be tempted to either try that book, or to go back and purchase the first one in the series and work their way througth the books (I’ve done that a few times). Thanks for the comment!

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