Intro: How to write a blurb
In this article, you'll learn exactly how to put together a winning blurb for your fiction novel. Using our handy blurb template and our best tips and tricks, you’ll learn how to write a write blurb that is eye-catching, interesting, and most importantly, will help you improve book sales.
After your book cover, the blurb is next thing that a potential reader will investigate and this is a make-or-break point with relation to sales. So without wasting more time, let’s dive in and show you how to write a perfect blurb for your book.
What is a book blurb?
As a quick refresh as to what is a book blurb… A book blurb is a short, emotional, and engaging way to describe your book that makes it appealing to new readers. Essentially, a good blurb to your book is like a trailer to a movie— and emotional, curiosity-evoking preview of what to expect.
It is the upgrade to the old way of writing a book description.
A good book blurb serves a balance between safety and risk that we can reasonably tolerate and that leaves us wanting more. It creates anticipation and suspense without breaking it. There’s just enough danger (a new story that we’ve never read) paired with just enough of a comfort zone (written in a predictable order we are used to).
The first to thing to know about how to write a blurb is what mistakes to avoid...
Common Blurb Writing Mistakes to Avoid
There are a few mistakes that self-published Fiction authors make when writing their blurbs. And they broil down to two main effects for your reader:
Yes, the list is quite large. And likely, you've come up short in at least one area. But don't throw in the towel just yet.
Let's keep moving!
Tell the story
Your first priority is to get your story arc organized. There are lots of variations of blurbs out there but the one that seems to convert most often (a.k.a. sell more copies) is one with a linear timeline.
Even complicated sci-fi/time-travel books have a chronology. You just have to find it.
This goes back to the safety net I talked about earlier. We are more likely to do new things when we feel safe. Like venturing to a foreign country with a local guide at our side. Or going to the bathroom with our phone. We are braver when we are prepared. . .
So, even though the book is new to the reader, they will feel more comfortable if you've written the blurb in an order they are used to. One that naturally builds suspense and ignites their desire to know more. This all happens subconsciously, by the way, but it's a strong force in keeping them sold until the very end.
Since we likened the fiction blurb to a movie trailer earlier, I thought it made perfect sense to name this linear blueprint. . .
The "TEASER" Template
You've no doubt noticed that there is a chronological flow of time:
There's a beginning, a middle, and. . . a right-before-the-end. It's logical, it makes sense, and it's pleasing to readers.
Here's a blurb example of the template in action for a military thriller:
As you can see in the book blurb example above, this template is a great starting point for organizing your story.
But what's even better, is that it gives you the building blocks to start adding tension, connection, and emotion, all important aspects of making your blurb interesting.
How to write a blurb: Make it interesting
Now that we have structure, how do we create attachment?
ATTENTION IS EVERYTHING in the world of book marketing. So we can't afford to bore our prospective readers.
In my experience, there are two main drivers for interest:
- When a reader sees themselves reflected in the blurb (and thus your book). . . and/or,
- When they recognize the person/potential they most deeply desire to be/have.
Yes, the ability to transport your reader into the shoes of your main character or the world that you've created will be the key. They'll either feel connected to your MC, or the challenges your MC faces.
And it makes perfect sense, if you think about it. People are interested in James Bond because, in part, they want to know what it's like to be a spy. Or, they enjoy a cozy mystery because they want to have fun cracking a silly case in a light setting.
Whatever the case, it's the experience your book offers them that will get a readers' interest, and the sooner you let them get started with building that connection, the better.
This is why you should always strive to pull your readers in right at the blurb.
How to write a blurb: Use Copywriting in your blurb
Now that you've picked out the important elements of your story, let's give it some sparkle. And we're going to do that by borrowing some tricks used in an area of marketing called copywriting.
Or, as I like to call it, word-judo.
Copywriting is a branch of marketing where the written word is transformed into a superpower. Good "copy" inspires the reader to take an action that you want them to take, whether it be to fill out a form, join a mailing list, get up and move, or buy something. And it's copywriting that holds the key to crafting an attention-grabbing blurb.
Here are the special ingredients copywriters use to "write to get attention", that will help YOU write an interesting blurb:
1. WRITE FOR YOUR READER
This is one of the most important concepts to understand. You absolutely MUST get into your target readers' mindset.
Ask yourself: who is my target reader and what do they care about?
You want the reader to feel like you're talking to them directly - that the book is written FOR THEM. In this sense, the blurb is less about your story, and more about showing the reader why they need your book.
2. BE CLEAR ABOUT YOUR GENRE
This one is the easiest to do. Just compile a list of words that are used in your genre/subgenre and use them liberally throughout your blurb. This will set clear expectations in your reader of the genre they will read when they buy your book.
3. OPEN WITH A BANG
Your headline (hook) is the single most important aspect of your blurb. This is where 80% of a readers' decision of whether or not to give your book a chance is made. Give them something juicy to look at!
See my article HERE for the different types of headline hooks and how to use them.
4. HOOKS HOOKS and MORE HOOKS!
If your book were to put on a little black dress, which parts would show and which parts would be carefully hidden? In other words, what information are you willing to share, and what should they have to read to find out?
By using an assortment of open and closed hooks and even layering them, you can create emphasis on different moods, and stress important information.
Statements or questions that make a reader ask more questions, and that are left open. The reader will have to read the book to find out the answer.
In this example, we are being intentionally cryptic about the ways in which Jack's life is cursed. We are not ready to give them away.
This is useful if, for instance, the story centers on Jack's journey through loss and grief.
But, this layout can also be used for an adventure story where the background of the character is not important and so, not worth mentioning.
Statements or questions that make a reader ask more questions, and which ARE answered in the blurb.
They quickly cover information used to set the scene or to direct the focus of the book.
In this example, we have chosen to give away details about how Jack's life has fallen apart, because they are a backstory that the character quickly has to shed. But they also create an attachment with him.
We don't care if the reader knows these things because the actual story is about the worldwide adventure the character is about to embark upon.
Layering open and closed hooks is great way to build tension and interest in your story, and are a quick trick to get a reader invested in your book. It's up to you what you share, and how you layer the hooks.
But the end result you'll get is creating a fear of missing out which is a major stimulator of a reader's "buy" drive.
5. MAKE ME FEEL IT, BABY!
Your reader wants a taste of the action. Give them what they want. Let them experience just a piece of the mood or overall emotional arc of your story by using emotional words.
- Start by identifying the main feeling of your book (e.g. thrill, empowerment, humor, loss, wonder, humor, etc.).
- Next, find words that are synonymous, or that fuel that feeling.
Example: if your main feeling is thrill, words that might reinforce it include: danger, chase, run, race, time runs out, heart-stopping, etc.
You can always check out the blurbs of similar books in your genre to get a feel of the language you should be using.
6. WRITE LIKE YOU TALK
Studies show we understand information better when:
- we read shorter, clearer sentences
- sentences are connected like natural speech (contractions and conjunctions galore)
- there's emotional charge, and,
- there's a natural emphasis on the key words
This means you should break up paragraphs based on where a natural pause would be if you were speaking. And adding style elements like bolding, ellipses, and question marks will tell your reader how the blurb should be read, and where the tonal emphasis should be.
7. KEEP IT SIMPLE
Along with conversational tone, short sentences and simple language will help readers better understand your message. People think at a lower reading level when they're in browsing mode so you're are more likely to get through to them if you match their inner dialogue.
The Hemingway App is a great resource to test your readability. Aim for Grade 6 or 7.
8. DON'T BE AFRAID
It's okay if only your target audience likes your blurb. In fact, you WANT to repel people who aren't interested in your genre/story because those are the people who would leave a bad review.
The outliers of your target audience (those who only kinda, sorta like the genre) will still buy your book, but they'll do it only if they're happy with your reviews. That's why it's important to keep them healthy.
Copywriting is a gamechanger, but there are some copywriting techniques you should absolutely avoid. Specifically:
- Don't compare your books or characters to more famous authors/characters. Instead, let the reader make that connection themselves as they're reading your blurb and reviews.
- Telling your prospective readers to "Buy My Book" on your Amazon page can turn them off. When a reader is on Amazon, they're already there with the intent to buy so you don't need to tell them to do it. They are fully aware of how Amazon works and should always feel like the space is pressure-free for them to make the choice on their own.
- Being loud and flashy (eg, with emoticons, all-caps, or too many visual elements) is also a turn-off when it comes to books.
- This isn't related to copywriting, but I felt this point needed another moment to be heard. Over-tooting your own horn is THE WORST. Avoid phrases like "This is the most unique....", "You've probably never thought like this in your life,", "Your mind will be blown...", "The best book ever!", etc. It's pretentious, unfounded, and quite frankly, not true. And it will strike a nerve with a prospective reader.
- The only time you can include a book review quote, is when it's direct from a reviewer's keyboard [or mouth]. And in that case, frame it between quotation marks and list the source.
THE "R" IN TEASER
Having a form of social proof on your book cover is the last little cherry you on top of your blurb sundae. This means featuring good reviews, awards and nominations, and/or a high overall star rating.
Social proof is just another way of saying that your book has been read by others and received well. (And that the new reader will not be wasting their time or their money by buying it.)
Now, when you first start out, you may not have a massive amount of reviewers simply because you're unknown. The way around that is to recruit some Beta readers or use ARC (advanced review copy) readers prior to your book launch to give you unbiased feedback. Although they won't be able to leave a review in Amazon's review section, you can quote them in the "product information" section of your book page.
Here's two examples of how and where to add social proof to your blurb:
The final touch...
The last thing to do once you have the blurb written, is to perform some quality testing.
Have some trusted friends and family read it through and give you their input. Ask them:
- Summarize the story for me in one sentence. (Did they understand the main story arc?)
- What genre do you think this book belongs in? (Did they get a clear sense?)
- How was the flow? (Did it make sense?)
- Did you read it all the way to the end? (yes/no? why?)
- Were there any spots where your eyes glazed over?
When you are completely satisfied with their answers, then move on to reading it aloud yourself. If there are no places where your tongue gets tied or brain gets tripped up, then you're good to go!
Now you know how to write a blurb...
You made it!
I hope this walkthrough on how to write a Fiction book blurb has given you clarity, and the information you were looking for on how to build a great blurb!
Need help writing an effective blurb (cover blurb or a great blurb for online promotion to instantly grab a readers attention) or just need more advice about book sales and marketing?