The back cover copy on a book, known to writers as a blurb, is often the deciding factor in whether or not a browsing reader will make a purchase.
This past week, I’ve been working hard to craft perfect blurbs for two of my upcoming releases. Like most writers, I find preparing a blurb the equivalent of speaking in a little-known foreign language. I don’t have a background in marketing, but a blurb is a marketing tool and the words must be carefully chosen. I have to keep in mind that my book is now a product I’m trying to sell.
When writing a blurb, the first problem is to find a way to condense three hundred pages – or more – into about a hundred and fifty words. After spending months writing the book, I’m eager to tell a potential reader about the wonderful scenes and fabulous characters, but space limits nix that desire. I need a short summary and can only mention the most significant points.
The second problem is that my short summary can’t be casually composed. It must do several important things. A good blurb will portray a book in a favorable light, be concise, tell potential readers what kind of a book it is, and target the readers who might want to read the story, all without giving away the ending. It must be intriguing and use keywords that help the person reading it decide if the book is one they’ll enjoy.
Before my first book was published, I’d imagined that an editor would write my book’s blurb. I soon discovered I was mistaken. An editor or someone in the publisher’s marketing department may change a couple words, but the bulk of the text comes from the author. It reflects their writing style and the tone of the book. It provides a clue to the writer’s level of expertise. And all this is good. How else can a reader make that buying decision?
We’ve all picked up a book in a store, turned it over, read the blurb, been unmoved, and put that book back down. We’ve also read a blurb that told us the book we were holding was exactly what we were looking for and immediately headed for the register.
I’m hoping the blurbs I’ve just sent to my publisher’s art department will do the latter, but as the saying goes, only time will tell.