Writing blurbs sucks. It’s ten times harder than writing a novel. Maybe a hundred times, because you have to take a book that required tens of thousands of words to write—maybe over a hundred thousand, as in the case of Tarnish—and sell it in only two or three hundred words. I don’t know anyone who thinks that an easy task or actually enjoys it. It is an interesting challenge, kind of a story puzzle to solve, but it's more stressful than enjoyable.
This weekend I spent a few days reworking the blurb for my fantasy novel Tarnish. This is a very long and complex book, layered with multiple view point characters and various subplots. (Hmm, I need to take a look at how George R. R. Martin—or more likely, his publishers—handle Game of Thrones and the Song of Ice and Fire books. Of course, those blurbs don't have to say squat anymore, everyone already knows what they are and they sell themselves.)
So how to compress 130,000 words of story into an engaging paragraph or two that gives potential readers enough to decide they’d like the book?
I don’t have a good answer. But I do know the blurb needs to be engaging and offer the potential reader a taste of what they’ll like most in the book. What is it about, who’s the main character, what’s the primary conflict? But to say too much or ruin the surprises is not a good thing either. Less is often more. So here’s what I came up with and I think it’s a vast improvement over the last one (though there’s always room for more):
Being a hero isn’t as easy as the tavern tales would have you believe.
Billy Cole has always been a quick study, be it at telling tales, brewing ale, or swordplay. And yet it surprises Wil Thunderstrike, his alter ego, at just how hard and fast the lessons come on his first venture into the real world of back-alley thieves, traveling talespinners, and warriors of renown.
Wil’s quest is to find epic heroes to save his home town, but it'll take more than a sword and the inspiring tales of his legendary idols to survive the harsh world beyond Redfield. From the inns of Hobb’s Turn to the port city of Fellwater, he’ll chase brigands and join pickpockets, fight with constables and street thugs, find romance and fall from grace, all while trying to discover his own true nature and forge his destiny. Tarnish is a grittier coming-of-age story than you’re used to, blending elements of traditional high fantasy with a darker, less forgiving perspective on right and wrong.
What kind of hero would you be?