Monday, August 17, 2015

Blurb Doctor: Writing Book Blurbs and Descriptions

Like most other writers, I am not confident in my blurb-writing ability. 

“Blurb,” for those of you who might not know, refers to the little description of a book or story that you read on the ebook site or the back of the book.  It’s the “sales copy,” the brief squirt of information that tells you what the book is about, just enough to get you interested without ruining the whole story for you.  And it’s hard to do. 

Recently, writing guru DeanWesley Smith has blogging about this very topic, which has been very helpful for me.  Even though I don’t find all the blurbs he’s been giving as examples all that alluring, at least the principles are there.  He uses a basic, general structure, and comments on others’ blurb-writing philosophies as well.  Strangely timely in its release, BookBub also published an article with some tips.

So taking a page from these notes on the subject, I’ve been reworking some of my own.  The main principle I’ve been in serious violation of has been don’t give away the whole plot.  After all, what’s the fun reading something if you already know what’s going to happen.  It’s like reading a story about the Titanic; you know how it’s going to end.

I’ve come up with a loose structure now that I’m trying out, based on DWS’s examples.  Though contrary his form, I’ve added taglines to the beginning.  Something to catch your attention, like on a movie poster; some bite-sized, quick-to-sample bait that gets the reader to the next paragraph.  Hopefully it works.   

So my experimental structure is kind of like this:

1. Tagline. (If I have one worth trying.  If not, skip it.)
2. Character/world intro. (Along with the cover, also points to the genre.)
3. Introduce plotline/conflict, but only up to the first page/chapter.
4. Raise the stakes/cliffhanger (if not done in #3) or give additional incentive to read this.

Each of these should be kept short, so the whole thing is short.  For Smashwords, you also have to provide a 400 character version, which is damn good practice for keeping it brief, and I use the same blurb in my back-of-book Fugitive Fiction Library listings.  I have read some advice from one online market saying that the more you give in your description, the better.  But that’s contrary to what DWS and others are saying, and I tend to agree with them.  I think the blurb should be short, easy to digest, and just offer enough to pique a reader’s interest. 

Applying these new principles, here’s a few of revamps. 

The Thorne Legacy

He'll be court-martialed.  If he lives that long.

Corporal Cranston Thorne is the black sheep of the family and about to be kicked out of System Guard for his selfish and reckless behavior.

His father, Captain Thanos Thorne, would like nothing more than to see that happen.  Unfortunately, he can’t stay for the trial.  A remote outpost at the edge of the system has gone silent and he must take the fleet out to investigate.

The real danger, however, isn’t at the edge of the system... 

A Writers of the Future contest finalist.


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.  And the further he travels into the night, the darker he gets.

Tarnish is a grittier coming-of-age story than you’re used to, where destiny is forged, not written.  

What kind of hero would you be?

The Prince of Luster and Decay

In war, men don't only fight the enemy. Sometimes they must also fight themselves.

Sergeant Knox leads the Head Knockers, a unit of scout-saboteurs in the war against the Dread Duke and his armies. They are the favorite squad among Captain Brighton’s Stormwalkers, until an ambush kills the Captain, half the company, and Knox’s best men.

Now the new Captain has new orders.  He’s sending the Head Knockers to investigate the possible source of the attack.  The town they find appears empty, but there’s something waiting for them there.  And they’ll need both heart and steel to defeat it.

This stand alone, sword and soldiery novella gives a glimpse into history of the fantasy novel Tarnish.


How did I do?  Any suggestions?

This last one I didn’t change at all.  I’ve already hurt myself too many times trying to fix things that weren’t broken, so I exercised restraint this time.  I’m just including here as another example.  The first line here is more about including key words and comparison stuff to say, “If you like these, you’ll like this too.”  The tagline is the second paragraph.

Hungry Gods

Avengers and Watchmen meet The Walking Dead and Pulp Fiction.  Spandex adventures for adults.

Superheroes.  Undead.  ‘Nuff said.

The country’s premier superhero team is missing.  So when a mutant monstrosity goes on the rampage, it’s Spitball to the rescue!  He’s a third-string hero today, determined to be first-string tomorrow.  And the Army may be giving him just the chance he needs.  Spitball’s been invited to undertake a secret mission into America’s heartland.  What he’s about to discover, however, is not a chance at stardom but a horror movie come to life...

Hungry Gods is a fast-paced adventure of costumed superheroes, government conspiracy theories, and flesh-eating zombies.


I am far from an expert, but I thought I’d share my learning process with the world and see if anyone else has some advice, or maybe even benefits from my experiments.

In either case, let me know!

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