So, you're days away from publishing your new one on Amazon, and you know you've got to take that 'must write the blurb' thought out of the back of your mind and actually write the wretched thing....
A blurb is NOT a synopsis. Readers don't want be told the plot. The blurb's job is to make us want to find out. In other words, don't copy and paste the synopsis you were thinking of sending to an agent, into the 'Product Description'. The blurb is the interest-catcher. It's that back cover bit you read in the library or the book shop, the couple of paragraphs that make you decide whether or not you want to open the book and look at chapter one. I think that's the main reason novelists find them so difficult to get right - we write long fiction, not advertising copy.
I'm not brilliant at them, but I've got better as time goes on, I think. Recently I read a short blurb by a friend for his new book. One short paragraph, and it was worded well but wasn't going to sock anyone in the eye. The book was a crime thriller - I suggested that he simply divided the paragraph up into four lines, with spaces between them, to make it more 'punchy'. More thrilling. He did so immediately, and agreed that the book now looked twice as exciting.
Here are a few pointers, because I love bullet points!
- Always, always think about what would make YOU want to read the book.
- Think impact, not detail.
- I read somewhere that you shouldn't include more than four character names at the absolute maximum. I agree with this.
- A couple of medium length paragraphs or a few very short ones are quite enough. Any more probably won't get read, anyway.
- Don't give away the ending. I notice this in romance books, in particular; you can sometimes guess the outcome of the book by reading the blurb. Okay, romance is one of the most predictable genres, and this feature is one of the reasons its readers like it, but if you see something like "will Millicent choose her boring but safe life with Nigel, or head for the hills with unpredictable but devilishly attractive Raoul?", you can bet your bottom dollar that Raoul's going to get the girl! Or "Jocasta Lusty was doing just fine as the boss of Lusty Electrical until fiery and enigmatic technician Gregory Hotstuff arrived to upset the applecart" - no prizes for guessing that, after a series of spats, Jocasta and Gregory will admit their tumultuous passion for each other! (Hey, should I start writing this stuff???).
- If you want to add in a couple of quotes from reviews, put them at the end, after the description. So often, I've waded through a list of "I couldn't put it downs" looking for a tiny paragraph hidden somewhere amongst the list of glowing testimonials, to tell me what the book is actually ABOUT. The product description bit on Amazon is where readers go to find out if they want to read the book, and this is generally dependent upon its subject matter. If they want to read all the great things people have said before they buy, they can click on the reviews. Yes, it doesn't hurt to include a couple of particularly neat and memorable quotes, but they shouldn't outshadow the description of the book itself. Similarly, any personal details about you can go on your Amazon author page, which is duplicated in 'more about the author' the book's own page, anyway.
- Make sure the blurb is error free, perfectly paced, etc etc. I've decided not to buy a book in the past because of a dodgy comma. If I've done so, you can bet hundreds of others will feel the same. Run it past your proofreader if you're not confident.
- Keep 'em wanting more! An unanswered question is always a good idea, and does not have to be posed in such an obvious way as the Raoul and co examples, ie, by asking a direct question. You could put something like "Millicent can't make up her mind if she'd be happier dashing out into the unknown or trying to add new spark to her marriage." (I'd go with Raoul if I was her, but that's beside the point).
"I found this book hard to put down and was up all night reading it" ~ Amy Smith, Amazon author.
Paradise Island was longlisted for the Worthy Effort Book Awards, 2015.
About the author: Angela Author lives in Stoke on Trent with husband Colin and two cats who think they run the house. She loved writing from a young age and her drawers are stuffed full of half completed early attempts. After completing a course in creative writing Angela decided to have a go at being an author, and Paradise Island is her debut novel. She can be found on Twitter @AngelaAuthor, and writes a blog about her self-publishing journey.
About the book: (note: if potential buyer hasn't stopped reading by now)
Just when Millicent thinks she may abandon her life back home and head off into the hills with Raoul, who should turn up but Nigel. He is disturbed to find her having changed her outlook on life and feels jealous of her burgeoning desire for Raoul. To make her jealous, he begins a flirtation with Samantha, an amply bosomed blonde waitress. Millicent is upset by this. But Pam and Lucy tell her that she only feels upset because she thought he was so dependable, and that if she was bored with her life before then she shouldn't go back. Meanwhile, Raoul is stepping up the pace and showing her how exciting a life with him could be. But he will not wait forever. Will Millicent go back home with Nigel, or head off into the unknown with Raoul?
Awful, isn't it? Ticks every single 'wrong, wrong, wrong' box, from the gruesome, cliched bio to the 'when are we ever going to find out what the wretched book's about?', to the synopsis-not-a-blurb....
Bored with her life and husband, Nigel, Millicent takes a summer job at Paradise Island.
I think we can pretty much guess what she is going to do, don't you??
Millicent Battersby is in a rut in her safe, steady life and marriage to Nigel. Is she just marking time?
A summer job on Paradise Island delivers sunshine, fun and new friendships, and the prospect of adventure. Yes, and some much missed passion and romance, too...
Then Nigel turns up out of the blue. His reaction to her new life is extreme, and sends her already conflicting emotions into overdrive.
Will Millicent decide that her marriage is worth saving, or head out to the road untravelled?
Paradise Island is the absorbing debut romantic novel from Angela Author, ideal for summer beach read escapism.
The 'good' blurb is by no means Amazon bestseller perfect, and is not without a hackneyed phrase or two, but it's a hell of a lot better than the other ones! Notice that Raoul is not even mentioned in this one, that a new love affair is just hinted at, as are Nigel's activities post arrival on the island. I don't know about you, but I'd quite like to read that book; I'd be wondering about Nigel's extreme reactions, at least! I wouldn't buy it if I'd read either of the first two blurbs, though, because I'd already know what was going to happen.
You can always try running your first blurb drafts past someone. I showed my first one for my new book, Last Child, to my sister and she said, "Yeah, great, but lose the horrendous cliche in the second paragraph". She was right, of course. It's since been amended several times and will be again before publication. This will be the tenth book I've published on Amazon; I've learned, now, that it's best to tackle the blurb during the first few drafts, and keep going back to it to revise. As with the novel itself, if you leave it a month you are more able to see its strengths and weaknesses.
Lastly, make sure the blurb accurately portrays the feel of the book. If it's a thriller, put questions in the reader's mind. If it's a light, amusing book, make the blurb funny, too. If it's especially gory, make sure you let the reader know.