Be honest. How many times have you flipped a book over, having had the cover capture your imagination, just so you could read what you think might be the best book to purchase? And then … yawn? Pick up the next book with a 'pretty good' cover, flip it, and read — only to find your feet already headed for the check-out lane with the second book in hand?
Why is that?
Even the best crafted book can fail for the lack of a catchy blurb. Yes, we enjoy eye candy which grabs our immediate attention and flares our imaginations BUT it can all fizzle faster than the last moments of a snowflake hitting a super-heated frying pan if the blurb don't hold up.
So how do you avoid that killer moment? Get the first sentence to explode in their faces.
- Don't Waste That First Sentence #1.You have less than 30 seconds to capture the reader with the description of the novel. Don't bore! John Jacob is an average guy. If that is really true … then why the heck are you writing about him? And why am I wasting my time reading this?
- Don't Waste That First Sentence #2.This fantastic tale of adventure… is YOUR opinion, not mine. Let me read the book and make that decision.
- Don't Waste That First Sentence #3.Start with the good stuff, don't build it up — that's what the book is for. Of course, don't give away the ending, either. Just tell me why this character is so interesting that I want to cough up coin to learn about him. Hook me!
- No Trite Phrases.We all hate clichés with a passion, so don't use them.
- A Cast of Thousands.John is our hero and he meets Mary, Sue, Bill, Tom, Dorsey, Hawk, Bill-a-bong, Hank, Jane and Zane. Did you care? Neither did the reader. You don't need to list all the characters in the tale. The story is about your hero(ine) and that's really the only name you need AND maybe the villain. Then again, maybe not. Part of the suspense
- Don't Use Rhetoric.Does the hero live? or What would you do if you had all the money in the world? Questioning the reader in a blurb or threatening the end of life for your hero(ine) doesn't convince the reader that s/he must read it. It is assumed the hero(ine) will live. Think about it for a moment. You've just picked up the next "Indiana Jones" novel and on the back it states "Will he die in the Tomb of No Return?" First thing I'd do is fire the blurb writer unless it is the very last novel about Indiana Jones ever to be written — which is doubtful. So why waste the space to ask the question? We all know he will live. Also, if it were the last "Indiana Jones" novel and he did die, you'd want to make sure that blurb wasn't just rhetoric!
- One Line Description.Relay the information fast. Let the reader know in ONE sentence exactly what the book is about.
Using the last suggestion—Give that one-liner and then expound on it. Find that perfect sentence which explains your novel or story and then, expand it. Start with only five or six words to describe your story. Once you've got that, re-tell it with thirty to thirty-five words and then finish with a one-hundred plus word blurb.
- Five word description:Two people sail Mississippi River
- First expansion:Huckleberry Finn and the runaway slave, Jim, escape their lives of small town Missouri and sail down the Mississippi River to adventures and dangers. They both learn about life and each other.
- Second expansion:This story is about the adventures of young Huckleberry Finn and a runaway slave named Jim. Finn is trying to escape his abusive, alcoholic father and the efforts of the townspeople to civilize him while Jim is trying to escape slavery and being sold down the river, which was always a worry for slaves in the upper south. Finn slowly learns to love Jim as a friend and not think of his skin color. From the beginning, Finn is worried about helping a slave. Having been raised in Missouri, Finn has been taught helping a slave run away is one of the worst sins imaginable and Jim is worthless except as a slave. It takes a while for the truth to come to Finn but finds he is determined to help his friend get his freedom, no matter what.
As you can see by the process above, I started with the five-word sentence and worked it to a final blurb for the story of "Huckleberry Finn" by Mark Twain. This is MY blurb, not the real one which I'm sure is much better.
It is said 'we judge a book by its cover' but that's not completely true. You put a lot of effort into the book cover, sometimes barring no expense or time, to make sure it will be noticed. So why cheat yourself by passing off a cheap or bland blurb on the back. The cover will grab their attention but it is the back blurb to make them carry it to the checkout lane.
Excellent tip again... each time I read one of these it makes me question what I'm doing...