Hooking your reader: writing a blurb.Posted: March 6, 2013
I hope you enjoy this: my first guest post, written by Sharon Sant!
The cover is the first thing that will draw a reader towards your book, but if you think of that as the shop window, then the blurb is the sales patter once you’ve entered the store. You’ve spotted that adorable teapot, or that divine sparkly dress, so you step inside the shop and are greeted by a smelly, rude, disinterested sales assistant. What do you do? You might still buy the item, enamoured by its beauty. More likely, you won’t want to give a penny of your hard-earned cash to such a vile specimen of humanity.
Think of your blurb that way. You’ve tempted in your customer with a fabulous cover, but then your blurb is a snore-fest. They’re not going to buy. It’s such a common mistake and easy to avoid. Your blurb is not a synopsis of the book; it’s a tickle under the chin that says: come on in and stay with us for a while. Your blurb needs to convince the reader, in a few short seconds, that they cannot live without discovering what happens in your book. There are a few simple points to consider that will help you achieve this:
Know your genre. Look at what other blurbs are like, as many as you can. Take note of the language they use—it’s usually in keeping with the tone of the book. A thriller, for example, will use short, punchy sentences. A fantasy blurb will feel like it is weaving magic as it talks to you. A quirky comedy will try to make you laugh. Romance will want to seduce you. The more you read of others, the more you’ll get an intuitive feel for what needs to go in yours.
This goes hand in hand with researching your genre. Every genre has its conventions—things that readers expect and want to see—and the blurb should adhere to that. Look at other blurbs for words that crop up again and again within the same genre; they’re there for a reason. Fantasy blurbs contain a lot of ‘destiny’ and ‘magic’. See where we’re going? These words will pique the interest of your potential reader; they’re browsing your genre because that’s what they like to read about.
Pose a question
Drive your potential buyer mad with curiosity. Pose ‘what if’ questions to lure them into your story. ‘What if this woman doesn’t get the man of her dreams?’ What will this woman do? Will she kill herself? Have a sex change? Become a nun? Leave your potential reader needing to know. It can be effective to hit them with your blurb first and then pose the question as the closing line. You can also do the question pose without actually using a question: ‘Her life would be perfect, if only she could catch the man of her dreams…’ Here, we leave the outcome as something unknown; just like when we posed the question, the reader doesn’t know where the story is going to end up and we’ve caught their interest.
Keep it short
You have no idea how many blurbs I’ve seen that seem to be longer than the book itself. Your book is awesome, but don’t tell the reader everything that happens on the blurb in a non-awesome, telling-not-showing way. Keep it short and retain your mystery, feed them just enough to lure them in. Personally, I think a paragraph or two is about right, but I’ve seen one-liners that work brilliantly. It’s up to you but always remember that your blurb is not your synopsis.
Sharon Sant holds a BA (Hons) in English and creative writing and is currently researching a PhD in literary studies. She is a freelance editor and is the author of YA novels, “Sky Song” and “The Young Moon”. You can find her blog here.