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Blah blah blah - Dos and Don'ts to turn the back of your book from dreary blah to successful blurb

Most authors see the blurb on a back of their books as an afterthought, just a quick summary of their story to fill some space on an otherwise blank back cover. Blurbs are adverts, meant to get people buying your work. There are certain things you can do when writing a blurb that will encourage readers to buy your book. Here’s some dos and don’ts.

The blurb is second to only the cover in importance of the book buying experience. It is essentially advertising copy. Whilst the cover is there to get people to read the blurb, the blurb will get people to buy the book. It’s important to get it right and take advantage of this fraction of a moment of a potential reader’s life to encourage them to part with their money.

You need to convey elements of the story without giving too much away and sell the book without being salesy all in a short space.

Do keep it short

Readers don’t want to have to read a page of text before finding out whether they want to buy your book or not. If you take a while to make your pitch then your buyers are going to drop it and go roaming elsewhere. People are fickle with short attention spans, you need to grab them quickly or lose them.

Don't use clichés

Unless your book is a comedy or parody, steer clear of using clichés as they turn buyers off. Here are some examples:

  • In a world where…
  • Dave was just an ordinary guy, until…
  • In a race against the clock…
  • Little did she know…
  • His world falls apart…
  • In a web of deceit…
  • Comes back to haunt him…

Do reference the genre and main theme

You need to tell buyers from the off what the genre and theme of the story is. Don’t just straight out say it, work it into the first couple of sentences as part of the natural flow. Use keywords to get buyer’s attention.

Don't compare yourself or your book to other authors or their work

You want to stand on your own two feet. If you describe yourself as the next Stephen King you are only setting your readers up for disappointment.

Do create intrigue

You want to hook in your buyer, you want them to read the blurb and want to read more. Arouse their interest enough but without summarising the whole story. Let them know the goal of the story, and the stakes.

Don't use any spoilers

Seriously, don’t give anything away. Be careful not to accidentally reveal twists or turns by revealing locations, goals, or risks that rely on a plot twist.

Do introduce your main character

You want buyers to know the person they’re going to be reading about, or at least have some kind of idea. People relate to the main character, they invest themselves emotionally, so they need to know who that person is before they buy.

Don't summarise the whole story

You want the buyer to know just enough to realise they will enjoy the story, but not too much that you’ve told them the story so now they don’t need to.

Do reference your credentials

Mention other books you’ve written or your profession if they’re relevant. Qualify yourself as a writer in the eyes of your reader.

Don't blow your own trumpet

Be careful not to oversell yourself or your book. You don’t want to say how amazing you or your writing is. People don’t like braggers.

Do quote favourable reviews

If you’ve had any good reviews by professional reviewers use snippets of them in your blurb. Belieber47 on Amazon doesn’t count.

Don't overdo formatting

It’s good to use a bit of formatting to make things stand out and separate elements from each other, but don’t overdo it. Simple formatting like bold and italics work wonders.

Do include taglines

You want some punchy, grabbing taglines that will grab the attention and draw in the buyer.

Don't forget to close

You need to close the blurb to leave the buyer wanting more and hopefully buying your book. This is best done in the form of a question with the answer being ‘Read the book to find out’. After setting up the genre, the theme, the main character, the goal, etc, you need to pose the question or questions that will make someone take your book to the till. Something like “Who is the mole in the organisation? Will Dave beat the odds and uncover the truth before time runs out?" obviously remembering not to overdo the clichés.

Remember that the blurb is not part of your story, it is a sales tool and needs to be thought about to get it right. You're going to use it everywhere to promote your book, on the back, on Amazon and other sites, in reviews, etc. A bad blurb can kill your book dead in the water, a good book is an invaluable promotional tool.

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