Writing a book is hard work! Then, as an author planning to self publish, you have even more work to do – to succinctly condense your story into an ideal reader attention-grabbing sales pitch to go on the back of your book and in your book description online. This is often harder than writing the book itself! Therefore, this blog outlines how to write a blurb for your self published book by analysing what works in other blurbs.
What is a blurb’s purpose?
A blurb has to do several things all at once, and quickly! It has to:
- hook its ideal reader straightaway
- clearly establish its genre
- meet readers’ expectations of that genre at a glance
- create enough intrigue for the reader to want to read the full story
- not give too much away
It’s a lot, and the list above may seem contradictory and confusing – no wonder writing a blurb can be tricky! However, there are ways to help yourself when writing a blurb for your own book, and that’s to analyse the blurbs from other books in your genre.
Deconstruct a blurb to write a blurb
One of the best ways to learn how to write a great blurb is to deconstruct another great blurb to see:
- how it’s structured
- what the stakes of the story are
- which devices are used (and why)
- approximately how many words it contains
- its overall effectiveness as a sales tool
Let’s take a look at two successful crime fiction blurbs.
Gone Girl blurb:
Who are you?
What have we done to each other?
These are the questions Nick Dunne finds himself asking on the morning of his fifth wedding anniversary, when his wife Amy suddenly disappears. The police suspect Nick. Amy’s friends reveal that she was afraid of him, that she kept secrets from him. He swears it isn’t true. A police examination of his computer shows strange searches. He says they weren’t made by him. And then there are the persistent calls on his mobile phone.
So what did happen to Nick’s beautiful wife?
This blurb immediately establishes a marital conflict; a domestic situation. A husband questioning who his wife is, and what they have done to each other. The short sentences throughout state facts about Amy’s disappearance, mirroring a police report, reinforcing its genre as a crime centred novel.
The adjective ‘beautiful’ in the final rhetorical question is interesting – it subtly invites sympathy for Amy as a potential victim, which is at odds with Nick’s question ‘What have we done to each other?’ which lays blame at both their feet. The rhetorical questions work as a sales tool by creating intrigue. Readers will want to know the answers to these questions, rhetorical or not!
The Thursday Murder Club blurb:
In a peaceful retirement village, four unlikely friends meet up once a week to investigate unsolved murders.
But when a brutal killing takes place on their very doorstep, the Thursday Murder Club find themselves in the middle of their first live case.
Elizabeth, Joy, Ibrahim and Ron might be pushing eighty but they still have a few tricks up their sleeves.
Can our unorthodox but brilliant gang catch the killer before it’s too late?
This blurb has a fantastic yet unusual hook – a group of pensioners investigating unsolved murders. The last three words of the first sentence – ‘investigate unsolved murders‘ – are probably not what readers are expecting to read so it creates immediate interest. This and the ‘brutal killing‘ inclusion instantly aligns with readers who enjoy Agatha Christie’s Marple series, and the phrase ‘tricks up their sleeves‘ and overall conversational tone implies lightheartedness and perhaps humour.
The phrase ‘unorthodox but brilliant‘ hints at there being something unexpected about the characters and ‘pushing eighty‘ informs readers of any age that this story does not stereotype the elderly, engendering respect.
What do these successful blurbs have in common?
These blurbs work so well because they both:
- Get to the stakes of the story within three sentences
- Name the main characters within three sentences
- Contain intriguing rhetorical questions at the end
- Contain less than one hundred words – they’re concise yet creative
- Establish genre quickly and clearly
And they are both written in third person viewpoint, which includes reliable information about more than one character (as opposed to a first person unreliable narrator point of view, which would limit what the blurb could reveal).
For more blurb advice, check out Bryan Cohen’s How to Write Better Book Description to Sell More Books advice on Reedsy. (Blurbs are sometimes referred to as ‘book descriptions’!)
If you’ve found ‘How to write a blurb for your self published book’ useful, these other writing related posts may be helpful too: