Writing a Killer Blurb by Rewan Tremethick

10 07 2013

Killer blurbs – the thing writers forget most often?

Over the past two years I have been working as a copywriter. This means I now have lots of experience of selling things using a small amount of words.
Rather like a blurb, really. And if there’s one thing a quick search of sites like Amazon and Lulu reveals, it’s that a lot of self-published writers are losing potential readers because they don’t understand what a blurb is for.

So what does a blurb actually do?

Remember that people need reasons to buy your book. Just because they’re in a bookshop (or online), want a book, and your book is a book, doesn’t mean they’ll buy it. It’s your job as the writer to show people why they should spend their money on you.

The two tools available to you are the front cover and your blurb. ‘What about the sample chapters?’ you may be asking. The fact is people won’t automatically read your sample chapters just because they are there. You have to give them a reason to do that.

Your front cover gets people to read the blurb. So your blurb is the first chance you have to demonstrate your power as a writer. Unfortunately, you need to be more in ‘selling’ mode than in ‘artistic’ mode, which is where a lot of writers fall down.

Here are the two main mistakes people make:

Listing the contents of the book.
It’s understandable that people do this. You want people to know about the novel, and that certain elements of the book will appeal to different people. So you write your blurb as a list of all the interesting things that are in the book, and end up with something like this:
‘Dragons, goblins, castles, deadly forests, volcanoes, betrayal, politics, smoothies, badgers, sarcasm’.

The thinking behind this is that people looking at your book are simply going to spot one of their favourite things (‘Oh wow, this book has got castles and smoothies in it, I like both those things!’) and therefore buy a copy. Sadly not.
You have to get people excited in the story, and the story is much more than the sum of its parts, telling people the book is: ‘funny/hilarious/exciting/a romp’
The blurb is about selling the book, right? So, you should just tell people that the book is good, and then they’ll buy it.
This means you end up with the second classic blurb mistake:
‘So many things are going wrong for Adam. This highly enjoyable romp, set in the Garden of Eden, will leave you crying with laughter, whilst examining your personal philosophy on topiary.’

Readers will know that you’ve written the blurb. As the author, you’re obviously going to say the book is good. They can’t trust you, so telling them how enjoyable you find it is no more effective than listing how much protein you’d receive if you chewed the book.
You have to get people involved in the story. Make them feel some of the things that your novel will arouse in them, rather than simply telling them what it is they will feel.

How to write a killer blurb
The whole reason people buy a novel is to get involved with a story or characters. So give them some of that on the blurb. Yes, you haven’t got much space, but that just means the exercise of writing a good blurb will help to make you a better writer.

Every story has conflict at its heart – otherwise it’s not a story. It should be the thing that keeps people reading anyway, so use it to start people reading. Introduce your main character if there is something incredibly endearing or intriguing about them (which there should be), or give an overview of the conflict which throws them into a tricky situation.

Give your potential reader something or someone to care about, and then throw in a problem for them to face. Use a couple of lines to set out your character, then use the next two to establish the problem.

Study the blurbs of your favourite books, and other books in the genre you are writing in. You should be able to identify key elements that appear in all of them. The more you study, the better your understanding of what constitutes a good blurb will become.
Get someone else to speak for you
Top your blurb off with quotes from people who have reviewed an advanced copy.

A back cover with several quotes below or above the blurb attesting to how enjoyable the story is looks impressive and demonstrates your ability. Readers may not trust you as the author, but they will trust the quotes.

Invest time in writing a great blurb
Write your blurb, then go back and try and cut it down. Then try and cut it down again. You have to tell a whole story in the fewest amount of words possible.
It’s difficult, but a good blurb will reward you with more interest in your book, and ultimately more sales. Give your potential audience reasons to read the novel.

Ask yourself what the ultimate, simple truth of your novel is, and present that on the back cover. Show readers the things that they will get involved with if they buy the book, and tempt them with just enough information about the story to ensure they are desperate for the first few pages.
Then it’s up to your story to speak for itself. Happy writing.

Rewan Tremethick’s debut novel, Fallen on Good Times will be published by Paddy’s Daddy Publishing early 2014.
You can find Rewan at Paddy’s Daddy Publishing

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2 responses

19 07 2013
Day 19-The Top Ten Writer Killers | After Writer Dreams

[…] Writing a Killer Blurb by Rewan Tremethick (paddysdaddy.wordpress.com) […]

31 07 2013
Blurbs | SERENDIPITY

[…] Writing a Killer Blurb by Rewan Tremethick (paddysdaddy.wordpress.com) […]

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