Does it even exist, that perfect enticement to readers, that perfect pearl of a teaser which makes you instantly go to the counter and hand over your hard-earned cash? Perhaps not…but chances are that as an author—whether traditionally or self-published, whether this is your first or your fiftieth book—you’ll have to create, or help create, a back cover blurb for each of your books. And it’s something that in my experience takes some time—as you have to distill quite a few elements to make a sparkling blurb cocktail!
What exactly are those elements? Speaking both as a reader and a writer, for me a good back cover blurb includes:
- A mention of setting and time period of the story
- A mention of the main character
- An intriguing glimpse of the plot, but with no reveals
- A question, or hook, at the end
Optional (but good to have at least one):
- A one-line description which gives an idea of genre of book and perhaps age range—eg A gripping, magical fantasy for young adults
- A line or two from the text itself, which gives a nice flavor of what you might expect of the author’s style
- A mention of the author, which could be in the one-line description, eg, A gripping, magical fantasy for young adults by multi-award winning author XYZ/ or A gripping, magical fantasy for young adults by the author of ABC
- Very short extracts of reviews taken from author’s other books, with mention of where the reviews were published eg ‘XYZ is a spellbinding writer’ (The New York Times) ‘A book to savour’ (The Sydney Morning Herald) Note: If you or your publisher has asked another author to write a ‘puff’ or endorsement for your book, this will often go on the front cover, unless you have a few such endorsements, when they go on back cover.
- Of course if the book/author is ‘an international bestseller’ :-) that gets mentioned too in blurbs though personally speaking that isn’t going to entice me if I’m not interested in the story as revealed in the blurb!
Also, style-wise, a good blurb should be:
- Short and succinct–around 150 words is ideal, to give enough information without overloading the reader
- Snappily and enticingly written with no confusing bits
- Written in third person, even if book is in first-person voice
- Attractive to look at—well-designed in terms of text on the page, what’s around it, colour background, etc—
And finally, starting with a tag line, in italics, works well: maybe setting time and place—eg, Moscow, June 1937—or introducing a main character, eg, Meet Septimus Drake, master magician—or an intriguing line of text from the book, usually from very early on, eg, It was supposed to be a foolproof plan…
What are your thoughts on what makes a good blurb? Do you have any favourite examples, either for your own books or those of other authors? Or even examples of blurbs that do anything but entice the reader?