11 Surefire Tips on Writing Great Marketing Copy - Book Blurb 101

November 7, 2016


If you plan to self-publish, it’s crucial to know how to create an appealing blurb for your book—one that’s compelling enough to entice a reader into buying your novel. 

Blurbs (or called back jacket copy or marketing copy) are used in the back jacket copy of paperback novels and on the book's product page. Basically, it is the beguiling description of your novel used to entice readers into, well, reading your work.

This is marketing copy, not a synopsis. Keep it brief. Keep it interesting. Keep it engaging. Don’t bog it down with too many details about the plot or subplot. Use persuasive and strong nouns, adverbs, and verbs to describe your novel. (If you're querying an agent or publisher, then you need to slightly restructure your pitch, but it is basically the same method described in this post. And in your synopsis, I suggest that writers clearly define every plot point and reveal the ending.)


A book blurb is supposed to be about 200 words or less. Sure, I have read some that were as long as 300 words, but a writer only has a few seconds to attract a potential reader. Length matters. So “short and sweet” is usually best when writing marketing copy. Learn to trim down until only the story's heart remains.

Strive for quality—not quantity. Superb back jacket copy never explains every characters background, every plot twist, or pinch-point of your storyline. Write a blurb that is descriptive, but not all-inclusive. Think tempting, but not embellished. 


Professional copywriters know that effective promotional copy harmonizes with a storyline and doesn’t exaggerate or minimize what readers will find inside. 


Don’t assault the reader with a dense block of text. White space is your friend even in blurb writing. Remember that readers usually skim the text unless it's so gripping that they don't bother finishing it because they're already clicking the "buy button."

One way to get a better understanding of good promotional copy is to read the blurbs of other published novels in your genre. Visit a library, bookstore, or search online at places like Goodreads to read blurbs. Whenever you find a blurb that really grabs your attention, see if it gives you some ideas for your own book description. 


Once you have a few blurbs written down that you like, find a critique partner to help you polish it. Or ask a friend or writing buddy, who’s familiar with your premise, and have them write a brief summary of your novel, noting the detailed plot points they enjoyed. This is an excellent way to gain an invaluable assessment of your storyline.


Another excellent way to help you write a blurb is to excerpt your own work. Try this, comb through your entire manuscript searching for paragraphs or phrases to quote. This method can be very effective if you find a strong passage that can be taken out of context and still make sense. 


If you’re trying to summarize your work into 200 enticing words, I suggest reading the marketing copy of other work. Start reading a ton of book jackets, video game summaries, and DVD boxes. If you’re writing creepy horror, it helps to read the blurbs of scary stories. Study book blurbs, video game cases, and DVD boxes in the genre that you're writing, then mimic. It will help inspire you because the blurb (marketing copy) is meant to entice readers. 

Keep this mind while drafting the blurb, "Conflict is the fuel that excites most readers.
I spend a lot of time revising and tweaking my own blurbs. I go over and over them until my head hurts. Writing a good blurb with a great “hook” isn’t easy, but it is essential to a self-published author if they want readers to take a chance with their time and money on their book. It is important to create a blurb so amazing and catchy that who wouldn’t want to read this story?

I have included in this post some examples on how to breakdown a blurb to make it easier to write. (Tip: the "inciting incident" and external goal can be mentioned in any paragraph.)


A blurb breakdown from my New Adult romance novel, SMASH INTO YOU.

Cathy Tagline:
Bad-Boys and Dark Secrets Are Tough To Keep

First paragraph (introduce main character, setting, external goal, and internal ARC): 
Serena DuPont isn’t interested in falling in love again. Been there, done that, and she has the pulverized heart to prove it. Leaving behind those sucky romantic choices, she transfers to a new college her sophomore year. All Serena wants to do is pledge a sorority, stay focused on her classes, and swear off sexy players.

Second paragraph (hints at the external conflict/dilemma):
Tell that to Cole Prescott, the incredibly gorgeous complication that threatens to crush her newfound resolve. Keeping him in the “friend zone” won’t be easy, especially when the sizzling chemistry between them is so damn combustible. But that’s not Serena’s biggest problem...

Third paragraph (obstacles for the hero and mentions the “inciting incident”):  
While pledging Zeta Beta, her life gets flipped horribly upside down by a series of ominous threats, nasty rumors, and even blackmail. And the only place she finds comfort is in the arms of the off-limits frat boy she should be avoiding.
Fourth paragraph (ends with strong “hook” that includes what’s at stake for the hero): 
Unless Serena can prove her innocence to the ultra-saucy sorority that’s accused her of being involved in a lewd sex scandal, Serena is at risk of losing the future she’s fought so hard to rebuild. Resigned to the fate of the Greek gods, Serena might not be able to lie her way out of this epic disaster.

***
http://www.amazon.com/Immortal-Eclipse-Sherry-Soule/dp/0976180480

An example from my PNR novel, IMMORTAL ECLIPSE blurb:

Tagline:
Inheriting a haunted house is one thing. Getting hot and bothered by its sexy caretaker is another. But Skylar Blackwell draws the line at voodoo and murder...


First paragraph (introduces character, setting, and external goal):
Skylar doesn’t believe in things that go bump in the night. But after her uncle’s body is discovered with a mosaic of eerie symbols carved into his chest, she moves to his spooky California estate to get logical answers. 


Second paragraph (hints at the external conflict /dilemma): 
Days after arriving, she’s plagued by haunting nightmares and visits by a terrifying apparition that even she can’t rationally explain away.

Third paragraph (obstacles for the hero): 
Things get even more complicated when Skylar’s investigation leads her straight into the arms of the drop-dead gorgeous, Dorian Delacroix. With his dark good looks and brooding personality, Dorian is like a romance novel hero come to life, but he’s also harboring a dark and dangerous secret. 


Fourth paragraph (ends with a powerful “hook” and the stakes):
One that may end up costing Skylar...her very soul.


 ***
Here are a few examples of blurbs by bestselling novelists.
 
BLURB for the bestselling “NO MAN'S LAND”:
 
Catchy Tagline:
Two men. Thirty years.


First paragraph (introduces the 2 POV characters and the setting)

John Puller's mother, Jackie, vanished thirty years ago from Fort Monroe, Virginia, when Puller was just a boy. Paul Rogers has been in prison for ten years. But twenty years before that, he was at Fort Monroe. One night three decades ago, Puller's and Rogers' worlds collided with devastating results, and the truth has been buried ever since.

Until now.


Second paragraph (indicates the external conflict /dilemma)
Military investigators, armed with a letter from a friend of Jackie's, arrive in the hospital room of Puller's father--a legendary three-star now sinking into dementia--and reveal that Puller Sr. has been accused of murdering Jackie.


Third paragraph (obstacles for the hero and
mentions the external goal):
Aided by his brother Robert Puller, an Air Force major, and Veronica Knox, who works for a shadowy U.S. intelligence organization, Puller begins a journey that will take him into his own past, to find the truth about his mother.


Fourth paragraph (ends with an enticing “hook” and
conflicting agendas (goals)):
Paul Rogers' time is running out. With the clock ticking, he begins his own journey, one that will take him across the country to the place where all his troubles began: a mysterious building on the grounds of Fort Monroe. There, thirty years ago, the man Rogers had once been vanished too, and was replaced with a monster. And now the monster wants revenge. And the only person standing in his way is John Puller.


BLURB for the bestselling “A SHADE OF VAMPIRE:


First paragraph (introduces POV character and
mentions the “inciting incident”):
On the evening of Sofia Claremont's seventeenth birthday, she is sucked into a nightmare from which she cannot wake. A quiet evening walk along a beach brings her face to face with a dangerous pale creature that craves much more than her blood


Second paragraph (indicates the external conflict /dilemma and includes the setting)
She is kidnapped to The Shade, an enchanted island where the sun is eternally forbidden to shine. An island uncharted by any map and ruled by the most powerful vampire coven on the planet. She wakes here as a slave, a captive in chains.


Third paragraph (hints at obstacles for the hero):
Sofia's life takes a thrilling and terrifying turn when she is selected out of hundreds of girls to take up residence in the tree-top harem of Derek Novak, the dark royal prince.


Fourth paragraph (ends with an enticing “hook” and includes the character's external goal)

Despite his addiction to power and obsessive thirst for her blood, Sofia soon realizes that the safest place on the island is within his quarters, and she must do all within her power to win him over if she is to survive even one more night.

Will she succeed? Or is she destined to the same fate that all other girls have met at the hands of the Novaks?


BLURB example from the bestselling “PINES”:
 
First paragraph (introduces POV character, setting, and external goal):
Secret service agent Ethan Burke arrives in Wayward Pines, Idaho, with a clear mission: locate and recover two federal agents who went missing in the bucolic town one month earlier. 


Second paragraph (indicates the conflict and mentions the “inciting incident”):  

But within minutes of his arrival, Ethan is involved in a violent accident. He comes to in a hospital, with no ID, no cell phone, and no briefcase. The medical staff seems friendly enough, but something feels…off. 

Third paragraph (hints at obstacles for the hero) (Although, I personally think there are too many rhetorical questions in this blurb, it is enticing.):

As the days pass, Ethan’s investigation into the disappearance of his colleagues turns up more questions than answers. Why can’t he get any phone calls through to his wife and son in the outside world? Why doesn’t anyone believe he is who he says he is? And what is the purpose of the electrified fences surrounding the town? Are they meant to keep the residents in? Or something else out? 

Fourth paragraph (end with an enticing “hook” by including what’s at stake for the hero)

Each step closer to the truth takes Ethan further from the world he thought he knew, from the man he thought he was, until he must face a horrifying fact—he may never get out of Wayward Pines alive…


***


Please read these awesome posts on writing a better blurb, which should really help as you revise your own with a more successful “hook”:

 ***

I have included a few blurb breakdown guides (my personal formula) for fiction writers who are self-publishing to copy and paste. These marketing copy guidelines will help writers to draft a compelling blurb that should attract their target audience.

1)Strive to keep each paragraph at 50 words or less. 

2)The tagline should be one or two short sentences and try to keep it under 15 words

3)The total word count (not counting the tagline) should be 200 words or less.

4) The initial GMC should be mentioned in the blurb.

5) As long as each subject is mentioned in the blurb, it can be placed anywhere. Depending on the genre, for example the external goal can be mentioned in the third paragraph or the setting can be stated in the tagline. 

6) The "hook" at the end should be enticing enough to lure the reader into wanting to find out more by either buying the book or reading the excerpt. (or both!)

7) All great plots need some conflict and tension. Make sure you include hints at those in the blurb. 

8) Powerful verbs and nouns should be used. Make every word count by choosing each one carefully.

9) It is okay to use cliches that reflect the genre or tropes that will resonate with readers. 

10) Study other blurbs in the genre that your book is written in to gain insight into revising your own marketing copy.

11) Always use a character's full name (first and last) when first mentioned in the blurb. 



BOOKS WITH ONLY ONE POV CHARACTER 
 
Catchy Tagline
(optional):
Take your story and summarize it into a single-sentence pitch. Offer a hint of the plot. Example: “In space, no one can hear you scream.”
TEXT 


First paragraph introduces POV character, setting, and external goal:
Here the main characters are named and characterized. BRIEFLY. Just give the reader a taste of insight into the character and his/her initial goal. And mention the setting (where the story takes place) in one short sentence.
TEXT


Second paragraph indicates the external conflict or current dilemma:
No subplots or minor characters please. Only highlight the main conflict for the hero. And make it enticing! Do your characters have opposing goals? Add it!
TEXT


Third paragraph hints at obstacles for the hero, and/or mentions the "inciting incident":
Use powerful words that evoke strong images. It is okay to use cliches that resonate with readers of the genre.
TEXT


Fourth paragraph ends with an enticing “hook” by including what’s at stake for the hero:

Use emotive words that will grip the reader by the collar. Try to focus on the dilemmas the character(s) will face. Spice up the conflict! Long, rambling sentences won't grab a reader's attention as much as short, concise sentences.
TEXT
 

BOOKS WITH TWO POV CHARACTERS 
(*Tip: Try to only pick POV characters that a reader will feel instant empathy for while reading your tale.)
 
Catchy Tagline (optional):
TEXT


First paragraph introduces first MC, setting, and external goal:
TEXT


Second paragraph introduces second MC and external goal:

TEXT


Third paragraph hints at the obstacles or current dilemma, and/or mentions
the “inciting incident," and how the 2 goals conflict for the heroes):
TEXT


Fourth paragraph ends with a strong “hook” by including what’s at stake for the heroes:
TEXT



BOOKS WITH THREE POV CHARACTERS 
(Tip: Try to only mention 3 POV characters that a reader will feel an instant empathy with.)

Catchy Tagline
(optional):
TEXT


First paragraph introduces first MC, setting, and external goal:
TEXT


Second paragraph introduces second MC and external goal:
TEXT


Third paragraph introduces third MC and external goal:
TEXT


Fourth paragraph hints at obstacles for the heroes,
and/or mentions the “inciting incident" that ties each character's story together, plus include how the character's goals might conflict:
TEXT


Last paragraph ends with a powerful “hook” by including what’s at stake for the heroes:
TEXT


BASIC BLURB BREAKDOWN (Short and sweet version!

First paragraph introduces POV characters and setting (external goal optional):
WRITE TEXT HERE


Second paragraph hints at obstacles for the hero, and/or mentions the “inciting incident”:
WRITE TEXT HERE


Third paragraph ends with a compelling “hook”:
WRITE TEXT HERE 


***

Even if you've already published a few books or you're just starting out in the indie publishing world, there's always more to learn on the craft of fiction and book promotion. If you're determined to take your writing career seriously and make it to the next level, you need to make sure that your author branding and book packaging are "genre specific" to hit your target audience and build a loyal readership.  

How long does it take you to write a book blurb? What methods do you use to create a strong "hook"? 

If you have questions, or need further help, please leave a comment. And please let me know in the comments if this post helped you to write your own blurb.
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