The Ribbon Marker’s Guide to Effective Reader Entrapment
How to successfully get me, and many other readers out there, to buy your book.
The book blurb is the second to last thing that readers use to make the decision whether or not they are going to buy your book. So what makes for an awesome blurb that just makes readers click the Amazon “Buy now with 1-Click” button?
First we need to look at the type of write-up you are using. Most people use the words summary, synopsis, blurb interchangeably. I admit to being guilty of this myself until quite recently (I favored synopsis over blurb because it sounded more concise and to the point). WriteWorld has an excellent post on the difference between summary/synopsis/blurb, what each are used for, and examples of each. I will summarize.
The Summary highlights the major points of the story, in the shortest amount of time, so readers get the gist of it. The Synopsis is a type of summary, written in the present tense, that is more geared to selling the story (all its major points, the ending, and the story arc) to a publisher. The Blurb is the summary that goes on the back of your book to entice the reader with a detailed description of the twists and turns of your book, but doesn’t reveal the ending.
So, what goes into a great blurb?
The main characters – You have to give the story from all the main characters’ POV. Now, I don’t mean to literally write it like you are in their head, but this is your opportunity to give readers a very short taste of the characters, their thinking, and their motivations. This should get readers to want to know more about the characters, be curious about their reactions, and want to see what happens when the characters interact.
Setting – You should definitely include where the book is set. I am talking about physical location here. If your characters are in St. Louis, Missouri, please say so. If the location moves from a small town in Alabama, to the wilds of the Congo, say so. The setting of your book is just as important as the characters, because it is inevitable that the characters will interact with the setting. It is therefore important for the reader to know where the story is going to take place, in case they are really interested in the location (or not).
Context – So you’ve told the reader “who” and “where,” now they need to know “what.” The reader now knows what’s going on with the characters, but what is going on in the rest of the world? Is the situation outside the character’s little romance bubble going to effect the interaction between the characters?
Conflict – Nobody wants to read a books about simple Stepford people who are happy all the time and are a living, breathing versions of Ken and Barbie. That would get boring quick. We want to see change, growth, twisty plotness, and all sorts of interesting reveals. The conflict doesn’t have to be supernatural. Even real-life problems such as alcoholism, sexual orientation issues, and financial struggles, can be interesting. But, please, tell the reader what the conflict is.
Warning Signs – Sort of following on from the conflict, it is important to mention if your story contain polarizing elements that might scare the bejeesus out of people. This is includes everything from torture, incest, heavy violence, and not vanilla sex. Nobody wants to look forward to reading a book, only for them to drop a book halfway through, look for a bottle of brain bleach, and cringe every time the title or the name of the author is mentioned.
Style & Tone – Don’t forget that the tone and style you use in your blurb should communicate the overall tone and feel of the book. If your book is a slow, languid regency romance, write your blurb in contemplative, swoon-worthy way. If it is a comedy about ball-busting chick, let the language be as vulgar as it needs to be.
Revise & Edit! – Please, please, please make sure to have a read through your blurb. If you are independently publishing your book, have at least some betas critique it. Have as many eyes check for the effectiveness of the blurb, and for typos. Query Shark has an awesome facility to critique blurbs and submission queries with a sharp bite that is way worth it (definitely for the thick-skinned).
At the end of the day, a blurb is last thing an author has control over, that can to attract readers to read their book. However, there is one more thing written by others that could sway the readers to purchasing a book. Book reviews are the topic of the next The Ribbon Marker’s Guide to Effective Reader Entrapment series.