“I’m loving it!”
Sounds familiar? This is the label that represents McDonald’s. All over the world, everyone is familiar with this age-old tagline, and it’s stayed with us till today. But why are we talking about advertising here? Well, a blurb is also a tagline that is meant to sell a product—your book. Just as a good tagline can change the whole marketing plan of a product, a book with a good blurb can also have an impact on its prospective readers. After all, it is the second thing that a reader looks at before buying a book—the first being the front cover.
In this article, we will talk about some features of a good blurb and share tips on how to write a compelling book blurb. First, let us define a blurb.
In simple terms, a blurb is the short yet descriptive account of the book that goes on the back cover. The blurb should include any information that represents the book best and intrigues the readers. For instance, in an academic book, the highlights of a study’s findings would appeal to new researchers. An extract that reveals an interesting detail of the story and leaves the readers wanting for more would work best for a thriller.
Often, a big name does the work of a good blurb. Just like in advertising, where a celebrity endorsing a product increases the sales of the product, a famous name on the cover makes a book popular. Imagine if you had Malcolm Gladwell’s quote on your book’s cover saying, “I haven’t read something like this before!”—the book will find enough readers in Gladwell’s fans.
However, if the celebrity’s endorsement is too ambiguous or does not really talk about the book, then it will not help in promoting your book. An example would be the vague endorsement by Nelson DeMille for the famed The Da Vinci Code by Dan Brown: “Dan Brown has to be one of the best, smartest, and most accomplished writers in the country. The Da Vinci Code is many notches above the intelligent thriller; this is pure genius.”
Here are the five “S” to remember when writing a blurb:
A book travels the world. You never know which reader, in which part of the world, will lay their hands on your book. Keeping in mind the vast readership that your book will target, it is always best to keep your blurb as simple as possible. Long and convoluted sentences, jargon, specialized terminology—all make the blurb appear complicated and limit the readership. Unless you want your book to address a niche audience, the blurb should be written in layman language.
From his seat in the tiny aeroplane, Fred watches as the mysteries of the Amazon jungle pass by below him. He has always dreamed of becoming an explorer, of making history and of reading his name amongst the lists of great discoveries. If only he could land and look about him.
As the plane crashes into the canopy, Fred is suddenly left without a choice. He and the three other children may be alive, but the jungle is a vast, untamed place. With no hope of rescue, the chance of getting home feels impossibly small.
Except, it seems, someone has been there before them…
The Explorer by Katherine Rundell
Most people don’t have the patience, or the time, to read a page-long description of a book. A short, crisp blurb that says a lot in a few words should be sufficient to pique the interest of a reader. Coming back to McDonald’s, “I’m loving it!” is a short yet catchy tagline that people all over the world remember—and it’s just three words. Additionally, most bookselling websites have a word limit and your entire blurb might not be visible to the readers, unless they click on “read more.”
The tranquillity of a cruise along the Nile is shattered by the discovery that Linnet Ridgeway has been shot through the head. She was young, stylish and beautiful, a girl who had everything—until she lost her life.
Hercule Poirot recalls an earlier outburst by a fellow passenger: ‘I’d like to put my dear little pistol against her head and just press the trigger.’ Yet in this exotic setting, nothing is ever quite what it seems…
Death on the Nile by Agatha Christie
Look at as many blurb samples as you can. Visit a bookstore, browse through blurbs for all genres. You might find something that fits your book’s requirements. If not a bookstore, then any bookselling or book review website should give you access to a pool of blurbs. This should help you discover what will work best for your book, and give you an idea about what authors are writing and what readers look for in a blurb.
Does your blurb tell a story? Will it make the readers want to know more? A good story can begin from a blurb. Particularly in fiction titles, there is often a “twist” that makes the book sound interesting, and the blurb is the perfect space to drop hints about the twist. Even in the case of non-fiction titles, a good story connects with the readers instantly. For example, Lincoln in the Bardo by George Saunders has all the elements of a good story with a twist. The author picks up from the death of President Abraham Lincoln’s eleven-year-old son, Willie, from typhoid fever during the Civil War, and builds a story of the corpses in Georgetown’s Oak Hill Cemetery, where Willie is laid to rest.
The American Civil War rages while President Lincoln's beloved eleven-year-old son lies gravely ill. In a matter of days, Willie dies and is laid to rest in a Georgetown cemetery. Newspapers report that a grief-stricken Lincoln returns to the crypt several times alone to hold his boy's body.
From this seed of historical truth, George Saunders spins an unforgettable story of familial love and loss that breaks free of realism, entering a thrilling, supernatural domain both hilarious and terrifying. Willie Lincoln finds himself trapped in a transitional realm—called, in Tibetan tradition, the bardo—and as ghosts mingle, squabble, gripe and commiserate, and stony tendrils creep towards the boy, a monumental struggle erupts over young Willie's soul.
Unfolding over a single night, Lincoln in the Bardo is written with George Saunders' inimitable humour, pathos and grace. Here he invents an exhilarating new form, and is confirmed as one of the most important and influential writers of his generation. Deploying a theatrical, kaleidoscopic panoply of voices—living and dead, historical and fictional—Lincoln in the Bardo poses a timeless question: how do we live and love when we know that everything we hold dear must end?
Lincoln in the Bardo by George Saunders
The blurb should highlight the selling points of a book—the hook. In the case of Saunders’ book, the main selling point was Lincoln—the main character of the story. Discover the selling points of your book and make a list: What is it that the readers would want to know? How can my book add to the existing literature? What makes my book different? Who am I selling my book to? By answering these few questions, you can gain more clarity about your work, and will know what exactly to include in a blurb.
One of the best examples of this is the blurb for Stephanie Myers’ Twilight:
“About three things I was absolutely positive.
First, Edward was a vampire.
Second, there was a part of him—and I didn’t know how dominant that part might be—that thirsted for my blood.
Third, I was unconditionally and irrevocably in love with him.”
This blurb not only played with the readers’ minds, but also included the main selling point of the book—the love story of a vampire—and it did sell!
The blurb is not just the text printed on a book’s back cover; it is the content that spreads all over the world through various websites, social media, print media, and even word of mouth. A lot of thought and research goes into writing a good blurb. When considering the amount of time and energy that will go into writing a book, do also include some time for writing a blurb—every good book deserves a good blurb. Once your blurb is ready, it becomes one of the most powerful weapons that defines the course of your book. Every single word on the cover has the power to create a lasting impression on the reader, just as this beautiful blurb for Rupi Kaur’s Milk and Honey does:
this is the journey of
surviving through poetry
this is the blood sweat tears
of twenty-one years
this is my heart
in your hands
We hope you like these tips for writing a great blurb. Now go try your hand at writing book blurbs using these tips! Do remember to refer to as many books as you can to find and write your perfect blurb. Download our free ebook for some examples of blurbs written for bestselling books.