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How to Write an Effective Blurb for a Self-Published Book

An easy-to-follow guide to writing a cover blurb to help seal that sale to your target reader, by YA author Sarah Juckes from ALLi Partner Member CompletelyNovel.

YA Author Sarah Juckes of CompletelyNovelSo, you’ve got a kick-ass front cover and have chosen a suitable title. Now comes the hardest part – condensing your novel into a few, short paragraphs in a way that makes your book impossible to overlook. It can be a daunting task, so here’s a step-by-step guide to write a blurb, starting from scratch. The instructions refer to a novel, but can easily be adapted to suit any other kind of book.

  1. Do your research – Go into a bookshop and read as many blurbs as you can. Make notes on length, the number of paragraphs, the style in which it is written, and the placement of the text on the page. Pinpoint the blurbs you like best and think about why they work.
  2. Choose a blurb style – Choose the layout and style of the blurb you liked the most. How many paragraphs did it have? What did each section reveal to the reader? This will form the basic layout of your blurb.
  3. Start with a synopsis – Start by writing a synopsis (or summary) of everything that happens in your novel. This can be as long as you like and  can include the ending.
  4. Focus on your character and ‘Stakes‘ – A good blurb should introduce the protagonist, or set of protagonists and should set up the ‘Stakes’ – so, what is at stake for the character? What is interrupting them going about their normal business and making them different? These are the core elements, so take a pen and delete all the bits that aren’t important to the main ‘Stakes’ of the story. It can be difficult to step away from your work when you know it so well, so if you’re having trouble pinpointing your main story, ask a friend who has read the novel to help you.
  5. Find your voice – The blurb should be written in the same voice and style as your novel. Have a think about the language you used to write the novel. Is it conversational or literary? Is there a strong accent or dialogue running through the speech? If so, this should also be in your blurb.
  6. Notebook and pen with discarded screwed-up draftsRefine, refine, refine – Don’t stop until you have condensed it down to just a few paragraphs.
  7. Map your blurb – Take your blurb and map it on to the layout you took from your favourite one earlier.
  8. Are you answering the right questions? – All of these things should work together to set up a series of questions that your reader will want to find out the answers to. Put yourself in the shoes of a reader coming at this fresh and only tell them what they need to know.
  9. Choose the right font – You’ve just spent a long time perfecting your blurb – don’t change the font to one that is very pretty, but unreadable. If you’re designing your own book cover, choose a font similar to other books in your genre. Make sure it is readable and professional.
  10. Read, review, rewrite - However good you are at blurb-writing, it’s important to spend time reading and rewriting it. Read it out loud and ask a friend to have a look – preferably someone who hasn’t read the book. Does it make them want to read it? If so, you’re onto a winner!

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12 Responses to How to Write an Effective Blurb for a Self-Published Book

  1. Theo Rogers October 5, 2013 at 1:17 am #

    Way to show us how to do the author bio thing too! ;-)

  2. Sarah Juckes October 5, 2013 at 2:36 pm #

    Thanks Theo, there was LOTS of point 6 going on to write it, that’s for sure..!

  3. Warren Shuman October 7, 2013 at 4:27 am #

    Hello Sarah: Thanks for your valuable insights Re the book-blurbs. My current, upcoming E-novel will have the Blurb, Inside the sample. Title:: “Body Scavengers”.

    The Blurb is: “A homicide detective kills his wife and children while D.U.I. after a New Year;s Eve party. He hits hard bottom on the streets, and wanders into a philanthropic Hospice where they drug him — to donate his body-organs”.

    I’d appreciate any comment. Thanks…

    Warren.

  4. Sarah Juckes October 7, 2013 at 9:39 am #

    Hi Warren. I’m pleased you found the article of use. ‘Body Scavengers’ sounds quite the thrilling read! Thanks for sharing.
    I think you’ve got the bones of a really strong blurb there. Just watch your punctuation, and perhaps spell out D.U.I. Try spending time on expanding on your main Stakes in the second sentence a little – you’ve done a great job pinpointing them here, and I want to know more!
    Best of luck!
    Sarah

  5. J. D. Brink October 8, 2013 at 3:37 pm #

    Thank you! This is probably the biggest thing I struggle with. In fact, I wrote, posted, rewrote and reposted the blurb for my novel about 6 times! And I’m still not really satisfied. How do you reduce 400 pages to half a page??! Now I at least have a tool and template to help me do it better!

    • Sarah Juckes October 8, 2013 at 5:06 pm #

      Hurrah! I hope it helps. Let us know when it is all finished and if you have any tips you would add.

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