Beth Camp Historical Fiction

Monday, December 23, 2013

Burble, burble . . . BLURB!

What's the difference between a book description that appears on the back of your book AND a book description that shows up on an online sales point like Amazon or Barnes and Noble or Smashwords?

Note: These book descriptions (also known as 'blurbs') should never be confused with a synopsis intended for a potential agent or publisher; a synopsis reveals the entire plot. A book blurb is the worm on the hook -- not the whole fish!

A writer on one of the writer's forum reading lists I check in on was complaining about flat sales and wondered if the problem could be the cover. The cover looked pretty good to me, so I jumped over to Amazon to check out his book. Was I surprised. No book description! After my note, the writer posted a very, very short description.

Since I'm madly writing, rewriting, and revising my own blurbs for the launch of Standing Stones (descriptions for the book cover and websites for e-book and paperback versions), I wanted to see if my intuitions about what the main elements of a book blurb match what other writing gurus say.

Back of the book: I feel pretty strongly that the back of the book should introduce the genre, the story line, the characters, and the primary conflict in a way that intrigues the reader. The book blurb needs to makes the reader really want to read the rest of the story -- and, in the best of circumstances, buy that darn book right now!.

I'd add a little info about the writer, a picture of the writer, maybe a website, and any other little bit of information that adds credibility. Keep in mind we writers have about 6 seconds to reach our readers.

Online book description: We have a little more elbow room when we're writing the book description that appears on Amazon or a similar online sales venue. The purpose remains the same: Entice the reader into wanting to read the book and buy the book!

So again we introduce the genre, the story line, the characters, and the primary conflict, showcasing our best writing skills. Here, we can add more depth, say 3-4 paragraphs instead of 1-2, and perhaps add a sentence or two that highlights favorable reviews. Many writing coaches tell us that reviews are the primary way to solidify the sell.

To get started, I have been reading blurbs by writers of historical fiction (my genre) in online settings, the library, and walk-around bookstores, trying to identify what catches my eye, what makes me want to read this particular book.

What can we learn from writing gurus?
  • Write emotionally to reach novel readers (from Savvybookwriters)
  • Get testimonials from famous writers (also from Savvybookwriters)
  • Use a formula (from Marilynn Byerly)  She provides examples!
  • Hook the reader with your interesting protagonist and her/his quest (from Amy Wilkins on Romance University) Can you do this in one sentence?
  • Don't give away the whole plot. Consider just the first 25% of the story (also from Amy Wilkins on Romance University)
  • Think of the first line of your blurb as a pick-up line -- rework it! (from Francis Reid Rowland at Standout Books)
  • Go back and spruce up the description (from Marti Talbott) Very helpful examples here of the writing process as she tightens up that blurb!.
Reading these writing experts points me back to revision. 

What about you? What tips do you have to share on writing blurbs?

Today's pictures: While traveling in Scotland to research Standing Stones, we stopped at the historic Urquhart Castle, a stone fortress dating from the 13-16th Centuries that faces out on the Loch Ness (yes, the supposed home of the Loch Ness monster), and feeds the Ness River leading back to Inverness, where we stayed for several weeks.

Urquhart Castle and the Loch Ness (Camp 2009)

View from five-story Grant Tower, Urquhart Castle (Camp 2009)

My first sight of the Rowan tree (Camp 2009)


  1. You're self-pubbing? Or does your traditional publisher want you to write your own Amazon blurb? Oh, and I believe that synopses sent to agents or publishers often leave off the resolution, although it probably varies. Anyway, I appreciate the fact that your blog isn't 90% blog hops, as many writing blogs are right now. I like that picture of the Rowan tree. Very bright. And Happy New Year to you, ma'am.

  2. Hi, Patrick. Thanks for your comment. Yes, I'm self-publishing, since the typical turn-around is three years for a traditional publisher, and that's after you find one willing to take on an unknown. As far as synopses for agents/publishers go, each seems to have a different take on what they want to read. Thanks for your comment re blog hops. I have experimented with guest blogs on my travel blog, but blog hops are being touted just now as a great way to promote your book. Are you writing a book? May 2014 be a very good writing year for you!

    1. I'm focusing mostly on short fiction right now. I have the very beginning to two fantasy novels on hold right now, ready to go when I get the drive to write them. Thanks. The same to you.