Bookstore shoppers first look for an attractive cover or a catchy title. If they find one, they pick up the book and instantly turn it over to read the back cover summary, also called a blurb. Blurbs are key selling points that can make or break a purchase.
The purpose of the blurb is to give readers a vague idea of the plot. Although some blurbs go into great detail, it is best to keep things simple. After reading the blurb, the reader should know the name of one or two characters, the genre, and a challenge that the main character should overcome.
As the author, you have spent months—maybe years—with your manuscript. The time you've spent with your manuscript may make it difficult to decide what to include and not include in your blurb. Ask a friend or relative to read it over for you, and ask them what they think is important. If you would rather choose yourself, read your book over again from the eyes of the reader. From this objective point of view, what do you see as important?
But don't be too mysterious. Be direct in describing the plot, but don't give anything away. If the readers know how the book ends, they probably won't buy the book. When describing the plot, leave out any surprising details that readers would want to find out for themselves.
The goal is to inform readers about the plot, not to trick them into the purchase by a vague and cheesy summary. Buyers know when they are being sold, so outrageous blurbs often lose the reader's interest (and the potential sale). Leave out phrases like "Buy me, please!" or "You'll love this book!"
Blurbs give you the chance to show how your book is different from others. If your book is about dog training, use the blurb to highlight your fresh, new tactics on training Rover. Buyers are often looking for something new; providing them up front with what makes your book different—and better—than the one sitting next to it will persuade them to make the purchase.
Read your book over to find the phrases that stand out and make your book come alive. Copy down the most interesting, important, or stimulating facts, quotes, or paragraphs into a notepad. When it comes time to write your blurb, read over your notes to decide which facts or quotes to include. Use only one or two of the best to highlight the essence of your book.
The blurb should be easy to read. Leave jargon and hard-to-read words inside the book. Blurbs shouldn't be a medium for impressing readers with an enhanced vocabulary.
Generally, shoppers may only spend thirty seconds looking at a book. Thus, blurbs should be short—one or two paragraphs. Time yourself when you read it to make sure it takes no longer than thirty seconds to get through.
The last statement of your blurb should be a hook. A hook, in the literary sense, intrigues the reader and leaves them wanting more. Often, blurbs will use a question as a hook. Are you ready to write your blurb?
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