. The blurb, as I’m sure you know, is the paragraph or two written on the book jacket. It’s supposed to make you want to open that book, read on, and then buy it. Too often, I find, it does the opposite. And, as a writer, your blurb is one of your most important marketing tools, so it’s important to get it right.
Some blurbs – the most annoying kind – choose not to tell you anything about the book at all. (You often find this on non-genre novels aiming for prestigious literary prizes, as if having to actually advertise a book is beneath them). Instead, there is a long list of flattering quotes by the author’s friends. Personally, this puts me right off a book. I really don’t care if an author’s second best friend think he/she is the most important voice to come out of Glasgow this century – I just want to know what the book is about.
But then some blurbs do the almost opposite – and you often find this on crime/action novels. The blurb gives away almost the entire plot – including that at least one major plot twist. If you read the novel, most of the sense of mystery is gone – because you already read the revelation on the back of the book.
Or a blurb makes a novel sound completely different to what is actually is – overly highlighting the romance aspect of a crime novel, and making it sound like a romance for example (I’ve missed so many good books like this, until someone recommended them to me).
So what’s a good blurb? Well, my copy of Angels and Demons has a very good one.
1)It straight away mentions the two main locations – Cern Institute and the Vatican. These locations are a major selling point of the book, and two such diverse locations side by side in the same book sparks interest straight away. (It’s not the locations that’s important, it’s what they represent about the novel – a struggle between church and science)
2)It mentions symbols, Catholic Church and Illuminati. That hooks the conspiracy theorists and secret society buffs. Those, with the mention of the Cern Institute, hints that the reader is clever enough to know what these are – it’s a subtle compliment.
3)It mentions Robert Langdon – and now they’ve got the Da Vinci code fans (although this was written before the Da Vinci code, most Robert Langdon fans read that first, after the movie)
4)It calls the plot ‘a race against time’ – saying what kind of novel it is, without giving away too much of the plot.
5)It hints at plot twists and although it gives one away, it’s not a very important one, and it’s a fairly obvious one,and it hints at many many more to come.
6)It’s only got two reviews – one from a paper, and one from Amazon, which means it was probably written not by a professional reviewer but a normal reader.
So there you go – the perfect blurb. It hints and teases, it compliments the reader, it uses reviews by people unknown to the author, it uses certain key words to hook it’s perfect audience. (That last technique should be used carefully. Use the wrong key word and you can lose readers. Personally, the minute I read the words ‘heart-warming’ in a blurb, I put the book down and back away as far as I can). And it works. Despite heartily disliking all other Dan Brown books, that blurb caught me. (And it turns out, I liked this book).
So, I’d recommend getting a good blurb writer. Make sure they’ve actually read the book, so they know what they’re talking about, and test it before you let it go on the book – take it to friends and ask ‘What kind of book do you think this describes?’ Personally, I think it’s your most important selling tool. Advertise as much as you like – what gets a book bought is the blurb and the first page.