Writers in the Storm

A blog about writing

storm moving across a field
May 15, 2015

The Art of the Book Blurb

Laurie Schnebly Campbell

What makes people talk about your book before they've ever read Page 1?

Well, maybe they remember you from high school and can’t wait to see if they’re featured on page 28.

Or maybe they heard the publisher paid a billion-dollar advance to get your manuscript.

Or maybe they saw that Josh Brolin and Jessica Alba agreed to co-star when it’s also released as a movie on Publication Day.


Photo credit: http://www.freestockphotos.biz/stockphoto/17817

But aside from news like that, pretty much the ONLY thing that gets people talking is word of mouth.

We've all heard (or read) comments like:

"I’ve already pre-ordered that one."

"I hear it's a great book, can’t wait to get it."

"It looks really good; I was reading the blurb."

Ah, the blurb.

While we might have no control over our publisher's budget, much less over movie stars, we CAN control the blurb.

But a lot of writers feel uneasy about writing their own. Sure, no problem writing an entire novel, but a blurb?

Most people would rather face dragons.


Photo Credit: http://www.freestockphotos.biz/stockphoto/3213

 If that sounds like you, you're sure not alone. Even writers who are naturally gifted at self-promotion - and, boy, don't we envy them? - find it tough to condense their fabulous book into 50 words.

Which is easy to understand. If you had to condense your entire life into 50 words, where would you even start?

Getting just 50 words to sum up everything that's great about a story you've spent the past however-many months on can be every bit as challenging.

So that’s why it helps to think like an advertising copywriter.


Photo credit:  http://www.freestockphotos.biz/stockphoto/8635

All you marketing people already know this, right? I DIDN’T know it when I started wondering why writing blurbs came so easily - far easier than writing the actual novels - until I realized blurbs are all about presenting the product in its best possible light.

In a very short space.

To the people who want it.

Who ARE those people?

It’s a good idea to figure that out early in the game. After all, no advertiser would waste money producing a TV commercial or a full-page ad in the New York Times or a billboard on Main Street without knowing who they want the ad to reach.

(Er, whom. But that sounds so pedantic!)

Anyway, we writers tend to be a bit more all-inclusive and democratic than the advertisers who maintain "the ONLY consumers we care about reaching are suburban females age 35-49 with pre-schoolers in a $50-75K household."

We tend to say "I want to reach every reader on Planet Earth."


Photo credit: http://www.freestockphotos.biz/stockphoto/1551

But, drat it, that makes it tough to target our blurb toward any specific market.

It could very well be, of course, that every single reader on earth will agree HERE's the book they've been waiting for their entire life, and they'll order millions of copies for all their friends.

(And even as we authors dismiss such a premise as being unrealistic, some little secret part of us still thinks "yes, exactly!")

The realistic part, though, recognizes that not every reader WILL want this fabulous book. Someone seeking a sweet romance doesn’t want incredibly hot love scenes. Someone who wants a medieval historical won't be satisfied with the Old West. Someone shopping for a relaxing escape doesn’t want a nail-biting thriller.

But who cares? Those aren’t your readers anyway.

The readers YOU want already know what they're looking for...and it's the kind of book you write.

So how do you show them?


Photo credit: http://www.freestockphotos.biz/stockphoto/8815

 Tell, don’t show.

In a blurb, you flip the traditional show-don’t-tell advice on its head. Here, telling instead of showing is doing the reader a favor. Someone who’s skimming through a whole selection of possible stories wants to get the flavor of yours in just a few sentences or paragraphs.

Think of it like writing a commercial for a brand new car, or a traditional favorite snack food. You have fifteen seconds to present the image of how this car or this snack food will make life better for someone glancing through videos.

Seems daunting, right?

But you have an advantage -- because you don’t have to catch people glancing through videos. They’re glancing through story descriptions because they ALREADY want to buy your kind of book.

So you need to make the most of that advantage, putting your best blurb-writing skills to work. And that’s where we come up against today’s question:

What’s the best blurb you've read lately? It can be your own or somebody else's, just mention the book's title and author.

Everyone who answers will go into a drawing pool, and the winner gets free registration to my class on “Blurbing Your Book” June 1-26.

Fun stuff, right?

Although maybe not quite as much fun as choosing who stars in the movie of your book...

About Laurie

laurieLaurie Schnebly Campbell (BookLaurie.com) works in advertising, where her job is to convince buyers they'll love a particular product. She's spent years writing about products people might not think of buying, until they saw a message that makes 'em realize "yes, THIS is what I want!" She's always pleased, but not surprised, when people who've taken this class report increased sales with their new and improved blurbs.

85 comments on “The Art of the Book Blurb”

  1. Exit Strategy: An EXIT Inc. Thriller (EXIT Inc. Thrillers Book 1) by Lena Diaz

    1. FOR PATTI:
      What fun to see a book I haven't heard of -- I'm guessing each one in the series has "Exit" in the title, and that'll make it easier to find them all once the author has several available. Gotta love making it easy for readers to know what they're looking for next!

  2. The following sold me on the book Wild - and I'm so glad it did -

    At twenty-two, Cheryl Strayed thought she had lost everything. In the wake of her mother’s death, her family scattered and her own marriage was soon destroyed. Four years later, with nothing more to lose, she made the most impulsive decision of her life. With no experience or training, driven only by blind will, she would hike more than a thousand miles of the Pacific Crest Trail from the Mojave Desert through California and Oregon to Washington State—and she would do it alone. Told with suspense and style, sparkling with warmth and humor, Wild powerfully captures the terrors and pleasures of one young woman forging ahead against all odds on a journey that maddened, strengthened, and ultimately healed her.

    1. FOR LAURA:
      Oh, wow, I didn't want anyone to have to go to all the work of copy-and-pasting -- just the book's title & author is enough -- but getting to read the blurb is a treat!

      And what's funny is that after reading Cheryl Strayed's advice book, Dear Sugar, I knew I wanted to read anything else she'd written so I ordered Wild without even looking at the blurb. When the book arrived and I read that, it sounded like the kind of read I never would've chosen...and yet it turned out to be fabulous. Go figure.

  3. Blurbs terrify me almost as much as synopses! But the "tell, don't show" tip is great, thanks Laurie. Best blurb I've read lately: A Touch of Passion by Bronwen Evans.

    1. FOR ANGELA:
      It makes sense that blurbs rank on the same terror scale as synopses...they're both such a radical departure from the kind of writing we normally do.

      And it's particularly frustrating for people who've ALWAYS been good writers, starting with grade-school essays clear on up through business letters and fabulous novels, to come across a type of writing that doesn't follow the rules we've always used. The good news is, anybody who's mastered storytelling will find it a lot easier to master blurbs!

  4. I've been told that this blurb enticed readers to download my book. Some did just for the setting, some because they liked the idea of the 'fast-paced thriller.'

    Twin Desires, a romantic suspense set in San Francisco and the quiet CA town of Stinson Beach, follows Sandra Eastman and the two men who almost destroy her world. Blake Sinclair, Sandra’s boss and president of a prestigious investment firm, is successful and charismatic. But his twin brother, Alex, is his opposite - a twisted, tormented soul. Sandra becomes a pawn in a deadly game between these powerful opposing forces.
    In this fast-paced thriller, Sandra is scooped up into a whirlwind of suspense from the mansions of the S.F. elite to a remote beach house 30 miles north. As each page turns, she becomes more entangled with the skeletons in the Sinclair closets while desperately confronting her own skeletons and discovering strength she never knew she possessed.

    1. FOR PAM:
      Thanks for a great illustration, right off the bat, of what a difference it makes to have paragraph breaks in a blurb!

      For everybody scanning this page, see how the two-paragraph blurb above looks MUCH longer than the one-paragraph blurb up top? The first is 119 words and the second is 125, but adding the space break gives the impression of an in-depth read rather a quick read. Either can work fine, but that's a good thing to keep in mind.

  5. Hopefully better than bad, here's mine:

    Criminals took what mattered most to Robert and Jenna Hamilton. Guilt took their love. In this compelling story, the Hamiltons’ journey speaks to the heart of love, loss, the fallouts of shame and guilt, and self-forgiveness. Through the wake of a tragedy, you will root for Robert and Jenna, hate a dishonest character and desire another.

    1. FOR DIANNE:
      Shoot, my reply never made it through earlier -- now, watch, they'll both show up at once!

      Anyway, what's interesting about this one is the use of second-person -- "you" is more common in a non-fiction book, which the Hamiltons' story might very well be. Hard to say without a title and author...hint, hint. 🙂

    2. YAY for Dianne, who was picked by randomizer to win Laurie's workshop!

  6. Laurie, the word nerd in me was tickled to death to see "pedantic" in your post. I'm weird that way. 😀

    I'm also weird about liking short blurbs that give a sense of the author's "voice" and indicate the writer can, in fact, write. (A poorly written blurb sends me scrambling away as fast as my eyes can go.)

    One of my favorite blurbs is from James Reasoner's SAVAGE BLOOD:

    The Civil War took nearly everything from Brodie. A beautiful redhead named Eva took what was left. When she turned to him for help, he had every reason in the world to tell her to go to hell.

    Instead, he strapped on his gun and walked right into a blazing hell himself.

    Knowing you, "Blurbing Your Book" is a prodigious workshop. (Yep, that adjective is a stretch, but it's the best I can do without more caffeine. 😉 ) BYB is one of the few of your courses I haven't taken. (You may be saying "whew!" considering how much of a pill I can be. 😉 ) Whoever wins the prize will be lucky, indeed.

      Not weird at all -- what's not to love about blurbs that show the author can write?! And better yet, write in a voice the reader will love.

      What's lucky for us is how many readers there are, looking for voices they'll love...and no two will want exactly the same books. We've all been through that with friends, right? hearing them rave about a book and discovering it doesn't do much for us? Or vice versa, which is even MORE strange. (And if I get to see you in the class, that'll be very cool!)

  7. I can't think of a particular blurb at the moment. But I think writing them is an art. And what I don't like are blurbs that give away too much. Some I've read tell the "secret" that I'm sure the author wanted concealed until the end of the book. But writing them are hard and I'm much too wordy to do that myself. Good blog, Laurie.

    1. FOR ROZ:
      You're so right about the horror of blurbs that give away too much -- I remember them doing that with my very first novel, completely spoiling the surprise, and bet that's happened to you at some point during your career. Isn't it appalling?

      So in terms of not giving away too much, authors who get to write their own blurb are lucky...even though it IS a lot of work.

  8. From other purchases, Amazon recommended Anne Gracie's "Perfect Waltz." Read the blurb and bought it, finding a new author I thoroughly enjoyed and now look forward to each new release.

    1. FOR JUDY:
      Talk about an ideal example of what a blurb should do -- not only sell the book to a reader who's never heard of this author, but also introduce the reader to an author whose books will remain on the "buy" list. Gotta love it when a blurb WORKS!

  9. Hi Laurie!!!! Here's a blurb I read for Barbara Freethy's latest book. Though I would have read her book no matter what the blurb said:

    "Firefighter Burke Callaway has been living in the shadows since the tragic death of his fiancée. He had no interest in coming out of the dark, until the beautiful and unpredictable Maddie came back to town."

    Looking forward to your class - which I'm already signed up for.

    1. FOR PATTI:
      Here's a perfect contrast to Judy's description above, of being convinced by the blurb to buy an author she never would've tried otherwise. I'm betting that even if Barbara Freethy's blurb had been a bad one, you still would've bought the book because you already know and love her work.

      Which means we DO get a break when it comes to our fans...it's more the strangers we have to grab with our blurbs. (And, hurray, you'll get more detail on that next month. 🙂 )

    Shoot, I'm sorry! I set the alarm two hours early this morning to respond to all the early people, but forgot to allow time for the moderator to clear everything...so, wouldn't you know, all the comments arrived just as I'm leaving for work.

    Soon as I get set up there, I'll enjoy coming back to read more -- but meanwhile, don't think you aren't hearing from me because I didn't like your post!

  11. What a great post, Laurie! And I agree with Kathleen who said "Whoever wins the prize will be lucky, indeed." I have learned so much from all the workshops I've taken from you. This sounds like an awesome workshop. Timely too, since I'm trying to come up with something for my latest manuscript. 😉

    I picked up Save The Date by Mary Kay Andrews at Costco and this is what made me buy the book. The blurb was a bit long but several things stood out for me.

    Up-and-coming floral designer Cara Kryzik is about to score the wedding of a lifetime...her most faithful companion has either run away or been dognapped...and the supposed dognapper, Jack Finnerty, shows up at her latest wedding, refusing to admit he has her dog. ...annoyingly attractive Jack is turning up at every wedding...the man seems to know everybody in Savannah.

    I paraphrased some of it since it was so long but that is basically what got me to buy the book. And I am very glad I did because I loved it! 🙂

    1. FOR CAROL:
      A day like 5/15/15 is perfect for thinking about timely stuff -- I love that your latest ms needs a blurb, because you sure achieved great results with the previous-class one!

      And your example of what stood out in the Mary Kay Andrews blurb is a great way of showing how readers respond to trigger-words. Which we already know will be different for everybody, but I'll bet Costco books tend to reflect themes that appeal to a LOT of readers. Gotta look for that next time I'm there, come to think of it...

  12. Hi Laurie... I recently read the blurb for Natalie Charles' new book, The Coffee Girl...

    I would love to write a succinct blurb without tearing my hair out. And I definitely need a Blurb Fairy! 😉

    1. FOR ADITE:
      What a cool idea, having a Blurb Fairy! Just glancing at the Natalie Charles blurb, I notice it looks the same on BN and Amazon -- which makes me suspect she did the market research already and discovered an option that every test reader loved, rather than going with the different-blurbs-for-different sellers option. Still, it's always a good option to have on file.

  13. The "tell don't show" is probably the problem with my blurb.

    The most recent blurb that caught my attention is from The Laird, by Grace Burrowes.

    I'd love to participate in your class!

    1. Good for you on spotting the tell-don't-show aspect of blurbing. That's something we so rarely get to do that it's a treat being not only allowed, but encouraged, to do it when getting books out there for sale.

      When confronted with the burdens of proofreading and photo choices and all that kind of thing, it's nice to have ONE job that involves breaking rules and feeling good about it!

  14. I've read lots of good blurbs, but they don't tend to stick in my memory. Now if you were talking about memorable first sentences. 🙂

    Your workshops are wonderful. I've learned a lot in each and every one of them.

    1. FOR VICKI:
      Oh, gosh, wouldn't that be a fun survey question? What's the best first sentence you've ever read?

      Now you've got me wanting to do a workshop on first sentences, although it might be hard to fill 2-4 weeks on that topic. Still, it'd sure be a kick to try...if I ever DO such a workshop, you'll get credit (and free registration) for coming up with the idea!

      1. Laurie,
        What about a class covering FIRSTS?
        A First Line; a First Paragraph; a First Page. These areas are so critical to get nailed down and it's moot, whether we're talking about a first chapter or the tenth or twenty-first.

  15. Laura, great post. I just finished writing a blurb (logline) for a screenplay. Tell don't show is a line to remember! Adjectives count too. Christine

      Good thought on the adjectives -- I've always liked those examples that show a basic subject-verb sentence, and then cycle in various adjectives to see what an amazing difference the choices make. Seems like that'd work equally well when writing a logline, right? 🙂

  16. I wrote the blurb for my first book, Seducing Adam, hoping to impart something of the flavor of the narrative as well as the personalities of the main characters:

    His plans could devastate her island. But the island had other plans for him.
    Stacie Halloran was perfectly content running her bed and breakfast in Windon Harbor, on Malaspina Island off the Pacific coast of Canada. Or maybe not perfectly content, since there was a decided shortage of eligible men of a certain age on Malaspina. But it was home, and it was a living.
    Then the hot-shot executive from the timber company that owned Nathan’s Forest turned up. Adam Fraser’s presence had the whole island talking – and watching his every move. Because there was only one reason for him to be on their island: his company planned to cut down their forest. Adam was the Enemy, sent to make nice with the natives.
    Talk about the last thing Stacie needed. The Enemy was under her roof, and with his big-city vibes he was a fish out of water in tiny Windon Harbor. Then, wouldn’t you know? He had to go and kiss her right there in the guest lounge. Definitely the last thing she needed. Because whatever she thought about that kiss – and she thought plenty – a battle was looming, and they were on opposite sides.
    The lines were drawn. But for Adam, it all came down to a brown-eyed bed-and-breakfast owner and an old house on a hill. Because once Malaspina Island wove its spell, all bets were off.

    1. FOR LIZ ANN:
      What a terrific example of a stand-alone opening line -- that could work on a bookmark, or an email sigline, or a tweet, or any realm that requires something very short but very intriguing.

      Putting it as the first line of the blurb will remind readers who've seen already seen it "oh, yeah, I liked this" while working the other way around for those who see the full blurb first and the teaser later. Repetition is always a useful thing.

  17. Thank you for this article. I'm new to the writing world, so any insider info is beneficial to me. If it's allowed, I'll give you my blurb (blurbs, synopses either brief or complete, cover and query letters, these are all very confusing). Anyway, the book is Jason's Princess: A King Brothers Story by Elise Manion.

    Julie gave up on happily-as we-after when her parents died, the event when she became her little brother's guardian. After Billy broke her heart, any pursuit of a husband just wasn't a priority. But when her life is suddenly turned upside down, and danger makes a rare appearance in her small town, she's forced to deal with the last man she'd ever expect to be nice to her.

    Jason had given up on a life with Julie after Billy stole her away. Now that trouble has returned to town, he is honor bound to ensure that both Julie and her little brother are safe. Now that the past is hitting them both head on, Jason will have to convince Julie that he's the man she's been looking for all along.

    1. FOR ELISE:
      How cool that you're new to the writing world. 🙂 I think that's THE most fun year any writer can ever go through, because never again will you learn as much as during that first 12 months. And the fact that you've already completed a blurb shows you're making good progress -- way to go!

  18. Thanks for this terrific article, Laurie!

    Here's a blurb I enjoyed that got me to read one of Mary Sullivan's latest books (she's prolific, and this is a Harlequin Superromance from 2013) titled "In From the Cold".

    I really loved the story (and Mary's writing, as always), so it did the job!

    (italicized words in original blurb in caps below - this text editor doesn't do italics! ;))


    A city girl to her core, Callie MacKintosh doesn't do RUGGED. She does do her job, however. That's why she's here in this Rocky Mountain town getting more of RUGGED than she ever wanted. All she has to do is persuade Gabe Jordan to sign over his share of the family land so her boss can develop it.

    Too bad the situation is not that simple. Gabe is her boss's estranged brother. And Gabe is the most fascinating man she's ever met. Her focus is severely compromised by his strong, sexy ways. More than that, having spent time on this land, she's no longer convinced a ski resort belongs here. But she thinks SHE might. Because for the first time, with Gabe, she feels as though she's come home.

    1. FOR SUSAN:
      Oh, wow, I remember loving that book -- it's fun to see a blurb that brings back good memories. (Even without the proper italics.)

      And after having just griped about the blurb writers who spoiled the surprise in my first book, it's nice to see another Harlequin blurb that sets up the situation without giving everything away.

  19. This is my publisher's blurb for BONES ALONG THE HILL. However, they added in all caps TO THE BONE right before the second sentence. I usually remove that because I'm not sure what it's supposed to mean.

    A decade-old mystery, a power-mad enemy and his human-trafficking ring stand in the way of the hopes and dreams of funeral home facial restorationist Neva Oakley. Neva Oakley is a funeral facial restorationist with a legendary skill at making the dead look alive. But for all her talent, she can never bring back Gray Ledbetter, her first love,who took his own life ten years ago. Davis Pratt, too, is consumed. Long ago his younger brother disappeared, and Davis won’t give up hope. Perhaps that’s why he and Neva are sucha good couple. Or perhaps that’s why they can’t move forward. Then the search leads them to the Oakley cemetery and a murder tied to a human trafficking ring. Suddenly, impossible crimes threaten both family and friends, crimes that cannot be ignored. Not even the Nashville PD can keep Neva safe, but if she and Davis succeed, together they just might solve all their mysteries and free each other to embrace their future.

    1. FOR NANCY:
      We're on a roll with publisher-written blurbs, here! As for why they added TO THE BONE, my only guess is that the layout called for a pop-out at that point...but if it no longer makes sense in context, the layout must have shifted without anyone spotting the fact that the callout was no longer needed.

      It's good you explained, though, because otherwise seeing "Neva Oakley" twice in a row would look odd -- this way it makes perfect sense. 🙂

  20. Good Morning Laurie,

    I don't know about blurbing (yet) from a hole in the wall, but I do know a good story when I find one. Here's my two-cents' worth about a recent book that's still winning awards.

    It's about Time Travel (surprised?) something I have always found fascinating.

    TIME and FOREVER by Susan B. James is a story that touches the heart as much as it entertains. Two friends, each in their mid-years and disillusioned with life are out to celebrate the birthday of one of them. Their choice of entertainment has them being caught up in the adventure of adventures--going back in time!

    James' own blurb says it best:
    "Sherry wants a second chance at love. Lorena doesn't believe that's possible. But when a glitch in a virtual reality adventure sends them back to the real 1969, anything can happen."

    1. FOR ELAINE:
      You had me wondering why the author wanted two extremely different blurbs, until I realized the first was probably YOUR description of what the book is about! Which is a good setup for readers who see the blurb without also seeing the cover -- it's amazing how much information we get from a cover, usually without even realizing it.

      The flavor, the setting, even the age of the main characters are details that don't always appear (and don't always NEED to appear) in the blurb, which is handy because that gives the writer more words for things that help sell the story.

      1. Laurie,

        Your comments made me realize that I left something SIGNIFICANT out my blurb; the fact that not only do the ladies return to 1969, they are are young again--the ages they were in that year. That really spices things up nice and tight.
        These may be part of the "DON'T NEED TO BE THERE" stuff, but I'm thinking that since I mentioned age, I should have followed through???.

        I DO NEED to get registered for your class, for next month!

      It's so cool when a blurb can be used in other situations. This one would be great on a T-shirt, or a movie poster, or the usual sigline / bookmark / tweet / promotional stuff, and I can envision people who aren't necessarily big readers coming across the book at some point and thinking "hey, I recognize this line!"

      Which, hmm, gets me thinking the author deserves credit for creating a memorable phrase that works even outside the book...

  21. I'm in the midst of writing my blurb right now. I swear it takes nearly as long as it takes to write the book. Anyway, one of the recent books that I read that caught my attention because of the blurb was The First Phone Call from Heaven by Mitch Albom. The blurb caught my attention and got me to start it, but boy was it SLOOOOWWWWWW going for a while. It was okay in the end. And to be honest, I don't know if it was the blurb or the subject that caught my attention. (It is fiction, by the way. )

    1. Laurie, it's always a treat when the book title gives you an idea of what it'll be about -- I haven't seen that blurb, but the title is such a grabber I'd probably pick it up based just on that.

      Whenever it seems like the blurb writing is taking WAY too long, take heart in knowing you can always change it later...or at least on websites where you control the setup. Good luck with yours!

  22. Afternoon Laurie,
    I suck at blurbs, just like I stink at writing a synopsis. BUT I do, like most of you in here, purchase a book based in large part on the blurb. This is an new book from an author I've never read, but based on her blurb I bought the book. Her blurb is short, but so different from my normal:
    Consolation (Book One in the Consolation Duet) [Kindle Edition]
    Corinne Michaels
    Liam wasn’t supposed to be my happily ever after.

    He wasn’t even on my radar.

    He was my husband’s best friend—forbidden.

    But my husband is dead and I’m alone. I ache for him and I reach for Liam.

    One night with Liam changed everything. Now I have to decide if I truly love him or if he’s just the consolation prize.

      Don't you love it when a blurb gives a preview of the author's voice? Or in this case, the narrator's voice?

      That's an advantage to first-person books -- readers will know right from the start if this narrator is someone they want to spend time with, and when the blurb shows it IS the job is done right there!

    1. FOR JODINE:
      Oh, boy, you're right in thinking it's even more impressive to find a great trilogy blurb than one for a single book. Making all three work together is a real art...the only saving grace is that it doesn't take (quite) three times as long as writing three individual blurbs. 🙂

    1. FOR KAREN:

      Oops, sorry I missed this! Now you've got me curious about that title & author, because I can't decide what genre the book is...although of course seeing the cover will make all the difference.

      And the cover is frequently something we forget about when writing our own blurbs, but it can actually do a lot of the heavy lifting when it comes to the big picture.

  23. I, too, choose books from the blurb, and yet I have no idea how good my own is!

    Here's one that made me pick up the book: Kristen Harmel's "The Sweetness of Forgetting."

    "At thirty-six, Hope McKenna-Smith is no stranger to bad news. She lost her mother to cancer, her husband left her for a twenty-two year old, and her bank account is nearly depleted. Her own dreams of becoming a lawyer long gone, she’s running a failing family bakery on Cape Cod and raising a troubled preteen.

    "Now, Hope’s beloved French-born grandmother Mamie, who wowed the Cape with her fabulous pastries for more than fifty years, is drifting away into a haze of Alzheimer’s. But in a rare moment of clarity, Mamie realizes that unless she tells Hope about the past, the secrets she has held on to for so many years will soon be lost forever. Tantalizingly, she reveals mysterious snippets of a tragic history in Paris. And then, arming her with a scrawled list of names, she sends Hope to France to uncover a seventy-year-old mystery."

    Isn't it amazing how much easier it is to judge other writers' blurbs and how hard it is to judge our own? I remember hearing once that we should all swap blurb-writing duties with friends, because -- just like it's harder to clean out our own closet than someone else's, writing someone else's blurb is a WHOLE lot easier!

    (In fact, when people in the class don't yet have a book they feel up to blurbing, I let 'em write blurbs for Gone With The Wind or Star Wars or some other famous story instead...because it's easier to practice on something that doesn't carry the extra weight of My Own Work.)

  25. The first two paragraphs of "Daughter of Smoke and Bone" by Laini Taylor instantly grabbed my attention:

    Around the world, black handprints are appearing on doorways, scorched there by winged strangers who have crept through a slit in the sky.

    In a dark and dusty shop, a devil’s supply of human teeth grows dangerously low.

    And in the tangled lanes of Prague, a young art student is about to be caught up in a brutal otherwordly war.

    Meet Karou. She fills her sketchbooks with monsters that may or may not be real, she’s prone to disappearing on mysterious "errands", she speaks many languages - not all of them human - and her bright blue hair actually grows out of her head that color. Who is she? That is the question that haunts her, and she’s about to find out.

    When beautiful, haunted Akiva fixes fiery eyes on her in an alley in Marrakesh, the result is blood and starlight, secrets unveiled, and a star-crossed love whose roots drink deep of a violent past. But will Karou live to regret learning the truth about herself?

    1. Michelle, I remember being amazed by that story -- it was a book-club pick,so I dived into it without even reading the blurb, and got sucked in from the very beginning even though it wasn't the kind of book I'd normally read.

      In fact, if I'd read the blurb I might've skipped the book, which would've been a shame! Which means there's no getting around the element of luck...

  26. I have chosen books just from the blurb. I usually don't read a lot of scifi but the blurb for Outer Banks by Anson Barber was just enough to make me give scifi a try again.

    1. FOR ROSLYN:

      You're the perfect example of a reader we're all trying to hook -- someone who's willing to try something outside their usual fare, based solely on a good blurb, is every author's dream!

  27. Irving Stone's "The Agony and the Ecstasy". The title caught my eye and the blurb about Michelangelo's life hooked me.

    I think it's easier to have someone else blurb your book for you. It's like book covers in a way... your own taste isn't always what's marketable.

    1. FOR NINA:

      You're right that trading blurb duties with someone else can make the job a whole LOT easier! Although in theory, what appeals to a writer is usually what appeals to that book's readers, because most of us write the kind of books we enjoy reading.

      Still, in a way it's like trying to describe your own kids...when you know 'em that well, it's hard to decide what'll be most appealing to the rest of the world. (And we're not even getting into their flaws, because of course all OUR kids are even more perfect than our books. 🙂 )


    I'm sorry, I think there's been another hiccup in the system -- people have been telling me they posted, but their material isn't making it through. So I'll check back again later tonight, because it'd be terrible to see anyone NOT get a reply...much less to miss out on the prize drawing!

    Laurie, off to Happy Hour with my husband to celebrate the fun of 5-15-15

  29. Hi Laurie!!

    I have a few, Monica McCarthy, her highland guard book. And Julie Garwood Fast Track.
    It's one thing that is important but also very difficult. It's difficult but how to do it right...

    Nadine is wondering if one day I will be able to do right... :/

    1. FOR NADINE:

      Your mention of Julie Garwood reminds me of something fascinating about voice. Way back when I first started writing, my critique partner Tiffany raved about Julie Garwood whom I hadn't yet read. But when I did, I was bowled over because Julie sounded so much like Tiffany.

      Which makes me wonder how often we love a writer whose voice resembles our own, even though we're usually too close to see the resemblance.

  30. My book, Common Enemy, has got to have the worst blurb ever. It was released a year ago, with an awesome cover, but I can't get one single professional reviewer to look at it. I didn't like the way my publisher changed the original blurb. I guess I should have fought for it. It couldn't have been any worse.

    1. FOR SANDRA:

      Oh, what a shame! That's the awful thing about not knowing what to fight for until after the fact -- if such a thing ever happens again you'll be totally prepared to go to the mat over it, but it'd sure be nice if there were some way to learn such things WITHOUT having it come from bad experience. 🙁

  31. Hi Laurie,
    I have to include the blurb for Understatement of the Year by Sarina Bowen. This book seriously made my year, and the blurb promises exactly what the book delivers.

    What happened in high school stayed in high school. Until now.

    Five years ago, Michael Graham betrayed the only person who ever really knew him. Since then, he's made an art of hiding his sexual orientation from everyone. Including himself.
    So it's a shock when his past strolls right into the Harkness College locker room, sporting a bag of hockey gear and the same slow smile that had always rendered Graham defenseless. 
    For Graham, there is only one possible reaction: total, debilitating panic. With one loose word, the team's new left wing could destroy Graham's life as he knows it.
    John Rikker is stuck being the new guy. Again. And it's worse than usual, because the media has latched onto the story of the only "out" player in Division One hockey. As the satellite trucks line the sidewalk outside the rink, his new teammates are not amused.
    And one player in particular looks sick every time he enters the room.
    Rikker didn't exactly expect a warm welcome from Graham. But the guy won't even meet his eyes. From the looks of it, his former... best friend / boyfriend / whatever isn't doing so well. He drinks too much and can't focus during practice. Either the two loneliest guys on the team will self destruct from all the new pressures in their lives, or they can navigate the pain to find a way back to one another. To say that it won't be easy is the Understatement of the Year.
    Warning: unlike the other books in this series, this heartbreaking love story is about two guys. Contains sexual situations, dance music, snarky t-shirts and a poker-playing grandmother.


      What a great closing paragraph! It takes a situation which might be problematic for some readers and lets them know right up front "this won't be your kind of book," while offering all kinds of intriguing hints for readers who won't have any problem.

      That's a win-win, because the target market gets a nice bonus which still doesn't give away any secrets...just some fun promises of what else is coming besides the main love story!

  32. Laurie, I pulled out some books that I bought just from the back cover blurb to see how they made me buy the book. (Half of the books I liked, the other half not so much. But then I'm a terrible shopper!) For the books I didn't like, they offered a promise that wasn't delivered. Aha--what an instructive lesson! Thank you.

    1. FOR FAE:

      What a great idea, looking through the "rewarding" and "disappointing" choices -- and you hit a VERY important thing to know when writing a good blurb. Promising something that never happens is incredibly disrespectful, because it implies the reader is too stupid to notice that the Big Tornado (or whatever) failed to materialize.

      Promising something that's a matter of taste, like "a book you'll cherish forever," is more of a judgment call...but it still runs the risk of disappointing readers. And who in their right mind would ever want to do that?

  33. Hi Laurie:

    I enjoyed your post. I have over 30 years experience in copywriting in retail and direct response. (We know how well our ads worked.)

    As a teacher myself, I'd like to suggest a context in which to present today's message.

    Step 1: the cover's job is to attract the favorable attention of the prospects most likely to buy your book.

    Step 2: the blurb's job is to act as irresistible bait to get a prospect to bite on the idea of reading the first page of the book.

    Step 3: the job of the first few sentences of the book is to hook the prospect into buying the book.

    The thing about Step 2 is that it is not a synopsis or summary of the book. It's just bait. Think: what is it that readers most like about the genre and theme of your book? Make sure you tell them about it. If the book is set in an exotic location that many readers would like to experience, mention that. If the hero is into a popular sport that many readers would be interested in, mention that sport too.

    If you think of the blurb as bait and part of a three step process, then I think it becomes much easier to write and should be far more selling effective.

    Good luck with your course.

    Again, excellent article.


    1. FOR VINCE:

      Isn't it handy, having experience at writing material where you can tell very quickly how effective your word choices are? There's a lot to be said for direct-response & retail, and in a way bookselling sites reflect both of those!

  34. My absolute favorite book blurb that made me buy, read, and want to follow this writer forEVAH - Jennifer L. Armentrout's OBSIDIAN (Lux series). It was my first introduction to her work and it stuck with me. Sadly, the blurb has been changed. And the latest version is okay, but not brilliant. That original version made a promise and the delightful thing is the book delivered. The latest blurb comes close to the original's, so it's worth a look-see.

    1. FOR SHER:

      What a treat, discovering a book that turns you onto an author with plenty of books to love! And it's interesting that someone decided an abridged version of the blurb would work better...if you read it again in another few months, who knows? Maybe they'll decide the one that grabbed you the first time around WAS the better choice after all. 🙂

  35. In a universe starved for power, the Conglomeration rules societies with an iron grip on all trade and by the power of the eMpaths with eXtra abilities they have enslaved.

    Claire, a sheltered eMpath, finds herself involved in treacherous negotiations that leave her stranded on a barbarian world of violence and danger.

    Koda, the ruthless barbarian Warlord, controls the vast resources of energy of his planet. Refusing to bow to the Conglomeration, Koda plunges Claire into a violent world of deception and greed where the rules of survival suddenly change.

    When it is evident that the Warlord Koda has no intention of giving up his eMpath, Claire is forced to trust the barbarian with her life. As the future of her kind hangs in the balance, she must also decide if she can trust him with her heart.


    Warlords Honor by LW Browning

  36. FOR LINDA:

    This blurb's opening line "In a universe" makes me think of that classic movie-announcer opening: "In a world..." (Last year a movie by that same title showed how many announcers wanted to follow in the footsteps of the first guy who delivered made such a narration famous.)

    Anyway, movie trailers and blurbs both have the same mission -- making people want to get more of the story. So it makes sense that they can each benefit from an opening line like that one!

    1. Thank you, Laurie.

      What a GREAT opportunity. I am excited to be a part of your class and to learn about writing book blurbs.

  37. Excellent post Laurie. My fav. blurb recently was "The Paying Guests' by Sarah Waters. it made it sound both a great historical novel but with lots of juicy thriller-esque parts. It totally lived up to the blurb.

    1. FOR ANDREW:

      Gotta love it when a book totally lives up to the blurb -- that writer (or the publisher's marketing department) deserves a lot of credit for featuring the most appealing elements in a way that reflects the story perfectly!

  38. I love this one for The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time by Mark Haddon--Christopher John Francis Boone knows all the countries of the world and their capitals and every prime number up to 7,057. He relates well to animals but has no understanding of human emotions. He cannot stand to be touched. And he detests the color yellow.

    And my publisher wrote this one for my debut novel, Things Unsaid (October 15): A deft exploration of the ever-shifting covenants between parents and children, Things Unsaid is a ferocious tale of family love, dysfunction, and sense of duty over forty years. Thanks for this wonderful article! Diana Y. Paul

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