You finally finished your book! Congratulations!
It’s taken you months, years, or even decades, but it’s finally complete. Now, you’re getting ready to publish (read more about the pros and cons of self-publishing vs. traditional publishing). You need to come up with a book blurb that lets readers know what your novel is about, catches their attention, and convinces them to make a purchase.
Should be easy, right? After all, writing the actual book was the hard part and it’s all uphill from here… right?
Writing a compelling book blurb is surprisingly harder than you might think! I really struggled with my first book blurb, and I know I’m not alone. Many authors find themselves in the same boat.
For me, a big part of my struggle stemmed from writing a series. In my head, I had all seven books planned out with extensive worldbuilding and character development. Since I was looking at the big picture, I had a hard time narrowing my blurb down to the core details in the first book rather than looking at the complex inter-realm war happening on a grand scale.
Writing a 154k-word fantasy novel was time consuming but relatively easy. Summarizing that novel into a five-sentence book blurb was difficult!
After multiple iterations and helpful feedback from my line editor, I finally published in 2018. At events, I love watching people read the back of the book and seeing their faces light up with excitement. My first novel, A Fallen Hero, took home the Literary Titan Gold Book Award in May 2020. The sequel, Phantom’s Mask, followed in its predecessor’s footsteps and received the same award in September 2020 (less than two months after its publication).
Now, I’m here to share some tips to help my fellow authors write a fiction book blurb with all the right components.
What Is a Book Blurb?
A book blurb is the brief description you’d find on the back of a novel, the inside sleeve of a hardcover, or the product page of an ebook.
The blurb is meant to be a teaser that acts as a part of your marketing. After the cover, it’s usually the first piece of information about your book that a reader is going to see.
For example, here is how the book blurb appears for my first novel on Amazon:
Is a Book Blurb the Same as a Synopsis?
Technically, no. The words are sometimes used interchangeably (and I have been guilty of that in the past), but they are not the same.
So, what’s the difference between a book blurb and a synopsis?
A book blurb is a quick glimpse into your story with just enough information to entice a reader into wanting more. The blurb should convey important information such as the genre, primary characters, and main conflict with a “hook” that catches attention. It’s short — only a few paragraphs — and should not include spoilers, major plot twists, or how the story ends.
That’s where the synopsis comes in. A synopsis is part of your press kit for literary agents, editorial reviews, interviews, publishers, etc. The synopsis does include spoilers and the conclusion, and it’s usually between two and ten pages long.
How to Write a Book Blurb: 15 Tips to Write a Fiction Blurb That Attracts Readers
1. Write Multiple Versions
My first piece of advice: don’t spend all of your time and energy trying to get it perfect the first time. Write several different versions. Separate versions — don’t just keep revising the same document and deleting/rewriting sentences.
It took me at least twelve drafts, and the final blurb had pieces and ideas from earlier versions. As you go, you might find diamonds in the rough drafts and pull out those little gems to try a different direction, eventually piecing together the best parts of multiple iterations. Don’t be afraid to experiment.
2. Start With a Catchy Hook
There are a LOT of books on the market, and the number of books being published continues to explode. In 2018, nearly 1.7 million books were self-published in the U.S. (we’re not even factoring in traditionally published books). The average U.S. book sells less than 200 copies per year and less than 1,000 copies over its lifetime.
Where am I going with this? The bad news is, the market is oversaturated and the competition is fierce. If someone is considering your book, you can’t waste a moment. Your first sentence needs to convey how your plot and/or characters are unique and why a reader should invest their time (and money) to read the whole story.
What’s your hook? What makes your novel special? Why should a reader pick yours and not someone else’s? How are you going to snag their attention right off the bat?
Start your book blurb with something startling, exciting, or thought-provoking. If your first sentence is dull, a reader won’t waste a second to move onto the next book and leave yours on the shelf.
3. Introduce Your Protagonist(s)
It stands to reason that you, as an author, anticipate your readers will form an attachment with the protagonist(s) and care about what happens to them in the book. So, it’s a sensible conclusion that you should make the introduction in the book blurb as a sort of formal handshake so the reader can meet the characters and decide if they want to form that connection.
Characters connect us to stories on a human level. Intergalactic travel, magic, war, espionage, and prophesies are interesting, but it’s the characters we love (or love to hate) who enable us to experience these world-altering tales from a relatable perspective.
4. Tease the Main Conflict(s)
Just as your reader should know the main characters, they also need to know the stakes if they’re going to feel any interest in learning more. Set up a quick overview of the main conflict(s), whether they’re internal, external, or a combination of both. You want to tease just enough to get a reader excited without giving away too much.
5. Indicate the Genre and Theme
You don’t have to spell out, “This is a fantasy book!” But if someone buys your novel expecting a modern-day romance or historical nonfiction and instead gets aliens, magic spells, and swordfights, they’re probably going to be disappointed.
In many cases, the genre will be illuminated as you describe the conflict and setting. However, if it’s not clear, make sure you find a way to add a reference so readers know what kind of book they’re picking up. Some blurbs do this by starting a sentence with a lead-in phrase. For example: “In this thrilling coming-of-age urban fantasy…”
6. Don’t Give Away Spoilers
Seems like it should go without saying, right? You want readers to be curious enough to read the book without feeling like they already know all the twists (and therefore have no reason to bother reading it).
But… again… sometimes it’s trickier than you might think. My line editor caught a minor spoiler in my penultimate draft. Instead of giving away a critical plot twist, she recommended that I make it more vague to allude to trouble without spelling it out. Hence, per her suggestion, I removed the specific detail and replaced it with “as his enemies close in” instead, warning of impending peril but not stating exactly what’s coming.
7. Use The 1/3 Method
I picked this trick up from a Facebook group for authors! If you’re really stuck, and you’re struggling to narrow down the most important primary points for the blurb, start by looking at the first third of your novel and making a bulleted list.
Use this as a guide to create several drafts. Then, compare the various iterations to see which ones you like best, and continue honing in from there.
8. Keep It Short and Snappy
Most book blurbs are between 100-200 words. As a general rule, 150 is a good target. Try to avoid going over 200.
Long book blurbs that go on and on with tedious details are much less effective than short, snappy blurbs. Remember, it’s a marketing pitch, not a book report. Rambling will almost certainly lose a reader’s attention, plus it’s not a great first impression as a testament to your writing skills. Choose your words wisely.
9. Match the Tone of Your Book
Your blurb should reflect the tone and style of your novel. If there’s a major disconnect between the presentation on the back of the book and the content inside of it, readers aren’t going to feel like they had a fair glimpse at what they were getting themselves into.
Stay true to your writing style. If your book is composed of witty humor and satire, let that shine through in the blurb as well. If you write with melodic, poetic descriptions, use that same style. Don’t fall into the temptation to create a professional, academic blurb if that’s not how you wrote the book.
10. Don’t Summarize
A book blurb is not meant to be a summary. Be strategic in which important bits of information you choose to share and which ones you elect to omit.
Summaries tend to be boring and give away spoilers. Instead of recounting the full story, focus on enticing tidbits to highlight. Avoid long lists, repetitive language, and wordy descriptions.
11. Write in Third Person
As a general rule, the industry standard dictates that you should write your book blurb in third person. However, this guideline isn’t set in stone. There are notable examples of bestselling novels that disregarded this rule and wrote the blurb in first person to match the POV in the book (such as Twilight).
To this, I’d say use your best judgment. Third person is the safest option, even for memoirs and autobiographies, but if you can justify using first person, there’s no hard-and-fast rule that says you can’t use it. If you’re on the fence, I recommend writing it in both POVs to see which one you like best.
12. Avoid Clichés
Cheesy lines and overused idioms may seem witty, they’re more likely to warrant an eye roll than spark any genuine interest. You want your book blurb to stay fresh for years to come. Steer away from clichés that are out of date before your novel even hits the shelf.
13. Look at Examples
The best piece of advice for when you’re writing your book blurb and get stuck is to look at other examples in your genre. I find that reading can help get me out of a writing rut, and the same goes for overcoming a writing block with your book blurb.
Pick out blurbs that really excite you, and then study their structure. Why do they catch your attention? See if you can emulate a similar style and capture that same flare. Even if it doesn’t work, you might be inspired enough to get the gears turning again and have a breakthrough.
14. Know Your Audience
When you’re writing a book blurb, you should know what your audience wants. To do that, you need to know your market. If you’re writing a steamy romance, you’re expecting a different type of reader than you would if your book is a blood-and-gore alien invasion or a murder mystery.
What does your target reader want to see? What’s going to make them pick up your book? Which emotions do you need to tap into? Does your audience want to be aroused? Excited? Curious?
Know what your readers want, then make sure your book blurb promises to deliver.
15. Get Feedback From Writers and Readers
Get some feedback! Reach out to friends, family, writing colleagues, Facebook groups, beta readers, and editors. Be open to their critiques and suggestions. Just as you trust a line editor to polish your final manuscript, you should also get notes about your book blurb.
I hope these tips help you write a great book blurb! Do you have any additional tips that have helped you? Please share in the comments and support other authors!
Love fantasy worldbuilding, strong character bonds, and page-turning adventures? Check out my award-winning Chronicles of Avilésor: War of the Realms series.