Wednesday, May 9, 2012

Blurbing Your Book

Oh the joy of buying a new book!  Let's say you're browsing your local bookstore and/or favorite website looking for a new read.  First, you'll probably head over to the section that displays the name of your favorite genre (sci-fi/fantasy, romance, historical, non-fiction etc.).  Next, you might gravitate towards the new releases or recommendations based on your buying history.  If the title and cover look intriguing (oh come on, we're all guilty of picking up a book because the cover is pretty), we'll pick the book up and flip it over.  What are we looking for?  The blurb of course!  The nice little one-to-three paragraph snippet that tells all about the story without giving anything away.  Most of us (if not all of us) take time to read the blurb before we buy the book.  We want to make sure it is going to be an enjoyable read and worth the money we are about to spend.

Now, why am I going on and on about this?  Well, if you are an indie author, more likely than not you are writing your own blurbs.  But, isn't that the easiest part?  I mean, writing the book itself is so time consuming!  True, but not only does the blurb need to be relatively short, but it must capture the essence of your story while drawing the potential reader in.  Blurb writing can sometimes be a daunting task, so below I'm going to share some tips and suggestions (from my own, personal experience) with those indie authors who may be new at this (or those who find the process really difficult and tedious).

1.) Keep It Short
     The blurbs for my books (I've written five so far) are all around three paragraphs long.  In each paragraph I try to summarize the beginning, middle and end of the story.  In essence, I'm writing out the synopsis of the plot.  You might say, "But Jenna, that sounds kind of boring . . . The details often make the story shine and the synopsis doesn't always have those great details!"  Here's how I get around that:  I make my sentences long.  Don't be afraid to utilize the comma, colon and semi-colon!  They are our friends!  Play with your words and try to fit as much information in each sentence as you can.  But you don't want to overdo it either.  Keep a check on the length of your blurb and the amount of story you are sharing by reading it several times, out loud as well, and by getting some friends to look it over for you.  Same process as editing your book.

2.)  Focus On The Main Points
      A blurb is similar to an outline.  If you are the type of author that outlines your books, take advantage of that.  What are the most important aspects of your story that you want the reader to know?  Who are the main characters?  What is the main conflict?  As a reader, I always want to get an idea of what type of person the main character is, how dangerous their nemesis might be, how difficult their goals are to achieve, and what the setting is (I like unique settings :)).  Of course, be sure to leave me hanging a little at the end . . . don't want to go and give away the ending.

3.) Write Multiple Blurbs
     I know, sounds crazy, huh?  Write multiple blurbs for one book?  Writing one is hard enough!  Yes, it sounds like extra work, but this gives you options.  The blurbs don't have to be completely different from one another.  Perhaps you can start one out by describing the main character.  Maybe another jumps right into the conflict.  Just play around with it and see what develops, then you will have some options that you can test out on your friends, family and fellow authors.

4.)  Match The Tones
      All of the books I've written so far have been in the fantasy genre.  Four are aimed at middle-grade epic fantasy readers, and one is more for the YA paranormal crowd.  All of my blurbs are written with a dramatic undertone (epic fantasy tends to be a bit on the dramatic side, as well as paranormal YA; in my experience at least).  In the case of my Oescienne books, I've also thrown in a sense of mystery and wonder.  I also wrote a short story collection to go along with the Oescienne books.  In that case, I wrote three separate, one paragraph blurbs for each individual short story.  The first short story, Capture the Castle, is more adventurous than dramatic, so I tried to emulate that tone in the first paragraph.  For my newest paranormal book, Faelorehn, I've done a little something different.  A friend of mine recommended that I use a quote from the book as my blurb.  Intrigued, I took her advice and incorporated the quote as my first paragraph, then followed up with two paragraphs describing my main character, and a teaser of what struggles she might face later in the book.  Feel free to check out my blurbs on my Legend of Oescienne and Otherworld Trilogy pages to see if I actually pulled this off . . . ;)

5.)  Keep At It!
     Finally, the last form of advice I can think of with regards to blurbs is to keep at it!  You'll get better at it in time and hopefully it will come easier to you.  Actually, I kind of enjoy writing them now . . . I know, crazy huh?  Like the writing process of your full-length stories, improvement comes with practice, so don't give up!

I hope that I've been able to pass on some advice for all you indie writers out there.  I'm by no means an expert and I can't even tell you if my blurbs have helped my sales.  What I do know is that, as a reader, I am always reading a book's blurb before I purchase, so writing a good (or at least a descriptive) blurb is very important.  Good luck and happy writing!

-J.E. Johnson

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