Blurb Writing: 101

Every author has dreaded writing a book blurb at one time or another. Some conquer their fear and get better at writing them over time, while others will go to their graves despising those two-to-four paragraph summaries of their books. I’ll admit I’m weird—I love writing blurbs and have gotten pretty good at them. I’ve helped numerous authors tweak their blurbs so they flow better. Here’s a few tips, along with samples of my blurbs, to help you write an eye-catching blurb without stressing about it too much. 

One of the main issues most authors have is putting too much information in the blurb. Base it on the first half of the book. Leave the reader guessing what happens in the second half. If you give them the whole story in the blurb, there’s no reason for them to buy the book, right?

Almost all my blurbs are 1-4 paragraphs comprised of 1-4 sentences each, tops! Too long of a blurb probably means there is far too much information in it. Many readers will take one glance at a long blurb and skip right over it. There are exceptions to this “rule,” where more or less may be better, but I try to use it as my standard.

Make it clear what genre your book is in. Readers don’t like thinking a book is a romance between two humans only to find out the characters are aliens from another planet and they don’t have sex the way we do. (Or any other WTF moments when they were expecting one genre only to discover the story is nowhere close to it.)

Introduce your protagonist right away. Don’t put a lot of unneccessary fillers before it.

Avoid clichés.

Make sure the reader knows what the conflict is without giving too many specifics. In Don’t Fight It, the main conflict of the story is in the first full paragraph under the hook line. (This is a blurb that ended up being an exception to my 1-4 paragraph rule, but only because I added the hook line that goes with the title at the very beginning.)

When it feels right, don’t fight it.

Shane and Tucker have been mourning their wife’s death for two years. Their love for each other and their daughter has gotten them through the rough time. But while Shane is ready to take a chance on a new future, Tucker is stuck in the past, finding it hard to let go.

Paige is trying to put her life back together after her marriage crumbled following her husband’s arrest. Leaving California behind, she moves to Kansas, taking a job as a housekeeper and a nanny to a six-year-old girl.

She shouldn’t be dreaming of her sexy new bosses, but after seeing a steamy encounter between the two men, she can’t get either of them out of her mind.

Shane is certain Paige is the one who can finally heal them but convincing her and Tucker might take a little scheming. Will it backfire or give them all a second chance at love?

  • If you can avoid using character’s last names, it’s one less thing making your blurb too “wordy.” As you can see in this blurb from Leather and Lace, I didn’t need their last names or his military nickname to get my points across:

How does a “vanilla” woman write a BDSM novel? With hands-on research!

Kristen needs inspiration and first-hand experience for a sequel to her unexpected and kinky bestseller. Devon, an ex-Navy SEAL and private club owner, is all too happy to help.

Soon, a single weekend of hot and dirty sex turns into something more. But while they fight their connection, a killer has Devon in his sights.

Will they survive with their hearts and lives intact?

  • If you need to include a hero’s last name for some reason, or just because you think it flows better with it, then include the heroine’s (or other hero’s) last name too. In Topping the Alpha (an M/m book), because the blurb was short and to the point, I felt it flowed a little better giving both their first and last names at the beginning. Because Nick never calls Jake by his military nickname, even though others do, I left it out.

Getting involved with your brothers’ friend and employee is never a good idea, but after being dominated by Jake Donovan for one night, Nick Sawyer wants more. A Navy SEAL, Nick’s been the alpha in every relationship he’s ever had, but now finds himself craving to submit to Jake again. The problem is Jake’s determined that will never happen.

Thrown together to help a girl in danger, Nick starts breaking through Jake’s defenses, but when things go awry, Jake must confront the ghosts from his past before he can ever think about a future. Nick just hopes that future includes him.

  • Include a character’s nickname in quotes between the first and last name IF it’s a name that practically every other character uses when referring to him. If it’s only mentioned once or twice, don’t include it in the blurb. If everyone calls your hero by his last name or nickname, but your heroine only calls him by his first name, that’s what you should use when writing a blurb paragraph from her POV. (This is when you would want to include both first and last names and any nicknames.) In Tickle His Fancy, Brody’s teammates call him by both his first name and his nickname throughout the book, while Fancy only uses his first name. Nobody calls Fancy anything but her nickname, including Brody.

All around him, Brody “Egghead’ Evans Trident Security teammates have fallen in love and gotten their happily ever after. Ironically, they had always thought the charismatic Dominant would be the first one to fall–not the last. While helping his boss’s fiancée find a new bakery for their wedding cake, he finds himself drooling–not over the delicious confections, but the sweet baker who’d created them.

The lone survivor, Francine “Fancy” Maguire’s world was destroyed when her husband and unborn baby perished in a horrific car accident. Three years later, she is finally shedding the dark shroud she was existing under and starting to live once more. When a handsome customer takes an interest in her, he sparks something deep within her that she never expected to feel again. But will she dare to give love another try?

With a killer on the loose and an unknown vandal targeting Fancy’s business, Brody finds plenty of reasons to keep her close. Can he break through the steel barrier she has wrapped around her heart? Or will he lose her before he can convince her to take a second chance on love?

  • Do not use a side character’s name unless he/she is important to the plot. If you can get away with just saying “her sister” or “his best friend” without using the person’s name, again, it’s less “wordy.” Example from Waiting For Him. (Another blurb that ended up being an exception to my 1-4 paragraph rule.)

Thirty-six hours was all it took for eighteen-year-old Ben to go from being the happiest man alive to having his world fall apart.

Kat was his best friend’s sister and the only woman to ever hold the key to Ben’s heart. Then she and her family were gone in an instant, killed in a devastating accident.

Twelve years later, Kat emerges from the shadows of the Witness Protection Program, only to find the danger her father had placed them in still out there. The last thing she wants to do is put her high-school sweetheart in danger, but he’s the only person she trusts with her life.

Working for a private-security firm, Ben is shocked when his evening appointment is a ghost from the past. He knows he can’t refuse to help Kat, but when it’s over he knows he’ll have to let her go; she deserves better than the man he’s become.

Will Ben and Kat survive, or will he once again have to bury the only woman he’s ever loved?

Don’t include the following unless it has something to do with the plot/story arc: 
  • Character’s profession
  • Character’s age
  • Character’s family background
  • A description of the character (hair, eyes, height, etc.)
  • Unnecessary filler information that the reader can wait until the book to find out about. If you have to include it, make it as short as possible.
Reduce the amount of words used to explain the reasons why a character is the way they are at the time of the story and how those reasons affect them. Example:

Too wordy: Jane was shy around men because she grew up in a small town, with very few boys her age and no father figure. As a result, she doesn’t know how to flirt and interact with men or know when they are truly interested in her or are just trying to add her to a long list of women they’ve slept with. When she meets Mike, she is tongue-tied and can’t figure out which category of men he falls into. But as she gets to know him, she starts to realize he’s actually interested in her so she finally agrees to go out on a date with him.

Much better: After leading a sheltered life as a child, Jane feels tongue-tied and awkward around men. She never knows how to interpret their advances, and Mike is no different—or is he?

Don’t start off by telling the reader, “In this story . . .” “This is a book about . . .” “If you like stories about . . .” or anything else like that.

Start and end your blurbs with “hooks,” something that will make a reader say, “Holy sh*t! I’ve got to read this book!” I find that ending the blurb with a “will this or that happen” question works great for me most of the time, but sometimes it doesn’t.

  • This example from Watching From the Shadows uses a question at the end:

Baby? What baby?

Marco DeAngelis is determined to stay single and childless forever. But sometimes life gives you what you never knew you wanted.

After months of trying to contact Marco, Harper Williams finally admits she’ll be raising her child alone, since he won’t return her calls.

When Harper is violently attacked, the two are, reluctantly, thrown together again and become embroiled in a web of lies and deceit. Will they lose their baby, each other, and their lives?

  • Meanwhile, for an upcoming release, The Ultimate Price, I was able to sum up the suspense without any this/that questions:

A committed bachelor, Brian is the only one of the Malone brothers who hasn’t fallen in love–and he’s determined to keep it that way. Too bad his career as an investigator for the state police has him repeatedly crossing paths with Tess Bingham, the delectable assistant to the local medical examiner. A one-night stand is out of the question—Brian doesn’t mix business with pleasure—but every time Tess flashes that shy, dimpled smile, his restraint frays just a little bit more.

Tess doesn’t have much time for hanging out with friends, having fun, or dating cute cops who can’t stop flirting. Three years ago, her parents died, leaving her the sole guardian for her teenage brother who can’t seem to stay out of trouble. But when that trouble puts them both in danger, Tess turns to the one man she can’t get out of her head.

As danger looms and their attraction escalates, Brian realizes Tess is one woman he doesn’t want to walk away from, while she tries to shield her heart against the man protecting her life.

Remind the reader if your book is part of a series (in addition to making sure Amazon or other markets link the books together and also mentioning it in your subtitle). This is what I put at the end of the blurbs for one of my series:

***The Trident Security series contains elements of the BDSM lifestyle, sensual romance, nail-biting suspense, and happily-ever-afters.

The Trident Security Series:

Book 1 – Leather & Lace (Devon & Kristen)
Book 2 – His Angel (Ian & Angie)
Book 3 – Waiting For Him (Boomer & Kat)
Book 3.5 – Not Negotiable: A Novella (Parker & Shelby)
Book 4 – Topping the Alpha (Jake & Nick)
Book 5 – Watching From the Shadows (Marco & Harper)
Book 5.5 – Whiskey Tribute: A Novella (Curt & Dana)
Book 6 – Tickle His Fancy (Brody & Fancy)
Book 7 – Absolving His Sins (Carter & Jordyn)
Book 7.5 – Option Number Three (Mitch, Tyler, & Tori)
Book 8 – Salvaging His Soul (Jase & Brie)

The books of the Trident Security Series can be read as stand-alones, however, for optimum enjoyment they are best read in order.

Don’t tell the reader:

  • How amazing your book is 
  • How they’ll be missing out on a great story if they don’t get your book
  • How the book is just like (insert famous author’s book)
  • How they’ll feel while reading your book
  • What a roller coaster ride your book is
  • Any spoilers

Trigger warnings: These are toss-ups on whether or not they should be included. Sometimes it’s difficult to include warnings about subjects that may upset readers (i.e. rape, child abuse, torture) without giving away too much of the story. In a recent survey, these were the stats from readers regarding trigger warnings in blurbs:

  • Trigger warnings in blurbs? (More than one response could be given.) 1,343 responses
    • Yes for sexual assault: 37.1%
    • Yes for non-sexual assault: 12.2%
    • No because it gives away what’s going on in the story: 13.8%
    • Doesn’t matter to me: 50.8%

So it’s up to you whether you want to include one or not.

Voice: This is another subject that gets a variety of answers. I know a lot of readers who want the blurb written in the same POV as the book—1st person blurb/1st person story. 3rd person blurb/3rd person story. However, there are people who aren’t bothered by 1st person blurb/3rd person story or vice versa. Some authors prefer to do 1st/3rd, I personally don’t. I’m not comfortable writing 1st person at all, so all my stories and blurbs are written in 3rd POV. I will say that I’ve been annoyed in the past when a blurb was in 3rd person and after I bought the book and start reading, I’ve found it’s in 1st person. I prefer reading 3rd POV. If I know going into a book that it’s in 1st person, and it’s a highly recommended book, then I can get in the right mindset for it and not be grumbling as I read the first chapter.

Wrap-up: A rule of thumb I’ve seen several times is to keep your blurb between 100-200 words. If you’re still having trouble with writing them, there are numerous author groups on Facebook (see my post 36 Tips and Advices for New Authors to Publish and Promote Their Books for a list of a few of them) where you can post your blurbs and get input from other authors. Just remember, second only to your cover, your blurb is what is going to attract readers to your book. If you give away the whole story, there’s no need for them to buy it. If you don’t give enough of a hook, you won’t capture their attention and make them curious enough to buy the book to find out what happens.

As I mentioned, I actually love writing blurbs and have gotten very good at them, but that doesn’t mean my own don’t need input from others from time to time. If I’m stuck or know there is something not “right” about a blurb, I’ll post it in an author group and ask for help. Usually all it takes is someone rewording what I wrote in a sentence or two or pointing out what isn’t working for me to tweak it.

As always, the above are suggestions based on my experience. Use this information as a tool to help make your blurbs better, but in the end, do what works best for you. Happy writing!

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