How to Write a Blurb that WOWS
So, you’ve gone to your favourite genre’s bookshelf. You love the cover. You’re intrigued by the title. Then you read the blurb.
Oh no … damn … what the …?
You’re just not feeling it.
What a disappointment.
Despite the bubbles of excitement that you might have just found your next read, the blurb’s just not cutting it.
You don’t know who the protagonist is or what they’re struggling with. You don’t know whether the story’s set in the 19th-century rural north-east of England or a post-apocalyptic wasteland. And you certainly don’t feel any emotional connection. So, you walk away.
But what if this book really was your next gripping read, and you just missed out on all that enjoyment?
I don’t blame you. I’m put off time and time again by blurbs. If they have typos, aren’t intriguing, can’t hook me, and I can’t understand what the book’s about, I walk away too. There are way too many books to spend my cash on to be wasting time trying to fathom out badly-written blurbs.
It is frustrating, though, because I have given books the benefit of the doubt before and gone on to read a fab book – bad blurb aside. Conversely, I’ve also read (or half-read) a poorly-written book that had a fantastic, compelling blurb.
So, what do you need to include in your blurb to wow your readers?
Well, let’s start at the beginning and let me explain…
What is a blurb?
A blurb is the writing on the back of a book that compels you to buy. Rather like a piece of sales copy, you need to write a pithy, 200-word (ish) description of your book that hooks and teases your reader from the start and makes it a no-brainer purchase.
What is a blurb NOT?
It’s definitely not a description of your story (a synopsis). The reader does not need to know every plot thread, why your characters behave in a certain way, the outcome of their struggle, or whether they all lived happily ever after.
Examples of WOW blurbs
I love British psychological thrillers, and Lisa Jewell is one of my favourite authors. Here’s her blurb for her best-selling book, The Family Upstairs:
In a large house in London’s fashionable Chelsea, a baby is awake in her cot. Well-fed and cared for, she is happily waiting for someone to pick her up.
In the kitchen lie three decomposing corpses. Close to them is a hastily scrawled note.
They’ve been dead for several days.
Who has been looking after the baby?
And where did they go?
Two entangled families.
A house with the darkest of secrets.
A compulsive thriller from Lisa Jewell.
Chilling, isn’t it?
Now, let me point out some of the main points in this blurb and show you why it works so well.
- It’s short (78 words, to be precise), to the point, and utterly compelling.
- It immediately sparks questions in the reader’s head: who’s the baby, will someone get her out of there, why are there dead bodies in the kitchen? Who’s written the note? Who’s the killer? Was it suicide? Questions like this drive potential buyers to be so intrigued they have to buy.
- We know the story revolves around two families, and an innocent baby is involved too (emotional sparks flying yet?).
- We know there could be plot layers surrounding family conflict, money, power, and jealousy, given the affluent Chelsea setting.
- It’s atmospheric and cinematic. How easy is it to picture this filmic scene in your head? There you go, you’ve hooked your potential reader.
Can you see that the blurb isn’t about how many words are included, but how few?
Can you see how important it is to plant seeds of intrigue so your potential reader can’t resist pressing the ‘Buy Now’ button?
By the way, if you need to read the book right now, click this cover to buy the book from Amazon.
Different blurbs for different genres
Here’s another blurb. This time it’s from the fabulous Ruth Jones for her Sunday Times Best-Seller Us Three, which I’ve just finished reading (you have to read it). The book sits in the Amazon categories of Rural Fiction, Women’s Humorous Fiction and Holiday Fiction, so it’s totally different from the darkness of The Family Upstairs.
Friends forever is a difficult promise to keep…
Meet Lana, Judith and Catrin. Best friends since primary school when they swore an oath on a Curly Wurly wrapper that they would always be there for each other, come what may.
After the trip of a lifetime, the three girls are closer than ever. But an unexpected turn of events shakes the foundation of their friendship to its core, leaving their future in doubt – there’s simply too much to forgive, let alone forget. An innocent childhood promise they once made now seems impossible to keep . . .
Packed with all the heart and empathy that made Ruth’s name as a screenwriter and now author, Us Three is a funny, moving and uplifting novel about life’s complications, the power of friendship and how it defines us all.
Prepare to meet characters you’ll feel you’ve known all your life – prepare to meet Us Three.
Why does this blurb work? I’ll explain.
- Brevity – like The Family Upstairs, it’s a fairly short blurb, but it’s punchy too.
- Emotional connections – from this blurb, you could assume it’s a story of friendships, families, and the trials and tribulations of life.
- Protagonists – we can see that the story is clearly about the three girls: Lana, Judith and Catrin.
- Humour – swearing an oath on a Curly Wurly wrapper hints at the humour in this book (and I can confirm there is plenty of it).
- Conflict – ‘An innocent childhood promise they once made now seems impossible to keep’ suggests conflict, drama, or trauma. And given that conflict is a key ingredient of any good book, it’s also an important element of the blurb.
- Author bio – given that Ruth Jones is also an actress (Nessa from Gavin & Stacey, if you didn’t know), that little nod to her using her screenwriting talents gives extra kudos and a point of connection for potential readers.
Obviously, number five won’t be relevant to many debut authors, but up-and-coming or ‘lawyer turned crime writer’ could do the trick, don’t you think?
Again, if you need to buy this one (and I can highly recommend it), click the cover to link to the Amazon page:
How to Write a Blurb That Wows
Now that we’ve worked through those two excellent examples of blurbs that WOW, let’s see what the common elements are.
- Emotional connection – we’re human beings. We need an emotional connection if we’re going to invest our precious time in reading the book.
- Conflict – every plot needs conflict so readers can enjoy discovering (and perhaps guessing in the case of a murder mystery) how it’s resolved. The distraction from readers’ humdrum lives is crucial here.
- Brevity of explanation – pithy, punchy blurbs are more potent than clunky long-winded explanations that must be re-read to understand the message.
- Central protagonists – potential readers want to know who the main characters are and whether they can resonate with them enough to invest in the book. This isn’t necessarily the case with The Family Upstairs, but the all-knowing, omniscient narrator is probably enticing enough to reel in any domestic/psychological thriller fan.
- A nod to the author – sometimes this comes in the form of reviews, awards, their day jobs, or a best-seller accolade.
- A tagline – like Ruth Jones’s – ‘Friends forever is a difficult promise to keep…’ reel them in with a knockout tagline.
As you can see, writing a blurb that wows your readers is crucial. They do take practice, but don’t give up on them. Read through some blurbs on your bookshelf or the Amazon store if you need inspiration or to get in the zone.
And, just like any copywriting/sales writing, focus on emotions and hooks and plant a few seeds of intrigue too. If your blurb sparks lots of questions and plays out imagery in a potential buyer’s head because you’ve written a little but not too much, the chances are you’ll be onto a winner.
Are you struggling to write a blurb that WOWS? I can help.
For £29, I will rewrite/write your blurb, provide 2x revisions and complete it in 48 hours – find out more here: Write Your Blurb — Michelle Emerson ¦ Self-Publishing Services UK
What my blurb clients say about my blurb-writing skills …
“Outstanding work … am really, really pleased. I love it. LLLLLLLLLLLLLLLLLLOVE IT.” JD / USA
“Excellent …” L / Malaysia
“Michelle exceeded every expectation. I’m thrilled with the results!” M / USA
“Love, love love the blurb so much it turned out awesome!” A / Germany
“I read the blurb and was elated!!! ” B / USA
Happy blurb writing!