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17 Tips on How To Write a Blurb That Sells

How to write a killer blurb that convinces readers to buy your book

The book blurb is your sales pitch. Once your title and cover have drawn the reader in, the blurb is what is going to make the difference between a missed opportunity and a sale. You have one shot at introducing your story to your reader - make it count.

Many authors write the book blurb as an afterthought. But it is the single most important piece of writing you will do on your book.

Here are some tips on what you can do to boost a book's sales with its blurb:

  1. Look at samples - Go to Amazon and click on the bestsellers in your genre. Read their blurbs and select some of the ones that got you really interested in the book. Analyze what structure they have used and also note the words that made the greatest impact. This will give you a better idea of what to work toward.

  2. Use a formula: Most fiction book blurbs start with a situation (a), introduce a problem (b) and promise a twist (c). They usually end with a sentence that emphasizes the mood (d) of the story.

    Here's an example from the bestseller "The Girl on The Train" by Paula Hawkins:

    (a) Rachel takes the same commuter train every morning. Every day she rattles down the track, flashes past a stretch of cozy suburban homes, and stops at the signal that allows her to daily watch the same couple breakfasting on their deck. She’s even started to feel like she knows them. “Jess and Jason,” she calls them. Their life—as she sees it—is perfect. Not unlike the life she recently lost.

    (b) And then she sees something shocking. It’s only a minute until the train moves on, but it’s enough. Now everything’s changed. Unable to keep it to herself, Rachel offers what she knows to the police, and becomes inextricably entwined in what happens next, as well as in the lives of everyone involved. (c) Has she done more harm than good?

    (d) Compulsively readable, The Girl on the Train is an emotionally immersive, Hitchcockian thriller and an electrifying debut.

  3. Treat your first sentence like a pick-up line: Many readers don't read past the very first sentence, which is why this should have the biggest impact. It should entice them to read on. It needs to be clever, engaging and new.

  4. Introduce your main characters: For your readers to care, they need to be intrigued not only by the story, but also by the characters. Introduce your characters in the most interesting light possible. Mention them by name and characterization: journalist Sophie Collins, reformed criminal Joe Bradlow et cetera. Give them dimension and put the focus on the dilemmas they face.

  5. Use a cliffhanger: The aim of your blurb is to leave readers curious and wanting more - so much so, that they would actually buy the book. As in the "Girl on a Train" example, you can use a question: "Has she done more harm than good?" Or you could just hint that there is more to come: "Thrown together by chance and united by their hatred of the Empire, Laia and Elias will soon discover that their fates are intertwined." (An Ember in the Ashes, Sabaa Tahir)

    For non-fiction books your cliffhanger should promise a strategy or solution: "this international bestseller featuring Tokyo’s newest lifestyle phenomenon will help you clear your clutter and enjoy the unique magic of a tidy home—and the calm, motivated mindset it can inspire." (The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up by Marie Kondo)

  6. Use words that cater to your audience: The words you use should evoke a certain atmosphere and meet the expectations of readers of the genre. Sabaa Tahir uses words like "ancient", "brutality", "infiltrate", "deadly fighters", "spy" and "dangerous escape" to create a sense of adventure for An Ember in the Ashes.

  7. Give readers a setting: Transform readers to the place and time of your story to make it more interesting. Example: "Monsieur Perdu calls himself a literary apothecary. From his floating bookstore in a barge on the Seine, he prescribes novels for the hardships of life." "After Perdu is finally tempted to read the letter, he hauls anchor and departs on a mission to the south of France." (The Little Paris Bookshop: A Novel by Nina George). If you write historical fiction, just including a time period in your blurb can greatly increase the amount of clicks your book will get.

  8. Use Hyperbole: Words like "never before", "incredible", "unimaginable" and "inconceivable" are powerful tools to spark curiosity.

  9. Many self-published authors try to squeeze too much into their blurbs. This can actually deter potential buyers from reading the blurb. [tweet this]

  10. Keep it short: Most blurbs are only between 100 and 150 words long, excluding the bit about the author. Keep your blurb around 100 words if you want it to make an impact. Both Amazon and Apple don't allow much space, so if your text is too long, it will be cut off and the reader will have to click "read more" to see the rest.

  11. Use short sentences: Buyers are usually just skimming through text, so the easier your blurb is to read, the more enticing it will be. Long sentences won't grasp the attention of the reader as well as short sentences. Use white spacing to separate thoughts and make it look less like a solid block of text.

  12. Stay true to your voice: A blurb should give readers an idea of what to expect from your book, which is why it is important to stay true to your voice. Stick to your genre - don't suddenly make a dramatic romantic novel sound like a thriller in your blurb. You want people to buy the book for the right reasons, otherwise they may be disappointed and leave bad reviews.

  13. Use fresh eyes: Once you are happy with your blurb, let it rest for a day or so before you look at it again. Print it out to look at it in a different format. Look at it on your phone. Seeing it in a different way will give you a new perspective and you will notice things you haven't before. Let other people also have a look at it for you.

  14. Rewrite it many times: The book blurb is not something you should do hastily as an afterthought. Take your time with it. Start out by writing a short summary. Include the plot basics, the characters you want to introduce and some other elements of the story that are important to you. Now write your first version. Read through it and trim it down. Write at least five different versions.

  15. Split-test your blurb: Don't just guess what will work for your readers, get the actual data.

    • Make use of services like Manybooks that allow you to test two different descriptions for your book to see which one gets the most downloads.

    • Send different versions of the blurb in your pitch emails to reviewers and see which version gets you the most responses.

    • Create a poll on your blog or website and get your fans to vote on the version they like best. You can get free widgets from sites like GetResponse or SurveyMonkey.

    • Run Facebook ads with different “pick-up lines” in your ad description simultaneously and see which ones get the most clicks.

    • Set up an A/B test email campaign through providers like Constant Contact, GetResponse or AWeber and send it to your subscribers with different versions of the blurb. Include a link to the book’s Amazon page and see which one gets the best click-through rate.

    Things To Add To Your Book Description That Will Increase Book Sales

  16. Quotes from well-known authors: Get some famous people to review your book and add their quotes to your book description. Keep in mind that quoting individual authors instead of publications will give you a much better click-through rate.

  17. An author byline: This is not essential, but if you have won awards for any other books in the past, including that you are an award-winning author can boost the amount of clicks you get. This is especially true if the award signifies your book’s genre.

  18. Review data: If your book has had a high number of 5-star reviews on Amazon or Goodreads, pick the one with the best numbers and add that to your description.

What You Shouldn't Do

There are of course a couple of pitfalls to avoid if you want to create a killer blurb. The first one is rather obvious: never give away any spoilers - no matter how tempting. Secondly, be sure to stay away from clichés and overused phrases like "in a world of..." Also remember that comparisons with others tend to set you up for failure and might trigger the wrong expectations with your readers. Refrain from calling yourself the "new Stephen King" (or any other famous author for that matter) and don't compare your book to a certain bestseller such as the "next Fifty Shades of Grey". Your book is unique, and the blurb needs to reflect that.

Conclusion

Your book blurb can serve many purposes. Not only is it an essential component of online sales pages (B&N, Kobo and Amazon), but it can also be used in pitch letters to reviewers and journalists. You can also send the blurb to interviewers to provide some background information on what your book is about. It is evident that the book blurb is one of your most important communication aids when promoting your book, so invest plenty of time and dedication to ensure you get it right.

As a last remark, a good blurb sparks an interest, but a great blurb will create intrigue and captivate your potential reader. This could turn her not only into a paying customer, but also the latest member of your ever growing fan base.

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