Friday, August 31, 2012

A Reader's Perspective: Indie Publishing: Blurbs

(Again?! Yes, but this is my last discourse on the subject. Until something else comes to mind.)

#5 on Reader Marilyn's list of vital issues: blurbs.

The blurb that sells your book to the reader should be short – a few hundred words, no more than one page. It should be clear and concise. It's a teaser, and it should tease, draw the reader in, make her click that Buy button so she can read more.
* Don't fill your blurb space with quotes from average readers. Endorsements have to mean something, or they're a waste of my time. If Tami Hoag or Lisa Gardner or Jayne Ann Krentz says it's a great book, I'm more likely to pay attention. But "Ann Q says it's the best book ever written" doesn't impress me. It makes me wonder who the heck is Ann Q. The author's best friend? Her mother? Is she even a real person, or a pseudonym for the author? If she's an author, then please clarify that: Ann Q, author of . . .

For the friends and family who love your book, let them post reviews, not endorsements.
* Don't make extravagant comparisons. "It's Gone With the Wind for a modern generation." "The magic of Harry Potter mingled with the sensuality of Eclipse." "If you liked 50 Shades of Grey, you'll love my book." (Frankly, thinking of all the Harry Potter kids and sensuality gives me a little of an ick feeling.) Granted, someone is out there right now writing the next multi-million bestseller . . . but it's a sure bet they won't be wasting blurb space trumpeting their own greatness. Leave the hype to your readers.

* Don't fail to proofread your blurb, then do it again. I've already talked about my yearning for technically correct writing. If you have four typos in your blurb, it's a sure bet that this reader, at least, isn't going anywhere near the Buy button in her haste to get off your page.

* Don't forget to tell what your story is about. Honestly, I came across this problem multiple times in a recent marathon Kindle ramble. Blurbs that talked about the author, that mentioned their families and their pets, that gave backstory on the characters, that talked about everything except what the book was about. Unless I know the author's work and love it, I'm not going to buy a book without knowing its subject.
* On the other hand, don't tell too much story. I honestly don't want to wade through three pages of blurb, not even when I'm leisurely shopping (and especially if there aren't any paragraph breaks). I rarely have time for leisurely shopping. When I go looking for something to read, I want it now, or at least in five minutes.

Think of the blurb as your 30-second pitch to sell your book. Read back-cover blurbs on traditionally published books. Read them on other indie books. Write your own. Send it to every reading person you know for critique. Write it again. And again. It's your biggest opportunity to persuade the reader to buy your book. Use it to the best of your ability.
All these items I've talked about in the last five posts – covers, formatting, editing, copy editing and blurbing – are all things that a publisher would do for you if you traditionally published your books. But since you're indie publishing, you are the publisher. All this stuff is your responsibility,  in addition to writing the book. It's  big job, but your book deserves the best chance you can give it, and so do your readers. 


  1. This is the hardest part of the equation. Sometimes I'll get it right the first time, but most of the time it takes numerous shots to fit the round peg in the round hole.

    Very much like writing the perfect query letter--I still have no clue what one of those looks like!

    1. I used to write blurbs for my books just to see if I could get it down to 200 words or less and make sense. Thankfully, I never had to actually use them. It's a talent all in itself.

      Ditto on the query letter. I've only written a couple, and those 20+ years ago. I direct all questions re them elsewhere. :)