Perhaps the most important part of your book’s sales page, on Amazon or any other retailer, is the book description. More than anything else (except perhaps the cover), this is what sells your book. If done right, it will interest the reader enough to download a sample or buy the book outright. If not, they probably won’t even finish reading it before they click to the next page.
So how do you write a knockout book blurb? Honestly, I wish I knew. I don’t think mine are bad, but I’m sure there’s room for improvement, and if they seem really awesome to me now it’s probably because my blurb writing skills haven’t risen to the next level. I tend to tinker with my blurbs until I get sick of them, then I do all I can to avoid looking at them until it’s time for a revamp.
That said, it’s not like you’re writing a novel. Just the opposite, in fact. If you try to cram your whole book in the blurb, chances are that you’re doing it wrong. You’re not trying to summarize the story or convey information, you’re trying to spark enough interest to convince the reader to try out your book. The hardest part is figuring out what to mention and what to keep out. Once you know that, the rest is fairly easy–fun, even.
There’s a video I watch whenever I have a blurb to write, because it helps me to channel the kind of voice I’m looking for. It features the top five voice-over artists in the United States riding a limo together, and it’s both hilarious and awesome. Watch!
For some reason, that video always kicks the blurb-writing part of my brain into high gear. But that makes sense–a good book blurb is a lot like a good movie trailer. Both of them spark a compelling interest in the reader/viewer, and neither of them gets bogged down in too many details (or worse, spoilers) about the book/movie.
At LTUE 2013, Howard Tayler gave a presentation in which he listed four key elements of a book blurb. They are:
- Inciting Incident
- Character Action
Whenever I write a book blurb, I try to keep those four things in mind. As an example, here’s the blurb to Star Wanderers: Outworlder (Part I):
HE WANDERS THE STARS IN SEARCH OF A HOME. INSTEAD, HE GOT A GIRL WITHOUT ONE.
When Jeremiah arrived at Megiddo Station, all he wanted was to make some trades and resupply his starship. He never thought he’d come away with a wife.
Before he knows it, he’s back on his ship, alone with his accidental bride. Since neither of them speak the same language, he has no way to tell her that there’s been a terrible mistake. And because of the deadly famine ravaging her home, there’s no going back. She’s entirely at his mercy, and that terrifies him more than anything.
Jeremiah isn’t ready to take responsibility for anyone. He’s a star wanderer, roaming the Outworld frontier in search of his fortune. Someday he’ll settle down, but for now, he just wants to drop the girl off at the next port and move on.
As he soon finds out though, she has other plans.
The inciting incident is the accidental marriage which unexpectedly brings the girl into Jeremiah’s life. That introduces the conflict–that there’s a girl on Jeremiah’s space ship, and he doesn’t know what to do about her. The character action is the second to last paragraph, which describes him as a star wanderer out to seek his fortune and not to settle down. And the last part–the zinger at the end about the girl having other plans–is the hook.
It’s not a formula though, and you can’t approach it as such. There’s an art to it that doesn’t always break down so easily. The good news, though, is that it’s a skill that can be learned–a writing skill. If you have the chops to write a novel, then with focused practice you can learn how to write a knockout book blurb, just like you can learn how to write a blog post, or a tweet, or any other piece of writing.
In my opinion, writing a book blurb is a critical skill for any indie writer. No one is going to be more excited about your book than you are, and since that’s such a critical part of writing a good blurb (it’s hard to get people excited about something that you yourself aren’t excited about), it isn’t something you can easily contract out. But since you’re already a writer, it’s definitely something that you can do.