If you are a fiction writer who hopes to get published, you need to know how to write a blurb. Your blurb sells your book to readers. When you approach an agent whom you hope will represent your manuscript, you put your blurb into your first email. Your agent repeats the same process with your blurb when he attempts to contact an editor. When your manuscript becomes a book, the blurb is printed on the book jacket or the back cover to attract readers. Think of your blurb as a letter of introduction to your story.
Of course, you want your blurb to make your book sound as good as possible. But you can use only 250 to 300 words because blurbs that drag on for too long tend to annoy the readers. They either include too much trivial information, which is confusing and boring, or they stupidly reveal important plot points. This cheats the reader out of experiencing the events through actually reading your book. To avoid plot spoilers, focus your blurb on the initial set-up of your story: a glimpse of your hero’s personality and his world, and a hint of his biggest problem, which will become the conflict that fuels your plot.
For example, take a movie that we have all seen, Star Wars Episode IV: A New Hope. Pretend that this is your book and you need to write a blurb. Your hero’s personality? Luke Skywalker is a restless teenager who yearns to prove himself through adventure. His world? He is stuck living at his uncle’s farm on a remote desert planet. His biggest problem? He acquires a valuable item (the ‘droid R2D2) that the evil Empire will do anything to reclaim.
Since you have a tight limit on the words allowed for your blurb, don’t waste them on vague comparisons such as, “It is the War and Peace of the asteroid belt,” or “It is Harry Potter meets 2001 A Space Odyssey.” Without revealing any plot spoilers, your blurb should give an accurate feel for your book. Obviously, this is to attract those readers who want your type of story. But it is also important to winnow out those readers who might dislike your story. Some people avoid science fiction and don’t want to read about teenage boys. Think of your blurb as a preventative measure to warn away readers who might otherwise have a bad reading experience and write disgruntled reviews on Amazon.com.
Readers especially hate to be misled as to your book’s genre and overall feel. The genre is the type of story such as western, horror, romance, fantasy, science fiction, erotica, or mystery. As for the overall feel, is your book dark, gritty, suspenseful, funny, sexy, tragic, understatedly realistic, or what? The genre doesn’t always determine the feel of the book. There are funny mysteries, suspenseful romances, and gritty erotica. The readers know what they want and they are depending upon your blurb to help them classify your story. You might be tempted to write a blurb that puffs up your book, falsely associates it with this season’s most popular genre, and makes it sound different than it is. This is known as bait-and-switch, and is always a bad idea.
You don’t have to put a formal label into your blurb, such as, “This science-fiction adventure story follows Luke Skywalker on his quest…” though you can if you wish. The emphasis (or absence) of certain story elements will clarify your genre. If your blurb mentions nothing about Luke searching for love, then his story is not a romance. Because he lives in a galactic world of interplanetary travel, his story is not a western. Your story’s feel is a more subtle concept to convey, but it comes across with the right word choices such as adventure, quest, swashbuckling, thrilling journey, and so forth. Contrast this to phrases like sexy escapades (for an erotica book), side-splitting antics (for a comedy), or in-your-face terror (for a suspense novel).
In summary, your blurb should avoid major plot spoilers and remain succinct while conveying a tantalizing glimpse of your hero, his world, and his big problem. You must also clarify your story’s genre and overall feel. If you are lucky enough to have specialized knowledge of something interesting that sets your story apart from everything else on the fiction landscape, definitely work it into your blurb! Make sure you mention that your hero is a combat veteran from the Iraq war, or a Lakota Sioux medicine man, or a choreographer for a world-renowned ballet troupe. A well-written blurb puts your book into the hands of the readers who will love it most.
What Is a Fiction Blurb?
Different Sample Blurbs for Star Wars