Book Blurbs: 8 Tips to Get Them Right
Book design is known to make or break book sales, so it’s no wonder that authors and publishers take a lot of time to plan and design a cover that stands out, from illustration to typeface.
However, the text on the back cover of a book, known as the book blurb, is the one that convinces the reader the book is worth reading. You'll get the right text on the back of a book through practice and knowing a thing or two about marketing. A book blurb is, after all, a powerful sales tool.
What Is a Blurb?
A book blurb is a description on the back of a book, written to convince the reader to buy and read it. It works as a marketing tactic, so it’s similar to an elevator pitch rather than a summary.
A book blurb gives insights into the story and hints at possible intrigues but does not give spoilers. At the same time, the book blurb is distinctly different from a review.
Now that you know the blurb’s meaning, let’s see what else you can add to your book’s back cover.
What Other Elements Are Featured on the Book's Back Cover?
We went over the book blurb's definition, but there are other elements you can add to your back cover.
1. Author information
This section should include relevant information about the author, referencing previous works and mentioning awards. Authors may be tempted to add more details, but the author bio that lives on the back cover with the book blurb is not a resume. Also, you want to make sure your book’s back cover has enough white space so that it’s easy to read.
2. A catchphrase
This is especially significant for nonfiction writers, who may use a catchline to introduce readers to the book's content.
Words of praise are significant for readers as they attest to the book's merits, or the author's.
Before Writing Your Book Blurb
Book cover descriptions may be short, but they require research and practice. So, before putting together a book blurb:
Know your book’s genre
To sell your book effectively, you have to very clearly know your book’s genre. The content and style of the book descriptions (or blurbs for short) vary according to your book's genre. This will help you pick a cover that’s to market, write a book description that meets reader expectations, and make sure you’re hitting the right tropes for the genre.
All genres have distinctive features; you need to understand what is most suitable for your book.
Respond to your readers’ needs
Whenever readers look for books of a particular genre, there are expectations that an author must meet
Once you have achieved this, the next step is to ensure readers easily know how your book fulfills these genre expectations, starting with the cover. Sometimes, it’s thought that this is easier to accomplish when it comes to nonfiction, but that’s not always the case. The main thing is to put your marketing hat on and actively search for ways to understand and know who your readers are before, during, and after you write your book.
Be prepared to write your blurb multiple times
Practice makes perfect. Your blurb may not be in its best shape after the first attempt, but perseverance is key. Consider testing different versions of your blurb with a circle of trusted friends, a few readers, publishers, and editors (or even an agent, if you have one and you’re aiming to place your book with a traditional publisher.) Gain as much insight as possible before placing the text on your book cover.
8 Tips to Get Your Book Blurb Right
Several elements are known to help authors achieve success when it comes to writing the perfect blurb.
1. Start with a hook
Start your blurb with a hook to get your reader's attention. It is helpful to introduce one of the main characters and offer insight into the book's conflict.
2. Intrigue, do not summarize
Blurbs are not summaries; they intrigue the reader’s curiosity about what you’ve written. They are a tool to sell the book.
A book blurb becomes your book's first calling card. Keep it short and simple, and be focused on engaging your readers. Therefore, a blurb should highlight the main reasons someone should buy the book and give enough information to know how it matches their literary interest.
Consider the same structure as if you'd write an actual story:
- Start in the exposition by introducing your setting and characters. This may take a whole chapter in your novel, but it should take a sentence or two on the cover.
- Then, the plot thickens. If you are writing fiction, mention the conflict just to entice curiosity. If you are writing nonfiction, this is the moment where you present the obstacles you will learn how to overcome by the end of the book.
3. Stick to 100-150 words
As an author who has poured their soul into writing a book, you may find it challenging to adhere to this word limit. But the truth is readers need something short and catchy when skimming blurbs. Therefore it is better to make sure you succeed in introducing some of your genre's buzzwords and a hint into the conflict before your words are up.
4. Write in the third person
You should write blurbs in the third person. This has historically been an industry-standard, and despite some discussions about whether this is still valid for nonfiction such as autobiographies or travel memoirs, but in general, people expect blurbs to be written in the third person across genres.
5. Avoid cliches
You want your blurb to be timeless, so you should refrain from using trending idioms or phrases that will become obsolete in a few months.
6. Involve your reader's emotions
It has been proven that purchasing behavior is driven by emotions, which account for almost 95% of our decisions. This means you should appeal to the reader's needs and emotions.
Some readers want to lose themselves in a fictional world. Is it an adventure they are striving to find? Then, give them suspense and mystery. Is it romance that they miss? Give them love and passion, intrigues, and–if you’re writing a romance–don’t forget that happily-ever-after.
7. Ask other authors to write your blurb
Skye Warren, a bestselling author who has written more than 50 romance novels, referred to this during NINC 2022, speaking of the Anatomy of a Bestselling Book. Marketing and advertising start with your book cover, which means more than just a great design. Book endorsements written by other authors will help readers decide faster to buy your book.
You should look for authors you feel you have a special connection to, but in practical terms, authors should look for those whose writing is similar in theme or approach.
As an author, you may personally know the writer you are asking to write a endorsement for your book. This situation is ideal, as it makes promoting your book more natural.
But if you don’t know the author personally, here’s what you can do:
- Find the author's contact details and email them with a considerable degree of formality.
- Include their full name, and mention your upcoming book and yourself. Do not assume they know you.
- Attach the PDF with your manuscript and mention that it’s an ARC.
- We all appreciate a generous deadline; authors are no different. Give them enough time to write the endorsement and mention the date you need it.
- If you do not know the author well, make it possible for them to refuse and respect their decision.
- Mention why you chose them to write an endorsement. It may be their style or community, or they may be your favorite writers. Just clarify these reasons, as their decision to write a few sentences for you may be motivated by reading your lines.
- Tell them you’ll send them a copy of your published book as a gift for helping you.
8. Include the main selling points of the book
What makes your book different from the others? It could be its style, perspective, or that one unique character everyone will love. You have this powerful detail to leverage in your book blurb, so make sure you’re using it.
7 Book Blurb Examples
Let's see examples of book blurbs of award-winning authors or bestselling books.
1. Victory City: A Novel, by Salman Rushdie, Random House
A tale of magic, spanned over centuries, with destinies woven together in an unimaginable tapestry, sowed by gifts of gods and the hubris of (wo)men. It is a genuine Salman Rushdie fiction, revisiting a world of patriarchy and analyzing the thin threads that entwine an entire culture.
2. The Seven Moons of Maali Almeida, by Shehan Karunatilaka, W.W. Norton & Company | 2022 Man Booker Prize
This one’s a brief text but full of suspense and conflict, with an unfolding mystery to be solved throughout the book and an afterlife quest to be fulfilled.
3. For the Wolf [The Wilderwood, Vol. 1], by Hannah Witten, Orbit
A romantic fantasy filled with torment—it is the destiny of the second daughter, the only one to be born in centuries, to embrace sacrifice and support the plea of her people. But she also has a personal quest; with this, we are lured into a world of magic that we want to know more about.
4. The Maid; A Novel, by Nita Prose, Ballentine Books
Molly's life is a web of mysteries and intricacies that her grandmother would be able to clarify for a limited time. But once she dies, our protagonist is left defenseless against possible dangers, including being accused of the murder of one of the tenants from the hotel Molly is responsible for cleaning.
5. Invisible Child: Poverty, Survival & Hope in an American City, by Andrea Elliott (Random House) | 2022 Pulitzer Prize
A coming-of-age story where we are introduced to the main protagonist—Dasani, a young girl the author has followed closely for eight years. The readers are presented with the hardships she faced in guiding her siblings through a world of dangers while being presented with her family history and the difficulties of her ancestors.
6. Atomic Habits: An Easy & Proven Way to Build Good Habits & Break Bad Ones, James Clear, Avery
C. Children’s Literature
7. Hot Dog, by Doug Salati, Knopf Books for Young Readers | Caldecott Medal 2023
With a standard of under 100 words per blurb regarding children's books, this book description below is as light as a summer breeze.
[Insert your text here]
As an author, you want your readers to consider your book memorable. And this will mostly be because of your talent to imagine worlds readers want to discover. Still, it is also because of your dedication to understanding your genre, your readers' needs, or your topic that a random discovery becomes a connection.
These readers' discoveries are not something that authors can fully control, but a captivating book cover with the right design and fonts will be very effective in getting your readers to notice your book. However, the blurb is the one that leaves them wanting to know more. Take time to write yours, and let us further assist you in your self-publishing journey.