The Power of the Book Blurb

Wednesday, January 31, 2018
I had the opportunity to catch up with a fellow writer two weeks ago. After the usual pleasantries, we got down to what we really wanted to discuss – our latest work in progress. He asked me about mine, first, and I did my best to explain the basics, giving him an overview of my main character, basic plot, setting, etc. I rambled on for a little while, painfully aware that I wasn’t describing it very well.

When I finally stopped talking, I turned the conversation to his novel. In three concise, descriptive sentences, he captured all the information I had tried – and failed – to convey.

“Wow,” I said (or something to that effect). “The book sounds great. And you described it really

He smiled and thanked me. “It’s my book blurb,” he explained. “Like the one on the back of a paperback, or in the front flap of a hardcover. I always write it before I start my books to keep myself on track. Plus, if I ever run into anyone of “publishing” importance, I’m ready for the pitch.”

How right he was.

It’s brilliant, really. I’m ashamed I never thought of it myself. A book blurb gives us the right amount of information to indicate the direction of our story, capture the main plot, and highlight the conflict our character(s) face. These are elements we should, in theory, know ahead of time. By memorizing the blurb, we can keep ourselves on track.

And he was spot-on about being ready for a pitch. Not that I consistently run into literary agents on a regular basis, (my neighborhood is surrounded by farm land) but should it ever happen and I’m not ready – well, perish the thought.

The other bonus to writing a book blurb early is that you’re practicing for a quality query letter pitch, since they are almost the same thing. Knowing all the hours I’ve spent agonizing over my query letters, starting early sounds like a good plan.

This might be difficult for some of you pantsers out there, but even those who like to “see where the writing takes them” should have some of the basics set before diving in.

Consider this a challenge. Write that book blurb. Memorize it. Then, share it with me on Twitter (@BethHararWrites) or in the comments below. I’d love to hear them.

Bethany Masone Harar is an author, teacher, and blogger, who does her best to turn reluctant readers into voracious, book-reading nerds. Check out her blog here and her website here.


Joanne said...

Great idea--thanks for sharing it.

Any chance you would share what your book blurb was, to provide a model of what we could strive for?

Angela Mackintosh said...

Yes! I struggle explaining my writing--even shorter pieces--and tend to ramble until the person regrets they even asked. ;) Thinking of a blurb to accompany a piece is a great idea. Three sentences is amazing for an entire novel.

KAlan said...

This is a struggle for me. My query letters suffer from a disease that makes me want to cover everything.

How about this for Too Much Information:

Jessica has become just psychic enough to get herself killed. After waking from a brief coma, she can see your most terrible secret as a word in your eyes--a kind of sinister "label." Now, Jessica and her best friend must expose the crime committed by a 'Misogynist' on the day he became a 'Murderer' ... if only he weren't her own psychiatrist!

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