By Lucy Felthouse
Following on from my little rant last month about the dreaded sucknopsis, I thought I'd better do something more useful this time. And since, as you probably gathered if you read the previous post, synopses (??) are not my strong point, my natural progression was onto blurbs. Something I can do.
Yes, I am one of these rare writer-types that actually likes writing blurbs. Crazy, eh? I've even had folk pay me to write or re-write blurbs for them. I suspect my blurb writing skills come from the marketing side of my brain (my creative and marketing sides seem to live in a lovely harmony up in the old grey matter). When I graduated, I ended up in a PR & Marketing role and was immediately pointed in the direction of press releases, sales sheets and advertising copy, and told to "go create!"
Okay, those weren't the exact words they used, but the bottom line is I was thrown in at the deep end. Fortunately, I discovered I did have an aptitude for writing copy that would entice consumers and retailers to buy products, and I think this is something I've continued to improve on over time. So now, when it comes to writing a blurb, I find it pretty easy. It does require a certain amount of distancing yourself from your work, though. It's simple to think to yourself, oh well, this book is about X, Y and Z, if I just write that, people will get it, and buy the book.
But the thing to remember is that blurbs are meant to entice, to tempt, to intrigue. Not just tell people what the book is about (which is the difference between a synopsis and a blurb). You want to hint what the book is about (while giving enough information so that they know what the genre is, and if it's their kind of read), but without giving away any major plot points or twists. Try and pick out the most important themes of your book and find a way to include them in the blurb. If possible, ask a question, as many people's brains will be wired to want to know the answer to that question. And, of course, the way for them to get the answer... buy and read the book!
This may seem obvious, too, but mention your characters - or the main ones, anyway. Blurbs are fairly short and to the point, so you can't give any great detail, but if you can present potential readers with enough information about your characters and your plot to let them know whether it sounds like a book they'd be interested in, with characters they'd like to read about, then you're onto a winner.
Here's one of my own blurbs as an example:
Their love is forbidden by rules, religion and risk. Yet still they can’t resist. [a lead in. Not necessary, but the publication the story was originally written for wanted a short, enticing strap line. This is what I came up with, and I liked it so much I kept it. It immediately tells you that it's a love story, then goes on to indicate forbidden love, and risk. But then it teases - they can't resist. So you know pretty much straight away that this is no straightforward love affair, and not a simple story.]
Captain Hugh Wilkes is on his last tour of duty in Afghanistan. [Now you know the name of the lead character, and that he's military. You also have the setting of the story, not always necessary, but when it's as interesting as a war zone, it's probably worth a mention!] The British Army is withdrawing, and Wilkes expects his posting to be event-free [Now you know the character is a Brit, and that he's expecting no drama on his tour.]. That is, until he meets his Afghan interpreter, Rustam Balkhi, who awakens desires in Wilkes that he’d almost forgotten about, and that won’t be ignored. [Now you know that the potential love interest is an Afghan national, which goes some way to explain the part about their love being forbidden by rules, religion and risk. The fact that the story is M/M is now fairly obvious from the names, but the cover has two men on it - so there should be no confusion there!]
And there you have it - hopefully my notes in brackets all made sense, and pulled out what I believe are important points for a blurb. Basically, keep it short and to the point, don't give too much away, distance yourself from the story enough that you can see what will appeal to potential readers, and remember, you're selling your story to someone, making them think "Ooh! That sounds interesting. Click."
If you can, get someone you know and trust to be honest with you to read the blurb. Even better if they haven't read the story already - if they then want to read the story based on your blurb, then you know you've done a good job.
As with most things, writing blurbs takes practice. All publishers are different - some will literally take what you've written and use it, others will work with you to improve it, and others still will write something themselves. But the person that knows your story the best is you, so you've got the knowledge, the background, to know what will excite readers and pull them in. So it's definitely worth spending time on your blurb, especially if it'll be used word for word. You only have a short amount of time to make them want to click that buy button, so don't waste the opportunity!
I hope you find this useful. Of course, things like this vary from person to person, but you may find this works for you.
Monday, March 23, 2015
By Lucy Felthouse