Writing a Blurb

We’re told the most important selling tools for a book are the cover and the back blurb. With traditional publishers, the author usually doesn’t have control over either. Oh, we’re asked for suggestions, but the editor, or art department, or marketing department is usually the one who makes the final decisions. (Unless you’re a best selling author.) With more and more writers turning to self-publishing, coming up with a good cover and blurb has become important. Even if you’re only going to create an e-book, Amazon, Smashwords, D2D, etc. want a short teaser that will entice the viewer to hit that buy button.

What is a blurb?

It’s not a synopsis. It’s the 150 -200 words you have to convince the reader to buy your book. You’re not telling the whole story, and you certainly don’t want to tell how it ends.

What does it include?

The first two or three sentences should introduce the main character and give some information about this person, such as occupation, habits, and/or desires. If possible indicate the time period and the genre (mystery, romance, scifi, etc). Use short sentences and words associated with the genre. Then present the conflict. What has suddenly changed? Why will this change affect the main character? And finally, end with an intriguing question or statement, such as:

  • “Jesse Stone must pull away the veil of the past to reveal how all the murders are connected.”—Robert B Parker’s The Devil Wins by Reed Farrel Coleman
  • …maybe a little chaos is just what she needs to get her future, and her dreams of love, back in order.” —Crazy Little Thing by Tracy Brogan
  • “As the dream she once held dear becomes a nightmare from which she may never awake, Anna must turn to unexpected allies in a race for her very survival.”—A Bitter Veil by Libby Fischer Hellmann

Fiction blurbs are usually written as paragraphs; anywhere from one to three paragraphs.

Non-Fiction blurbs are often presented as a short paragraph or two along with a bullet list. The list may include:

  • What the problem is
  • Why it is a problem
  • Scientific or statistical information
  • What this book will provide to help solve the problem
  • The author’s conclusion

What makes a bad blurb?

  • Spelling errors, poor punctuation, and/or poor grammar
  • Too much information, especially if it takes away the suspense
  • Using clichés or unfamiliar words
  • No continuity in the statements
  • Comparing the book to other successful books or self-bragging (not as similar to, but as better than)

Finally: Read the back cover blurbs on books published in same genre as yours. Mimic the style. Don’t rush through this process. Write what you think will work, get the opinions of others, and then rewrite until it’s the best you can create.

Check out these sites for more ideas:


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14 Responses to Writing a Blurb

  1. Richard Blake says:

    Just what I needed this morning. Thank You.

  2. Useful suggestions. Whether we self-publish or have a publisher, we’re always asked to offer a book blurb.

  3. Nancy Gideon says:

    Nice encapsulation, Maris!

  4. My pet hate is stupid rhetorical questions. “Will Kate and Will get together?” Duh, yes, because it’s a romance. If they don’t, I’m not reading it. “Can Kate and Will overcome their problems and find true love, or will they spend their lives on opposite sides of the world?” Duh yes and duh, no. “Will Inspector Poirot discover the murderer?” Um, yes he will. I already know that, because it’s the promise the genre makes.

  5. Melissa Keir says:

    Wonderful post! Blurbs are so important! They can make or break a book!

  6. paula says:

    Thanks, Maris, for including information about writing non-fiction blurbs as well. I realize that most of your readership is fiction authors. But there is definitely a difference; this post will go in a special file for future reference.

  7. Diane Burton says:

    I’m a typical reader (I think). If the cover catches my eye, I read the back cover blurb. If I’m still undecided, I’ll read the first page or so. Blurbs are hard to write. I try to think of an elevator pitch–25 words or less that I could tell someone in an elevator. Then I’ll add a little more. I’m not fond of really long blurbs.