Blurb Theory: The Most Important Thing You'll Ever Write

What is a blurb?

  • The summary, and copywriting that goes on the back of the book, or next to the cover as it appears on website
  • It is the most important part of the book. It determines your sales.

    • It’s also part of writing that writers spend very little time on.

    • Good ad copy gets people to click. A good blurb is gets them to buy, or sign up for the email. It determines where in the priority list your book goes. If they read it all [very important for free books, a lot of them never get read.]

      • This is also what establishes your conversion rate. We’ll cover this more in ADS, but it determines how much profit you make from an AD.

  • There are several different theories on blurbs, and I’ll say that none is better than the others. Some work better for different audiences, and working through each theory you’ll develop the ability to effectively condense your story.

    • All blurbs should be split tested and group tested. As I said before it’s the most important part of the book for determining sales.

Blurb Principles

  • Look at blurbs by authors writing in your genre. Books you’ve read so you can see what it is they are pulling out.

    • I recommend staying focused on indie authors, as traditional publishers focus on selling books in bookstores, where people will commit to reading more of the book.

      • Indie's tend to focus mostly on digital selling and so have highly developed blurbs to grab attention.

  • Use the words that are iconic to your genre and mood.

    • Ancient, arcane

    • Top secret, infiltration, agent, operative

    • Mage, Necromancer, Elf, Elemental

    • Marine,

    • Faster Than Light travel, solar system, galaxy

      • Think Batman: is a detective story, a superhero story, but also a horror setting [at least the comics are]

Do Not Reveal the ending in your question.

  • A lot blurbs will present simple "yes" or "no" questions that reveal details of the plot, or even the ending of the book. Don't do this. It's a hold over from a much earlier time in story telling, before the art of pitching had been refined. Remember the old Rocky & Bullwinkle cartoons?  They would do this all the time, and you immediately knew how it would end.

    • Will she ever find love?

    • Will he save the company?

    • Can she save her job and her love life?

    • Will they get over their pride and prejudice?

  • I can answer all of these with one word, and give away the ending of the book at the same time. "Yes."
    • Try a question that presents something the reader would have to read the book to know. Trying using "How" instead of "Will."
      • "How will he stop the next Sky Fall Event?"

Avoid Cliches

  • “In a world...

  • “A race against time”

  • There are  many genre cliches that you'll need to identify as well.

Your characters are interesting

  • Bring them to life in the blurb.

    • “In 1938, a small crooked-legged racehorse received more press coverage than Hitler, Mussolini, Roosevelt or any other news figure.”

Hyperbole:

  • “stunning controversy that's spinning out of control” (Raymond Khoury, The Sign); “..never before seen revelations seem to be leading him to a single impossible and inconceivable truth” (Dan Brown, The Lost Symbol); “The mission is incredible. The consequences of failure are unimaginable. The ending is unthinkable.” (Matthew Reilly. Six Sacred Stones)[ from the Creative Penn]

    • "You have to over promise, because everyone else is." Daniel Kahneman, nobel prize winner in behavioral economics.

    • When everyone is using hyperbbole and you are not, you don't look like you're up to the standards.

Idea of setting.

  • Washington DC, Rotunda (Dan Brown, Lost Symbol); “from the Roman Coliseum to the icy peaks of Norway, from the ruins of medieval abbeys to the lost tombs of Celtic kings” (James Rollins, Doomsday Key) [The Creative Penn]

Call to Action

  • Something should tell them to buy

    • Use the words: Buy, Now, Because, and You if possible in the make up.

    • Another proposed ending is stakes summary.

Blurb Styling

Social Proof

  • Quotes by people or organization saying how great your book is. This often when hyperbole will come out.

    • "The best debut novel I've ever read." Susan Strayer on When the Sky Falls

    • "A game changer." David Wright on When the Sky Falls

    • "Bendoski wright like Hemingway, not a word wasted."

Draft it, Group Test it, & Split Test it

  • Many blurbs are first drafts with some copy editing done to clean up the grammar. Think about how many times you wrote your first chapter, how many drafts it had. You should do the same or more with a blurb.
  • Once you have a good draft in each theory then take it to your group, get some feedback. Most likely the final will be a combination of the different ones you bring.
  • Take your two best blurbs and split test them. If your book isn't out yet, split test them on your site.

Base blurb for Song of Locke: We will rework through each Theory

  • While many know us as Joe & J, I've called Travis by his middle name to make differentiation easier as you read each of our attempts at the different types of blurbs.

 

  • Locke loves stories—they fill him with a longing he can never quite describe—but he’s not the sort of kid who actually lives adventures himself. That is, until a bloodthirsty band of marauders passes near his home and Picke, a musical sylfe, dares him to follow. In hopes of fulfilling his longing, Locke accepts the dare. This leads him on a quest where he must face snarling wolves, wield a magic blade, and risk his life to rescue a Goddess—a girl he hardly knows but who he can’t stop thinking about. In the spirit of Legend of Zelda and Peter Pan, SONG OF LOCKE portrays a detailed fantasy world, somewhat grittier than its forebears and drenched in human emotion. The tale has swordfights, witty banter, crushes, and even some subtle philosophy smuggled in. It’s an epic for everyone who loves good stories—for anyone who has longed for something that seemed forever out of reach. SONG OF LOCKE is also an artisan book—written, illustrated, and typeset by the author, a masterpiece handcrafted from beginning to end. The first 50k-word draft was written for NaNoWriMo in 2013. In November 2014, a crowd of Kickstarter backers provided the initial funding for publication (see kickstarter.jwashburn.com). It was published 4 August 2015.

    • JOE’S BLURB: All terrible things come in the night, thieves to be unseen, assassins to go unnoticed, and that's how our world started to end, at night, while everyone slept, and everything was quiet.Locke was the first to wake, the first to see. At least the first living thing, because I never sleep, and am only breath.

    • TRAVIS' BLURB: All terrible things come at night—while monsters move unseen and murders go unheard. And that's when our world began to end—at night, while the forest quietly slept. I never expected it, but I sensed the evil as it crept in, as a vengeful sorcerer strangled all of Elfland by permanently taking away our light. And I never expected Locke to try to save us. After all, he was just a boy. And, like me, he was afraid of the darkness.

4 Sentence method.

  • Sentence 1: hook and premise:

    • wakes up, but daylight never comes. Water and light are both gone.

      • TRAVIS' BLURB: It was the end of daylight, and as expected the people blamed each other.

  • Sentence 2: Who is the protagonist:

    • Locke is a young elf. Picke is his sylfe. Think Peter Pan and Tink or Link and Navi

      • TRAVIS' BLURB: Except Locke, the boy who was afraid of bugs.

  • Sentence 3: Who the antagonist:

    • evil sorcerer, demon wolves, wraiths, undead. (emperor, darth vader, storm troopers)

      • TRAVIS' BLURB: In his search for truth he discover a curse cast an Elfe outcast, preparing an army for vengeance

  • Sentence 4: What is the conflict/what is at stake?

    • A wraith killed Locke’s mother on night, and he’s terrified of them and darkness. It also makes him particularly protective of the girl who’s involved in the story.

      • TRAVIS' BLURB:As darkness remains and water dries up the entire Elfe society prepares for war against the only enemy the can find, themselves.

      • JOE's BLURB: How will a boy afraid of spiders, afraid the dark, afraid of adventure find the courage to save his people?

      • JOE's BLURB: (CALL TO ACTION) Buy Song of Locke now, because Legend of Zelda didn’t have enough story.  

Cron on Blurbs: Context method

  • Part 1: Character and Context

    • JOE"s BLURB: All terrible things come at night—while monsters lurk unseen and murders perform dark deeds. That's when our world began to end—at night, while we slept. Not know that morning light would never come. Locke was the first to notice that the world was broken.

    • TRAVIS' BLURB: I never expected Locke to try to save us. After all, he was just a boy. And, like me, he was afraid of the darkness.

  • Part 2: Theme and mood

    • TRAVIS' BLURB: When adventure calls Locke is afraid of it. The same urging cost the tool needed to free his people, but he must go alone.

    • Question: How will Locke, the boy who is afraid of bugs, survive the Long Night of the Wolf and save his people from their own mistakes?

  • Part 3: Acts 1 & 2 (4 ACT model)

    • JOE'S BLURB: Locke simply wants an adventure for the day, but he stumbles into the key to saving his people. Now he carries both the weight and the curse of that responsibility. As the water dries up and people begin to die, Locke wonders how he'll even survive and then the secret fire needed to save his people goes out.

Author Society on Blurbs

  • A) Situation

    • TRAVIS' BLURB: One morning, in the forests of Elfland, the sun never rose.

      • “Elemental companion”

  • B) Problem

    • TRAVIS' BLURB: Locke awoke to find the rivers and cascades flowing across the landscape had vanished.

  • C) Twist

    • TRAVIS' BLURB: When Locke brings a mysterious scroll to the Seer, the Seer asks Locke to join him in finding a magic sword that can break the curse on the skies.

  • D) Mood

Authors Unlimited

  • Backstory

    • JOE'S BLURB: When Locke comes across the most fearsome army in the land, he find them slaughter by an unknown force. They had sought to end the cure of darkness, but now the duty falls to Locke.

    • TRAVIS' BLURB: When the skies of Elfland turn black with a curse, the most feared army in Elfland ventures out to break it. Locke, a boy who’s afraid of darkness, takes a dare and follows them only to find them lying in their own gore, massacred by a mysterious enemy.

  • Characters

    • JOE'S BLURB:Locke the boy who is afraid of bugs, afraid of wraiths, afraid of the dark stumbles on the scroll that could save his people. Now, he just needs to find the courage to do it.

    • TRAVIS' BLURB: Among the carnage, Locke, the boy afraid of bugs, afraid of wraiths, afraid of the dark, stumbles upon a scroll that could save his people. If he can find the courage to use it.

    • JOE'S BLURB: Picke, an elemental companion who is ever urging Locke to more Bold and Daring, but is too afraid to even touch a living thing.

  • Main conflict

    • JOE'S BLURB: When dark armies gather, and the last of the water in the world dries up Locke and Picke must overcome their fears and chase after something they hope is more than myth to save their people.

 

At the end of the best way to learn to write a great blurb is to just keep writing them. Remember once someone has clicked on your AD, they are already interested in your book. They've seen the cover, the number of reviews and total star rating, and the price. It is now your sale to lose with a bad blurb.