I’m generally a big fan of carving your own path and ditching conventions that don’t work for you, but when it comes to blurbs, that may make you lose your mind. Blurbs are so challenging for most writers there’s no point reinventing the wheel and doubling the work. Start with what is time tested and reliable, then adjust and adapt to make it suit your work.
A Formula That Works
Below is a general formula that will get you started with writing a well-structured blurb. Once you have the basic elements, change it up in whatever way best portrays your novel and compels a reader’s interest.
The first 1-2 sentences should state the purpose or central theme of the story or character journey. These few words should also briefly introduce the characters and initial situation. It is critical that the reader finds the characters interesting and likable, or they will not want to spend hours with them reading the book. Lastly, the first few lines should introduce the main problem or source of conflict.
The first paragraph should indicate the twist without giving too much away. Don’t spoil the ending in the blurb or give away important details that will take away from the story’s suspense when reading. Limit yourself to establishing the stakes of failure or of the relationship not working out.
The last paragraph should wrap up the story introduction and entice readers to find out more. The desire to know more relies heavily on a connection with the characters. If the reader doesn’t care about the character, he or she will not care about what happens to the character, either. End the blurb with a question or with a sentence that sets the overall mood of the story. Again, do NOT give away the ending!
A blurb is not a synopsis. It’s a tease meant to make the reader need to buy the book in order to know how the characters’ story will end.
Crafting a Sales Pitch
Convincing the reader they need to know the ending starts with developing a connect between the story and/or characters and the reader, but it’s also important to realize the blurb is a sales pitch and needs to be written like one.
The first sentence must grab the reader’s attention. Readers have very short attention spans and tend to skim when browsing online. You have minimal time to hook them and make them ask what will happen next?
Think of this first sentence (two at the most) as an elevator pitch. It should capture the most interesting part of the story. That may be the conflict, mystery, romance, etc. When writing this sentence, consider what element of the story will have the biggest draw for readers and focus on that aspect.
Whatever will most make readers want to check out your book, mention it in the first line. This first sentence often sits by itself on retailer sites before the bulk of the blurb, giving it a better chance to catch the reader’s attention.
The preview on most ebook retailer sites barely gives you more than a sentence or two before readers have to click “read more,” so make that first sentence count!