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Indie Publishing: The Dreaded Blurb

One of the most critical and difficult aspects of selling our books is an enticing blurb or description. This seemingly small piece of text plays a massive role in grabbing readers' attention and convincing them to explore your book, which ultimately drives sales.

Self-Publishing: The Dreaded Blurb/Description

I polled readers about the importance of a great description for deciding whether to read a book or pass. The four most important factors were recommendations, title, description, and cover. So, yeah, pretty important. The blurb acts as your first meaty handshake with possible readers. Your well-written greeting creates a connection with your target audience. The description will also improve your book’s discoverability in searches, so it can be found more easily.

This post should help simplify what seems harder than it should be. So, let’s get going.


TIMELINE

Start your blurb while you're still in the editing or during the beta reading phase of your self-publishing timeline. Any sooner and you might change your manuscript enough so the blurb no longer makes sense. Any later, and you won't have time to hone it to perfection through revision.



THE BIGGIES

There are some biggies that you need to work on in order to keep potential readers interested. If you hone the following over time, you'll be set.

Audience: Understand who your ideal readers are and tailor your blurb to resonate with them. Think about your book from their point of view. Ask a question they might ask, like, what subgenre it is.

The Hook: At the beginning, start with a hook that grabs your reader’s attention.

  • Introduce the main character.

  • Set up the conflict.

  • Don’t include spoilers past the first few chapters.


Stakes: Make readers care by showcasing what's at stake for the characters or the world within your book.

Vivid: Paint a rich picture of the beginning. Use descriptive language that engages the senses.

Create Suspense: Leave questions unanswered to pique curiosity and drive readers to want more.

Avoiding Clichés: Staying original in a genre filled with tropes and clichés can be difficult.

Two Quotes: Use quotes from two of your beta reader's reviews. They provide authenticity and emotional connections. It doesn't have to be from someone famous. Resonating with your target audience is far more important.



EXAMPLE

Let's examine a successful blurb for Craig Alanson’s sci-fi masterpiece, Expeditionary Force: Columbus Day.


"We were fighting on the wrong side of a war we couldn't win. And that was the good news.


The Ruhar hit us on Columbus Day. There we were, innocently drifting along the cosmos on our little blue marble, like the native Americans in 1492. Over the horizon come ships of a technologically advanced, aggressive culture, and BAM! There go the good old days when humans only got killed by each other. So, Columbus Day. It fits.


When the morning sky twinkled again, this time with Kristang starships jumping in to hammer the Ruhar, we thought we were saved. The UN Expeditionary Force hitched a ride on Kristang ships to fight the Ruhar, wherever our new allies thought we could be useful. So, I went from fighting with the US Army in Nigeria, to fighting in space. It was lies, all of it. We shouldn't even be fighting the Ruhar, they aren't our enemy. Our allies are."


👍 The opening hook instantly grabs the reader's attention by presenting the idea of being on the wrong side of an unwinnable war. The urgency is great.

👍 Comparing the arrival of the Ruhar to Columbus Day in 1492 is a clever and thought-provoking analogy with disparity in technology, strategy, and warfare.

👍 The description clearly depicts the conflict between the Ruhar and the Kristang which hugely influences humanity. Not just good guy v bad guy.

😐 While the description provides a bit of the casual first-person voice, it lacks character depth.

👎 There is a spoiler about fighting on the wrong side of battle.

👎 The middle part of the description, where it describes the UN Expeditionary Force's involvement, may feel a bit disjointed and could benefit from smoother transitions to maintain reader engagement.



LENGTH

The ideal length for a blurb varies, but it typically falls between 150 to 250 words. This concise yet engaging format ensures that you provide enough information to intrigue readers without overwhelming them with details. Online, the later text will be cut off with a “read more…” button/link, so they’ll only read it if they’re hooked.



TEMPLATE

Just get your blurb started now with a fill-in-the-blanks example. You can change it later.

Opening Hook: In a world [Setting or Situation], [Protagonist's Name] finds themselves [Initial Dilemma or Challenge]. Little do they know that their life is about to take a turn they never expected.

Character Introduction: Meet [Protagonist's Name], a [Brief Description of the Protagonist, e.g., young detective, single mother, struggling artist] who is [Briefly Describe the Protagonist's Current State, e.g., on the brink of giving up, searching for answers, haunted by the past].

Conflict and Stakes:

When [Inciting Incident Occurs], [Protagonist's Name] is thrust into a world of [Conflict or Challenge] that threatens [Personal Stakes, e.g., their family's safety, their own sanity, the fate of humanity].

Build Suspense: As [Protagonist's Name] races against [Antagonist or Obstacle], they must [Main Goal or Quest] to [Ultimate Goal or Resolution]. But time is running out, and the odds are stacked against them.

Tease: In this [Genre, e.g., gripping thriller, heartwarming romance, epic fantasy], [Author's Name] weaves a tale of [Central Theme or Motif], where [Highlight Key Themes or Elements, e.g., love conquers all, courage in the face of adversity, the power of redemption].

Closing Hook: Prepare to be [Emotion or Reaction, e.g., thrilled, moved, captivated] as you embark on a journey [Briefly Describe the Journey, e.g., through the darkest alleys of the human soul, into a realm of magic and wonder, into the heart of a forbidden love].

Short Recomendations: Cut and paste a sentence from two of your beta readers or critique group with permission. “[Raving quote or descriptive tidbit goes here.] -[First Initial & Last Name or First Name & Last Initial]” like this “This book took me on a rollercoaster of emotions; I couldn't put it down until the very last page. - J. Doe.”



SOME TIPS

A/B Testing: Write two blurbs and ask target readers which resonate most with them. Asking Twitter, Facebook, Threads, or Reddit to judge can get you tips and attract more eyeballs to your work.

Editing: Don’t be the guy with typos in his blurb. It doesn’t bode well for what’s inside.

Keywords: Incorporate relevant keywords into your blurb to improve its discoverability on online platforms. Mention the genre, the main character’s name, and your name.

Short Paragraphs: When readers are in browsing mode, their eyes often glaze over and their attention spans shorten. That's why shorter, punchier paragraphs help.

Short Sentences: Limit each sentence to one comma. Long sentences mentally strain readers at the moment they're trying to make a decision, which you can't afford.

Exchange Blurbs: have an author friend write your blurb and you write theirs. It’s easier to positively write about someone else’s book baby than your own. You can also directly add your quote.

Limit Names: There isn't enough time for readers to learn names and keep a bunch of characters straight.



FAQ

Q. How long should my blurb be?

A. Aim for 150 to 250 words, but focus on the quality of content rather than the exact word count


Q. Should I include spoilers in my blurb?

A. No, avoid spoilers. Your blurb should tease, not reveal the entire plot.


Q. Can I update my blurb after publication?

A. Yes, you can update your blurb post-publication on most platforms.


Q. Should I mention my book's genre in the blurb?

A. Yes, it's essential to quickly convey the basics of what potential readers need to know.


Q. Can I use the word "flerken" in my blurb if it's a cozy historical fiction romance?

A. You can, but I’m guessing most of your readers don’t know or remember what a flerken is.


Q. How do I create a sense of urgency in my blurb?

A. Highlight time-sensitive elements from your story, such as impending danger or a looming deadline.


Q. Can I use humor in my blurb?

A. Yes, if humor fits your book's tone and genre, it can make your blurb more engaging.


Q. Is it necessary to mention character names in the blurb?

A. Not always, but introducing the protagonist can help readers connect with the story.


Q. How can I make my blurb more emotional?

Focus on the emotional journey of your characters and the stakes involved in the story.


Q. What should I avoid in my blurb?

A. Avoid vague language, excessive backstory, and giving away major plot twists.


Q. Can I write my blurb in emojis?

🤪😬 Only if you want to send potential readers 🏃 because they’re ❓.


Q. Can I include rhetorical questions in my blurb?

A. Yes, one well-placed rhetorical question can engage readers and encourage them to think about your story.


 

As always, I appreciate your support of indie authors. In the name of putting myself out there, here are a few of my works.



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