What makes a good blurb? A reader’s perspective

I can hear y’all thinking: what does a reviewer know about writing a book blurb? As a reviewer, not much. As someone who’s studied publishing, a bit. As a long time reader, I see a lot of blurbs. Some are short, some are long, some are a short story in itself, some just give the whole story away, some consist mostly of warnings and some seem to be written for a whole different book.

This is a post about a reader/reviewer’s perspective on book blurbs.

I’ve heard many an author complain about how the blurb is the hardest part to write for a book. The way I see it is this: a book blurb is a lot like a sales pitch. Along with the cover it’s what draws readers in if you are not an established author with a loyal reader base who have you on auto-buy.

A blurb needs to be enticing. Not too long and definitely not give the story away. I recently read a book that was wicked awesome good. Except for the part where the author (if the author wrote the blurb) gave the biggest plot twist away in the blurb. As a reader, you then live toward that plot twist and might not pay as much attention to the rest of the story.

So, what does make a good blurb from a reader/reviewer’s perspective?

  • That first sentence is the most important one. Not every book browser reads past that first sentence. Make it a good one. One that draws a potential reader in.

For example Wake Up Call by J.L. Merrow:

“South London mechanic Devan Thompson has gone to Porthkennack to track down someone he’s been waiting all his life to know.”

Or Hell and Highwater by Charlie Cochet:

“When homicide detective Dexter J. Daley’s testimony helps send his partner away for murder, the consequences—and the media frenzy—aren’t far behind.”

  • When I did a bit of research on the topic, a lot of articles talk about a formula. A good blurb should consist of situation, problem, the hint of a twist and a sentence with the hint of the mood of the story. When you think about it, it makes sense. You want to tell the readers about the story, but you don’t want to give the story away. You want to give the reader some information on the subject to see if they would like it, but not write an expose.
  • Use the last sentence of the blurb as a cliff-hanger to draw the reader in. Get them wondering about the story. Get their imagination up. Will the murder be solved? Will everything turn out alright?

For example Conquest by S.J. Frost. The last sentence of the blurb is:

“With success pushing down on them, Jesse must decide between his life of music, or his life with Evan.”

 Or Lady Midnight by Cassandra Clare:

“Who really killed her parents—and can she bear to know the truth?”

 

  • Name the main character(s) of the book and their profession. This seems like a no-brainer, but I’ve seen blurbs where it seems the story is about one character, but when you read it the main character is someone entirely different.
  • As a last one, a lot of articles tell about using imaginative language such as “in the dark world of” or words as “ancient”, “hidden”, “bloody attack” that will speak to the reader’s imagination. I think this is a good one…. BUT don’t overdo it or it will make the blurb sound like a cheesy action adventure flick.

A blurb holds a lot of information for a reader and has the potential to turn a reader away. Again, it’s an important sales pitch. They say don’t judge a book by its cover, but I often judge a book by its blurb. Sometimes I just know by how flimsy a blurb is written that the book is just not going to be for me. And yes, I have been wrong too. Although I have been right more often than not. The blurb tells a lot about an author’s quality and ability in writing and is almost just as important as the story itself.

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