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A Novelist's Guide to Writing a Book Blurb

A blurb can convince readers to consider your work or move to the next book. A good blurb makes readers take a chance on your book. Crafting an impressive book blurb has specific rules that guarantee its success. This article discusses four guidelines to apply in writing a powerful blurb. 

What is a blurb?
A blurb is a brief description of a book written for promotional purposes. Traditionally, it would appear on the inside back cover of a hardback. But as paperback publishing grew, readers started seeing the blurb appearing on the back cover. It's usually 150-200 words long. Authors sell more books online than in physical stores in this modern publishing age. So, you are more likely to see blurbs on the product page of Amazon or any other digital retailer. Sometimes, people refer to it as the book description. 

Four rules to writing a book blurb 
The opening of your blurb has to be incredibly precise and dynamic. Your blurb mustn't cover every aspect of your work, just enough to make people want to read your book. It also has to be 150-200 words long. So, to keep it short and effective, here are four rules to apply: 

1. Introduce your main characters
At its root, novels are a medium for telling stories, which means your blurb has to center on your characters. Most times, readers check out the synopsis to see if there's something about your main characters that's worth their time. You don't need to narrate the main character's entire backstory, just enough for readers to understand why your main character gets into the story’s primary conflict.

2. Set the stage for your primary conflict
The primary conflict propels your story. It’s the main character fighting against a dangerous witch and her minions in a fantasy or a police officer trying to apprehend the serial killer in a mystery. Without a real-world conflict, you don't have a story that readers would want to read. Don't talk about interior, self-discovery journeys. Readers may love the internal conflict in your story after reading it, but putting that in your blurb is a terrible idea. 

3. Establish the stakes
Without consequences, a conflict has no drama. A blurb about an FBI agent trying to rescue a politician in less than 48 hours is more impactful when you add that there might be a deadly civil war if he fails. Consider this line from the blurb used for Jojo Moyes' Me Before You: "When she learns that Will has shocking plans of his own, she sets out to show him that life is still worth living." This single sentence shows the story's external conflict and lets us know that this is a matter of life and death. So, to show your story’s full potential in your blurb, the reader must see the dire consequences of failure for your characters.

4. Show the reader why your book is for them
Most readers know what kind of book they want to read next. So, a well-crafted blurb won't get them to read something they don't want to read. Instead, it will help them see that your book is precisely what they want to read next. Your blurb should subtly highlight how your book is familiar by containing elements readers love to read. The rule is to suggest similarities between related books without sounding derivative. But don't forget to mention what makes your book unique.

Written by Readers’ Favorite Reviewer Frank Stephen