This week I’ve been helping several ebook authors write their fiction’s blurbs. That is, their ebooks’ descriptions. I reminded them: “When you’re writing fiction, you’re writing about people. So your blurbs need to be about those people.”
As Henry James said:
“What is character but the determination of incident?”
“What is incident but the illustration of character?”
Your ebook’s description on the ebook retailers isn’t a bland retelling of your story. Nor is is an excuse to cram in as many keywords as you can. It’s a headline, in copywriting terms. A tease.
Here are the problems I found in these authors’ blurbs:
- Confusion, too many names. Not only character names, but restaurant names, company names… (We’ll look at why including too many names in a blurb is a problem in a moment);
- Telling what happened. We don’t care about events, unless they relate in some way to people we know. Use your blurb to make us care about your characters;
- As mentioned — keywords. Please don’t do that. Your blurb is your one chance to advertise your book. Amazon’s algorithm works fine, without keywords in your blurb and/ or (heaven forbid) in your headline;
- TL;DR (too long, didn’t read.) I used to be a fan of blurbs which were a few hundred words long, back when Amazon offered the blurb further down on the product page. Now the blurbs are right under the title. You only get a couple of paragraphs, then readers must click the Read More link. They won’t click unless you make those initial paragraphs count.
Let’s look at the problems, and how to fix them
1. Clarity is all: eliminate reader confusion
I advise my students to limit names in their blurb: at the very most — THREE names. Less is more.
You’ve got three tools to snag readers’ attention on your product page: your ebook’s title, your cover, and your blurb. But, and this is a BIG but… please don’t try to be too clever.
Clarity is everything. If you confuse a reader, he’ll click away, instantly. So keep your words simple, and easy to understand.
Here’s a simple blurb template.
Adjective CHARACTER NAME 1 wants/ has decided/ discovers STORY QUESTION.
Unfortunately, adjective CHARACTER NAME 2, wants ANTAGONIST’S GOAL.
This means (whatever the CONFLICT is.)
Another tip: complete the bare-bones blurb — using the template above — as soon as you’ve completed your first draft. If you haven’t thought about your story question, and what your characters want, this forces you to do so.
Writing blurbs is a vital skill for fiction authors, so this post is the first article in a blurb-writing workshop. Each post will have exercises so that you can practice your new skills.
Here are the exercises for this post.
Two fun exercises to help you to write blurbs which sell your fiction
- Write a sentence about each of your main characters — two or three sentences for each one. Start by summing up each character in an adjective, and a verb.
- Sum up your novel’s (or short story’s) story question in a sentence.
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