Beguiling Blurb – Part 1

We all love writing a synopsis, don’t we?

No?

You’re right. We all hate writing a synopsis.

But there’s something even worse: the blurb.

The blurb is the stuff on the back of the book which outlines the story in about ten lines.

The blurb is, along with the cover, what makes people buy or reject your work.

The blurb is a nightmare to get right.

How do you cram a 400 page novel into ten lines? I mean, it’s ridiculous, isn’t it?

Well, it might be, but it’s got to be done. And it’s got to be done well.

This morning I’ve been working on the blurb for my new novel, ‘Creatures of Dust’. So far I’ve had five cups of coffee, around ten drafts and achieved a fair to middling headache . . .

Below you can see my first few false starts and the draft (E) that actually made it to some kind of completed state.

But it’s not finished yet, oh no. Over the course of the next few weeks I’ll revisit it with a view to refining and hopefully improving it. Hopefully a lot. Why? Because, as I said above, it’s your primary sales pitch to a browsing reader. Why should they buy your book? What’s so beguiling about it that they’ll pass on the latest Lynda La Plante and pick yours?

That’s the keyword: beguile. As an author you’re in the business of beguiling your readers. And the beguiling begins with your blurb.

The Trespass - Blurb

You need to include some key information in your blurb. The bullets below give you an idea what I’m on about:

So, try to mention:

  • The protagonist
  • The problem (ie someone’s been murdered)
  • The antagonist(s), if appropriate
  • An open question or two (‘..but who would want to kill such a kind, considerate old man?’)
  • A suggestion that, unless the protagonist gets his act together, dire consequences will result
  • Something unusual about the subject
  • Include a strapline, if you have a good one. In ‘The Trespass’ I used a strapline. It raises two questions: who tried to kill him? and: did he get his daughter back?
  • The conflict of the story (if it hasn’t already been teased out by the above points)
  • Don’t put too much information in your blurb. Your potential buyer won’t bother to read it all. Hook ’em in the first few lines.

That’s only a rough guide, OK? But you get the idea. As it’s always clearer with an example, here’s the fruit of this morning’s labour:

A. No sooner has DCI Brendan Moran returned to work than he is plunged into a new murder investigation. …

B. A missing detective and two brutal murders appear to be connected to a local drug operation. Moran is certain there is a link and When DC Valerie Reed-Purvis’ body is discovered in Sulham Woods …

C. DCI Brendan Moran returns to work to …

D. Murder is DCI Brendan Moran’s business but when a senior officer demands …

E. A young detective working undercover on a drug operation goes missing and the body of a young man is found mutilated in a shop doorway. Is there a connection? DCI Brendan Moran’s suspicions are aroused when a senior officer insists on freezing Moran out and handling the investigation himself.

A second murder convinces Moran that a serial killer is on the loose but with only a few days to prove his point Moran can’t afford to waste time. Under threat from an ex-colleague and distracted by the attentions of a pretty physiotherapist, Moran must rely on his experience and gut instinct to track down the killer before the body count rises.

It’s not bad for starters. I’ll post the amendments plus some further tips in Part 2 – see you there!

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