How to Write a Novel Blurb

I’ve been playing around trying to write a blurb for my novel. The blurb is that important paragraph or two which appears on the book’s back cover and may also form part of the Amazon product description. It has to hook, entice and leave readers with absolutely no option but to buy the book!

Searching the internet for help brings up lots of tips and information.

  • The website Blurb concludes that it should introduce the main character, create intrigue and not give away the whole story.
  • SilverWood Books adds some more pointers. Write in the present tense, use evocative, emotive words and have a ‘shout line’ that encapsulates the novel and could act as a subtitle for the blurb.
  • Digital Book World says the blurb should be short and dramatic.
  • Alison Baverstock on the Writers and Artists website says, “Stand back and hover above; try to create mood, feeling and value for what you have written, rather than describing it in endless detail.”

I’ve come up with three possible blurbs but I’m too close to the book to judge them objectively. So, I’d be most grateful for any comments and/or votes in the poll below.

Here are the blurbs, subtitled with their ‘shout line’:

Nature or nurture?
Ignatius is the product of a domineering mother. Ian hardly knew his father. Sandra is a single mum living on the poverty line. They all want a better life and someone to share it with.
But now one of them has done something very bad for the second time…
Bedsit Three is a tale of mystery and romance. It won the inaugural Ian Govan Award and was shortlisted for both the Silverwood-Kobo-Berforts Open Day Competition and the Writing Magazine/McCrit Competition.

Single incidents shape our lives.
A stupid mistake ended Ian’s marriage. Now he’s trying to put it right.
Sandra got pregnant as a teenager. Now she’s fighting to make a good life for her daughter.
Maxine made an important decision behind her boyfriend’s back. His reaction devastates all their lives…
Bedsit Three is a tale of mystery and romance. It won the inaugural Ian Govan Award and was shortlisted for both the Silverwood-Kobo-Berforts Open Day Competition and the Writing Magazine/McCrit Competition.

Opposites attract.
Divorced Ian is middleclass and educated. Single mum Sandra has no qualifications and lives on the breadline. Both will fight for the very best for their offspring. Both would like someone special back in their lives.
But the ex-tenant of bedsit three has a secret waiting to engulf all three of them…
Bedsit Three is a tale of mystery and romance. It won the inaugural Ian Govan Award and was shortlisted for both the Silverwood-Kobo-Berforts Open Day Competition and the Writing Magazine/McCrit Competition.

 

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  1. #1 by Debbie W on July 9, 2015 - 7:57 am

    Voted! I’m interested to see what the outcome is. Won’t say why I chose the one I did and not the other two until voting is closed.

    • #2 by Sally Jenkins on July 9, 2015 - 8:22 am

      Thanks, Debbie. I’m intrigued to know your reasoning now!

  2. #3 by Ann on July 9, 2015 - 9:42 am

    I liked Opposite Attract.

  3. #5 by Sharon boothroyd on July 9, 2015 - 10:54 am

    Voted too. All are beautifully written, by the way. Thanks for advice re: blurbs. It was very Interesting reading!

  4. #7 by susanjanejones on July 9, 2015 - 11:04 am

    Hi, Sally, the last one is my favourite, as I like the wording. It speaks nearest to my voice so I’d want to read the story. Not saying I didn’t like the others, just that it’s the one that drew me in most. Great news on all those achievements with your novel. Shouldn’t be long until it’s snapped up. Good luck with it.

    • #8 by Sally Jenkins on July 9, 2015 - 12:46 pm

      Thanks for your opinion, Susan and the good wishes!

  5. #9 by Liz Young on July 9, 2015 - 1:47 pm

    I liked the first one best, although on reading the other two I wonder what happened to Igntius!

    • #10 by Sally Jenkins on July 9, 2015 - 4:05 pm

      Thanks, Liz. Maybe I should have mentioned Ignatius by name in the other two blurbs as well.

  6. #11 by hilarycustancegreen on July 9, 2015 - 9:31 pm

    I think Ignatius would be fine in the text, but will switch off quite a few readers in the blurb as it suggests a book for a particular type of reader. Similar problem with the first line of Opposites attract. I like the content of the second one. There’s an immediacy to “A stupid mistake ended Ian’s marriage’ and lots of people will be able to relate to this. However the Shout line doesn’t draw me in ‘Single incidents shape our lives’ is maybe a tad preachy? What about The butterfly effect?… I too have spent many hours over blurbs and taken various versions to my reading group for feedback, you get a variety of answers.

    • #12 by Sally Jenkins on July 10, 2015 - 3:41 pm

      Thank you very much, Hilary. ‘The Butterfly Effect’ is much better than my clumsy ‘Single Incidents Change Our Lives’.

  7. #13 by Anne Harvey on July 10, 2015 - 6:49 pm

    I liked the last one best but then, having read the story, I think it sums it up in the best possible way. Mentioning Ignatius at this point would be superfluous – enough to say the ex-tenant of bedsit three.

    • #14 by Sally Jenkins on July 10, 2015 - 7:25 pm

      Thanks, Anne. Useful to get view from someone who knows the story (but the ending has changed since you read it!)

  8. #15 by juliathorley on July 12, 2015 - 7:02 am

    I used to write cover blurbs when I was an in-house desk editor, but only for non-fiction titles. These are all good, but agree with hilarycustan and don’t like ‘Single incidents…’ as a strapline. I also have a bit of a thing about the phrase ‘got pregnant’. In the third example, I’d say ‘former tenant’, not ‘ex-tenant’. The first example is definitely my favourite.

    • #16 by Sally Jenkins on July 12, 2015 - 11:55 am

      Thanks very much for all the feedback, Julia. I agree’Former tenant’ is better than ‘ex-tenant’.
      It’s wonderful having all these extra pairs of eyes!

  9. #17 by Janice Preston on July 13, 2015 - 9:55 am

    Interesting post, Sally. Have voted and will be interested to see which blurb wins. I liked all three, but the line that would prompt me to read on is: ‘But the ex-tenant of bedsit three has a secret waiting to engulf all three of them…’ although I agree with juliaorley that former tenant is better that ex-tenant.
    I think that line is more powerful because it links to the title of the novel.

    • #18 by Sally Jenkins on July 13, 2015 - 7:13 pm

      Thanks, Janice. It’s really interesting to hear which bits of the blurbs people like and why. The whole exercise seems very subjective so I’m hoping the poll will have a clear winner!

  10. #19 by Debbie W on July 16, 2015 - 8:49 am

    The winner is the one I chose. The way this blurb is worded meant immediately the characters catch my attention. Instantly I find them interesting. Also, there’s a hint of how their stories connect with each other when I read ‘His reaction devastates all their lives…’

    Sally, this is an interesting and successful way to chooose the blurb.

    • #20 by Sally Jenkins on July 16, 2015 - 9:17 am

      I’m glad you’re happy with the winner, Debbie. And thank you for explaining why you like it.

  11. #21 by Jack Dowd on July 19, 2015 - 1:59 pm

    I prefer single indents but I think it’s all a matter of personal taste.

    • #22 by Sally Jenkins on July 19, 2015 - 6:12 pm

      I think you’re right, Jack. No one blurb will suit everyone.

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