Since I have a business writing blurbs/cover copy, I offered to share some quick tips to make it less frustrating.
Your blurb is your most powerful tool for enticing readers to buy your book. All the good reviews or social media shouting isn’t going to work if a reader doesn’t get excited about the book’s content. You want to lure the reader in, hook them with an intriguing setup, and land the sale by leaving questions open that can only be answered by buying the book.
First, some terminology:
Tagline/Logline: This is the quick summary on the front cover that serves as a hook. It’s usually no more than twelve words, and is best at around six words.
Pitch: Also known as the “elevator pitch” because it needs to be short enough that you can recite it to an agent/editor in the duration of an elevator ride. Aim for no more than about two or three sentences and be able to recite it without blinking. My all time favorite pitch was from Judi Fennell pitching the romance In Over Her Head: “He’s a merman and she’s afraid of the water.” Fewer than ten words. She got the contract.
Blurb, Cover Copy, Jacket Copy, Product Description: Here’s where things get murky. Technically, a blurb is the line or two of praise on the front cover from a reviewer or an author who is well known and writes in the same genre.
Cover copy (on the back cover), jacket or flap copy (on the inside flap of a dust jacket) and product description are all pretty much the same thing, but most folks today have taken to calling all of them a “blurb” and use the terms interchangeably. For the purpose of these articles, I’m going to use the term “blurb” to mean the description of the book that appears on the cover and in product descriptions.
Here’s a secret: for fiction blurbs, there’s a formula, and you can learn it. Really. Non-fiction is different, and I’ll cover it briefly at the end of part two next week. Ready?
- Step One: Create a one or two word description of your protagonist(s). The description is usually a job, relationship, or status: Starfleet Captain James Kirk (job). Orphan (or spinster) Jane Eyre (relationship). King Arthur Pendragon (status). For sci-fi/fantasy/paranormal it may be a creature type, tribe, planetary affiliation, etc. (hobbit, Starks of Winterfell, Vulcan). If you only have one main protagonist, you may want to come up with this descriptor for your villain, which is often used in mystery and thriller blurbs.
- Step Two: Define the external GMC for your protagonist(s). GMC stands for Goal, Motivation, Conflict/Obstacle. It helps to define internal and external GMC for your characters early in your writing process. Blurbs are generally only concerned with the external GMC. To create yours, fill in the following sentence for one or two protagonists and/or your villain: Character wants/must do (Goal) because (Motivation) but can’t have/get it because (Conflict/Obstacle).
- Step Three: Mention or imply your setting and/or period. Victorian-era Egypt. The starship Enterprise. The ruins of a place once known as North America.
For now, in the comments, try your hand at writing the GMC for your character(s) and if possible, include the character description and setting. Here’s an example:
In order to protect her little sister (Motivation), 16-year-old Katniss Everdeen (character description) must survive a brutal game (Goal) in a land once known as North America (setting), but in order to do so she’ll have to kill all other opponents, including a childhood friend (Conflict/obstacle).
Feeling brave? Try your hand at a tagline and a pitch, too!
OK, your turn!
Part Two of Beating the Blurb Blues
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