books

What makes a good blurb?

Hello, O Blookunity (<– book blogging community) I’m currently & tragically stuk in Sydney airport because my flight was delayed due to a thunderstorm (It’s been 8 hours grrrrrr) However, there is lots of good news. For one thing I used my mind control powers to force my mother to give me money kindly asked my mother to buy me a book and it worked. For another thing THE HOLIDAYS ARE HERE YESSSSS.  I’ve spent the last three days hanging out with my cousins and there has been bushwalking and nice food and swimming and reading and even kangaroos. (I’m so Australian) But it has been good. Anyway, today I thought I’d talk about what makes a good book blurb and what makes a bad book blurb and why it’s important. But first, you’ll be subjected to pictures of my new pretty.

-shanti

So far into Illuminae (50 pages) it is really violent and sad but I’m hoping that there will be mystery and intrigue and compassion and heroism in surprising places. (don’t spoil me)

But Illuminae and other books have got me thinking about blurbs. Blurbs are put there, essentially, to convince you to buy the book–or at least read it. They need to orientate the would be reader, let them know what sort of book they’ll be reading and introduce them to the premise, without revealing the mystery or being too vague.

I absolutely hate it when blurbs reveal a plot point that occurs more than 25% of the way through the book. I think it’s unfair to the reader, because it essentially makes reading that part of the book pointless. It must be really difficult to write a good blurb. Another thing blurbs can do, if not spoil somethingg, is hint at what’s going on, which is also pretty frustrating if it’s a mystery or something. I also find that if you read a lot of blurbs, which I do (thanks goodreads) they start to sound a bit generic. You know, like

Character A and character B are facing a dilemma. They must make a choice. {insert setting detail} there is much danger in what they have to do and surprising things will happen. This exciting, sure-to-be-popular novel turns {genre} on it’s head.

Or something like that. It’s like there’s a fill in the blank form for sci-fi, fantasy, contemporaries and so on and they just fit the words in. Don’t get me wrong, this kind of blurb does it’s job… but it’ isn’t particularly interesting to read.

What should a good blurb look like, then? I think that it should have

a) Mention of the characters

b) Mention of the premise (setting, plot beginning etc) without spoiling things.

c) An explanation of why this will be worthwhile to read/what makes it difference

d) (optional but important) Information that ties into the cover.

It also has to be interesting, not formulaic. Formulaicism is annoying. (and we can’t have that) Obviously, any quotes on the jacket are going to be wild with praise, so I’m not getting into them. But I like it when a book blurb shows you how the story will connect to you. This can be cliche, like ‘a teenager just like you’ but it should give me the idea that whoever these characters are, I’m going to care about what happens to them. Blurbs are one of the most important parts of publicity and it’s important to hink about what they’re trying to tell you (apart from BUY ME! BUY ME! BUY ME!) (<– This and reviews definitely worked for me and Illuminae)

What do you think of book blurbs and illuminae? Have you ever tried to write a new blurb for a book? What is the most important thing that blurbs should tell you? Tell me in the comments!

 

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13 thoughts on “What makes a good blurb?

  1. I have tried rewriting blurbs before, and I’ve found that it’s actually a really good exercise for preparing to write your own book blurb. It helps you pick out the major plot points of the book and decide what needs to be in the blurb to excite the reader. 🙂
    BTW, what’d you think of Illuminae? I haven’t read it yet, but I’ve seen it floating around.

    Alexa
    thessalexa.blogspot.com
    verbositybookreviews.wordpress.com

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  2. I have not read Illuminae but it looks like a heavenly book and I really want to read it soon! I think the important thing about blurbs is that they should set up the inciting incident for the reader—the part when the ball really starts rolling down the hill. And I’m not saying that it isn’t hard. If we were doing HP1, for example, I’m not sure if I’d choose when Harry starts getting owls or when Hagrid tells him he’s a wizard (probably the former, though), but that’s definitely something to include. And, of course, a hint of the future—like mentioning that Harry is going to a wizarding school but maybe not saying what the big problem he’ll face there shall be. *nods* KEEP THE MYSTERIOUS MYSTERIOUS!

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    1. It is a really good book, though the format has some drawbacks as well. Yeah, you’re right– the inciting incident is had to place. I hate vague blurbs, but I also don’t want to know the plot from reading the blurb. Mysteries :0

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  3. OOH ILLUMINAE. I’m waiting for it to arrive so I’m currently all the excite.

    I’m not sure I completely agree with you, though. I am also SO DONE with generic phrases like “the choice of their lives” or “the darkest secret” or “the fate of the world”, but the ‘formulaic’ part is what I’m not sure about. I mean … almost every book has an inciting incident, and to give the character agency instead of have things happen, the main character normally has to start making choices. So the “MC faces dilemma [external conflict], and must make this difficult choice [internal conflict]” seems to me it reflects the way that 99% of stories are structured. And in fact it does cover (a) and (b), IMO, so I disagree that it’s a formula that should be discarded. I agree spoilers past the 25% mark are quite ridiculous, though, because you basically spend one fourth of the story with very little tension.

    Fabulous discussion, Shanti!

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    1. Illuminae is very exciting. I see what you mean about story structure–but that said there are phrases like “breath taking” and “ultimate choice” that turn up all the time. I do like it whent the blurb throws something at you that you’re not expecting though, not just sticking to the formula, though I understand why the formula exists. Thanks Alyssa!

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  4. You’re so lucky to live in Australia, I’d love for it to be summer where I live, too! I hate the cold weather, ahah. The only positive thing about it is that I can cuddle up under the covers with my book ahah 🙂
    I definitely agree with you about the blurb of a book. I HATE it when it reveals something crucial to the story, because then what’s the point of reading it? You’re so right, blurbs are such an important part of a book, and they need to be well-done. To appeal to the reader, without spoiling everything, somehow, to let us know that they are THE book for us 🙂

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    1. I like cold weather too… but summer is awesome (though I don’t normally live in Australia, but it’s cool to be here) Spoilering blurbs are SO ANNOYING, they make me really angry. Blurbs really need to tell you about the book and match the reader to the book. I think they do work, but often they could be SO much better.

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      1. Well you’re so lucky then to be going to Australia, it seems like such a beautiful country! 😀
        You’re right, sometimes blurbs are just, I don’t know, they’re not even appealing. And isn’t that supposed to be the main goal of a blurb? That’s just stupid.

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