… Otherwise known as ‘banging your head against a wall—repeatedly’.
The title of this post is somewhat misleading since, really, I’m nowhere near qualified enough to write a ‘how to’ guideline for creating effective blurbs. But I can write about my experience, because last week my publishers and I agreed on a working blurb for Akarnae. (YAY!!!!). I can’t release it yet because it might change, but after a number of back-and-forth revisions we’re all happy with how it’s turned out. So that’s super-exciting!
It was interesting writing the blurb—and by ‘interesting’ I really mean ‘somebody-kill-me-now’. I thought query letters, pitches and synopses were challenging (which they are), but blurbs? Condensing 120,000 words down to, like, 150? I actually found myself freaking out! Think about it—a pretty cover might draw the eye of someone perusing in a bookstore, but it’s the blurb that will hopefully captivate them enough for them to want to read the book. That means there’s a lot riding on a good blurb! You don’t want to give too much information away, because that’ll ruin the intrigue, but you also don’t want to give so few details that people won’t find themselves longing to read more. It’s a fine line. (Thus the head-banging comment at the beginning of this post!)
And another thing—there are so many different ways events can be told. We all know the story of The Wizard of Oz, right? Well, imagine if the blurb had actually been more along these lines:
Everything about that description is true—but it gives a much different slant to the happy-go-lucky fairy tale we all love. It actually makes Dorothy sound like a deranged serial killer! How many parents do you think would buy such a book for a child? (Hopefully not many!).
So, long-story-short, blurbs are important. But that said, some of the best books in the world have absolutely horrible blurbs. I’m sure we’ve all been surprised a time or two. Perhaps we’ve been at an airport and grabbed the only book available for our long-haul flight, only to discover halfway across the Atlantic that we’re holding priceless treasure in our hands. That particular scenario has never happened to me, but I can say that one of my favourite books that I re-read on a regular basis has the most dreadful blurb ever. It’s shocking. It was so bad that I thought ‘no way can I read this load of rubbish’. But it was in a discount bin for only a few dollars and I was desperate for something to read, so I bought it—and that book changed my life. Not to mention, it opened up an entire new genre for me to fall in love with!
Anyway, I’ve totally gone off on a tangent. So, back to my blurb-writing experience.
Knowing how powerful certain words and descriptions can be, I eventually managed to get a rough draft down (which was after blankly staring at my computer screen while wishing for the blurb to magically write itself into existence). Once I had something to work with, I ended up writing multiple versions of every sentence so that I could then pick the best ones and string them all together. So, I’m talking stuff like this:
Just one step, and 16-year-old Alexandra Jennings’s world changes—literally.
In just one step, 16-year-old Alexandra Jennings’s world changes—literally.
In a single step, 16-year-old Alexandra Jennings’s world changes—literally.
All it takes is a single step, and 16-year-old Alexandra Jennings’s world changes—literally.
All it takes is a single step for 16-year-old Alexandra Jennings’s world to change—literally.
You can see that the differences are hardly noticeable, and yet, they are. A different word here or there changes the overall feel of a sentence. So it was really cool (albeit time-consuming) to follow this method for each paragraph and then put it all back together again. And, like I said, the team at Pantera Press and myself are happy with the end result, so it was all worth it! Woohoo!
All this blurb pondering has made me wonder… I know there are a number of published writers who follow this blog, and I’m curious about your own blurb-writing experiences. Did you find it challenging? Are you happy with the results? Would you have done anything differently?
And the same questions apply to any aspiring authors who have ever sent query letters/pitches off to agents/publishing houses … Did you love or hate having to summarise the most alluring parts of your manuscripts into so few words? Let me know about your experiences!