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The book blurb. The back-of-book description. The dust-cover copy. Whatever you call your book summary, it’s an important element of your marketing package and for helping out with book reviews. How to create a great book description? It comes down to four steps.
Here is the formula:
(1) Situation. Every story has to start somewhere, with some people in some sort of circumstances. Describe them simply here.
(2) Problem. Every story (every interesting one, anyway) has some sort of hitch that either makes that situation untenable or makes change inevitable. This part of the description often starts with the word, “But…” or “However…” or “Until…”
(3) Hopeful possibility. Here’s the potential to overcome the crisis. This “cool thing” or “longshot opportunity” makes your audience want to read your story. Yes, the situation (above) seems doomed by the problem (above). Still, there’s hope because of this new twist. Parts 1, 2, and 3, if concisely written, together create the drama that propels the story.
(4) Mood, tone or spirit of the story. Finally, readers want to know what kind of emotional state they’re going to get into while they’re reading this book. Is it a dark, dystopian tragedy or humorous chick lit cotton candy? This is where you set the tone and clinch the deal, turning browsers into buyers.
The formula in action:
So, let’s look at this formula in action. I recently helped a marketing team write the blurb for a new new YA book, Spirit Warriors: The Concealing by D. E. L. Connor. Here is this book description, using that formula:
(1) Sixteen-year-old Emme Belrose has it all: four best friends, her own horse, a hidden teepee hangout, and a blossoming romance with tall and handsome Charlie. These friends also have a secret. They can move their spirits into animal bodies: an Osprey, a Mustang, a Grizzly, a Mountain Lion and a Coyote. (2) But when Charlie, who has a gift for seeing the future, has a vision of Emme drowning in the icy Yellostone River, (3) the Spirit Warriors must train their animal bodies to kill an enemy they know is coming… but know nothing about. (4) Suspenseful, romantic and awash in Native American magic, Spirit Warriors captures the enchantment of the American West and the power of friendship.
Make it short. One thing self-published authors tend to do is include too much information in their book blurbs. It’s hard to cut out subplots you’ve slaved over and characters you feel are vital to the story. But internet book buyers don’t have a lot of time. Leave all that for the book itself.
Make it dramatic. What do your readers want in a blurb, if they don’t want length? They want drama. They want tension. They want to know they’re going to dip into a world where they’re hooked and curious and completely immersed till the end. If your blurb doesn’t hook your readers, they’re going to assume your book won’t hook them either.
More tips for effective book blurbs
These days, with digital bookstore sales becoming more critical than brick-and-mortar store sales, it’s even more important to authors to create effective blurbs. If your primary merchandising vehicle is the sales page on Amazon, BN.com, Kobo, and the Apple iBookstore, those few sentences had better grab your reader. You need to compel your visitor to buy.
Many self-published authors, however, lament the task of trying to summarize their whole book into a few paragraphs. Their complaints remind me of Robert Frost’s much quoted quip when he was asked, “What’s your poem about?” His answer: “Read the poem.”
In summary, when writing a summary, make it snappy. Less is more. Don’t tell them everything, just the dramatic core of the story.
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