Tuesday, October 20, 2015

WRITING: BLURBS FOR FUN AND PROFIT

HOW TO WRITE A BLURB

By Patricia A. Guthrie 

            WHAT IS A BLURB?
            
            What the heck is a B-L-U-R-B, you ask? A blurb is that dust jacket, back of the cover that tells the reader what your story is about and intrigues the readers enough that they will buy your book.

            TIP: A blurb is NOT a synopsis. Although many will say it’s a short synopsis. Not so. A synopsis tells you the whole story in a nutshell. A blurb MUST NOT give away the ending. Stimulates interest and curiosity? Yes. Entices the reader to buy the book? Yes. Gives away the story? No.
            WHY DO YOU NEED ONE?
            Let me count the ways:
            1. Your editor asks you to
            2. You need one for your website page
            3. You need it as part of a proposal for your publisher, agent, editor presentation
            4. Competition entry or
            5. If you should be so lucky, a journalist asks you for one.
            And most important, after the cover, it’s probably the second biggest selling point of your book.
            When I decided I wanted to learn more about how other authors wrote their blubs,  I checked five or six sources to see what these writers thought. I discovered that most provided basically, the same elements, so I knew I was on the right track.
            I concluded, it’s not always the present you give that gives the pizazz, but the packaging. So, here goes my packaging for “How to Write a Blurb.”
            TIP: Keep your blurb short. Readers don’t have the time to pour over a lot of text. Less is more in a blurb. Keep it to a few short paragraphs and focus on the main character, genre, and main plot and leave out the subplots.
            Make it arouse the reader’s interest in reading the story, arouse their curiosity—promise them a good read, an adventuresome read. As one writer put it the “What’s in it for me?” factor.
            TIP: know your genre well enough to know what your readers want to know about your book.

            TIP: Go to your own collection of books or Amazon.com and find books in your genre. Look at their blurbs. What makes you want to open those pages? What are some keywords that may be used throughout your selections?  How long are these blurbs? Some may be longer than others (see examples) but they’re all short.
            TIP: What market are you selling to? That answer will determine the most important information to keep in your blurb. If you’re writing primarily mystery, you don’t want to overshadow this with the romantic lives of your characters. And, if the reader expects romance, don’t emphasis everything but. Give the readers what they want---what they expect.
            If it’s a multi-genre book, let the reader know it’s a romance but it’s also suspense or mystery or other. If it sci-fi and there’s romance, you’ll want to let the reader know romance plays a part, but the Sci-fi is the important part.  Same with fantasy and other genres.
             Use language in your blurb that may reflect the overall atmosphere or mood of the story. Word paint your blurb. (as much as you can for so short a synopsis.)  If it’s funny, reflect the humor. If it’s dark write the blurb with dark and ominous sentences like: “And fear was the summer slogan in Lake Nager,” from ‘Waterlilies Over My Grave’ (or something even better)
            KEY ELEMENT: PROTAGONISTS:  Focus on the main character, the one who has the most and stake and the most to lose. In romantic suspense (or romance) there are two equal partners. Each one has his own goals, motivations and conflicts. You might include both---you might not.     
            KEY ELEMENTS: GOAL, MOTIVATION AND CONFLICT: What does the h/h want (goal) why does he/she want it? (motivation) and what stops him/her from reaching his/her goal? (conflict)
            I’ll repeat: What does s/he want during the course of the book and why does s/he want it. (goal and motivation and conflict is key in the blurb.) And, what or who’s stopping them from reaching that goal.
            In romance novels. You might have two equal protagonists, one who has the more at stake or the more to lose?                                                                         
            The conflict part usually starts with “but” or “however.”
            Sometimes the H/H/ inner conflicts are as or almost as important to the story as the outer conflict. But, the inner conflicts should at some point intercede and explain why they can’t reach their outer conflicts.
            You can generalize how the characters intend to overcome their problem, but don’t give away how they do it.
            Here comes the story question (the hook.)  
            Will the hero or heroine protect the lead secondary character and come up with a plan to thwart the villain’s game plan that will lead them to disaster? And, what will happen if they do not succeed?
            In ‘In the Arms of the Enemy’ “Maggie and Adam must learn to work together before they find the killer on their doorstep.” Try to make your blurb dramatic filled with tension and intrigue. Remember its short, so make every word count.
            Also, you might bring out the story question. Do H/H track down and kill the bad guys before the killers ignite the world’s most powerful bomb? or do they get blown out of existence and the world as-they-knew it comes to an end? (just an example off the top of my head---oh, and half the movies I’ve seen.) Show urgency that the good guys must win the day or the consequences will be dire either for them or the world at large.  
            Here are few do’s and don’ts.
            Don’t give away the ending.  
            Don’t tell everyone how great your book is or compare yourself to other writers.
            Don’t use overused phrases. Try to be unique---different from other writers.
            Here are a few blurbs that may make this clear:

Here’s a blurb from James Patterson’s latest novel ‘The Murder House’
No. 7 Ocean Drive is a gorgeous, multi-million-dollar beachfront estate in the Hamptons, where money and privilege know no bounds. But its beautiful gothic exterior hides a horrific past: it was the scene of a series of depraved killings that have never been solved. Neglected, empty, and rumored to be cursed, it's known as the Murder House, and locals keep their distance. 
HERE IS THE MOOD AND EVEN THIS FIRST PARAGRAPH HAS THE CHARACTER, Ocean Drive, GOAL TO BE THERE multi-million-dollar beachfront.... MOTIVATION (money and privilege know no bounds) and CONFLICT: but  it was the scene of depraved killings....

WHO: Detective Jenna Murphy used to consider herself a local, but she hasn't been back since she was a girl.
GOAL AND MOTIVATION Trying to escape her troubled past and rehabilitate a career on the rocks, the former New York City cop hardly expects her lush and wealthy surroundings to be a hotbed of grisly depravity.
But CONFLICT when a Hollywood power broker and his mistress are found dead in the abandoned Murder House, the gruesome crime scene rivals anything Jenna experienced in Manhattan. And what at first seems like an open and shut case turns out to have as many shocking secrets as the Murder House itself, as Jenna quickly realizes that the mansion's history is much darker than even the town's most salacious gossips could have imagined. As more bodies surface, and the secret that Jenna has tried desperately to escape closes in on her, WHAT SHE MUST DO she must risk her own life to expose the truth—BEFORE: before the Murder House claims another victim.

Full of the twists and turns that have made James Patterson the world's #1 bestselling writer, THE MURDER HOUSE is a chilling, page-turning story of murder, money, and revenge. A BIT ABOUT THE AUTHOR.
You can find in this blurb, the character, her goal, motivation and conflicts surrounding her and the right mood and atmosphere in the wording. (I’m going to read that book.)

This is a Harlequin Romantic Suspense
Joanna Wayne’s ‘Showdown at Shadow Junction.’
FAILURE ISN'T AN OPTION FOR THIS NAVY SEAL IN JOANNA WAYNE'S LATEST BIG "D" DADS: THE DALTONS NOVEL 

HEROINE When Jade Dalton (GOAL) escapes a ruthless kidnapper on the trail of a multimillion-dollar necklace, she flees to the one place no one will find her: her estranged father's Texas ranch.
GOAL: Find a place where nobody will find her.
MOTIVATION: SHE’S ESCAPED FROM A RUTHLESS KIDNAPPER AND IS ALSO A FUGITIVE FROM JUSTICE
CONFLICT: The killer is determined to find and kill her.  
HERO: Booker Knox (GOAL) is also on his way to Dry Gulch. MOTIVATION after a potentially dangerous situation thrusts her into his arms, GOAL the navy SEAL appoints himself Jade's personal bodyguard. 

MOTIVATION:  It isn't every day Booker finds himself being kissed by a gorgeous stranger. CONFLICT Except Jade's a fugitive from justice who's also being hunted by a determined killer.
WHAT HE PLANS TO DO: Now Booker will do whatever it takes to protect the beautiful big-city event planner. OR ELSE: Failure isn't an option. Neither is walking away when this is all over.
Here you have two characters both with goals, motivations and conflicts and a hint toward the future.  Note in romance and romantic suspense novels the hero and heroine generally have equal status as protagonists.

Here’s a blurb from my romantic suspense novel ‘In the Arms of the Enemy.’

HORSES, ROMANCE, INSURANCE FRAUD AND MURDER
MOTIVATION: When the murder of a racing stable’s prize horse and his trainer is blamed on the stable’s owner, his son, HERO Adam Blakely, GOAL is determined to find the killer he thinks might be the trainer’s partner, Maggie McGregor. 
HEROINE Maggie GOAL is determined to leave the tumultuous world of horse racing and returns home to try and find peace.
MOTIVATION: When a handsome horse owner moves his horse into her father’s boarding stable and asks Maggie to train his horse, MOTIVATION family finances dictate Maggie accept—CONFLICT and that’s when the accidents begin.
CONFLICTS: Drowning in deception and lies, Maggie and Adam search for a killer and uncover an insurance scam so insidious, it threatens to rock a horse racing empire and bring the killer to their doorstep.
REVIEW: Review magazine "Affaire de Coeur" says, "With a strong mystery and a sizzling romance, Ms. Guthrie captivates readers from the start. This is an enjoyable thriller with a plot that will keep you guessing until the climactic end.” Affaire de Coeur gives ‘In the Arms of the Enemy’ *****

This is a romantic suspense so the hero and heroine have equal footing in status.
Maggie is the heroine. She wants to get away from horse racing and find peace and a normal life.
Adam is looking for a killer and thinks Maggie might be responsible.
BUT: When Adam comes to her stable, accidents start to befall Maggie and her life is now in danger.  Further complications: Adam falls in love with his prime suspect.
WHAT TO DO: The have to learn to work together and trust each other when they uncover an insurance scam that kill race horses for money, and find a killer before the killer finds them.
I’ve also put in a short paragraph of a review from a well-known review magazine.
SOURCES:

How to Write a Blurb (Back Cover Copy) by Marilyn Byerly
The Do’s and Don’ts of Writing a Blurb for your Novel by Milena Calizares
4 Easy Steps to an Irresistible Book Blurb by Beth Bacon
Writing a Short Book Blurb by Marg McAlister

Writing the Fiction Synopsis by Pam McCutcheon 

1 comment:

Patricia Guthrie said...

I don't know why the background in part of this article is white and the rest is the same color as the background. I do NOT like, nor approve of the way it looks.

Just to let you know.

Patricia A. Guthrie