How Not to Write a Novel Back Blurb

I thought I might see a lot of interest in the subject of independent adoptions yet there were only two comments, and those from people who read this blog faithfully. Thank you loyal supporters, you know who you are!

Not even the friend who suggested I write it and to whom I submitted it for an accuracy check commented, so I guess everyone is otherwise occupied with more important matters. Even though it seemed the readership was quite substantial and a modest increase from my usual traffic, still not much comment action.

I did receive some “likes” though which is always fun.

WordPress sends a congratulatory email when someone “likes” a post. Congratulations! They say. Someone liked your post well enough to press the Like Button. Pressing the Like Button isn’t exactly a physical challenge, now is it? And it’s not like they brought me a Chili Macaroni Casserole or anything. But still, WordPress considers it a moderately big deal.

I’m back to writing about writing.

I finished up my novel, Perigee Moon, this week so I’m on to the next task, that of designing a book cover. To do this, I must write a “back blurb” and I’m not sure why I need it since the book is self-published and is never going to be sitting alongside the likes of books with cover pictures of Fabio on the bookshelves at Wal-Mart. The blurb is to sum up your novel, to “sell” it and, much like the headline at the top of a sleazy tabloid magazine, is supposed to tempt you into picking it up and tossing it into your shopping cart.

“Bill Clinton Dying!” Yes, probably. Aren’t we all?

“Nick & Jessica’s Sham Marriage: Why Are They Still Faking It?” Who’s this again?

“Jen Tells Pals: Angie’s a Monster!” Really, Jen. Get over it.

“Possible reconciliation between Kim Kardashian and Reggie Bush?” Could someone please remind me why we should care about these people?

Based on your willingness to give the teeniest of shits about any of the above topics may in fact influence you to purchase the magazine in order to get the true scoop. Of course, you could be really tacky and stand there and browse through the magazine while the clerk zips your cat food through the scanner, but he’s trying to engage you in conversation because 1) you are incredibly good looking, 2) you are incredibly interesting, or 3) he’s bored. Any bets?

Back to our subject at hand. The title has to grab you enough that you want more. The headline “Bill Clinton Suffers Sniffles” isn’t quite as compelling as the fact that he might be dying. And while this is not a dissertation on Bill, I suspect many people might be interested in what the Old Guy has done now to put him in such ill health. One can only imagine.

The back blurb of a novel has to grab you, make you want to read it. So it needs to contain lots of good keywords and it should be true to the type of novel it is — only more so. It should be exaggerated, and enticing, and earth-shattering. But it’s a PITA to write one and I’m not very good at it.

If I said something like “action packed, tense suspense and drama on each page”, this would not be indicative of what my novel is all about. The people who don’t want action packed won’t buy it and the people who do want action packed will be pissed off because it’s not that kind of novel.

I found five pieces of back blurbs that I find tempting:

Compellingly written, running the literary gamut from menacingly dark to hilariously funny, this is an epic saga of one family’s trials and triumphs in a world of sin, guilt, and redemption.

I’m hooked on all of this. Compellingly written (although, says who?) and menacingly dark and hilariously funny and epic saga always grab me. Not to mention sin, guilt and redemption. It isn’t any wonder that I found this paperback in my possession.

…a brilliantly crafted story of parallel lives, familial secrets, and the redemptive power of love.

Brilliantly crafted, I like that. Is that better than compellingly written? I love the idea of parallel lives and familial secrets. And you can’t beat the redemptive power of love.

But for his wife, who feels like a tiny gnat buzzing around her family’s edges, “walking away from it all” is not a premeditated act, but an impulse that will lead her into a new, exciting and unimagined life…

I love that she feels like a tiny gnat buzzing around her family’s edges. This portends to be about a woman who feels diminished, unimportant and I’ll just bet she does something really cool and then her family takes a second look and says, Well, I guess Mom wasn’t as much of a loser as we thought she was.

An extraordinary, moving story, this novel explores the complexities of love — how it survives time and heartbreak, and how it transforms us forever.

Ah, the idea of the complexities of love and how it survives time and heartbreak. How it transforms us forever. The romantic in me can’t resist this.

This intense new novel follows a middle-aged man as he contends with a past he has never much thought about — until his closest childhood friends return with a vengeance, one of them from the grave, another maddeningly present.

An “intense” novel, that sounds good. A middle-aged man, I like it that the character is the same age as the ones I write about, and I really can get into the idea of a past he never much thought about, and childhood friends returning with a vengeance, and from the grave. Wow, that’s got to be great.

Here’s how I might write my back blurb:

A compellingly written, beautifully crafted story. Menacingly dark yet hilariously funny, an epic saga which crosses the boundaries of four generations, of a man who feels as unimportant as a mosquito being batted outside the familial edges as he attempts to remember the complexities of love yet fears it can’t survive the test of time. A heartbreaking story of forgotten pasts and uncertain futures emerge as his closest childhood friend returns with a vengeance from Buffalo.

What do you think? Pretty good huh?

No?

Back to the writing board. Back blurbs are killers to write.

Oh, and one more thing, Bill Clinton is not dying.

27 thoughts on “How Not to Write a Novel Back Blurb

  1. I found myself in a similar pickle. My debut novel ‘Solstice Night’ is a paranormal romance released through a small press. And I had trouble reducing all my pages of work into a …blurb. The word just sounds disgusting and a little embarrassing.

    • Yes, I agree! Blurb sounds unprofessional at best. It’s the hardest thing to write, elevator pitches, blurbs, short description, long description. Ugh, if only there were someone to do it for us. Thanks for commenting, I will check out your blog too.

  2. How I love to get those emails of congratulations. Perhaps, instead of a simple ‘like’ button, wordpress could mix it up a little with several different buttons, to help us bloggers better interpret what we’re being congratulated for. There could be a “this made me smile” button, and an “I agree with you entirely” button, a “I found this marginally clever” button, or even a “I’m liking this so you’ll come look at my blog and like me back” button. I fear the last might be the most popular.

    As to the actual content of your post, I would personally have clicked the “this made me smile” button. It’s the details that kill us, I feel.

  3. Loved this blog – always thought your amazing sense of humor was one of your most endearing qualities!! Shoot me an email when I can get the book on Amazon – would love to read it before the GTE, but we can always have Joyce read it to us over many a delicious glass of wine!!

    • That is because your sense of humor is the same as mine, always has been. I was thinking of sending all the members of the GTE a proof copy in the hopes they all y’all will be my secondary editors, tell me what works what doesn’t.

      • Sign me up – would love to be a “pseudo-editor” – although I don’t have any qualifications for the post, will do my best for you!!

  4. Tired of being creative? Let the Space-age Interwebs come to your aid. I present my web-find-of-the-day du jour: The Dan Brown Novel Back Blurb generator: http://labs.slate.com/articles/dan-brown-plot-generator/ … I kid you not. The miracle of computer science steps in where nature fails. Your next novel back blurb is only a click away! Ask your doctor if The Dan Brown Back Blurb generator is right for you. Side effects may include mental deterioration and depression. Established writers may experience a worsening of these symptoms. Some restrictions apply, batteries not included, your mileage may vary.

    • Great idea, a blurb generator. Put in a few key phrases, ask a few pertinent questions, and tah dah! The blurb is born, I like it! However, these blurbs are all Dan Brown-related. I think a Blurb Generator for all genres is needed.

      Yeah, I’m tired of being creative all right. Blah. I am having a love-hate thing with my manuscirpt now, I hate it when that happens.

  5. Book blurbs really are a pain to write, aren’t they? The overload of adjectives and adverbs found in a blurb is the antithesis of what we should be doing in the book itself, so I felt like a bit of a fraud when I was writing mine.

    Very funny blog! Thanks for stopping by to “like” my post, as I am happy to have discovered your “home”!

  6. Okay…I laughed out loud at least three times reading this blog. Humor in writing is not easy to pull of, but you did it. To heck with the blurb, I want your book based on this blog post. Thanks…Peggy

    • Three times? That’s great! I am so glad you stopped by. It may be a dicotomy (sp?) but I’m just now “getting serious about comedy”. Thanks for your comment, and I’ll be looking for your next post.

  7. Thank you for posting a comment on my blog. I LOVED this post, especially the composite blurb you came up with at the end. I agree–writing blurbs, synopses, etc. are definitely a PITA (one of my favorite acronyms, by the way.)
    I just downloaded Second Stories to my Kindle (finally!) and I’m looking forward to reading it.

    • You know, I never know if everyone knows about PITA or not. Sometimes I get a bit of a blank stare, so I always include a link to some odd dictionary site with a meaning for “pain in the ass” as if everyone doesn’t know what it means. Thanks for downloading Second Stories! And I downloaded I.O.U. Sex too.

  8. Hi Lynn, visiting from Goodreads :) and enjoyed the humor in your post.

    I am convinced we should write our blurps before we write our novels. When you know 300 pages of nuance and detail summing it up feels like trying to squeeze a grumpy rhinoceros into a mouse hole :)

    • Carol, Thanks for reading. I feel the same way, after it’s written I’m struggling to figure out what should go into the blurb. I sat down to write it, then got the idea to check out some others I had around and thought I should blog about this.

  9. Lynn: Very interesting. I would think that the back blurbs would be written by the editor. Now I know. And it amazes me that your mind worked all that out. The more I read you, the more I decide that the book in me isn’t going to get written. I am so glad you did.

    Penny

    • Penny, if one had an editor maybe s/he would write it. I’m a one-woman show here. This is strictly a hobby – learning process and if one of my books should happen to take off then that will be a bonus. But until that time, I’m on my own! Thanks for commenting.

  10. Pingback: Book Cover Design Using iStockPhoto and BookCoverPro « Lynn Schneider Books

  11. Lynn, I love your blog! I’m nearing my publication date, and, this being my first time, I’m finding all sorts of goodies up here. I do have to do a blurb. The word sounds abridged and messy;) I can hear my mother saying, “Clean up that blurb before company gets here!!” LOL!!

    I have a feeling we’ll be seeing more of each other as I intend to pick your brain my dear. LOL!!

    • Leah, thanks! Unfortunately, back blurbs seem to be a necessity, but like I said in the blog, why should we really care when our books aren’t going to end up sitting on a book shelf where they can be picked up by consumers? If only.

      Feel free to pick my brain, I am only too happy to have it picked!

  12. “To do this, I must write a ‘back blurb’ and I’m not sure why I need it since the book is self-published and is never going to be sitting alongside the likes of books with cover pictures of Fabio on the bookshelves at Wal-Mart.”

    Awesome, Lynn. I’m glad I found this. I like how you question the purpose of writing back blurbs in the first place.
    I read this informative but disheartening article by Joanna Penn entitled “How To Write Back Blurbs.”: http://www.thecreativepenn.com/2010/11/16/how-to-write-back-blurb-for-your-book/
    The reason that article is disappointing is because the blurb Penn comes up with sounds like a bad parody of any/all of Dan Brown’s works.
    This article is the antithesis of that, and frankly, it was a breath of fresh air. Can’t wait to hear more of what you have to say!

    • I am glad to hear from you! So glad you found the post and got something useful out of it. Thank God for Search Engines. I agree with you about Joanna Penn. I am sure her book is well thought out and well marketed. The difference for me was, I think I love the writing more than the selling, which is why I question the writing of “blurbs”.

      • Thanks for the reply, Lynn! I agree, Google is awesome, and so is WordPress! I’d love to know what other venues you use for marketing your book… are you active in any forums? The little participation I’ve had in the fiction forums was less than stellar… Most of the works being pedaled are vampire/romance novels, etc., and I didn’t find much space for literary fiction. Anyway I’d like to know what else you do beside this blog and your website!

      • Sorry for the delay responding. I, too, am struggling with marketing. So far what I have done is concentrate on this blog, and also I fully intend to become more active on Goodreads. I tried Tweeting but honestly I can’t figure out how that will every be successful.

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