Wednesday, September 21, 2011

What's in a Blurb?

Whilst languishing on a Hawaiian beach recently, I was thrilled to have a chance to catch up on my reading. I read four whole books, one of which was a historical mystery I’d been asked to blurb. 

I don’t take this responsibility lightly. Has anyone ever felt let down by an A-list author enthusiastically endorsing a fellow author’s book only to discover the book in question was really disappointing?  Maybe it’s just me, but when that happens, I lose a little trust in the-author-who-blurbed. 

Fortunately, The Stratford Conspiracy, Michael Mallory’s latest adventure in his Amelia Watson series was a joy to read and utterly hilarious. For Sherlock Holmes aficionados’, Amelia was Dr. John Watson’s little known second wife and in this incarnation, a terrific amateur sleuth.

My biggest fear was that my blurb would not do Michael's work justice. Luckily, I had my handy blurb checklist close by which I will now share with you. I have shamelessly stolen from several sources, some of which come courtesy of Claire Carmichael (aka Claire McNab), my all-time favorite writing instructor from the UCLA Writers Program.

So – without much ado, here it is: 

Establish the genre and time period immediately e.g. historical mystery. 
Write in present tense, third person. 
Write down five descriptive words that catch the essence of the main character. 
Name three elements in your novel that the reader will find fascinating. 
Introduce your compelling protagonist. 
State your main character’s dilemma. 
Be succinct and vivid. Use striking images. What clues and buzzwords can you use—“spine-chilling” “a treasure trove” “a laugh a page” etc. 
Does the blurb capture the book’s essence and tone? Remember that a book blurb should promise a “good read.” It is not a synopsis. 
Who is your reader and what would they like to know? 
Why is this a must read novel? 

And finally … 
What makes you pick up a book? 


H. L. Banks said...

It was refreshing to read your post as I have been one of those disappointed readers who has read a dreary book based on one of the writers I follow. Kudos to you for taking blurbs seriously.

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Hannah dennison said...

Thanks so much for stopping by and for all your comments. It's nice for me to know my post was helpful - made my day, actually!

Anonymous said...

Thanks for an interesting post!

Liz said...

On bad blurbs:

Charlotte Hinger said...

Hannah, good for you! I never blurb or review a book lightly. On the other hand, I remember some agent saying it's a lot easier to find what's wrong with a book than what's right. said...

Great reading, Thanks for the tip

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