Friday, January 14, 2011

The Importance of the Back-Cover Blurb

This post may be a pretty obvious one but this week I was reminded again about how important it is to get that paragraph or two that describes your book nailed down. The 'Back-cover Blurb' is your story in a nutshell. It's a selling feature, for sure. I know it's one of the first things I look for when I'm deciding on whether to buy a book or not. If all I see are one line reviews or raves about a book but nothing about what the story is about I put it down. But that's when a book is already for sale. Why is writing a blurb so important before you even finish writing the book? We-ell, let me tell you...

I'v been working on this WIP for a while now and I'm in my favourite (sarcasm font here please)section - the middle. I was really struggling trying to figure out where I was going with this story. So, after forcing myself to write a thousand words (that were okay but sure as heck didn't come easy) the other night I decided I wasn't going to wait until the first draft was done to write the blurb as I mostly do. Sometimes I do write it before I even start the book to see if the idea is strong enough to work on but usually I wait until the story is pretty much finished. I noodled out a few lines, then a few more. Pretty soon I was into the flow and I had 380 words that hopefully described what the core of the book was about in language that made the story sound interesting, even mysterious, and would entice someone to read it. These words are probably the most important you'll write because they are the ones that sell your story - to yourself, to an agent, to an editor and maybe, eventually, to a book buyer. In fact, the blurb I wrote for Illegally Blonde ended up almost exactly on the back cover as it appeared in my query letter. Writing those few words also helps to focus what you're writing about - to understand the core of your story so well that when you're struggling through it you can go back to it and say "Oh! Yes. I have to get back to that. Why did I wander off in this direction?"

When I finished those couple of paragraphs this week, I was sold on my story again. My CP was sold on it, too, which helped validate me - and the story. I'm struggling to write this story now but I know, because I wrote that blurb, that this is a story worth telling and, hopefully reading. And that's why a blurb is so important. If you can't sell it to yourself how are you going to sell it to a complete stranger?

So what about you guys? When do you write your blurb? And does it help you or drive you crazy?


  1. Great post, Nelsa! I write my query blurb before I start writing my first draft. Of course, it might change, but it helps me stay on track! and I agree with how important it is - I def. buy books based on it!

  2. Love the post! I start with a logline then I draft a one page synopsis (my least favorite thing to do). I agree, it really does help me stay on track.

  3. Hi Laura: Yes, writing a blurb before you start a wip is very important to keep you focussed. I guess the semi-pantser in me needs to wander just a bit before I nail the blurb down.

    Hi Nora: Urgh. Synopsis. **shudder** I hatesss synopsisss. Yess I do, preciousss. Seriously, they can suck the life out of you.

    As for log lines, I don't always have one but having a one-liner to start off the blurb is a big help to get me going (like the one that came to me when I was writing IB "Sometimes discovering your roots is about a lot more than watching your real hair colour grow in..")

  4. It's the last thing I do and it takes forever. But when I'm writing I think about how I would describe my manuscript to others. Still, putting a summary and teaser down on paper is never easy for me.