Wednesday, June 23, 2010

Blurbs or Blubs?

I recently asked a question on a writer’s loop and heard many interesting answers but not the specific answers I was hoping for.
My question was, “When shopping for books, what do you look for in a blurb?”
Most of us grab a book based on a familiar name or an eye-catching cover, but ten seconds later we are flipping the book over in our hands, or scrolling downward if we are shopping on-line, to read the Blurb.
This is the crucial make-it or break-it point in the possible sale of the book. Does the blurb tell us what we are hoping to hear? Readers are quick to pass judgment on a potential buy. They’ll ask themselves, is this our idea of a good time and worth the money and mental energy to consume this book?
An author is often limited to 180 words or less in a blurb so I would like to ask, “What are you looking for in a blurb?” Content, sub-genre, Assurance of a happy ending, key words or themes such as “Master, kidnapped, bondage or bride?” What words are most compelling in a blurb to assure a reader they are getting the book they want?
Sometimes a blurb can be too good. I’ve read a few terrific blurbs that were obviously written by someone in marketing that had not actually read the book. It’s quite disappointing when all you like about a book is the blurb. How many times can you re-read the blurb? It’s sad to get stuck with a book that was misrepresented by its cover or blurb.
Another author asked me. What about the excerpt? Shouldn’t a juicy well-written excerpt sell the book?
Yes, in theory a good excerpt should be the ultimate weapon of seduction but the trouble with depending on an excerpt to make the lasting impression is that in a book store or on–line, often the first thing a customer is offered is the book’s cover and the blurb. If the cover and blurb doesn’t immediately grab their attention-they’ll never move forward to reading the excerpt.
So what’s up with 180 word blurbs? Why is this difficult for me? When you are book shopping what attracts your attention and what warns you away from a book?
I would love to hear your thoughts on this.


  1. When I go to a book store I know what genre I'm interested in and I head straight for that section. So, for example, if I want a horror story there is no need to explain the genre in the blurb. I also try out the new authors section on a regular basis and with these, it's the book cover which usually holds the clue. If that entices me, I'll take the book off the shelf, virtual or otherwise. For me, the most important part of the blurb is the setting - where the story is going to take place. I have a tendency to relegate everything else into 'marketing speak'. I always read the first page, or an excerpt if it's online, to see if I like the narrator's style or, if it's in the first person, to see if the author is capable of drawing me into his/her world. So all three work synergistically for me. If it has a cover that attracts, I'll take it down and read the blurb - if that appeals I'll read an excerpt and if the author is up to scratch, I'll buy, not that I'm hard to please or anything. lol

    I once read that a good story can be reduced to a few sentences. If it can't, the plot is too convoluted. Perhaps that was the original idea behind the blurb?

  2. PS Sorry for being so long winded but I meant to say that even if the blurb doesn't appeal, I'll always read the first page or so in a book store.

  3. I'm looking for a glimpse at the main characters, a tidbit about the plot, definitely the setting/time period. I definitely buy or don't buy based on the blurb.

  4. I agree with Pamela - a good story can be reduced to a couple sentences. It's those couple sentences that catch my interest. I love Siren - they require a 50 word blurb, a 150 word blurb and a 250 word blurb. That requirement gives me pause when I write a blurb. I have to capture the essence of a story in very few words - it's great exercise for the brain!

  5. This is great information, thank you!
    XXOO Kat

  6. I've been curious about this too. Thanks for the great post Kat! You've helped me too. :)


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