Sep 13, 2016

Writing Book Descriptions AKA Book Blurbs

by Marsha Ward @MarshaWard

I've seen a whole bunch of authors lately asking for help in writing their back cover copy, a.k.a. book descriptions, a.k.a. book blurbs.

As usual, writers panic when they get out of fiction-writing mode and into writing the bits of non-fiction that help them either sell a book to an editor or publisher (pitch, synopsis), or sell the work to readers (book blurb). They start to sweat, thinking of the overwhelming job of writing just the right words to do these jobs.

Author Dean Wesley Smith thinks it's not all that monstrous a task. One only needs to realize that the job calls for sales copy, not elaborate descriptions of the plot or even of the characters. Just sales copy.

Mr. Smith wrote a short book on this topic called How to Write Fiction Sales Copy. I have found it to be a must-have book on my Essentials Bookshelf.

He says that it is imperative to get rid of two deeply ingrained bad habits when we buckle down to write our sales copy for a book.
  1. We can't see beyond the plot
  2. We tend to write about our work in passive voice
How to Write Fiction Sales Copy gives many excellent blurb patterns. Here is just one, a very basic blurb of four paragraphs. Yes, only four paragraphs, and short ones, at that.

  1. Summary of character or world. Make it interesting, Nail down the genre, if possible.
  2. One very short paragraph with short sentences about the first page of the plot.
  3. Plot kicker line.
  4. Why readers will want to read the story, mostly using tags.

I know you're saying gaaaa, how do I do that?

Let's see how it works for Smith's A Bad Patch of Humanity: A Seeders Universe Story
Most of humanity died one ugly day four years before. Now the survivors wanted to rebuild.

Angie Park’s job consisted of telling survivors outside of Portland, Oregon, of the plans to rebuild. But some survivors wanted nothing to do with civilization.

And some thought killing worth the price to pay to stay alone.

In the galaxy-spanning Seeders Universe, “A Bad Patch of Humanity” focuses down on an early event in Angie Park’s life, an event that starts her on her path to becoming a woman of legend in a hundred galaxies.
That's not so hard, right? You can do it, too! Resist any instances of "and then this happens." Use only action verbs.

To read more and quit having the vapors over book blurbs, go get this book, How to Write Fiction Sales Copy. It's well worth the price!


  1. I love practical advice.I used to write up product items for a magazine not all that hard lol. Now writing a novel wow!!!

  2. This is great advice. Thank you, Marsha. I love how you're always willing to share what you know. I'll give this a shot and see if I can't get something a little more compelling for my own book blurb.

  3. This should be required reading for all indie authors. So many times when I'm giving suggestions for blurbs I'm thinking, don't give me a travelogue, don't give me a synopsis--just HOOK ME. But question, shouldn't the example be in present tense?, Most of humanity died one ugly day four years [ago.] Now the survivors want to rebuild. Angie Park's job consists...


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