February 2015

A book blurb is, hands down, the most important bit of writing that an author/publisher will ever do. Why? Because those few succinct paragraphs are the sole reason that anyone will ever want to shell out good, hard-earned money for your book. Your cover art, your reputation, your previous work, even the very text of the book are all secondary and should be treated as such. Your own mother will not purchase a copy of your novel if the blurb sounds lame. Remember, the blurb will be printed on the back of the paperback, hand-painted on the inside flap of the dust jacket, scrawled in blood onto desperate never-to-be-sent agent query letters, etched permanently onto Amazon’s platinum and apocalypse-proof record of your book page, and tattooed on your forearm to be consulted at a moment’s notice whenever a new acquaintance casually asks what your book is about. In short: Do it right. Your entire writing career hinges on this single creative act.

But first: What is a blurb? A blurb is a series of meticulously selected words, arranged into sentences and paragraphs, that perfectly describe the content of a book. The blurb should capture the book’s tone, important themes, main characters, central conflict, and your distinct writing voice in exactly 219 words. The best blurbs evoke a physical reaction from the reader, which vary by genre (e.g., horror = chills, sci-fi = childlike wonder, literature = smugness, romance/erotica = …).

Here’s how to write the perfect book blurb:

Step 1: Write a book.
Now, don’t get the wrong idea. This is an important step, but you shouldn’t spend too much time on it. Or at least not any more time than you spend writing the blurb. Consider it a warm-up. But, still, it must be done. By definition, the blurb describes a book; therefore, the book must exist.

Step 2: Read other blurbs.
To write the best blurb, it is recommended that you read every blurb that has ever been written. Begin with all the books in your home and your friends’ homes. Once you’ve done that, read every blurb on Amazon, B&N, Kobo, and iBooks. Then proceed to your local bookstores and libraries, should they still exist in your community. Be sure to pay particular attention to books in your genre and all the other genres. For best results, it is recommended that you create a spreadsheet to track key blurb attributes, including any relevant sales data.

Step 3: Read advice about writing blurbs.
Everyone has good advice about how to write the perfect blurb. Blogs provide a deep well of ideas for what works and what doesn’t. Don’t skimp on this step. You don’t want to miss out on the synergistic fugue state created after days of turning blue links to purple.

Step 4: Prepare your workspace.
Clean your desk. Charge your laptop. Put the teakettle on. Run to the store for provisions—salty and sweet. Vacuum and dust your home. Set a celebratory bottle of champagne on ice for later. And, finally, put a framed 8×10 photo of your favorite author near your keyboard or writing blotter.

Step 5: Write your blurb.
If you’ve done your homework, this should be an easy process. Simply summarize your characters, the setting, the conflict, and general atmosphere of your story in a way that will compel anyone of any demographic to stop what they’re doing, hand a fifty-dollar bill to a bookseller, and mumble at them to keep the change as they crack the spine and flip to page one. Avoid adverbs.

Step 6 (optional): Take advantage of beta readers.
It’s a good idea to ask others to read your blurb and offer comments or suggestions. It is recommended that these be close friends, family members, and people who get you. Never ask employees or children for their opinion. Readers of your previous books may be consulted if you have their home addresses. It is recommended that you do not consult other authors, as this may result in them asking you to critique their blurbs in return.

Step 7: Edit your final blurb.
Take a few moments to look up every word you’ve written in the dictionary to ensure proper usage.

Step 8: Enjoy.
Congratulations. Your blurb is done. Relax and prepare to reap the rewards. And if you’re looking for your, spouse, pets, or kids, they’ve probably been hiding under the bed since step 5. Lure them out with ice cream or Beggin’ Strips as appropriate.