I’ve said this before, but I’ll say it again – they are a nightmare, but after days of thinking, checking the shelves and shelves of fiction novels, writing and rewriting, I think Book 1 of The Red Cliffs Chronicles is covered — I have the title, the tag line, and the blurb! (The title and the tag line are revealed at the end of the post and the blurb — 98 words! — is under the picture.)
To come up with this blurb also meant reading tons of online blogs and articles. One of them, which I found particularly helpful, seemed to summarize everything I’d read elsewhere. I’m sure these will sound familiar, but here they are, nicely listed.
Look at samples – find the bestsellers in your genre and read their blurbs. Couldn’t argue with that. I found many decent examples (not a single one that left me awed, though) as well as plenty that didn’t follow most of the basic rules, particularly when it came to the length.
Make your first sentence like a pick-up line. Lots of readers don’t read past the first sentence, the article states, so it should have the greatest impact. It should, “entice them to read on. It needs to be clever, engaging and new.” (Funny that the first sentence of their example of a good blurb, that of The Girl on the Train, is everything but “clever, engaging and new”. It says, “Rachel takes the same commuter train every morning.” )
Use the ABCD formula. A blurb begins with A – a situation, introduces B – a problem, promises C – a twist and emphasizes D – the mood.
Introduce your main characters, end it with a cliffhanger, use words that evoke the genre (in my blurb these are “ancient alliance”, “legacy”, “bond”, etc.) as well as hyperbolic and emotionally charged words and phrases (“brutal enemy”, “higher power”, “unbreakable bonds”, “unimaginable”).
Keep it short. They say, 100-150 words. Amazon doesn’t give you lots of space, and if it’s longer than that, readers will need to click on ‘read more’ to see the rest.
Well, about this one… I can’t recollect the last time I didn’t need to click on “read more”. Nor I think this is necessarily a turn off. Amazon doesn’t allow you even 100 words, and squeezing the entire novel into 60 or 70 words might be counterproductive, unless you’re a blurb genius and can pull it off. This is what you see when you go to Amazon and look for the mentioned example, The Girl on the Train.
This is the Number One Bestseller. You Dont Know Her. But She Knows You. Rear Window meets Gone Girl, in this exceptional and startling psychological thriller “Gripping, enthralling – a top-notch thriller and a compulsive read.” (S J WATSON, bestselling author of Before I Go To Sleep). Rachel catches the same commuter train every morning. She knows it will wait at the same signal each time, overlooking a row of back gardens. She’s even started to feel like she knows the people who live in one of the houses. ‘Jess
Only 90 words is how much space Amazon allowed for this novel. Besides, this is a clumsy looking blurb, with at least one typo and a few grammar errors (something an indie author would’ve never been forgiven for) and it cuts you off rather absurdly on the word “Jess”. The beginning “You Dont Know Her. But She Knows You” is, I guess, a tag line. The blurb experts also warn not to reveal the plot, no matter how tempting it is. This blurb does. The moment I read “Rear Window” and Hitchcockian thriller, I knew the direction in which the plot was going to develop. I knew who the killer was before I read the first third of the book. So much for being exceptional, gripping and startling. All the excitement fizzled out on page 86.
Having said all this, I’m glad that titles, blurbs and covers aren’t the exclusive ways to find a good book.
So, the title will likely be
The Two-blood Legacy
The Red Cliffs Chronicles, book 1
and the tag-line, the last sentence of the blurb:
Did destiny bring them together only to separate them for an eternity?
The next nightmare – the cover.
*Photo courtesy of Linda Xu on Unsplash