Author Topic: Blurbs made easy  (Read 2333 times)  

Offline Jena H

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Re: Blurbs made easy
« Reply #25 on: April 17, 2017, 01:06:11 PM »
What is the point in being an Independent author if you have to go by all the traditionally publisher rules? It is about taste - the reader's taste. I won't read a book with a present tense blurb and I'm not alone.

I can honestly say that I don't think I've ever noticed tense in a blurb before.  But I just did a quick very non-scientific survey of a couple of 'big' names in publishing and 3 out of 4 books were in present tense.

As long as it's well-written and catches my attention, I honestly don't care what tense it's in.  (And, apparently, I don't notice, either.   8) )
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Offline Martitalbott

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Re: Blurbs made easy
« Reply #26 on: April 18, 2017, 01:37:52 PM »
Sigh...I was just trying to help people write blurbs.

Offline Jena H

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Re: Blurbs made easy
« Reply #27 on: April 18, 2017, 04:56:57 PM »
Sigh...I was just trying to help people write blurbs.

You did.  You gave good advice. ;)
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Offline Bookread

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Re: Blurbs made easy
« Reply #28 on: April 18, 2017, 05:26:08 PM »
I think it's pretty key how you describe a blurb as a mini-mystery. It's true. Every blurb needs some questions to be answered.

Offline crow.bar.beer

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Re: Blurbs made easy
« Reply #29 on: April 19, 2017, 04:00:27 AM »
Sigh...I was just trying to help people write blurbs.

And everyone pointing out how absolutely prevalent present tense blurbs are helps people write blurbs. ;)

Offline Martitalbott

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Re: Blurbs made easy
« Reply #30 on: April 19, 2017, 06:45:20 AM »
And everyone pointing out how absolutely prevalent present tense blurbs are helps people write blurbs. ;)

True. Some people just insist they are right even when they are wrong. I'm a one woman rebellion most of the time and suffer from realism. It works for me, therefore, I am not wrong. :o)

Offline FelissaEly

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Re: Blurbs made easy
« Reply #31 on: April 19, 2017, 09:03:59 AM »
Hi Marti,

Thank you so much for offering your help, my husband and I can't write blurbs for the life of us... I hope you don't mind taking a look at this one and seeing if we're on track? (We're re-branding covers/re-writing blurbs for his urban fantasy series):

Book 1:

A part-time enforcer, all Jay cared about was those closest to him and a job that let him hit people. That was before a betrayal sent him packing. Four years later he's back, but his former boss thinks he lost his edge. Reduced to proving himself, he's thrown a straightforward task: collect on an overdue debt from some elf.

As if life was ever that simple. With a vampire ex-girlfriend out for blood and a friend caught up in something dangerous, he has his work cut out for him. Jay always thought he was human, well maybe with a little bit extra, but when tracking the elf results in more questions than answers his life gets a lot more complicated.



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Offline Martitalbott

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Re: Blurbs made easy
« Reply #32 on: April 19, 2017, 01:29:41 PM »
Hi Marti,

Thank you so much for offering your help, my husband and I can't write blurbs for the life of us... I hope you don't mind taking a look at this one and seeing if we're on track? (We're re-branding covers/re-writing blurbs for his urban fantasy series):

Book 1:

A part-time enforcer, all Jay cared about was those closest to him and a job that let him hit people. That was before a betrayal sent him packing. Four years later he's back, but his former boss thinks he lost his edge. Reduced to proving himself, he's thrown a straightforward task: collect on an overdue debt from some elf.

As if life was ever that simple. With a vampire ex-girlfriend out for blood and a friend caught up in something dangerous, he has his work cut out for him. Jay always thought he was human, well maybe with a little bit extra,


It's good. I had to read the first paragraph twice to figure out what his job was, but maybe that's just because I'm too tired.

The last line could be more enticing.  " but when tracking the elf results in more questions than answers his life gets a lot more complicated." See if you can find something in your story that will enhance this.  "but tracking means (late nights), (headaches), and what is (that light in the sky) supposed to mean?

Hope that gives you a couple of idea.

Offline FelissaEly

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Re: Blurbs made easy
« Reply #33 on: April 19, 2017, 05:31:26 PM »
It's good. I had to read the first paragraph twice to figure out what his job was, but maybe that's just because I'm too tired.

The last line could be more enticing.  " but when tracking the elf results in more questions than answers his life gets a lot more complicated." See if you can find something in your story that will enhance this.  "but tracking means (late nights), (headaches), and what is (that light in the sky) supposed to mean?

Hope that gives you a couple of idea.

Thank you, Marti, that helps a lot! :)


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Offline MelanieCellier

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Re: Blurbs made easy
« Reply #34 on: April 20, 2017, 01:34:55 AM »
Any tips on mine?  I thought it was hooky, but then I was told it might be too vague, so I added a little more details.

It went from this:

It all started with a broadcast and a countdown timer.  Twelve hours later, electronics stopped working.  A few days later, the dead started walking.

At least, that's what everyone tells Simon Finch, but he has no recollection of the past two years.  Where did the time go?  That's the part Simon doesn't understand.

Now, he's on a mission to find his family and find answers, but the world's not what it used to be.  Small settlements have risen in humanity's downfall and Simon must navigate from camp to camp, following the trail his family left behind.  He knows to fear the dead, but in a world so dangerous, can he trust the living?


to this:

When North Korea issued their manifesto and subsequently cut off contact with the outside world, no one took it seriously.  Four months later, a twelve-hour countdown timer appeared on every TV.  There were no demands.  No statements.  When the timer hit zero, electronics stopped working.  A few days later, the dead started walking.

At least, that's what everyone tells Simon Finch.  The last thing he remembers is diving into the lake on a warm summer morning before heading off to college.  When he emerged, his family was gone, the skies were dark and the only clue he had was a plume of billowing smoke on the horizon.

Simon is forced to put his own future on hold for a future he doesn't understand.  Now, he's on a mission to find his family and find answers in a world where survival is the only thing that matters.  Small settlements have risen in humanity's downfall and Simon must navigate from camp to camp, following the trail his family left behind.  He knows to fear the dead, but in a world so dangerous, can he trust the living?


I'm no blurb expert, but I just thought I'd chime in to say that I think the first one is much, much stronger. I wouldn't change it.

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Re: Blurbs made easy
« Reply #35 on: April 20, 2017, 02:04:47 AM »
I'm no blurb expert, but I just thought I'd chime in to say that I think the first one is much, much stronger. I wouldn't change it.

I agree. The first one really grabbed my attention and raised questions. The second paragraph in the second one is very good, though. You might substitute that in for the second paragraph in the first one.

Offline Nic

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Re: Blurbs made easy
« Reply #36 on: April 21, 2017, 01:44:36 AM »
I haven't noticed before, but I now realise I have passed on hundreds of books precisely because the blurb was written in present tense.

I do not touch present tense as a reader, unless I am forced to. PT blurbs give me the impression the entire book is written that way, hence I pass and won't look back. Too many books, too short a life for that.

Offline crow.bar.beer

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Re: Blurbs made easy
« Reply #37 on: April 21, 2017, 04:26:50 AM »
I do not touch present tense as a reader, unless I am forced to. PT blurbs give me the impression the entire book is written that way, hence I pass and won't look back.

Well now you know better. ;)

Offline Nic

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Re: Blurbs made easy
« Reply #38 on: April 21, 2017, 09:56:36 AM »
Well now you know better. ;)

Won't change a thing, actually.

Offline crow.bar.beer

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Re: Blurbs made easy
« Reply #39 on: April 21, 2017, 10:02:15 AM »
Won't change a thing, actually.

Too busy to click the look-inside?  :P

Offline Nic

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Re: Blurbs made easy
« Reply #40 on: April 21, 2017, 10:18:12 AM »
Yes. Unless a book is heavily recommended to me by friends, the cover and blurb are what decides me. If the cover is okay I will look at the blurb. A blurb in much detested present tense? I'll pass. The book might come to my attention again if friends recommend it, but given the number of published books, it most likely lost its chance already.

Offline Martitalbott

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Re: Blurbs made easy
« Reply #41 on: April 21, 2017, 01:10:10 PM »
Yes. Unless a book is heavily recommended to me by friends, the cover and blurb are what decides me. If the cover is okay I will look at the blurb. A blurb in much detested present tense? I'll pass. The book might come to my attention again if friends recommend it, but given the number of published books, it most likely lost its chance already.

It would be interesting to know how many readers are like you and I.

Online Jack Krenneck

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Re: Blurbs made easy
« Reply #42 on: April 21, 2017, 07:40:57 PM »
Honestly, I would think not many. Present tense is standard for blurbs. They don't have to be in present tense, but nearly all are. Interestingly, present tense is also standard in copywriting, which is what blurbs are.

Bottom line I think is that the vast majority of readers don't notice, and if they did they wouldn't care. What's going on in present tense is happening at a subconscious level. But whether readers notice or not, it is working under the radar to increase sales.
« Last Edit: April 21, 2017, 07:42:36 PM by Jack Krenneck »

Offline Nic

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Re: Blurbs made easy
« Reply #43 on: April 21, 2017, 10:06:56 PM »
It would be interesting to know how many readers are like you and I.

Among friends and relatives I know about quite a few. I'd estimate us to be around 20-30% overall.

The crucial question is whether those who do not mind reading blurbs in present tense and not assume the book is written in present tense, would dismiss books with blurbs in past tense because they dislike reading past tense in the book itself. If yes, it's leave or take. If no, then those who use present tense blurbs stand to lose a potential audience of almost a third of their entire potential audience.

Offline Nic

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Re: Blurbs made easy
« Reply #44 on: April 21, 2017, 10:15:47 PM »
Bottom line I think is that the vast majority of readers don't notice, and if they did they wouldn't care. What's going on in present tense is happening at a subconscious level. But whether readers notice or not, it is working under the radar to increase sales.

That's just an assumption without data. You just received data from two people on this forum, who stated they will do everything to avoid present tense prose. Given that these days the decision process on whether or not a book gets bought or loaned is very short (what was it? 15 seconds?), and that for a large enough part of the readership present tense is something they actively want and need to avoid, "false positives" shave off quite a margin of potential readers of a book.

My mind simply registers the presence of present tense. I don't necessarily stop long enough to decide whether it is in the blurb or in the sample or some other fragment of the prose. I see present tense, I pass. And copywriting habits are per themselves not endearing me to a product. I consciously try to resist marketing strategies. I doubt I always manage to do that, but I sure will give it the old try. I dislike advertising.

Offline Sam B

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Re: Blurbs made easy
« Reply #45 on: April 21, 2017, 10:18:48 PM »
Honestly, I would think not many. Present tense is standard for blurbs. They don't have to be in present tense, but nearly all are. Interestingly, present tense is also standard in copywriting, which is what blurbs are.

Bottom line I think is that the vast majority of readers don't notice, and if they did they wouldn't care. What's going on in present tense is happening at a subconscious level. But whether readers notice or not, it is working under the radar to increase sales.

Subconscious present tense actually just happened to me. My book is past tense, but I automatically wrote the blurb in present, without even considering what I was doing. I just looked through 10 of the most popular books in my genre, all the blurbs are in present tense though the books are in past. I guess it's something that you learn automatically if you read enough in a genre.

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Offline dgcasey

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Re: Blurbs made easy
« Reply #46 on: April 21, 2017, 10:28:07 PM »
The bottom line is that you have about 5 seconds to grab someone's interest - thus the need for a good opening.

And the first couple of seconds is devoted to looking at your cover. If that doesn't grab the reader's interest, the greatest blurb in the world may not matter.
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Online Jack Krenneck

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Re: Blurbs made easy
« Reply #47 on: April 21, 2017, 11:23:17 PM »
That's just an assumption without data. You just received data from two people on this forum, who stated they will do everything to avoid present tense prose.


My data is millions of books on Amazon. Especially those that sell. That's usable data, data superior to the personal preferences of two people. Two people aren't statistically relevant. 

As it happens, I don't read stories in the present tense either. I hate it. But I read a lot of books, so present tense blurbs obviously work. And, until I started studying how to write blurbs, I never even noticed that all the blurbs of all my favorite books were in present tense...

I didn't notice that first person stories mostly had blurbs in present tense third person either.

If someone wants to write a past tense blurb, let them have at it. I hope it works for them. I'm all for breaking rules, as long as the person understands the pros and cons (which is why people have pointed out in this thread that industry standard is present tense and why that's the case).

I've seen bestsellers where the blurb was in first person and the story in third. That person knows how to write cracker blurbs though, so it didn't cause problems. I don't advise a beginner to try that. Nor have I seen a single recognized authority (trad or indie) ever advise other than present tense.

« Last Edit: April 21, 2017, 11:24:55 PM by Jack Krenneck »

Offline Flying Pizza Pie

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Re: Blurbs made easy
« Reply #48 on: April 22, 2017, 02:56:50 AM »
I strongly disagree. Present tense is a turn-off for me and many others. For a time US journalists tried that and then gave it up, when people told them how stupid it sounded to say the news was happening now when it was actually yesterday or even before. It's according to taste, of course, but then I write historical novels, so present tense really would sound silly for my books.

OK, I'll bite. Marti, this is your blurb from what looks like your most popular book. What tense is this?

"They knew it could happen - scientists had been warning them for years. Yet, nearly two million people living in the greater Seattle area went about their daily lives as usual. A Detective Agency thought they had found a missing woman, an upstart radio station was on the air, and an eccentric banker had just started a round of golf. Thousands were driving on freeways, shopping in malls, awaiting flights, working in downtown high-rises, and on buses in the bus tunnel. "


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Offline Martitalbott

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Re: Blurbs made easy
« Reply #49 on: April 22, 2017, 07:09:18 AM »
OK, I'll bite. Marti, this is your blurb from what looks like your most popular book. What tense is this?

"They knew it could happen - scientists had been warning them for years. Yet, nearly two million people living in the greater Seattle area went about their daily lives as usual. A Detective Agency thought they had found a missing woman, an upstart radio station was on the air, and an eccentric banker had just started a round of golf. Thousands were driving on freeways, shopping in malls, awaiting flights, working in downtown high-rises, and on buses in the bus tunnel. "

You got me - sort of, although I used "was, had, etc." :0)

Seattle Quake was written 30 years ago before I knew better. Will that excuse work?