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I've copied and pasted an article from the Fussy Librarian's author newsletter (Nov 2014) below.  It might be helpful to those of us in need of blurb guidance -- 

The biggest weak spot for many authors remains the book blurb, those magical words that will decide whether a reader buys your book or not. I've written about this before, but it's so important that I got permission from Beth Bacon to to reprint her Digital Book World post here:

The blurb. The back-of-book description. The dust-cover copy. Whatever you call your book’s summary, it’s an important element of your marketing package. How to create a great book description? It comes down to four steps.
Here is the formula:

(1) Situation. Every story has to start somewhere, with some people in some sort of circumstances. Describe them simply here.

(2) Problem. Every story (every interesting one, anyway) has some sort of hitch that either makes that situation untenable or makes change inevitable. This part of the description often starts with the word, “But…” or “However…” or “Until…”

(3) Hopeful possibility. Here’s the potential to overcome the crisis. This “cool thing” or “longshot opportunity” makes your audience want to read your story. Yes, the situation (above) seems doomed by the problem (above). Still, there’s hope because of this new twist. Parts 1, 2, and 3, if concisely written, together create the drama that propels the story.

(4) Mood, tone or spirit of the story. Finally, readers want to know what kind of emotional state they’re going to get into while they’re reading this book. Is it a dark, dystopian tragedy or humorous chick lit cotton candy? This is where you set the tone and clinch the deal, turning browsers into buyers.

The formula in action:

So, let’s look at this formula in action. I recently helped a marketing team write the blurb for a YA book Spirit Warriors: The Concealing by D. E. L. Connor. Here is this book description, using that formula:

(1) Sixteen-year-old Emme Belrose has it all: four best friends, her own horse, a hidden teepee hangout, and a blossoming romance with tall and handsome Charlie. These friends also have a secret. They can move their spirits into animal bodies: an Osprey, a Mustang, a Grizzly, a Mountain Lion and a Coyote. (2) But when Charlie, who has a gift for seeing the future, has a vision of Emme drowning in the icy Yellostone River, (3) the Spirit Warriors must train their animal bodies to kill an enemy they know is coming… but know nothing about. (4) Suspenseful, romantic and awash in Native American magic, Spirit Warriors captures the enchantment of the American West and the power of friendship.

Make it short. One thing self-published authors tend to do is include too much information in their book blurbs. It’s hard to cut out subplots you’ve slaved over and characters you feel are vital to the story. But Internet book buyers don’t have a lot of time. Leave all that for the book itself.

Make it dramatic. What do your readers want in a blurb, if they don’t want length? They want drama. They want tension. They want to know they’re going to dip into a world where they’re hooked and curious and completely immersed till the end. If your blurb doesn’t hook your readers, they’re going to assume your book won’t hook them either.

 

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This is a popular blog post.  I like part of it, but I also feel that some of it is poor advice.  In my opinion, the last part where she breaks away and simply tells the customer that the book is suspenseful, romantic...  This does not belong in a blurb.  This is more of an editorial review zinger.  Suspenseful? Maybe, the reader will be the judge of that.  Romantic?  I'm not getting romance from a blurb that's full of shapeshifters training to fight an enemy.  American West?  Setting should be woven into the blurb.  Power of Friendship?  I got that from the blurb but I don't need to be told it.

Other word choices in the blurb seem weak:  But when, Must, and a 'thing' word.

Again, it's just my opinion.  Some of what she points out is good, some of it isn't.
 

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SBJones said:
This is a popular blog post. I like part of it, but I also feel that some of it is poor advice. In my opinion, the last part where she breaks away and simply tells the customer that the book is suspenseful, romantic... This does not belong in a blurb. This is more of an editorial review zinger. Suspenseful? Maybe, the reader will be the judge of that. Romantic? I'm not getting romance from a blurb that's full of shapeshifters training to fight an enemy. American West? Setting should be woven into the blurb. Power of Friendship? I got that from the blurb but I don't need to be told it.
Meh. I'm cool with all of those. Trade-published books do that all the time, and they manage to sell a copy or two.
 

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SBJones said:
Suspenseful? Maybe, the reader will be the judge of that.
But if you don't put it in the blurb how will a reader looking for a suspenseful novel know whether it's suspenseful or not? Somewhere along the line you have to tell people what kind of thing you're selling, which may even mean blowing your own trumpet just a teensy bit.
 

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SBJones said:
This is a popular blog post. I like part of it, but I also feel that some of it is poor advice. In my opinion, the last part where she breaks away and simply tells the customer that the book is suspenseful, romantic... This does not belong in a blurb. This is more of an editorial review zinger. Suspenseful? Maybe, the reader will be the judge of that. Romantic? I'm not getting romance from a blurb that's full of shapeshifters training to fight an enemy. American West? Setting should be woven into the blurb. Power of Friendship? I got that from the blurb but I don't need to be told it.

Other word choices in the blurb seem weak: But when, Must, and a 'thing' word.

Again, it's just my opinion. Some of what she points out is good, some of it isn't.
@SBJones

I commend you for not accepting the blurb-writing advice without thinking about it. Well-reasoned critical thought is rare. Of course not all agree with your assessment.

I find that the advice presented by the Fussy Librarian adheres closely to Dwight Swain's story-statement approach (from Techniques of the Selling Writer. It is also called the Statement-Question or SQ approach. His approach has 5 elements:

1. Situation,
2. Character,
3. Objective,
4. Opponent, and
5. Disaster.

An example from a postulated science fiction story
Situation When humans suddenly begin to grow to twelve-foot height,
Character John Storm
Objective tries to find out why. But can he defeat
Opponent the traitors in high places
Disaster who want to make the change appear to be the result of an extraterrestrial plot?

(I never liked Swain's example, but it makes the point.)

Is Swain's SQ approach enough to make cover copy (a blurb)? I don't think so, but I think it is a start. I view the Fussy Librarian's approach as an embellishment on Swain's.

Is there one formula for writing successful cover copy? There may be, but I don't think it has been discovered yet.

Me? I write poor cover copy and I know it. So I write one draft and submit it here, to the Writers' Cafe, to have others kick it into good shape. There are writers here who are far, far better at writing cover copy than I. It works for me. I get good cover copy this way. And I am grateful to the denizens of the Writers' Cafe for their help and acknowledge them in my books.
 

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I don't like the switch in the blurb where she ends it by telling us a review.  I don't think that has a place in the blurb proper.  At Amazon on the front page, you have the cover as the primary selling point.  Until you start browsing or searching does Amazon list the title, price, author, review rating.  Once you actually click a book do you finally see the blurb.  The cover, title and blurb should be able to convey that last sentence she uses.  Even if it misses, the customer does know what category they are browsing in, and that will 'tell' them as well.

Is there anything wrong with that last sentence?  No, but it doesn't belong there in my opinion.  It can go in the editorial review area.  Now, if you are promoting outside a normal sales channel. Like buying a paid or free ad and your book is just jumbled in with X number of other books in an email newsletter, then I can see a use for it.  This additional information might be necessary because the customer buying experience is different.  The blurb is one of the few customer facing variables that self publishers have complete control over.  It's been said that the worst a great blurb can do is nothing.  But a bad blurb can only hurt you.

Thing words just make me facepalm.  This is a perfect example.  The blurb says they face an enemy they know 'nothing' about, yet in the same sentence we are told of an enemy, a drowning and that it's coming for them.  That doesn't sound like knowing nothing.  That's a lot of information they have, enough that they are going to train and defeat it.

Also, we are authors looking at this blurb with a critical eye and are dissecting it for education value, not for entertainment value as a customer would.  Overall I would rate this blurb as middle of the road and a lot of authors have middle of the road blurbs.  Blurbs are hard and most of us don't even think about them until just prior to uploading.  It's like asking a parent to describe their adult children in seven sentences.  Many authors do a quick search about blurbs and this blog post is one of the top rated Google returns.  I have seen this blurb rehashed dozens of times and at best, authors are not hurting their sales with it, but they are not helping them either.
 

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This is a great help, but also not a fan of the switch to 'telling' about the book at the end. Love this layout though and will be working with it for future blurbs. Thanks!
 

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Lydniz said:
But if you don't put it in the blurb how will a reader looking for a suspenseful novel know whether it's suspenseful or not? Somewhere along the line you have to tell people what kind of thing you're selling, which may even mean blowing your own trumpet just a teensy bit.
The blurb should show that the story is suspenseful. If the reader has to rely on the blurb actually saying 'this is a story full of suspense' then I'd say the blurb has probably failed to do what it was supposed to.
 

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I continue to be a fan of using movie trailers as inspiration for blurb writing.

"In a world..."
 
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