I’ve been struggling all weekend with the feeling of exhaustion coupled with the anxiety of coming up with character descriptions, blurb drafts and cover spec materials that make sense and are helpful. I have to admit it, this stuff stresses me out. It was pointed out to me that I overthink these things. Guilty. I’m good at that.
But what I do know is you’ll never get authors to be unanimous about anything but if you want to get close to that, let’s talk synopsis and blurb writing. I’ve yet to meet any of us who like it (Oh I’m sure they’re out there but I’m also pretty sure they’re the minority). Since it’s blurb writing I’m doing, let’s chat about this grindylow.
You can find lots of help out there like this one which seems more helpful than most How to write a blurb but in many ways it’s still not that helpful. Go ahead, look through Goodreads and Amazon, I’ll wait for you.
See what I mean? Bet you found a ton of really bad blurbs. You’ll get the ones that go one for like 8 paragraphs. Those are the ones where someone has confused synopsis with blurb. Generally if I see one that long, I tend to hop on over to the next book because I’m leery that if the author didn’t know you don’t write a 1000 word blurb, they probably don’t know a lot of other things that should happen before a book is published.
Others are too short, more like the elevator pitch. That’s not very helpful either. You want to hook a reader into buying your book. Two sentences might get our attention but it probably doesn’t give us enough to make an informed decision.
Lately I’ve been seeing a ton of them telling me how many 5 star reviews on Amazon the book has (since reviews do drive sales). That’s nice. No, really it is but that still doesn’t tell me much of what I need to know. If that’s all the blurb is about, all I know is some random stranger liked this book (and I assume it had a different blurb back then so they knew what the heck they were buying).
Others have been so confusing I’m still left with the feeling of what the hell is this? That is not what you want a potential reader feeling because that potential is probably going to be lost.
In working with Dreamspinner and Nine Star Presses they have us shooting for around 250 words. That seems right. You have some information but not too much. So at least now I have a goal. I know about how long it should be. Now what?
You need to use the few words to clue in the readers as to what they’re getting plot and genre wise. Recently I read a mystery that nowhere in the blurb did it hint at it being paranormal. Fine I like paranormal but a lot of people don’t. There were a ton of one star reviews from people who hadn’t been warned about that and you can almost see their point. Are you trying to lure in the cozy mystery market? Want the Christian fiction sales? Want the people who are looking for romance along with their science fiction? The blurb is one way to tell the potential reader that this is what they want or conversely what they don’t want (For example, I’m not terribly religious or political and if I see a blurb that mentions faith five times I can probably guess the book isn’t for me).
In writing M/M fiction you see a lot of people railing against those who also write het romance under the same name. ‘I can’t stand het romance and what if I buy one by accident?’ Really if the blurb is written correctly there should be zero chance of that happening. But I have seen it that you literally don’t know. One anthology I was in someone was disappointed that it was LGBT and sure enough the blurb didn’t in any way hint that it would be so unless you knew the publisher you had no clue. Now you have a disappointed reader and a lousy review.
I could probably go on and on about what I don’t and do want to see in a blurb (seriously if I see one more YA blurb that includes the words ‘super hot guy’ or ‘hunky bad boy’ I could probably cry) but that sort of thing is individual and no one will agree. But we all can probably agree a blurb needs to hint at the plot and genre, introduce you to the characters and the conflict they’re going to face without giving away everything.
And I still hate them.
As for my writing otherwise, it’s been a slow week but I’ve plodded along with my Lost Novella. I’ve come up with one more scene but now I’m in the high grass trying to figure out how to cut up the original short story and flesh it out without overdoing it. Wish me luck.