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THE BACK COVER BLURB

April 22, 2020

This has been a never-ending source of irritation to me as a reader.

I’ve alluded to it many times here a Fred Central, but have never dedicated an article specifically to back cover blurbs. It’s time I did so.

PURPOSE

            To be blunt, the back cover blurb is a marketing tool.

            The blurb is like the cover. The cover is the first thing to attract the potential reader to your book. If you have a crappy cover, the reader is more than likely to skip your book to something more aesthetically pleasing. It’s a known fact that there are a few rebellious souls out there that seek out crappy covers, “juss cuz,” but don’t bet the bank on that and expect to have enough sales to afford a Starbucks coffee at the end of the quarter.

            After the cover comes some kind of verbiage about the story. What’s going on between the pages? What’s the subject of your masterpiece? Why should anyone read it? This is where you need to entice them to open the cover and explore further. This is where you have to grab them and make them want more.

MOST DIFFICULT TO WRITE?

            For some authors, the back cover blurb is the most difficult part of the book to write. Others have said it’s the synopsis, while some have stated it’s the pitch letter. For me, while back in the day, I found the synopsis the most challenging, nowadays, I don’t find any of them all that bad. However, if I had to pick one, I’d still say the most labor intensive is the synopsis. What does that say about the back cover blurb?

            To me, it’s not all that hard.

            Why?

            It has to be catchy, but simple. It’s a synopsis without giving away the big Kahuna. It’s a lure to entice the potential reader to buy your book. It’s a quick and dirty few lines that you should know off the top of your head already. You just have to put these words down into something intelligible and honest.

            Therefore…

            I don’t like to lie to my readers.

TRUTH IN ADVERTISING

            There’s nothing that irritates me more than picking up a book that looks interesting. While the covers have some sway, I’m not one that pays all that much attention unless the cover is super amateurish. On the other hand, if I’m going to read this book, I usually just take a glance at the cover and go right to the back blurb. That gives me some idea of what’s inside. I have other criteria which I’ve gone into plenty of times before, but the back blurb is important. What it says is what I expect to see when I read the book.

            I expect a certain amount of hyperbole. After all, it IS a marketing tool. However, I expect that blurb to actually be ABOUT the story.

            Too often, the blurb is not even (or barely) related to the story between the covers.

WHO WRITES THE BLURB?

            If you expect the marketing department at your publisher to take over these mundane tasks, think again! While they may very well do the cover and give you minimal input in the matter, one of the author tasks during the editing phase is to write the back cover blurb. Some marketing genius at the publishing house doesn’t do it. First off, they’re not going to read the book and dream this up. It’s up to you. Second. You’ll be lucky if the artist who does your cover even scans the story to get an idea of the book before they come up with the cover!

            Now, if you’re self-published, all that’s out the window anyway. You do it all, so there you go.

ATTRACTING AN AUDIENCE

            Often, the back cover blurb has elements of your pitch letter in it. Therefore, what you used to attract your agent you can use to attract your readers as well. Now, if it’s the second or more book of a series, or if you’re self-published, all bets are off. Then again, you’re still trying to attract people. Therefore, do yourself a favor and at least attract them with the truth.

            Ease up on the hyperbole if your blurb strays too far from the reality of the actual story!

EXAMPLE

            Jane always wanted to be an artist, but when she enrolled in the Chroma Institute, she had no idea what she was in for.

            Soon, her life turned upside down when killing started. If she wasn’t careful, she wouldn’t make it to graduation.

            Sounds like a great thriller about Jane and her horrible time at the Chroma Institute. The problem is that the story is about Alexa and Jane dies in the first scene. Also, it’s a romance and Jane is the only one that dies.

            While I changed the names and plot to protect the guilty, what I described is from a real blurb of a different book, different genre but the same thing, false advertising.

            The Amazon reviews reflected it as well. One and a half stars overall of something like fifty reviews.

            This was an exaggerated example, but there are plenty that are much more subtle but might as well be just as bad.

WHAT SHOULD A BLURB BE?

            The truth with just a hint of what’s to come.

            Given that I made that one above up out to illustrate a real one, let’s use it as the example again.

            Jane always wanted to be an artist, but when she enrolled in the Chroma Institute, she had no idea what she was in for.

            Soon, her life turned upside down when killing started. If she wasn’t careful, she wouldn’t make it to graduation.

            Say, the protagonist really is Jane and she wants to be an artist. She enrolls in the Chroma Institute, which is in an old Victorian mansion up on a hill in San Francisco.

            This is a murder mystery, a women-in-jeopardy thriller. Jane is single, after coming off a messy relationship with someone. She’s attracted to a tall dark stranger who’s a teacher/student at the institute. Bla bla bla. Mayhem ensues.

            Now that’s staying true to the blurb.

SUMMARY

            The blurb is your marketing tool. It should ring of truth, not mislead your reader.

            It needs to be catchy without going off the rails.

            Don’t anger your readers or alienate them.

            Your reviews will reflect that. I know I certainly let them know!

            Happy writing!

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