Indie Endeavors, Part 9: Blurbs

Next week my how-to series will wrap up! But I’ve decided to make Indie Publishing a category on my blog. I’ll add to it often. In the meantime, check out all my posts in this series…

Your book is published in a variety of places. Now it’s time to write up some effective blurbs to help you sell them. Blurbs are short, catchy summaries and can range between one sentence and two or three paragraphs. After your cover, your blurb is the first place readers will look to check out your book, so make sure it’s snappy and effective. The trick is to capture interest in a short space. In this post, I’ll give you some examples of blurbs and blurb lengths and share some great places to use them.

Usually the site on which you publish your book will give you the opportunity to write a short synopsis that will appear next to your book listing. Take advantage!! The length of your blurb will depend on the amount of space you’re given. Here’s my Smashwords short blurb for my middle grade fantasy, The Quill Pen. In four sentences, it captures the story’s problem, piques interest, and creates a measure of suspense (at least I hope it does!):

If you owned a pen that wrote the future, would you use it? What if consequences spread like ripples in a pond? What if they raged out of control? What if the pen demanded tribute—in blood?

Smashwords also allows room for a longer summary, as does Amazon. You’ll want to be careful, however. It is possible to bore your reader or scare them off with too much text. And you don’t want to reveal too much information, either. The best blurbs give a little away and create interest by hinting at all the reader doesn’t yet know. Here’s an example:

If you found a pen that wrote the future, would you use it? What if consequences spread like ripples in a pond? What if they raged out of control? What if the pen demanded tribute…in blood?

Thirteen-year-old Micah has found such a pen. One that’s ensnared him in a curse dating back generations. One that’s devastated two families and now threatens his whole New England village. But how can Micah destroy the pen when it offers him his only chance at the future he dreams of?

Sometimes an even longer blurb may be in order, like on the back cover of your book, or when someone (like a reviewer or an editor) asks for a one-page synopsis. Since my Quill Pen back cover blurb is quite short (I used the one above), I’ll provide the one from my book The Color of Freedom as an example of a longer one. It gives the reader a very good idea of what will happen in the book but still leaves much unsaid. Notice how the conflict is clearly put forth:

Fourteen-year-old Meadow McKenzie hates the British. Turned off her Irish farm and forced to book passage to America as an indentured servant, Meadow understands why the rebels wish to throw off the yoke of King George’s rule. But is freedom worth the cost?

Then, forced to flee her master, Meadow disguises herself as a boy and takes up with a traveling tinker. While winding toward Boston to reunite with her father, she’s moved by the courage, pride and determination of the American patriots, but their Puritan roots run deep.

Before she can embrace the cause of her new homeland, Meadow must carefully consider a future amongst Puritan hatred for her Catholic beliefs. Would liberty apply to Irish, to Negroes, to Quakers, to Jews, to Catholics? Or would that slogan be cast aside when majority rule served the majority? Perhaps the colonists had simply invented a new kind of tyranny.

But war will not wait for Meadow’s decision.

It’s also wise to have a very concise summary of perhaps one or two sentences. You never know when you might have a quick opportunity to pitch your book. Fellow YA author Lois D. Brown (who wrote Cycles) and I decided to advertise in the back of each other’s books because our themes were so similar. We used very, very short blurbs because we figured our readers’ attention span was at an end. Here are both of them:

Mine: If you owned a pen that wrote the future, would you use it? What if the pen demanded tribute—in blood?

Hers: Thirteen-year-old Renee Beaumont is about to die . . . again.

So you can see that having a variety of blurbs is very beneficial. If you’re given the space, make sure you include them. (And make double sure your spelling and punctuation are correct.) With a little creativity, you’ll probably find many additional uses for them. I use mine each time I query a possible reviewer, and they’ve come in handy when I’ve been featured on author spotlight blogs. So take a little time to write some up.

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2 thoughts on “Indie Endeavors, Part 9: Blurbs

  1. thiskidreviewsbooks

    Thank you for telling me about blurbs! I’ll think about this when I’m working on the covers of my book! I’m sad that there’s only one more post in your how-to series. BUT thanks for going to make a page! :)

  2. Michelle Isenhoff Post author

    Thanks, Erik. I can’t believe it’s been ten weeks already! I’ve got a page full of other writing topics, so they’ll keep showing up every week or two. I think this series has appealed to a whole new crowd than just kidlit lovers.

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