After the cover, the next port of call for the potential buyer of your book is your book description.
And like an elevator pitch, your book blurb needs to be punchy, upbeat, a breeze to read and intriguing enough to make the reader want more.
Set aside an afternoon to write a 500 to 800-word book description.
First, you're NOT writing a synopsis of your story.
Imagine you're in a bar with a friend and you want to get them to read a book you've just finished.
You don't want to give away the ending - and you don't want to bore them with names and locations and character interactions that aren't immediately pertinent to their understanding of the overall story.
You want to give them the best hook you can think of first - and then only details if their interest in piqued.
This is where you need to start:
The hook. A less than 50-word sentence that describes what the story is about in general terms. It's perfectly acceptable to use nebulous yet emotive adjectives in blurbs that you might never use in your normal writing. For instance:
"Death's Door" is a brilliant fast-paced thriller set in the exotic Cayman Islands. Gregg Lestrade is a handsome rich kid with a burning ambition. He wants to marry the beautiful Marie Donohue, his high-school sweetheart, and daughter of a Sicilian mob boss. But she wants him dead - and soon.
You need to amplify the action into mythic status. You need to take your story and, like Hollywood, imply that it is a tale for the ages, unlike any other.
Use words that readers of your genre would expect to see on the back of a book like yours.
If your blurb doesn't get your blood pumping, it's probably not going to make anyone want to buy it.
Only include information about the story if it is unusual or elaborate.
Leave out anything that sounds dull - even if it's important to the story inside the book.
As I say, your description is NOT a potted synopsis and should actually give away very little of the story beyond the first 20 pages.
In most stories, the characters are presented in their normal lives at the beginning and then they are tested.
Ideally, your blurb should take the reader up to the moment of the 'test' and no further…
Because, as with the three dots above, the rest is up to the imagination of your reader - which is their cue to want to know more - and buy the book.
Give away too much and you risk deflating any anticipation the reader might have had for the book.
A short blurb is often better than a long one. But if you want to fill up your allotted 800 words, fill them with the more intriguing aspects of your story.
Say it explores things like "the relationship between love lost and duty" - that kind of thing.
Largely unspecific but thought-provoking.
Keep editing your book description until it is filled with short sharp sentences that press emotional triggers.
Turning points, ethical conundrums, hard choices, all make for good fiction copy.
Put a call to action of sorts at the end.
Find out more - that sort of thing!
(c) Rob Parnell
Articles on Writing