Thursday, March 3, 2011

Blurbing 101

The first thing a writer needs to know about blubs is what they are and why we need them.

A blurb is a promotional statement about a book. A two to three paragraph summary that tells the reader what the book is about. Pick up any book, look at the back, and you'll find the blurb. If it's a hardcover, the blurb will be written on the dustcover jacket. Blurbs are tools writers use to entice a reader to open the book. And it's a tool readers use to decide if it's the kind of book he/she would like to read.

But how do writers decide what to put in a blurb? What are the most important features of a blurb and how does one condense a two-three hundred word story down to a few paragraphs?

I like to start with a tag line or a hook and then expand from there. A tag line is a one sentence "zinger" that grabs a reader's attention. The blurb itself shouldn't be passive. And it should give the reader a description of the hero and heroine and their conflict or goals.

When preparing to write a blurb, a writer must first identify the hook. That's the tagline. Then, the tagline is followed by a brief summary of the story. I like to start with a paragraph for the hero and one for the heroine (not  necessarily  in that order) and end with a summary paragraph that gives the reader a sense of the conflict or danger and a hint of emotion. Think GMC: Goals, motivation, conflict.


Here's my tagline and blurb for my paranormal romance, Out of the Darkness.

Tagline:
Here research could cure his dark hunger if a covert government agent doesn't get to her first.
Blurb:
Vincent Maxwell is a vampire with a conscience seeking a cure to his dark hunger. But when a scientist looking to create vampire soldiers captures and kills a fellow vampire, Vincent seeks out Dr. Megan Harper, a research scientist who discovered a link between a genetic light sensitivity disorder and vampirism. Dr. Harper could hold a key to a cure and the answers to Gerard’s death. But getting close to the beautiful scientist could endanger both their lives.
When Megan meets Vincent she believes he suffers from xeroderma pigmentosum, the genetic disease that killed her sister. Sensing a deep loneliness within the handsome man, she offers friendship and access to her research files. But she and Vincent soon become more than friends and Megan learns the horrifying truth. She's entered the dark and unseen world of vampires and Vincent is her only hope of survival.

For my historical romance, Slightly Tarnished set for release on 6/3/11, I worked the book's title into the blurb. But my tagline isn't quite as catchy.
Tagline: Victorian romance laced with danger.

Blurb:
When a brooding English earl with a SLIGHTLY TARNISHED reputation marries his dead wife’s American cousin to save her from her uncle’s vengeful schemes, the sea captain’s daughter with a taste for adventure sparks desires he thought long dead.

Nicole Keller has always been headstrong and independent, but after a failed business venture and a sinking ship take her father, her home, and her childhood sweetheart, Nikki must support herself and her mother. But moving to England and marrying Chadwick Masters, Earl of Gilchrest isn’t what she has in mind. And falling in love with the mysterious earl could endanger both their lives.

Figuring out how to write taglines and blurbs wasn't easy. Besides the help I received from my local writer's group, Heart of Carolina Romance Writers, I took an online class on writing blurbs. And then I studied blurbs by reading movie summary's and taglines.

Now, here's an exercise. Go to this website: http://www.imdb.com/

Think of a movie. Let's say Independence Day.
The first line on the page describing the movie is the tag line: The aliens are coming and their goal is to invade and destroy. Fighting superior technology, Man's best weapon is the will to survive.

It's the same tagline that would appear on the back if this were a book.
Now scroll down to plot summary. (In a book, this would be the blurb): On July 2nd, communications systems worldwide are sent into chaos by a strange atmospheric interference. It is soon learned by the military that a number of enormous objects are on a collision course with Earth. At first thought to be meteors, they are later revealed to be gigantic spacecraft, piloted by a mysterious alien species. After attempts to communicate with the aliens go nowhere, David Levinson, an ex-scientist turned cable technician, discovers that the aliens are going to attack major points around the globe in less than a day. On July 3rd, the aliens all but obliterate New York, Los Angeles, and Washington. The survivors set out in convoys towards Area 51, a strange government testing ground where it is rumored the military has a captured alien spacecraft of their own. The survivors devise a plan to fight back against the enslaving aliens, and July 4th becomes the day humanity will fight for its freedom. July 4th is their Independence Day...
Further down, you'll find the plot synopsis. Okay. That's kind of self-explanatory but if you need help writing a synopsis, check out the synopsis for your favorite movie.

The "blurb" for this movie is a bit passive and a little long, but do this exercise several times and you'll get the hang of it.

Now, let's try a romance. How about, The Proposal?
Tagline: A pushy boss forces her young assistant to marry her in order to keep her Visa status in the U.S. and avoid deportation to Canada.

Blurb;
For three years, Andrew Paxton has slaved as the assistant to Margaret Tate, hard-driving editor at a New York publisher. When Margaret, a Canadian, faces deportation for an expired visa, she hatches a scheme to marry Andrew - he agrees if she'll promise a promotion. A skeptical INS agent vows to test the couple about each other the next Monday. Andrew had plans to fly home that weekend for his grandma's 90th, so Margaret goes with him - to Sitka, Alaska - where mom, dad, and grams await. Family dynamics take over: tensions between dad and Andrew, an ex-girlfriend, Andrew's dislike of Margaret, and her past color the next few days, with the INS ready to charge Andrew with fraud.

Since The Proposal is a romantic comedy, the blurb should end with a question or statement about Andrew and Margaret's growing attraction. But again, the exercise serves its purpose.

Now, try this yourself and let me know how it worked for you. Or, share your favorite movie tagline or the tagline from your latest release.

8 comments:

  1. Excellent post, Lilly. Full of helpful information.

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  2. Oh I hate doing blurbs - great info - thanks Lilly.

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  3. Thanks for stopping by ladies. I think Blurbs are much easeier to write than the books, now that I "think" I've got the hang of it. In fact for the book I'm writing now, I wrote the Blurb before writing the book. It's my version of plotting. lol!

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  4. Thought provoking, Lilly! I've worked my blurbs after I read to do it like a movie trailer. So your examples were interesting to me.

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  5. Great post, Lilly! I HATE writing blurbs and the one for my current book is far too long right now - need to trim it and have no idea how, aargh!

    R x
    www.rachelbrimble.com

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  6. Thanks Ilona. And, good luck with that blurb Rachel!

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  7. Lilly, you sure are teasing me with your next book, aren't you! By the Way, Great Post!

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  8. I'm off to try your method of writing blurbs. I always come up with the 'right one' after the book's published!! Not a good idea :-)
    Great post, Lilly. Thanks

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