I’m in the middle of finishing new articles for DIY MFA and Writers Helping Writers. So I thought I’d do an “easy” post this week, and one I’ve been meaning to do for a while. Your feedback has been so helpful in the past with website changes, blogoversary celebrations, and excerpts on my YA fantasy novel The Keeper’s Curse. I’d like to ask for it again today, on a component of the novel-writing process that’s more important than we might think: the blurb.
Wondering what a blurb is? Or why it’s important for writers to start working on one before their novel is published? I’ll answer those questions briefly, then give you a chance to offer feedback on the latest blurb for TKC.
What Is a Blurb? Plus, Where You Can Find More Information on Writing One for Your Story
In the publishing realm, a blurb is a two- to four-paragraph (or 100- to 200-word) description of the story that’s designed to capture a reader’s attention and convince them to check out the book. You’ll find it on a hardcover’s jacket flap, a paperback’s back cover, and the book’s Goodreads and Amazon pages. In this way, the blurb is one of the novel’s most visible and valuable marketing tools – and if it’s written well, it can be incredibly effective, too.
Blurbs can also help writers with their stories before they reach that stage. In fact, drafting a story’s blurb allows you to identify who and what the story is about, then focus on those key components as you write. Then, once you’ve revised and revised the manuscript until it’s ready, the blurb (which you should also revise until it’s “perfect”) can act as the pitch or hook in your query letter to literary agents. So, by working on the blurb early in your story’s lifetime, you’re doing your homework in advance.
When either querying or publishing, a captivating blurb should answer the following questions without spoiling the story’s events:
- Who is the protagonist?
- Where and when does the story take place?
- What is the main conflict? How is the protagonist involved in or affected by this conflict?
- What’s at stake here? What might the protagonist have to do in order to resolve this conflict and/or achieve her story goal?
If you’d like more in-depth information about blurbs for either published novels or query letters, check out these articles:
- “Anatomy of a Kick A$$ Query Letter” by Kent Bridgeman (DIY MFA)
- “Crafting a Novel’s Pitch: 7 Tips” by Chuck Sambuchino (First Novels Club)
- “Query Letters Part 1: The Pitch” by Annie Neugebauer (Writer Unboxed)
- “The Complete Guide to Query Letters” by Jane Friedman (Jane Friedman’s Blog)
- “The Perfect Back Cover Blurb” by Sophie Masson (Writer Unboxed)
Why I’m Asking for Your Feedback on TKC’s Blurb
As I mentioned, the blurb is a crucial part of a writer’s query letter to a literary agent. If the letter – especially the blurb – is compelling and enticing enough, the agent might request to read the respective manuscript. This is a BIG step in the right direction if you want to be traditionally published (i.e., find an agent who will represent you, then possibly get a book deal through a publishing house).
While TKC isn’t ready for querying yet, it never hurts to think ahead. In fact, the Novels and Other Stories page has featured various “drafts” of TKC’s blurb over time. But if you think writing a novel is hard, try summarizing it in two to three brief, non-spoiler-ish paragraphs. Yeah…
I tinkered with TKC’s blurb again recently, intending to make it less wordy without compromising any discussion on stakes or conflict. But I’m not sure it’s “there” yet… and I’ve reached the point where I need help figuring out if it needs more improvement.
The good thing is, many query-advice blogs recommend that writers get feedback on their blurbs and/or query letters from people who haven’t read their manuscript. And while I want to try my luck with Query Shark soon (I swear I can already feel Janet Reid’s “shark bites”!), I also realized that I already know a host of readers who might be willing to critique it. 😉
Interested? Here’s What You Can Do…
- Read the blurb (formatted in block quotes) under the header below.
- When you’re done, share your thoughts by commenting on this post. If it helps, I’ve listed some questions you can answer as part of your feedback.
- Please offer constructive feedback if you respond to this. I’m interested in knowing how this blurb needs to be improved and/or how close it is to “doing its job” in catching the audience’s attention.
- If you’d rather share your thoughts about the blurb with me privately, you can do so via the Contact page.
Sounds good? Then here it is…
The Blurb for The Keeper’s Curse
Seventeen-year-old Eva thrives in her role in the Council of Selanaan, a group of young Fei diplomats protecting their people’s interests at home and abroad. Yet she keeps a secret: She trained to become a Councilor so she could one day kill Mountain Folk, who murdered her parents when she was five years old.
Everything changes when a band of Mountain Folk, led by the young Lord Aurek Kolsteg, enter the Fei’s forest. Their mission: to travel to the Cavern of the Keeper and retrieve artifacts that belonged to their last king. But first, they need the Fei’s help to destroy a curse inside the Cavern. To Eva’s horror, the Council is tasked to accompany the Mountain Folk – and she, as chief translator and navigator, must lead the way.
The journey will be perilous. To succeed, Eva must guide her travel party through untamed forests and grasslands, and elude the shadow demons that can possess one’s mind. But the greatest dangers threaten the party’s alliance from within – and through it all, Eva will have to confront her own darkness. Can she let go of her past in so she can help Aurek and his men? Or will she risk her place on the Council, her Fei identity, and her life for the sake of revenge?
EDIT – 1/18/2017: I’ve already revised the blurb based on initial comments. Visit Novels and Other Stories if you’d like to compare it to the previous version.
My Questions Regarding the Blurb
- Does the blurb grab your attention? Is it convincing enough that it makes you want to read the story?
- Based on what you’ve read, who is the protagonist? What appears to be the main conflict?
- Does the blurb seem too long or wordy? Or do you think the length is fine?
- Does the blurb make it clear that the story is a YA fantasy?
- What other thoughts do you have about the blurb?
Again, if you’d like to offer feedback, feel free to do so in your comments on this post. Any feedback that can further improve the blurb will be gladly welcome.
Have you written your WIP’s blurb yet? How challenging did you find it to “summarize” and tease your story in just a couple paragraphs? What advice and/or blogs helped you revise or strengthen the blurb to its current version?