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What is a “Blurb”?

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by Kelly Lynne

In the publishing industry, the term “blurb” refers to the story description you find on a book jacket or on the back cover of a paperback. It is a marketing tool needed to hook readers into opening the book. A blurb is also needed for query letters to hook agents and publishers into asking to see your manuscript. The traditional size of a blurb is around 150 words.

A successful blurb will include the protagonist’s goal, motivation, and conflict (GMC) and tease the reader with what is at stake. You want the reader to care about the main character and what happens to him or her enough to crack open the book’s cover to discover more. A blurb does not attempt to retell the story. Background is best left out, as are secondary character names. The blurb is not to be confused with a synopsis, which describes pivotal moments in the plot and reveals the ending of the story.

Different genres of fiction have varying styles of blurb. For example, in the romance genre often two main characters must be mentioned in the blurb—the two people falling in love. Their individual GMCs must make the conflict with their Happily Ever After seem like dire circumstances—how will they ever overcome such obstacles? In a sci-fi story, perhaps the fate of the known universe is at stake. If the story has an antagonist, he or she should be represented in the blurb as well; but beware not to allude to nameless, faceless evil—call out your villain!

Spend time in a bookstore or in front of your bookshelf and review the blurbs displayed in your genre. Compare and contrast the construction of the blurbs. Which ones tempt you to open the book? Which ones do not? Think about why. Explore other genres you don’t write in, and see how their marketing is the same or different.

While writing a blurb seems simple, every writer knows blurb writing can take massive trial and error. Publishing companies employ marketing staff to assist with this task; enticing blurbs can make or break sales numbers. On this task, two brains are better than one. An editor who can assist with submission materials will help you compose or tweak a blurb until it represents the story hook with confidence.
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Kelly Lynne edits multiple genres of both adult and YA/middle grade fiction.

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