So you can read my books

Monday, November 26, 2012


{Image of Victor's Mother courtesy of the talented Leonora Roy}

That's the question the prospective reader asks when reading your book blurb.

Book Blurb?  You know, the copy on the back cover or on your Amazon book page.

After the title,

It is the most important prose you will write in regards to the book that you have slaved for months to produce.

How do you manage to spotlight your book and NOT torpedo it?

1) Seduce the reader with your protagonist or world.

Amy Wilkins, Assistant Manager of Digital Content and Social Media at Harlequin, says a SHORT TEASE can win readers to your book in a heartbeat as in

STONE KISSED by Keri Stevens:
“When Delia Forrest talks to statues, they talk back.”

 a.) A hint of the plot: "Secret Experiment. Tiny Island. BIG mistake. (Scott Sigler, ANCESTOR)

Other times it’s more important to set the scene by establishing the world of your story, especially if it’s set somewhere unusual.  SHORT again is the key word.  One paragraph.

b.) Idea of setting: Washington DC, Rotunda (Dan Brown, Lost Symbol);

“from the Roman Coliseum to the icy peaks of Norway, from the ruins of medieval abbeys to the lost tombs of Celtic kings” (James Rollins, Doomsday Key)

2) Hooks: yes or no?

Hooks are that bit of bolded text at the start of a blurb or between paragraphs that grab the reader’s attention and entice them to read on.

Good hooks are unique, short, and convey at least one KEY QUESTION to the story.

 Unsuccessful HOOKS are tired clichés, too long or don’t add anything of value.

 3) I'm a writer, Jim, not a doctor. 

Prose Triage. 

You are going to have to become a specialist in prose triage in order to sell your book to a stranger. 
As you write your blurb, ask: Does your reader really need to know that? (and be harsh)

Could it be considered a spoiler?
Are you telling the whole plot, including how the conflict will be resolved?

 Don't give away the punchline:
Oh, you will never believe that the psychologist was dead all along!

4) Learn from drug dealers.

Give the potential customer a free taste -- a SHORT snippet of your prose to present your voice and prose style as a tease.

5.) Think of your blurb as a movie trailer.

End in conflict.  End in a question.  The stakes are high.  The heroine is sexy.  The world is at risk. 

Make the reader want to read more.

Do movie traliers tell you how the movie will end?  Keep your potential reader in suspence.

6.) How long?

SHORT!  About 100 to 250 words.


“When reality bites, bite back.”  - Victor Standish.

The chimes of midnight have tolled for the last time.  The End of Days has swept away the valiant heroes in the Katrina-devastated French Quarter.  Only one survivor: Alice Wentworth, the Victorian ghoul.

But in the darkest nightmare sometimes a feeble light still burns.  One lone figure returns from Oblivion, refusing to accept defeat and the end of light.

Victor Standish, son of the Angel of Death, returns to find only his great love, Alice, still alive.  The others he loved are gone.  When they needed him, he was not there.

“They are gone,” sobs Alice.  “There is no getting them back.”

 Victor says, “Impossible just gives birth to legends.”

His rage against the darkness has begun.  His friends will be saved.  Though his efforts endanger all reality, Victor fights on.  The End of All Things billows into being. 

Foes from past and present, even the future encircle Victor and Alice.  From the last day of Troy to the mysterious Off-Reality Betting Parlor to the dreaded Citadel of Tyme herself, the battle rages across the face of existence.

The hooded figure of Destiny watches from the sidelines.  And the most dreaded, loathsome being in the memory of Man, SHE WHO BREEDS, slithers to end all hope for the one she hates most:

the THREE SPIRIT KNIGHTthe latest name for the French Quarter gypsy, Victor Standish.

Does Victor stand a chance to survive, much less save his friends and all reality?



  1. Very cool post with a lot of great thoughts. I loved the example you used and the book sounds really interesting. What do you think about using examples of writing like that in a query? And, is an author expected to write their own book blurb if they get published?

  2. wonderful ideas... i found sending my sample book out, let others tell me what they think. now i sent to people who [some] only know me as a silly blogger... and i respect the responses. someone ripped my book apart and i considered them friends and still do, i needed the ripping to know what not to do...

    here you have hit the correct pulse on the what to do and not...

  3. Tamara:
    The publisher writes your cover blurb if you are not self-published ... sometimes that is good as we writers tend to be close to our work -- too close often to be objective.

    Having critique partners can be very useful. They can point out the blindspots in our writing. Hemingway received creative suggestions that pointed out flaws by F Scott Fitzgerald and it ended their friendship. Ouch!

    I believe that if we are skilled as writers, we can learn to write cover blurbs just as if it were flash fiction: short & to the point.

    Tomorrow I will talk about my new contest! You have been lucky so far!

  4. Great points and advice, Roland. A book blurb is so important and exactly like a movie trailer as you said. I have so much to learn. (:

  5. The back cover blurb is my least favorite to write. I must revise it twenty times. And then my publisher has me revise it some more...

  6. Your "I'm a writer Jim, not a doctor!" was so funny until I realized it's not relevant for me. :(

    Great post, Roland!

  7. Elise:
    All of us have so much to learn ... except for Victor - he knows it all! ;-)

    The back cover blurb is our salesman for our book. It is hard to write a good one, isn't it?

    I'm glad you found the joke funny, even if not relevant to you in particular ... but prose triage certainly is! :-)

    I've missed you. I'm happy you found a tip or two useful.

    You're welcome, and it's good to see you here, too! Roland

  8. i am here...looking forward to it... and thank you.

  9. I just sent my back cover blurb to the designer and I'm afraid it isn't good. What I like about this post is that you compress the facts into a doable format. :)

  10. Hi Roland .. great to have this article here - because the blurb applies to so many things in life - and I need to pay more attention.

    Though obvious blurb for a book makes or breaks a sale quite often - does for me if I pick up a book in a store.

    Cheers Hilary