Writing a book blurb

Self-publishing requires a writer to take on all sorts of unfamiliar tasks. One of these is creating the enticing but brief ‘blurb’ that will describe your book to potential readers. You need to promise an exciting read without disclosing too much. Here’s my attempt to describe UNRAVELLED. I’d love to hear what you think.

Edward Jamieson’s memories of war and a passionate love affair resurface when an invitation to a World War I memorial ceremony arrives. Though reluctant to visit the scenes of horror he has spent years trying to forget, he succumbs to the unlikely possibility of discovering what happened to Helene, the woman he once pledged to marry.

In July 1936, travelling through the charming French countryside with his wife Ann, Edward sees nothing but reminders of war. At the dedication ceremony, an encounter with Helene reignites long-buried passion and Edward steps back into his past. The resulting affair puts Ann and Edward’s marriage at risk.

When World War II erupts, Edward is soon caught up in the world of training espionage agents while Ann counsels grieving women and copes with the daily threats facing those she loves. And once again, secrets and war threaten the bonds of marriage.

With events unfolding in Canada, France and England, UNRAVELLED is a poignant novel of love, duty and sacrifice set amongst the turmoil of two world wars.

Would you be tempted?

22 thoughts on “Writing a book blurb”

  1. Montreal 1936. Edward and Ann Jamieson have it all: a beautiful family, an enviable lifestyle, a close circle of friends. When an invitation to a WWI memorial ceremony arrives eighteen years after Armistice, Edward reluctantly attends, afraid to open up the repressed memories of the horrors of trench warfare and the memory of a beautiful French girl he once promised to marry.

    At the ceremony, a familiar face emerges from the crowd. For one short weekend, Edward’s repressed desires come to the surface when Helene rekindles the love they had once shared, a love that was cruelly stolen from them, but that threatens to disrupt their present lives.

    On the outbreak of WWII, Edward is recruited to a top secret mission: to train an elite group of spies that will be dropped behind enemy lines. Slowly, Ann watches as Edward is once again caught up in the world of secrets, a double life that closes him off and pushes her into the arms of a dashing Army officer. Can Ann and Edward’s marriage survive the secrets that threaten to unravel everything?
    UNRAVELLED is a novel of passion, duty and sacrifice set amid the backdrop of two world wars.

    Total: 198 words.

  2. Rachel’s blurb is excellent (though I think “…have it all” is overused) and sounds like historical romance. I would think, on reading Mary’s blurb, that the book was women’s historical fiction. Which genre is correct?

    1. Hi Carmel … I’m trying for women’s historical fiction although the men who’ve read it have really enjoyed it. Rachel has the advantage of having read Unravelled and provided me with feedback for which I am very grateful 🙂

  3. The subject of writing an effective book blurb/description could take up an entire encyclopedia. The only way to learn the art of writing book blurbs is by doing it, over and over and over again. And even then, you’ll need to redo it, because it will never be quite good enough. And even when the book cover is done and ready, you’ll want to redo it at 3 AM after losing many nights of sleep. For the perfectionist out there, I would suggest writing it yourself and then having an expert editor polish the final copy. Learn from the mistakes of lesser mortals.
    Here are some basic rules of book blurbs courtesy of CreateSpace:

    1. Don’t include subplots. When it comes to the book description, the only thing that matters is the main plot or main theme. What is the primary action that drives your book?
    2. Keep it under 150 words.
    3. Write in third person, present tense.
    4. Use emotional power words. In a 125 word description, you’d use 6-10 emotional power words.
    5. You are not the author. You are writing it as the publisher.

    It’s worth noting that the ABNA award asks for a 300 word pitch, which makes it a more elaborate book blurb. Ideally, you should put the 150 word blurb on the back cover and the 250- 300 word description in the Amazon book description field.

    Here are examples of book descriptions on Amazon:

    “Typewriter Girl” 233 words
    “War Brides” 344 words (a little too long)
    “The Soldier’s Wife” 194 words
    “The Golden Hour” 135 words (very short)

    When it comes to blurbs: less is more but don’t leave out the essential plot points.
    Good luck, Mary!

  4. That could be a killer story. Those tragic love affairs that resurface are very poignant. The wife’s acceptance must be a challenge to work with though. It sounds like you have three stories to deal with, much less a war and the clandestine threats. I’ll buy.

  5. I’ve written, oh my gosh, FAR too many back cover copy blurbs as a freelancer for a major self-publisher, and Rachel is right on the money. Make sure you don’t delve into the subplot because your entire goal is to hook the reader. You don’t want to give away too much. Another suggestion: I would just stay within one viewpoint. So instead of saying, “Ann watches as Edward is once again…” just stay within Edward’s viewpoint. When I read that, it sort of jarred me out of the story. At that point, I didn’t really care what happened to Ann because I was too engrossed in finding out about Edward and Helene.

    I agree with the others – this sounds like a FASCINATING story. I’d love to read it!

    1. Melissa brings up an interesting angle. Here we have a case of a story with 2 distinct viewpoints, and how should they be tackled on the back blurb? If you look at the blurb for “The Help” on Goodreads, it describes each character’s major conflicts; each character’s viewpoints are equally important as are Edward and Ann’s since, essentially, “Unravelled” is a novel about a marriage.

      It turns out that Helene is, in fact, a minor character in the same way that Parcher and the roommate are minor characters in “A Beautiful Mind”–a mental mirage that stands in the way of Edward’s judgement and common sense.

    2. Such an interesting perspective to add to my efforts. Thank you, Melissa. I’ll try another rewrite … perhaps taking Rachel’s base and tweaking it a bit. If I post again, I hope you’ll let me know what you think!

  6. What you’ve written is jacket or cover copy, not a blurb. A blurb is very short, and hopefully written by a sister author with a eye-catching name.

  7. This has been a fascinating discussion. I was hooked by your first description. Even more hooked by Rachel’s. Though I agree about “have it all.” I’m in the process of writing cover copy for my novel. These tips are all a great help. Thanks!

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