I’ve seen a lot of posts on Goodreads lately where an author posts their blurb and asks for advice and feedback. The biggest issue I’ve seen is that the blurbs are far too long and detailed and read more like a synopsis. It’s really important to get the blurb right – its purpose is to attract a reader, to make them want to read your book. And if you’re approaching agents, you really need to nail that synopsis. I’ve posted on this subject before – but I can’t give this advice often enough.
What is a blurb?
The blurb is the hook, along with the cover, to reel those readers in. You need to make sure that you entice your reader, that you intrigue them without giving too much away. Longer than the elevator pitch, but shorter than a synopsis, the book blurb is key to whetting a reader’s appetite.
So how should you approach it? Here are some quick tips on getting that blurb up to scratch.
- Keep it short. This is NOT a synopsis. You want a couple of two to three line paragraphs. Too much and you risk giving too much away and turning off your reader. Too little and you might miss the mark.
- Mention your main character(s). It’s important for your reader to know who the book is about.
- Be precise. There is no place or space for vagueness, long-windedness or clever clever vocabulary in your blurb. Short, sharp, to the point.
- Make it interesting. Obviously. What’s intriguing about the story? Why would I want to read it?
- Don’t give away the ending. It might sound silly to even point that out – but it does happen.
- Don’t compare yourself to other writers or compare the book to other books. Tell your potential reader that you’re the next J.K Rowling or Stephen King and you’re more likely to annoy them than anything.
- Watch out for clichés or overused words and phrases. Try and be refreshing and new. And interesting.
What is a synopsis?
A synopsis is basically a summary, or outline, of your novel. If you are approaching agents or publishers, they will want to see a synopsis. A synopsis is not a blurb and you should not include a synopsis on Amazon, Goodreads or wherever you are selling your book.
First of all, check what the agent/publisher is looking for. They may well specify a length and may want you to write a chapter by chapter synopsis. If there are no specifications, then I would advise sticking to one page, single-spaced, six hundred words maximum.
Remember to write in third person (even if your novel is written in first person). Use active voice and present tense.
Now to the actual writing of the synopsis itself.
When I was studying literature, we learnt a lot about narrative structure, and although it might not initially seem like it, most novels do fit into this basic structure:
- Set up – main characters introduced. Introduction of the problem.
- Conflict – the main body of the story. There is a catalyst that sets the conflict in motion. Characters go through changes because of this conflict and develop – the character arc.
- Resolution – the problem is confronted and solved – or not – and loose ends are tied up.
To write your synopsis, it is really helpful to look at your novel in these terms and break it down into this structure. Start with the set up – who is the protagonist? The other main characters? What is the problem?
Then move on to the conflict – there may be more than one. Decide what conflicts, plot twists and turns are really important; what do you need to include for the ending, the resolution, to make sense? How does this conflict change the main characters?
Finish with the resolution. Remember – this isn’t a blurb. The agent/publisher needs to know how your novel ends.
- Don’t get caught up in too much detail. Think about what’s really important.
- Don’t include lots of backstory – you don’t have the space.
- Be short, concise, clear. This isn’t the time for showing off your beautiful prose. That’s what the sample chapters are for.
- Agents/publishers are looking for something new, something exciting – if your novel has that (and it should) then make sure your synopsis makes that clear.
- And please, please, please remember the point I made above. This is not a blurb. You MUST include the ending.