♦Welcome to another edition of the Open Book Blog Hop!♦
Let’s talk about book descriptions.
Do you write yours before or after you write the story?
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A book description, as you’ll find out, when you finally get to work on that book, will be the hardest part of the whole project, aside from direct marketing. Book descriptions, called book blurbs, are your main marketing point that will be contained on the book itself. It’s the summary. This is the piece that brings the reader past the cover–or not.
Book blurbs are the hardest part of writing a book. I cannot stress this enough. Writing one of these things will have you questioning your existence. My book series blurbs were even harder than normal, because I had to avoid writing spoilers, while also only writing about what was in each installment. Keep in mind, I wrote all three parts of the trilogy consecutively before I even began editing a word.
A blurb could come at the outset. You might see the stars align and write a great description that works after the rewrites and edits. My process is to write and rewrite the blurb as I go toward publication. I treat the blurb like I do script loglines. They need to be concise and compelling. This isn’t easy to do!
I found limiting what I wanted to say quite difficult when doing the blurbs for my series, but far easier for the historical fiction. My first blurb was for Blue Honor, and it was as overwritten as the first edition of the book it presented. Once I worked with a great editor and really got my practice on, I was able to form a far better description. However, writing a description for any of the Trailokya books still plagued me through the design of the final book.
Writing a series is hard enough. Writing a series about a multiverse rich in cultural detail is even harder. Then try to write their loglines and blurbs. Picture me facedown on the rug.
Most of the time, I procrastinated. I avoided trying to write any of the three blurbs during the publication process as much as I could, in fact. That said, the work had to be done if I was ever going to put them on the shelf for sale. You just have to bite the bullet.
The greatest tool I have found to help in this situation is leaning on a friend to critique it. You may have seen my friend Sterling Treadwell do the voices of Mikhael and The Demon in the table read of The Shadow Soul last year. Sterling has helped me on a number of occasions to whittle down and polish blurbs. He’s never been shy to speak his mind. That’s a valuable friend! You don’t want someone who will just say how amazing you are all the time. You want to the person who will look at you like you have six heads, pick out the wonky words, and gently mock the material that deserves it.
Why would you want someone to pick your blur apart? Because potential readers will either buy your book or put it back depending on the blurb. You can have a glitzy cover and an amazing story with an array of compelling characters, but the blurb could be a lead sinker. Someone like Sterling can help you lighten that blurb and make it shiny.
Just like a book can benefit from beta readers, so can a book blurb. If you have a team of friends, readers, and even family, let them hack up your blurb and encourage them to be fully honest. This is the thing that matters more than the cover or the material within. It is the main selling pitch. You’re going to use this in all copy and it’s going to also be a sample of what you have to offer.
Just like a logline can be the difference between selling the script or going back to the drawing table, the book blurb is the preview of you and your work. Not everyone is great at writing these. I’ve found being close to the work really does me a disservice. There are services available to help writers get these done, but be as discerning as Sterling when you’re working with someone to write your blurb. It does matter! Just because someone presents themselves as a professional blurb writer doesn’t mean they’re going to kill it with yours. You’ll have to shop them just like you do an editor: find the best fit for your genre and your style. Don’t just purchase the first set of shoes you spot.
When going it alone on book blurb writing, give it several drafts. The recommendation is to limit it to 150-200 words. Don’t be too brief, but don’t drag on. Write the initial draft, even if it’s a page long. Leave it to sit and come back to it once you’ve had time to let it percolate. Look for ideas you can combine and superfluous words.
Good practice for this is writing tweets! I’m not lying. You have 150 characters in which to get your point across. Draft a tweet around your book idea. Keep trying to make it fit in that space until it’s all contained within the limit. That’s how you learn to be concise. You start recognizing extra words compared to what is necessary.
It’s difficult when you’re close to the writing to decide what to omit. Things you’re excited about likely don’t matter to the blurb. But, tell yourself to drop all those details that make you so excited to return to the writing desk for that project. Reedsy has a great how to that outlines the simple format and purpose. There’s just not a lot of room or time, so save those fantastic moments for the interior.
No matter where you are in your career as a writer, you can always learn how to write a better description. Each description will be a different experience, requiring different tactics. Know your genre, know what readers are pulled in by the most, and know that those great details will unfold in your book as the reader goes on the journey. Patience is key. The blurb isn’t the time to attack the reader with everything. More experienced writers may or may not have that under control, but they do know what their limitations are and if they might be better off hiring someone to help or if they have a team of their own in place to help them hone this pitch.
My takeaway from blurb writing is that no matter how many I write, they will make me anxious and I need help from outside. I’m grateful to have a team there for me at that time. The description also unfolds over the course of the project. Having this drafted can help keep your project on track. Drafting several times can help you tighten and focus, as well as clean up the extra stuff. The anxiety is just knowing how important this small bit of writing is to your future goals. This is a great gauge of how seriously you’re taking the work.
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