Monday, October 27, 2014

Mistakes to Avoid in Book Blurbs

Let’s assume your book cover was eye catching and has encouraged a potential new reader to read your book’s blurb. A good blurb can motivate that reader to purchase your book – or avoid looking at anything with your name on it ever again.

Below are a few mistakes to avoid, which I hope will help you write a great blurb that will draw in new readers.

Spelling, grammar and punctuation mistakes
It goes without saying that your book, blurb and all marketing material should be error-free. Yet I still constantly see mistakes in blurbs – the very thing that is intended to entice readers to purchase your book is the same thing that can turn them off it. I certainly wouldn’t waste money on a book for which the blurb contains errors – if the author can’t even edit a few short paragraphs properly, just how many errors will the book itself contain?

Bad formatting
Avoid writing one long paragraph for your blurb. Rather, split your blurb into shorter paragraphs to make it easier and faster to read – unless, of course, the entire blurb is very short.

Spoilers are those nasty little things that tell readers what happens in the story. Sure, you need to tell them a little in order to gain their interest, but, if you tell them how the story ends or other major things that happen in the book, leaving no questions in their minds, they will have no reason to purchase and read said book, will they? I advise giving the overall theme or plot – specifically the conflict – but, as far as possible, leaving out the finer details.

Summarising the book
Summaries are for traditional publishers and agents, not potential new readers, and thus tend to provide far more information than is necessary for a book blurb. In fact, summaries and blurbs are total opposites – summaries are intended to give away the ending so publishers can see if your story has a strong ending, and blurbs are intended to entice readers to read the book in order to find out how it ends. Summaries also often come across as rather ‘blah, blah’ – ‘this happens and then that happens and then…’ and so on. Remember, the purpose of a blurb is not to tell the reader every little thing that happens in your book.

Being vague
There’s often a fine line between giving too much or too little information in a blurb. While it’s inadvisable to give too much information, it is just as bad to not give enough. Readers want to know what to expect from the book, so you need to give them enough information to pique their interest.

Try to keep your book blurb to between 150 and 300 words. Most readers do not have all day to browse for new books and authors, so, if your blurb is too long, they may choose to skip your book and look at another instead.

Too much selling
Yes, the purpose of a blurb is to sell books. However, this should be done by sharing what the story is about (it helps to have an interesting book!), not by creating a sales pitch in the blurb. Avoid using your blurb to tell readers how great the book is, how wonderful and gifted the writer is and so on. The story details should do that.

Giving readers the wrong idea
The blurb is intended to tell readers what to expect from the book. Do not promise something in the blurb that the book does not contain. In other words, if your book has a few science fiction elements, but is mostly fantasy, do not even mention the sci-fi elements in your blurb. It will make readers think the book is science fiction, even if it is listed as fantasy, and they are likely to be disappointed – and readers do not usually purchase other books from authors who have made them feel as if their money was wasted on the purchase.

Weak ending
Your blurb needs to have a strong ending that leaves the reader interested. There’s not much point in starting off well and ending on a boring note, because readers will then be left feeling bored, not interested. It’s also a bad idea to end the blurb with a question – in most cases, the reader already knows the answer will probably be ‘yes’, so the words are wasted and it might even annoy some people.

I hope you find these tips helpful!

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