An Easy Way to Write a Book Cover Blurb

In James Scott Bell’s book Marketing for Writers Who Hate Marketing, I found the best method for me to create a book cover blurb or copy.

Bell says to write three sentences. In the first sentence we’re to give a character’s name, his vocation, and the story’s opening situation.

In the second sentence, Bell says we should open with “But when.” He says here we give the first turning point of the story often called the inciting incident. 

According to Bell, the third sentence should begin with “Now.” He says this sentence should reveal what he calls “death stakes,” something that happens that feels like death to the protagonist.

Here’s my attempt using Bell’s method at rewriting the cover blurb for the third book in my Twisty Creek Series, The Irresistible Woman in a Blue Dress.

Example: Original

Fashion model Vivian Day from Chicago suffers two problems. Her agent is her demanding mother, and she dislikes her career. After a taxing month and a photo shoot in Virginia’s Blue Ridge Mountains, Vivian drives toward a friend’s empty house in Tennessee, hoping for a three-week rest.

Brayden Cole is a Lowe’s store manager in Wytheville, Virginia. On his way home to Twisty Creek, he comes upon a disabled car and a woman in a blue gown and flip-flops. He stops and offers the beautiful, frustrated woman help. Although he cares little for her uppity attitude, Brayden is not a man who abandons a stranded woman on a curvy mountain road.

How will these two opposites from such different cultures and lifestyles find a lasting relationship together?

Example: First Pass Using Bell’s Method

Overworked Chicago fashion model Vivian Day flees a difficult photo shoot in Roanoke, Virginia, and heads for a three-week vacation in Tennessee. But when Vivian detours into the Virginia Blue Ridge Mountains, her car breaks down on a remote mountain road, and home-improvement-store manager, Brayden Cole, struggling with grief for his deceased father, gives the beautiful, frustrated woman wearing a blue gown and flip-flops a ride and, while her car’s in the shop, a room at his mother’s house in Twisty Creek. Now, Brayden’s mother urges him to entertain the big-city woman, and as he reluctantly introduces Vivian to the simple mountain life, she realizes her stressful career and demanding agent, who’s also her mother, have drained joy from her life.

Analysis of the First Pass

The second and third sentences run-on. The “Now” doesn’t seem to be in the right place. I placed it too soon. And the last sentence says Vivian is already “dead.”

Bell says it’s okay to add a bit to the three sentences, so let me break up sentences and do some cutting and rewriting.

Example: Second Pass

Overworked Chicago fashion model Vivian Day flees a difficult photo shoot in Roanoke, Virginia, and heads for a three-week vacation in Tennessee. But when Vivian detours into the Virginia Blue Ridge Mountains, her car breaks down on a remote mountain road. Home-improvement-store manager Brayden Cole gives the frustrated woman wearing a blue gown and flip-flops a ride and, while her car’s in the shop, a room at his mother’s house in Twisty Creek. Brayden’s mother urges him to entertain the big-city woman. Now, as he reluctantly introduces Vivian to the simple mountain life, she realizes her stressful career and demanding agent, who is her mother, are draining joy from her life.

I invite you to critique the blurb to make it better and share one of your own.

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Zoe McCarthy’s book, Tailor Your Fiction Manuscript in 30 Days, is a fresh and innovative refocusing of your novel or novella. Through a few simple—and fun—steps, Zoe helps writers take their not-ready-for-publication and/or rejected manuscripts to a spit-polish finish. Writing is hard work, yes, but it doesn’t have to be difficult. —Eva Marie Everson, best-selling and multiple award-winning author, conference director, president of Word Weavers International, Inc.

If you want to increase your chance of hearing yes instead of sorry or not a fit for our list at this time, this book is for you. If you want to develop stronger story plots with characters that are hard to put down, this book is for you. Through McCarthy’s checklists and helpful exercises and corresponding examples, you will learn how to raise the tension, hone your voice, and polish your manuscript. I need this book for my clients and the many conferees I meet at writer’s conferences around the country. Thank you, Zoe. A huge, #thumbsup, for Tailor Your Fiction Manuscript in 30 Days.  —Diana L. Flegal, literary agent, and freelance editor


Tailor Your Fiction Manuscript is a self-editing encyclopedia! Each chapter sets up the targeted technique, examples show what to look for in your manuscript, then proven actions are provided to take your writing to the next level. Whether you are a seasoned writer or a newbie, you need this book! —Sally Shupe, freelance editor, aspiring author

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Writing Queries That Get Read

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My guest today is managing and acquiring editor Jennifer Slattery. Jennifer gives us insights into the query letters writers must construct to sell their works. At the end of her post, check out her new book Healing Love.

Jennifer: Most of us spend months if not years writing then perfecting a novel then pop off a query, our stories first introduction to professionals, in ten or so minutes. For some reason many of us have come to believe this is a skill we inherently lack and will never quite master, but I disagree. We’re communicators—that’s what we do. And like with any other element of the craft, we can learn to write strong, effective queries that get read—and perhaps even warrant an invitation to submit a manuscript.

Make it personal.

In other words, let the agent or editor know why you chose to query them and they’d be interested in your project.

image by geralt

No one likes to be a part of mass emails or to feel like they’re simply one of several dozen professionals you’ve contacted. This has nothing to do with pride. Rather, it’s an issue of effective time management. More often than not, mass email queries are sent by writers who didn’t take time to research recipients. Therefore, they usually miss the mark. These authors pitch memoirs to editors of romance. They send high fantasy projects to those looking for marriage and family pieces.

Often, such queries provide a strong and lasting impression—a negative one. The better option: take time to find out who wants what you’re writing. If you’re not sure, ask. I would much rather spend my time responding to someone looking for writer’s guidelines than trudging through an inbox full of irrelevant material.

Keep it concise.

Let the agent or editor know, right up from, your genre, word count, if it’s complete, and if you have or are submitting it elsewhere. You can do all that in one sentence, two tops. Here’s an example from a query I sent out years ago for what became my fourth release:

I’m writing to introduce you to my 91,600 word, multiple submission, women’s inspirational fiction, Breaking Free. 

Up your queries “bam-grab-me” component.

image by bairi

Yes, a query is an email, in essence, a letter. And yes, it’s important to tell the editor or agent all the pertinent details regarding our projects, but we don’t want to bore them in the process. As with almost anything we write, our story premise must grab our reader and shake the cobwebs from their brain. (This is exponentially true for agents and editors who may have already spent hours-upon-hours sifting through gunk before getting to your gem.)

This is where you’ll want to practice writing 75-to-150 word back cover blurbs. Strong blurbs (or pitch paragraphs) set up the tension for your novel, tell us what’s at stake, and reveal genre, tone and the author’s voice.

In other words, it’s not something one can pop off in an afternoon. It’s always a good idea to sift one’s blurbs through a handful of critique partners before sending them out to industry professionals.

Sound daunting? I hear you. I haven’t met a writer yet who enjoys writing back cover copy. But if we’re going to spend months perfecting that novel, it only makes sense that we’ll also invest the necessary time to make sure it gets read.

Querying can be intimidating and stressful. Not only must one embrace risk by sending their work out, but they also must present the hook of their story in less than a page, and present themselves well. But like with anything else, this is a skill we can learn, if we’ll but invest the time. Plus, with each query, the writing becomes that much stronger and the process that much easier.

What would you add to my list?

Strong book queries tell what’s at stake and reveal genre, tone & author’s voice. Click to tweet.

Author, speaker, and ministry leader Jennifer Slattery writes for Crosswalk.com and is the managing and acquiring editor for Guiding Light Women’s Fiction, an imprint with Lighthouse Publishing of the Carolinas. She believes fiction has the power to transform lives and change the culture. Healing Love is her sixth novel, and it was birthed during a trip she and her family took to El Salvador that opened her eyes to the reality of generational poverty and sparked a love for orphans and all who’ve experienced loss.

Her deepest passion is to help women experience God’s love and discover, embrace, and live out who they are in Christ. As the founder of Wholly Loved Ministries, she travels with her team to various churches to speak to women and help them experience the love and freedom only Christ can offer. When not writing, editing, or speaking, you’ll likely find her chatting with her friends or husband in a quiet, cozy coffeehouse. Visit her online at JenniferSlatteryLivesOutLoud.com and connect with her and her Wholly Loved team at WhollyLoved.com

A news anchor intern has it all planned out, and love isn’t on the agenda.

Brooke Endress is on the cusp of her lifelong dream when her younger sister persuades her to chaperone a mission trip to El Salvador. Packing enough hand sanitizer and bug spray to single-handedly wipe out malaria, she embarks on what she hopes will be a once-in-a-lifetime experience.

But Brooke is blindsided by the desperation for hope and love she sees in the orphans’ eyes. And no less by the connection she feels with her handsome translator. As newfound passion blooms, Brooke wrestles with its implications for her career dreams.

Ubaldo Chavez, teacher and translator, knows the struggle that comes with generational poverty. But he found the way out – education – and is determined to help his students rise above.

When he agrees to translate for a mission team from the United States he expects to encounter a bunch of “missional tourists” full of empty promises. Yet an American news anchor defies his expectations, and he finds himself falling in love. But what does he have to offer someone with everything?

 

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Goodreads link 

How to Make Your Back Cover Blurb Entice Readers for a Sale

“Writing a short book blurb is not only fun, but great practice for writing promotional copy of any kind.” — Marg McAlister

 

by click
by click

I’ve pulled together information on how to write a back cover blurb.

Tweetable

  • Here’s what’s recommended for a back cover blurb.
    click to tweet

Back Cover Blurb Suggestions:

  1. Give the set-up. Include a headline that gives the big idea. Name and introduce main characters in a way readers will expect to identify with a hero or heroine. Give an idea of setting and a simple hint of plot. For romance, give what tears the hero and heroine apart. Include the external conflict.
  2. Answer the question: What’s in it for me?The blurb’s a sales pitch. It builds curiosity. Promises to deliver something the reader wants. Shows how this book is different.
  3. Use emotive words. Words that evoke the images the genre promises. However, don’t use vague words, such as “amazing,” “life-changing,” or “unbelievable.”
  4. End with a question or suggestion of mystery. But don’t give away how issues are resolved.
  5. Keep it short. Two to four paragraphs. 100-150 words.

by Pennywise
by Pennywise

EXAMPLE: A Deeper Cut by Sheri Wren Haymore (Thriller)

A PRANK GONE HORRIBLY WRONG…

When Hunter Kittrell and his beautiful friend, Miki, arrive in Beauport, North Carolina for their summer stay, they decide to liven up the small town by pulling a harmless prank. That “harmless prank,” however, quickly finds them deeply entangled in a blood bath face-off with a knife-wielding serial killer.

As the usually-peaceful town is dragged into chaos, Hunter and Miki find themselves drawn more deeply into the investigation, and it turns out their connections to the murders may not be as tenuous as they seemed at first. As the investigation continues, burning questions bubble to the surface: Why is Hunter being framed for the murder? And why are there mentions of his long-lost father popping up all over town?

Everything comes crashing down to a startling conclusion on Hunter’s 21st birthday, when he’s finally forced to confront the truths he’s been running from all his life.

COMMENTS:

  • The header piques my curiosity. What was the prank, and how did it go wrong? The first paragraph names and introduces the characters. We’re given the setting: Beaufort, North Carolina. The simple plot and external conflict is the prank and how it puts them in a face-off with a serial killer.
  • What’s in it for the reader? The last sentence of the first paragraph assures me I’ll get a thriller.
  • The emotive words run from lovely images to those of horror: beautiful, harmless, blood bath, face-off, and knife-wielding, to name a few.
  • The blurb is within the suggested length: 150 words long, including the header. And it has three paragraphs.
  • In the second paragraph, we’re given stimulating questions we can’t answer. They’re unlike the tired question for some romances: “Will they rise above their problems and fall in love?” Yes. If it’s a romance, they better.
  • The third paragraph tells us we’ll read toward the hero’s 21st birthday when we’ll learn the truth. It doesn’t give away the resolution.

 

Tweetable

  • Try these 5 suggestions for an enticing back cover blurb.
    click to tweet

What do you look for in a back cover blurb to decide if you’ll read/buy a book?

(Sheri Haymore’s Facebook Page: https://www.facebook.com/SheriWrenHaymore)

What do you think is the back cover blurb on this book? by niera94
What do you think is the back cover blurb on this book?
by niera94