Wednesday, 16 March 2011

What makes a good back cover blurb?

Before I talk about this week's question, I have a couple of announcements to make:

Firstly, a huge thank you to Yvonne at Welcome To My World Of Poetry for the Friends for the Journey Award and to The Words Crafter at Rainy Day Wanderer for the Write Hard Award. They are both shining stars of the blogging world and I thank them from the bottom of my heart.

Secondly, I'm finally on Twitter. You can find me here or via the icon on my side bar.

Now to this week's question: What makes a good back cover blurb?


Since Lisa Ricard Claro's inspired new meme, Book Blurb Friday, started two weeks ago, I've been pondering what a book blurb should or should not do. In my opinion, a good book blurb does the following:

  • Introduces the main character(s) and antagonist(s).
  • Lets the reader know what conflict or challenges the MC faces at the beginning of the novel.
  • Lets the reader know what is at stake for the MC.
  • Hints at or teases the reader with the direction those conflicts may take.

It should not:

  • Be an excerpt taken directly from the novel or read like one.
  • Overload the reader with too much plot information.
  • Be too long.
Do you agree or disagree with me? What do you think makes a good back cover blurb?

33 comments:

  1. Hi Ellie - I agree with all your points made. I've seen blurbs that tell too much, tell too little, or, as you mention, take an excerpt from the book. I like the book blurb to entice me, to tease me, to ultimately leave me feeling as if I MUST read the story between the front and back covers.

    Thanks for the link! I hope your other readers will test their talents for Book Blurb Friday. :)

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  2. I hate it when they tell me too much. For example - when I read this book I really would have preferred not to know who the murderer was before I even opened it.

    I just want a hint of the story line - not the story.

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  3. I agree with MorningAJ about telling too much. What happens in practice with books I buy is that I read the blurb before buying to find out whether or not it appeals, but deliberately refrain from doing so before reading, in case they do give away too much - that happens far too much in my opinion.

    As well as a hint of the story it is necessary to get some idea of the style of writer too ... but for that I generally speed read one or two pages...

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  4. You nailed it in my opinion!! Love it... I don't have much else to say because I'm so focused on the fact that you JOINED TWITTER! I must hop over now and become a follower and give you some congrats!

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  5. The one thing I would add is that the blurb be written in the same voice and tone as the novel. For example if it's a humorous, the blurb ought to be funny. If it's a mystery, the blurb should be cryptic.

    But yes on all other counts.

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  6. I always read what the book is about before buying,

    Yvonne.

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  7. The blurb should entice the potential reader but not reveal too much. If I enjoy the blurb I open the book at random to see if the writing style appeals and to check the quality of the printing.

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  8. I agree for the most part. But I've read a lot of blurb's that don't introduce the antagonist and just give me the stakes and I like them all the same.

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  9. I agree with you. I also agree with Maria, above.

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  10. I think you hit them right- When I look back at the back covers I enjoy- they introduce characters- introduce plot- say whats at stake and make a suggestion. So I agree-

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  11. tweet, tweet... it will suck you in...

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  12. I so agree that a blurb should hint or tease or promise more juiciness!!!! :-) And yes, short and sweet always works!! Take care
    x

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  13. I agree with your points plus Maria's. I've found Lisa's meme every Friday to be a great exercise. Last week I boffed on way too much but ran out of time to improve it. This week should see more juicy hints and less twaddle.

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  14. I agree with you. My favorite bad back cover description is when it tells you what happens in the first 100 pages. I mean, really? Why do I need to read the book then?

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  15. I had time to kill in Waterstones yesterday evening (daughter was looking for a prom dress elsewhere, so lots of time!) Just for fun I read literally dozens of blurbs in the sci-fi / fantasy section. I soon realised that:
    1) Terry Pratchett is a genius when it comes to book blurbs - He captures the essence of the book in an almost twitter length blurb, leaving a tease like an itch that just has to be scratched!
    2) Blurbs which feel it is necessary to give me a long list of names are a complete switch off
    3) "Meanwhile" is a word that should never appear in a book blurb
    4) Only one in six or seven blurbs on published books are really good, most of the rest are OK, with one or two actually poor. (in my opinion of course)

    Which is why Lisa's brilliant new meme is such fantastic practice for us.

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  16. I'm still trying to nail those. I think my first book's blurb is a bit too vague, so I've been using a more specific version in my promos.

    It's quite a challenge to concisely sum up your book in a few sentences. :)

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  17. I don't know if I have an answer to your question, but AS PER YOUR EXAMPLE BOOK'S INSTRUCTIONS I HAVE PREPARED MYSELF FOR WARP-10 EXCITEMENT!

    p.s. I really enjoyed Pohl's Man Plus when I read it a bajillion years ago. I hope it has stood the test of time.

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  18. I have to agree with you. Tease me, hook me, make me say 'whoa!'. Don't tell me the whole plot, it ruins it for me.

    I need to find time to do the blurb thing!

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  19. Ellie,
    Great points, it is a great way to pitch a peek and grab you, to embrace it~

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  20. A blurb is a tease to entice you into buying the book. It should never be too long, nor should it be overly brief. I always have trouble finding the right length with mine and am working on getting it just right.

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  21. You're right on the blurb. I usually use the pitch with one or two adjustments.

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  22. I agree with you. I also find that good blurbs make me want to read the first page.

    Hopefully the first page will make me want to read the book.

    If the blurb's excellent, I will continue reading despite a mediocre opening.

    :-)

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  23. "Even the paranoid have enemies."

    A blurb, along with the coeve art, should give a clue to the personalities of the characters, and what will happen to them.

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  24. Hmm, I guess the blurb should raise a question in my mind that can only be answered by my reading the book. It can be hard to know from the blurb whether you'll actually like the book or not - sometimes I've been really disappointed. Also the quotes that people put on the cover of their book can be very misleading.

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  25. You're braver than me - I haven't dared venture into Twitter yet. (Looks scared and runs to hide in the cupboard under the stairs).

    I think you've just about nailed it with the book blurb. It has to tease the reader and show them why they want to read the book.

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  26. Graphics on the back can be just as important as on the front cover - don't waste space!

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  27. Wow on Twitter. Let me know what it's like. Great info about the book blurb :O)

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  28. I think writing a back cover blurb would be an excellent exercise for preparing the query letter!

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  29. I started with twitter a year ago and barely used it. then a month ago, I had a commenter on my blog tell me she'd tweet me #writegoals. It was great motivation. Now I'm addicted!

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  30. Hey Ellie just saw your feed on someone's sidebar and realised how long since we've been in contact. I followed you on twitter (Im PichetsinParis) and I loved this about the blurb. It goes a long way to selling a book. I always study it before buying. Thanks for the heads up.

    Denise<3

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  31. Since I just wrote my first blurb ever, these are great tips for me! Thanks!

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  32. After 19 chapters, I am just getting around to thinking about this. Thanks for the advice, It was just what I was looking for.

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