Raise your hand if the lack of blurbs on the back of books drives you crazy.
It’s all of us, right?
I mean I can rant on this topic for ages, I don’t want praise for the book or quotes from authors and what not, just tell me what the goddamn book is about!
I used to love reading book blurbs multiple times to get a sense of the story and diving in. Recently though, I find myself diving in blind and I’ve come to realise that’s because most book blurbs ruin my reading experience, whether they’re on the back of a book or on Goodreads.
A lot of them give away too much information, true, but many others are misleading or even bland? Is that a word I can use for blurbs? Oh well, I just did.
That makes me wonder, what do I really want to see in book blurbs? Well for a start, it would be nice to have them on the back of books, lol. But yeah, here I go making a wholeass post on everything that a book blurb should or shouldn’t have.
Related Post: I Turn Random Tweets Into Book Blurbs
What Do I Want to See in Book Blurbs?
For starters, give me the names of the main characters. Ever so often, especially in thrillers and mysteries, I’ll go through a blurb and then read the book to find out that we weren’t given the names of all the main characters, if any. I mean I see you want to be mysterious with giving titles like ‘the girl’, ‘the lady’ or even ‘the detective’ but this is basic information that I would like to have.
Secondly, write a blurb that suits your genre. A blurb should have certain words or a general vibe that allude to what genre the story is. I can’t tell you the number of times I pick up a book based on the blurb and realise it’s a completely different genre that I expected. This usually happens when the blurb is kept a bit vague. I get that you don’t want to give a lot away, in fact I really respect that, but at least give us some information to get an idea of the story! Some might say that it’s kind of click-baity to draw in a wider scope of readers but if you use such tactics you’ll only end up with readers dnfing your books.
Just to give an example of a blurb that sets the vibe, let’s look at There’s Something About Sweetie by Sandhya Menon.
“Ashish Patel didn’t know love could be so…sucky. After he’s dumped by his ex-girlfriend, his mojo goes AWOL. Even worse, his parents are annoyingly, smugly confident they could find him a better match. So, in a moment of weakness, Ash challenges them to set him up.
Sweetie Nair is many things: a formidable track athlete who can outrun most people in California, a loyal friend, a shower-singing champion. Oh, and she’s also fat. To Sweetie’s traditional parents, this last detail is the kiss of death.
Ashish and Sweetie both have something to prove. But with each date they realize there’s an unexpected magic growing between them. Can they find their true selves without losing each other?”
Here phrases like “his mojo goes AWOL” and “kiss of death” stand out and give us a glimpse of the author’s writing style. The blurb makes it quite clear that this is a young adult romance novel so you can set your expectations for the book.
I acknowledge that blurb writing is hard, in fact it’s probably the trickiest thing ever to write a blurb that neither gives away too much nor gives us too little. The number of times books give away crucial information away is so damn annoying! In fact this whole post is inspired by how I read something in a book blurb which only happened about 25% into the book. There was a battle scene which tried to make the reader question what would happen, but guess what? The damn book blurb already told us. That book was actually fucking amazing but this really got on my nerves.
And on the other end we have blurbs that give us next to nothing. My favourite thing to do in a library is judge books by their blurbs. Now if someone has time on their hands and they stumble upon a confusing or uninspiring blurb they might just flip through a few pages to see what the book is like. But most of us don’t have that kind of time or simply don’t want to spoil ourselves and end up leaving the book behind. Like yes, I know there’s gonna be a murder and the detective is going to have to solve it in the cold weather but I can literally find ten thousand more books where the same thing happens. It’s honestly a pity when books have a very strong, engaging and unique plot point going on but they fail to hint to it in the blurb.
Also, be as concise as possible. You don’t have to write a lot of words to get your point across. Plus everyone has short attention spans and if a blurb is on the longer side I usually skim through it.
For example, I really like this blurb for The Quiet at the End of the World by Lauren James.
“How far would you go to save those you love?
Lowrie and Shen are the youngest people on the planet after a virus caused global infertility. Closeted in a pocket of London and doted upon by a small, ageing community, the pair spend their days mudlarking for artefacts from history and looking for treasure in their once-opulent mansion.
Their idyllic life is torn apart when a secret is uncovered that threatens not only their family but humanity’s entire existence. Lowrie and Shen face an impossible choice: in the quiet at the end of the world, they must decide who to save and who to sacrifice . . .”
It engages you so quickly and immediately makes you ask questions such as what happened to the world? What must this existence be like? What more sacrifices are needed?
A good blurb asks questions that readers want answers to. Questions so compelling that they pick up the book. I swear sometimes I keep thinking about a question on the book blurb for ages, it literally haunts me until I read the book. That’s the kind of magnetic pull a blurb should have.
All that being said, these are my personal preferences for book blurbs. Of course your preferences can be entirely different. And while book blurbs are a huge aspect of the marketing of a book, they’re not the only important thing. Just because your blurb isn’t that strong doesn’t mean nobody will pick up your book, it’s just that a good blurb gives it a stronger chance.
Also fun fact, while writing this post I found out that the blurbs available on the back of a physical copy of a book and that available on Goodreads can be different! I didn’t see many major changes in blurbs but rather additional information on Goodreads which is probably because authors and publishers don’t want there to be a huge block of text on the back of a book. What a fun discovery 🙂
What do you like to see in book blurbs?
Which are some of the best or worst book blurbs have you read? Does it make a difference to your reading?
How do you all pick up books? Do you even read the blurbs?