Thursday, 15 April 2021

Blitzing Blurbs

 by Jeanette O'Hagan

Blurbs, book descriptions, pitches - the art of summarising our carefully crafted novel with all its intricacies, amazing characters and subplots into a few hundred words or less. Easy? Right? Right!

There is a reason authors hate blurbs. It's like squeezing a unicorn into a matchbox. Impossible.

But, here's the thing. Authors need to learn how to write them - whether it's adding a book description on the back cover or the selling page of our ebooks or as a pitch to publishers and agents.  

Having written, edited, rewritten and reedited Rasel's Song, the second book in the Akrad's Legacy series, revealed the cover and set up the pre-order - I really need to get my book description nailed down. Not an easy task for the books in my novella series, but even less so for an epic fantasy novel with an intricate plot, an army of characters and four main point-of-view characters. 

I'm also currently taking Bryan Cohen's ad course, getting ready to go to Supernova this weekend with Rendered Realms and part of the committee putting together the details of the Omega Writers Book Fair (Brisbane) on 31 July (more about in a later post). 

Here's my first attempt:

Rasel of the Forest Folk is intrigued by the warrior Tamrin and their dashing young prince, Mannok, despite the tragic and deadly events of the past.
Pressure is mounting for Prince Mannok to marry for the sake of the realm, but following the banishment of his half-sister Ista, he is in no hurry to comply. That is, until he meets a mysterious stranger.
Meanwhile, Dinnis finds the would-be assassins of the Kapok dead in their prison cells, hours after the young men intimate that someone else was behind the plot to destabilise the throne. 
Will Rasel's curiosity spark new possibilities of peace between two opposing peoples or result in further tragedy? Will Prince's Mannok's choices bring stability or chaos to Tamra. Will Dinnis be able to uncover the mastermind behind the assassination attempts before someone else dies?

Hmm ... well, I asked the Omega Writers Sci-Fi and Fantasy group for some feedback and they made some great suggestions, putting more tension and higher stakes at the beginning, adding a tagline, maybe reading Bryan Cohen's How to Write a Sizzling Synopsis

And if fact, I had already fired up my kindle to read that exact same book. Byran makes some great points and makes the process seem easy.  Here are some of take-home messages I discovered. 

1. The purpose of a blurb (Bryan calls it a synopsis), is NOT to summarise the plot. It is to entice the reader to buy the book (or the publisher to ask for the full manuscript). This means it needs to be streamlined and easy to understand. In other words, leave out convoluted detail, explanations or subplots. Don't mention too many characters. Be succinct as possible. 

2. The way to engage the reader is to tap into the characters emotions and motivations. What does the main character (or characters) want? What is in the way of their achieving this? What stakes are involved? 

3.  Every sentence should count. The very first sentence should hook the reader's interest. Each sentence should flow into the next. The stakes should ramp up. And end with a bang - on a cliff-hanger. 

Bryan gives some other pointers about making each word count and also some formulas to follow. His book is definitely worth reading. 

Of course, theory is one thing. Putting it into practice is another. 

To be honest, I'm still working on what to include and what to leave out, but here's my latest attempt (hopefully an improvement):. 

A rebellious prince, a mysterious stranger, a realm in turmoil. 

Prince Mannok fumes at his royal parents for exiling his half-sister. He rejects all their suggestions of a suitable bride, even though he knows securing the succession is vital to the stability of Tamra.

Rasel is a young shapeshifter inpatient with the warnings of her elders about the warrior Tamrin and their past betrayals. She longs to restore peace between them so her Kin no longer need to live in the shadows.

When would-be assassins are discovered poisoned in the palace cells, Prince Mannok and his friends face increasing danger. Rasel’s arrival in Tarka causes further turmoil, misunderstandings and peril.

Will Mannok and Rasel bring peace or more conflict to Tamra? Will the elusive assassin be unmasked before someone else dies and the realm put in jeopardy?
Rasel’s Song is the exciting second book in the kingdom fantasy, the Akrad’s Legacy series.  Now available at reduced pre-order price here


I've left Dinnis out of this second version (but - rest assured for any Dinnis fans, not out of the book)  and attempted to add more emotion and tension into the blurb. I'll keep tinkering.

Do you have any tips or suggestions with writing blurbs?

BTW I'll be with Lynne Stringer and Adele Jones at the Gold Coast Supernova this weekend - so if you're able, come drop by the Rendered Realms Stand and say hello :) 

Jeanette O'Hagan has spun tales in the world of Nardva from the age of eight. She enjoys writing fantasy, sci-fi, poetry, and editing. Her Nardvan stories span continents, millennia and cultures. Some involve shapeshifters and magic. Others include space stations and cyborgs. She has published over forty stories and poems, including the Under the Mountain Series (5 books), Ruhanna's Flight and Other Stories, Akrad's Children and Rasel's Song (now available on preorder). Jeanette lives in Brisbane with her husband and children.

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  1. Hi Jenny. Thanks for a great craft post which addresses a challenging issue. It's the contemporary author's dilemma: how to cross the bridge between story telling and market connection.

    I haven't seen Bryan Cohan's book before, but I have one by Adam Croft called 'Writing Killer Blurbs and Hooks'.

    As you say, 'theory is one thing. Putting it into practice is another'. But better to find guidance than trust in blind chance.

    Thanks for offering some great guidance points.

    1. Thanks, Mazzy. I'd recommend Bryan Cohen's book - but will check out the Adam Croft one as well.