What Makes a Great Blurb?


1. Simple

A book travels the world. You never know which reader, in which part of the world, will lay their hands on your book. Keeping in mind the vast readership that your book will target, it is always best to keep your blurb as simple as possible. Long and convoluted sentences, jargon, specialized terminology—all make the blurb appear complicated and limit the readership. Unless you want your book to address a niche audience, the blurb should be written in layman language.


From his seat in the tiny aeroplane, Fred watches as the mysteries of the Amazon jungle pass by below him. He has always dreamed of becoming an explorer, of making history and of reading his name amongst the lists of great discoveries. If only he could land and look about him. As the plane crashes into the canopy, Fred is suddenly left without a choice. He and the three other children may be alive, but the jungle is a vast, untamed place. With no hope of rescue, the chance of getting home feels impossibly small. Except, it seems, someone has been there before them…
The Explorer by Katherine Rundell



2. Short

Most people don’t have the patience, or the time, to read a page-long description of a book. A short, crisp blurb that says a lot in a few words should be sufficient to pique the interest of a reader. The McDonald’s, “I’m loving it!” is a short yet catchy tagline that people all over the world remember—and it’s just three words. Additionally, most bookselling websites have a word limit and your entire blurb might not be visible to the readers, unless they click on “read more.”


The tranquillity of a cruise along the Nile is shattered by the discovery that Linnet Ridgeway has been shot through the head. She was young, stylish and beautiful, a girl who had everything—until she lost her life. Hercule Poirot recalls an earlier outburst by a fellow passenger: ‘I’d like to put my dear little pistol against her head and just press the trigger.’ Yet in this exotic setting, nothing is ever quite what it seems…
Death on the Nile by Agatha Christie



3. Samples

Look at as many blurb samples as you can. Visit a bookstore, browse through blurbs for all genres. You might find something that fits your book’s requirements. If not a bookstore, then any bookselling or book review website should give you access to a pool of blurbs. This should help you discover what will work best for your book, and give you an idea about what authors are writing and what readers look for in a blurb.



4. Story

Does your blurb tell a story? Will it make the readers want to know more? A good story can begin from a blurb. Particularly in fiction titles, there is often a “twist” that makes the book sound interesting, and the blurb is the perfect space to drop hints about the twist. Even in the case of non-fiction titles, a good story connects with the readers instantly. For example, Lincoln in the Bardo by George Saunders has all the elements of a good story with a twist. The author picks up from the death of President Abraham Lincoln’s eleven-year-old son, Willie, from typhoid fever during the Civil War, and builds a story of the corpses in Georgetown’s Oak Hill Cemetery, where Willie is laid to rest.


The American Civil War rages while President Lincoln’s beloved eleven-year-old son lies gravely ill. In a matter of days, Willie dies and is laid to rest in a Georgetown cemetery. Newspapers report that a grief-stricken Lincoln returns to the crypt several times alone to hold his boy’s body.


From this seed of historical truth, George Saunders spins an unforgettable story of familial love and loss that breaks free of realism, entering a thrilling, supernatural domain both hilarious and terrifying. Willie Lincoln finds himself trapped in a transitional realm—called, in Tibetan tradition, the bardo—and as ghosts mingle, squabble, gripe and commiserate, and stony tendrils creep towards the boy, a monumental struggle erupts over young Willie’s soul.


Unfolding over a single night, Lincoln in the Bardo is written with George Saunders’ inimitable humour, pathos and grace. Here he invents an exhilarating new form, and is confirmed as one of the most important and influential writers of his generation. Deploying a theatrical, kaleidoscopic panoply of voices—living and dead, historical and fictional—Lincoln in the Bardo poses a timeless question: how do we live and love when we know that everything we hold dear must end?
Lincoln in the Bardo by George Saunders



5. Selling points

The blurb should highlight the selling points of a book—the hook. In the case of Saunders’ book, the main selling point was Lincoln—the main character of the story. Discover the selling points of your book and make a list: What is it that the readers would want to know? How can my book add to the existing literature? What makes my book different? Who am I selling my book to? By answering these few questions, you can gain more clarity about your work, and will know what exactly to include in a blurb.


One of the best examples of this is the blurb for Stephanie Myers’ Twilight:


“About three things I was absolutely positive. First, Edward was a vampire. Second, there was a part of him—and I didn’t know how dominant that part might be—that thirsted for my blood. Third, I was unconditionally and irrevocably in love with him.”


This blurb not only played with the readers’ minds, but also included the main selling point of the book—the love story of a vampire—and it did sell!


The blurb is not just the text printed on a book’s back cover; it is the content that spreads all over the world through various websites, social media, print media, and even word of mouth. A lot of thought and research goes into writing a good blurb. When considering the amount of time and energy that will go into writing a book, do also include some time for writing a blurb—every good book deserves a good blurb. Once your blurb is ready, it becomes one of the most powerful weapons that defines the course of your book. Every single word on the cover has the power to create a lasting impression on the reader.