How to Write a Back Cover Blurb for Fiction
By Rachelle Ramirez
Are you ready to write the book description for your back cover—your blurb—for a book of fiction but don't know where to start? Have you started writing your blurb and gotten stuck? Are you even sure you know what a back cover blurb is, what it's supposed to do for you?
The back cover blurb is probably the last thing you want to write and potentially the most difficult to conceptualize, but it is likely your best marketing tool. The pressure is on you to get it right so that sales will follow. But writing a back cover blurb doesn't have to be hard. You just need to fully understand what you're aiming for.
I know the feelings associated with writing a blurb under pressure. I've been there, and I had to do my research. I sought shortcuts and tips for getting my blurb right, and I found them. So let me save you some time and frustration by sharing what I've learned.
What is a back cover blurb?
Bottom line, it's the trailer for your book. It's a sales pitch to potential readers. It's the 150 to 250 words printed on the back of your book that you hope will intrigue the reader enough to buy your book.
The back cover blurb differs from a synopsis, which is the detailed outline you write to sell your book to an agent or publisher. It differs from an endorsement, which is a "blurb" written by a celebrity or a well-known author. It doesn't contain reviews of your book from critics or media organizations. And it is not the same as a book description used on Amazon which is often the back cover blurb plus endorsements and reviews.
What does a fiction back cover blurb do?
Tells potential readers what to expect from your book and convinces them they need to read it.
Promises the book will entertain the reader and offer them an escape from their everyday lives.
Sets reader expectations by conforming to the genre. Is it a gay love story, an action-adventure story, a dystopian maturation story? Your potential reader wants to know.
What doesn't a back cover blurb do?
Appeal to everyone.
Contain plot spoilers.
Reveal all the complications.
Rely on cliches.
Lean toward sensationalism.
Make promises sure to be broken.
Compare one author or book to another.
Explicitly state how great the book is.
How do you write a back cover blurb?
First, review the blurbs of the bestsellers in your genre. Choose a few favorites and analyze their structure. Which words had the most impact on you? What made you want to read the book? What patterns do you see in the blurbs that you could use as a structure for yours? How might you emulate those blurbs? Invest time in researching blurbs in your genre, and you'll have examples that will practically provide a formula for writing yours.
Now you're ready to write the blurb.
Begin by briefly introducing your protagonist and their physical world. Give no more information than the reader will need to understand the primary conflict of the story. Here, you are creating context. What's the situation?
Introduce the primary conflict that drives the story. What does the protagonist want and what gets in their way of obtaining it? What external challenges will force the protagonist to act or change? What's the problem?
Demonstrate the stakes of the story. What happens if the protagonist doesn't get what they want? What's the twist in the story?
Promise an emotional pay-off for the reader. Focus on enticing them instead of informing them. Set the mood of the story (humorous, exciting, terrifying, romantic). End with a cliff-hanging question.
If you follow these steps, you'll write a successful back cover blurb you can use as one of your critical points of communication when promoting your book.
If you find yourself stuck again, consider hiring an editor to help you further develop your ideas. It may be of great benefit to work alongside a guide familiar with the expectations of readers and the publishing industry.