It happened – the thing all writers dread (other than writing the synopsis) – I’ve been asked to write the cover blurbs for The Outcast Chronicles.I find cover blurbs really hard to write. For one thing they need to be very short. The hard part is not sounding generic, because you break any book down to the bare bones and pack it into a few sentences it begins to sound generic.
Pull any book off the shelf and flip it over … go on. Now count the words in the blurb.
Death Most Definite – Trent Jamieson – 144 words.
Changeless – Gail Carriger – 120 words.
Cold Magic – Kate Elliot – 139 words.
The Blade Itself – Joe Abercrombie -137 words.
There you have it. Sum up a book of 100,000 to 150,000 words in less than 150 words, while making it sound interesting and intriguing. Gah!
I have a short blurb for the whole series.
The Outcast Chronicles – a fantasy family-saga, follows the fate of four people linked by blood, love and vows as they struggle with misplaced loyalties, over-riding ambition and hidden secrets which could destroy them. Some make desperate alliances only to suffer betrayal, and some discover great personal strength.
Now that’s 48 words and it gives you an idea of what the trilogy will be about. But the thing about cover blurbs is that you need to get the reader interested in a character. They need to identify with, and be intrigued by the character/s enough to open the book and start reading that first page. So this means I need to do the 4 Questions:
WHO is the book about?
WHAT do they want?
WHY can’t they achieve it?
HOW do they overcome this? (Of course in a blurb you don’t give this away. The reader has to buy the book to find out).
Well this slows me down right away because there are four Points of View. So I start with Imoshen.
WHO is Imoshen?
Ruler of her people. Not their queen, because they don’t have queens and kings. She’s an elected leader. A reluctant leader. There, now that’s a nice conflict.
Imoshen, reluctant leader of the mystics …
WHAT does she want? To save her people. She’d do anything to protect her infant daughter.
Imoshen, reluctant leader of the mystics, must save her child and her people from …
This is the ‘WHY can’t she achieve it’ bit. Her people are persecuted by those without mystical gifts, who turn on them and lay siege to their fortress city. OK, here goes:
Imoshen, reluctant leader of the mystics must save her child and her people from vindictive King Chald, who plays on the ordinary folk’s resentment of the mystics and the noble’s greed for their lands and riches. When he raises an army and lays siege to the Celestial City, Imoshen seeks a solution but …
Now I need to introduce the next layer of complexity …
I’m going to stop there, because I really do have to get a draft written tonight, but I think you get an idea of the complexity of the task.
Take a look at the book you are currently writing, or have just finished.
Can you encapsulate it in less than 150 words without it sounding clichéd?
Can you introduce the main characters and make them sound interesting?
Can you make the core of the plot sound intriguing?
What to avoid? Jargon. Don’t introduce too many invented names or terms. Keep it simple, go for the emotion.
OK, let’s see your 150 words.