Self-Editing Tip: Blurb

Blurb or Book Description

Blurbs sell books. That’s their primary function—to get your books in the hands of readers. Its goal is not to give away your story but to compel the reader to pick up the book. You might know of it as a book description that is printed on the back cover of the book or appears on the description field of retailers like Amazon.

In this blog post, I’ll show you what to include in a blurb and help you deconstruct a blurb of a self-published bestselling novel to put things in perspective.

Parts of a Blurb

Tagline:

This is your hook, your chance to grab the reader by their throat. Make it short and make it punchy.

Most authors do not use a tagline, which is a mistake in this mobile age where almost everyone is browsing on their cell phones and only a few lines of the description text is displayed. This is your chance to make the reader click on the Read More button to read the rest of the blurb. Put it in bold—make it stand out.

Main Character & their Primary Conflict:

You might have a great story, but the primary reason a reader will pick up a book is if they care enough for your main character. This is the paragraph where you need to introduce your main character. Tell us in a sentence who they are and what they want.

Make the next sentence about their conflict—the challenge they are facing to get their goal. In the third sentence, raise the stakes. Tell the reader what your character stands to lose. Their job? Their sanity? The love of their life? How about their world and everyone in it? The higher the stakes the better. Without consequences, a conflict lacks drama. Some authors also like to add a dramatic question in this paragraph to establish what’s at stake.

Add some paragraphs, some white space here so the reader doesn’t have to look at a big blob of text.

Selling Paragraph:

In this paragraph, show the reader why this book is for them. It’s also an opportunity to let them know what genre the book is, if it is part of a series etc. Identify a bestselling book or an author or a famous main character that shares the market of your book and mention it in this paragraph, so that you have an opportunity to let their fans know that your book is what they have been looking for.

Call to Action:

Most authors end their blurb with a synopsis and hope the reader will scroll up and buy. The CTA asks the reader to do it, which much improves the chances of it happening.

Deconstructing a blurb:

Let’s see a blurb in action. This blurb is from Mark Dawson’s The Cleaner. Mark Dawson is a million-selling author and ranks among the Top 100 authors on amazon dot com.

MI6 created him. Now they want him dead. //Punchy tagline.

John Milton is an assassin for the British government, but he’s old and tired and wants to quit. Unfortunately, that’s impossible. Milton knows too much. The only way out of his job is in a box – there are no exceptions. //Main Character.

Milton goes on the run and meets a young mother who needs his help. Her son has been tempted by a life with a glamorous gang and the charismatic criminal who leads it. Milton must get the boy out of trouble – before it’s too late. //The Conflict.

And when his old agency sends another agent after him, the odds against him are stacked even higher. //Rising Stakes.

If you like Lee Child’s Jack Reacher, Vince Flynn’s Mitch Rapp, and Robert Ludlum’s Jason Bourne, you won’t be able to put down the compulsively addictive John Milton series. //Selling Paragraph.

Scroll up and click Look Inside or Buy NOW. //CTA.

Notice how long the blurb is? Only 150 words. You may take a few more, but short is your best friend here. Normally, 150-250 words is the sweet spot you want to hit.

Further Reading

Writing Book Blurbs and Synopses: How to sell your manuscript to publishers and your indie book to readers (Writer’s Craft 19) by Rayne Hall

Do you have a question about blurbs? Did you find this post informative? Let me know in the comments.

Coming up tomorrow: C for Comma Splice. See you with a new tip.
Want my editing tips in your inbox? Subscribe to my newsletter and download Self-Edit Your Fiction Like a Pro FREE.
– Dola.

Self-Editing Tips: Apostrophe

Apostrophes are not that simple, no matter what people might say. As English language has evolved, their use has become increasingly complex. It doesn’t help that different style guides give contrasting advice regarding its use. I am an editor and in my line of work, I see even experienced writers getting confused when it comes to these little pests. If you can get just this one thing right while self-editing, you’ll save your editors a lot of time and effort. Believe me, they’ll love you for it.

Apostrophes are always the closing single quotation marks. So, the first thing to remember is that the tail of the apostrophe always points to the left—something to watch out for if you’re starting a word with an apostrophe. For example: ’Twas dark outside. The reason we need to pay special attention is that most writing programs like MS Word autocorrect the opening apostrophe ’ to a single opening quotation mark ‘ like this. You’ll have to manually change it back.

Apostrophes are mostly used for three purposes:

  1. To specify contractions or omissions.
  2. To indicate possession.
  3. For plurals.

Let’s explore each of these one by one.

Contractions/Omissions

These are used to show that a letter (or more) has been left out. To check if we’ve used the contraction correctly, you might need to expand it and check. Here are some examples:

You’re late for dinner = You are late for dinner.

He’d like some ice cream = He would like some ice cream.

It’s a long walk home = It is a long walk home.
It’s been a long night = It has been a long night.

Note: Be careful not to confuse it’s with its. The latter is a possessive pronoun (and a topic for another blog post) not a contraction, and so it doesn’t take an apostrophe. Did you know that it’s and its are among the most common confusing words?

Also note: The only case where we use two apostrophes if two letters have been left out is when they are separated by another letter. For example: rock ’n’ roll. And make sure both the tails are pointing left.

Possessive Apostrophes

When indicating possession, we add an apostrophe after the thing that is doing the possessing.

Apostrophes for singular nouns is simple—just add an apostrophe followed by an s. For example:

Tim’s shoes = The shoes of Tim.

This situation can get tricky if the name ends with an s such as Rob Williams or Miley Cyrus (and this is where I see most authors tripping up). To show possession, you need to add an apostrophe after the s. But remember: There’s no fixed rule about adding another s after the apostrophe. You could drop the additional s if it causes difficulty in pronunciation. Follow your instincts and write it as you’d speak it. If you’re confused, read it aloud and see if how you wrote it makes sense. For example:

Did you see Miley Cyrus’s new video?” makes more sense than saying “Did you see Miley Cyrus’ new video?” But “Rob Williams’ new video” sounds better than “Rob Williams’s new video.”

But what if our noun was plural? In such cases, we need to add the s first to make the word plural and then add the apostrophe. For example:

The farmers’ market” means a market of many farmers. If we had written it as “The farmer’s market,” it would have meant the market of one farmer.

The same rule applies for family names too. Where you put the apostrophe depends on whether you are talking about the whole family or just one member.

In cases of plural names ending with an s, in case we want to refer to the whole family, we need to make their name plural by adding -es and then an apostrophe. For example:

The Woodses’ house is as pretty as they come.

If the house belonged to any one member, we would have said: Mr. Woods’s house is as pretty as they come.

However, not all plurals are made by adding an s or an -es, are they? There are irregular plurals (woman, but women) and to make their possessives, we need to add the apostrophe and then an s. For example:

The women’s section has better choices.

Note: Possessive pronouns don’t take an apostrophe. Remember “its”? 😉

Plurals

To specify plurals of lower-case letters, use an apostrophe. For example:

Do’s and don’ts of fiction writing. Because “dos and don’ts of fiction writing” won’t make much sense, would it?

To specify plurals of upper-case letters, you can safely drop the apostrophe as there is no ambiguity as such. For example:

The students need their IDs to enter the building.

Further Reading:

I highly recommend Fucking Apostrophes by Simon Griffin. That small book packs a punch.

For style related information regarding apostrophes, check out The Chicago Manual of Style if you use US English or New Hart’s Rules if you use UK English.

A final thought:

We are humans. We will make mistakes. So, don’t beat yourself up if you misplace an apostrophe or two. And if you have a doubt or a question, please feel free to comment and ask. 😊

Are you a pro when it comes to apostrophes or do you find them confusing? Did this post help to put things in perspective? Let me know.

Coming up tomorrow: B for Blurbs. See you with a new tip.
Want my editing tips in your inbox? Subscribe to my newsletter and download Self-Edit Your Fiction Like a Pro FREE.

– Dola.