Get your best writer friends to do it for you! No, really. Um, that’s the best way.
Ha! But seriously, though, my friend, Jed, has worked out a cool method. First, we researched the average length of blurbs, and it turns out they are about 240 words in length. Another friend told me that her publisher tries to keep the blurbs to 200 words, so somewhere between those two seems to be what one should aim for.
The examples I’m going to give you regarding what your blurb should contain are based on the work to get a working blurb on Training Season and a short novella (currently out for submission) called Everything Is Yes. (You can read more about Everything Is Yes HERE.)
Let’s start with Training Season! First, Jed said:
Basically, I think you need
- a tagline?
- a paragraph to set up who Matty is and his situation generally
- a paragraph where the set-up for the book is laid out
- a paragraph about the challenges and dilemmas
- a paragraph that vaguely covers the resolution, just the general concepts
- maybe reiterate the tagline in a new way?
I’m not sold on having a tagline just to have a tagline, though. It does seem to be a romance novel thing, but it’s not done with general books all that often, so maybe you can get away without one if you can’t think of anything, either. I think a bad or clunky one is worse than none at all.
In the end, that translated into the following blurb.
Unquestionably talented figure skater Matty Marcus is willing to sacrifice everything for his Olympic dream, but his lack of discipline cost him the gold once before. Now the pressure’s on. He needs a coach who can keep him in line, but top coaches don’t come cheap, and Matty can’t afford to stay in the game no matter how badly he wants to win.
When a lucrative house-sitting gig brings him to rural Montana, Matty does his best to maintain his training regimen. Local residents turn out to be surprisingly tolerant of his flamboyant style, especially handsome young rancher Rob Lovely, who proves to be much more than a cowboy stereotype. Just as Matty requires a firm hand to perform his best on the ice, Rob shows him how strong he can be when he relinquishes control in the bedroom. With new-found self-assurance, he drives himself harder to go straight to the top.
But competition has a timetable, and to achieve his Olympic dream, Matty will have to join his new coach in New York City, leaving Rob behind. Now he must face the ultimate test. Has he truly learned how to win—on and off the ice—during his training season?
It is sans a tag line, because neither I, nor any of my brilliant friends could think of one, and while I feel like it could be a tiny bit better if some blurb genius tweaked it, I’m really quite happy with how it turned out. It is decidedly better than before Jed worked out the above process and basically wrote the rough draft of the blurb for me. Let’s just say that my first attempt a blurb would either make you cry or laugh…or cry with laughter.
Next, with Everything is Yes, Jed worked out the following:
Second paragraph needs to establish who Alex is. Mentioning his age and that the Missed Connections is in a campus newspaper positions him as young; disappointed in love helps set him up as wanting change; and the description of what he wants is just that. Answering the ad establishes that he is going to meet someone new to satisfy his desire.
Third paragraph to set up situation and rules with this new “love.” Think it is good idea to work “everything is ‘yes'” in there, actually.
Fourth paragraph gives away that Smith is Hephaestus and a god, but I think you have to give that away. I don’t think you really need to explain a lot about Hephaestus, though. Thought all the questions about humans and gods fit well here without needing to be a separate paragraph.
Obviously, it’s not perfect, but maybe it gives you something to work with.
That rendered the following blurb:
Are you ever more alive than when you think you’re about to die?
Nineteen-year-old Alex, disappointed in love, wants the kind of fierce passion that will take him beyond the mundane world of safe, consensual sex into a realm of white-hot sensation and utter loss of control. When he recognizes himself in his campus newspaper’s Missed Connections, he takes a chance that this mystery man will be the one who will take him over the edge.
From their very first email, Alex is convinced Smith is the one who will push him beyond his limits, but Smith refuses to meet, warning Alex that there may be dire consequences to an in-person encounter. Alex persists, and so before Smith extends a weekend invitation to his remote cabin, he exacts a promise that Alex will obey him in all things once there. As long as he is with Smith, Alex agrees that everything is “yes.”
The sadistic god Hephaestus, also known as the Smith, chooses human lovers from among those who thrive on fear, pain and loss of control, and he knows that Alex is ideal for his purposes. But will Alex be able to keep his promise? Can a human love a god and come through unscathed? Can terror, combined with pleasure, result in transcendence? And, having once experienced such terrible bliss, what would a man risk to experience it once more?
Alex is about to find out.
So, yes, the best way to get a blurb is to have your best friend write it for you. Ha! But, truthfully, what this taught me was how to break a blurb down into the various parts. I feel like I can move forward now with this guidance and write better blurbs for myself. I’m sure she’ll still need to touch them up, but I have really learned a lot from her help on the blurb front. I hope that reading about this process helps you, too!