Thursday, May 26, 2016

After "The End" - Writing the Blurb

Elizabeth Landvick knows of one man to blame for her family’s loss of fortune and her parents’ deaths. Now, she will stop at nothing to take her revenge and recover their wealth. Even travel across the country to marry the man’s son.
           With his focus his sprawling Arizona ranch, Axel Forsberg has little time for wooing a woman, so when his father finds him a bride from the east, he trusts he won’t regret the convenience. Until horses go missing, barns burn to the ground, a range war begins…and he loses his heart.

As writers, we love the moment when we finish a novel. All the plotting, threads, themes, character development, etc, etc, has all come together to form a work of art, and we sigh with relief. And then we realize we still need to condense the essence of 60,000-100,000 words into a blurb under 200.


At least, most authors I talk to have that reaction. Some of you, like me, might actually enjoy this part. But whether we enjoy it or not, it still has to get done (unless you have a great editor who wants to do this, but they still probably wanted a short summary of your story at the start.) Over the past couple years, I’ve had quite a few authors ask me for assistance with their blurbs, and they have even given me a couple nicknames….that will not be mentioned here. ;) All the same, I thought it might be useful to some to share some of the elements I look for, and try to add, when writing blurbs.

The first thing I have to say about a blurb, or back cover, is THIS IS NOT A SYNOPSIS! You don’t have to sum up your whole story in 200 or less words. All you need to do is set the stage. So instead of thinking of your whole story, only think of the first half…or even just the opening. That should be a little easier to summarize!

Secondary Characters: 
If you don’t have to tell us who they are, don’t. A back cover filled with names and introductions will only confuse the reader and make them wonder if they want to be confused for thirty more chapters. Try to keep to the main characters, and introduce any necessary personalities by their role or relation to the POV charactor.  

A blurb that only tells the facts, even of the most interesting plots, will fall flat and won’t compel the reader to open the book. You don’t have much room, but you need to make the reader care. Think of the POV characters in your book and their main emotions through the story. Are they remorseful, fearful, angry, and hopeful? Pick a leading emotion and SHOW it in the way you describe the Premise. Set the tone. (I am still learning how to do this.)

Pacing can assist in showing emotion and the POV character's personality. As you see in the blurb for Mail-Order Revenge, the first paragraph is shorter, more abrupt sentences. Elizabeth is upset and a woman on a mission. Axel, on the other hand is more of a relaxed, strong and steady charactor. One long sentence sums him up. The abruptness is only added to the last sentence as it is the hook.

A Hook: 
This fits with the first part. Don’t tell the whole story! Leave a mystery. I have read far too many back covers that tell me what is going to happen, how it’s going to happen and what the final result will be…and I feel no need to pick up that book. Hook me! Look at the last line of your blurb and ask yourself: Do I give too much away? Or, if I take the question mark off the end, does that sum up the books conclusion?
Here’s an example:
Will Carter be able to find his dog, fix his boat, be reunited with his childhood sweetheart, and be satisfied with God’s direction for his life?
Now take the question away:
Carter will be able to find his dog, fix his boat, be reunited with his childhood sweetheart, and be satisfied with God’s direction for his life.
Thank you for filling me in on the conclusion. One less book I have to read.

Here is the blurb I used to pitch The Scarlet Coat:

All Rachel wants is her family and their land to be safe, but the British see the Mohawk Valley as a spike into the heart of New England. Her father is killed and a badly wounded British officer is left to her mercy. How long can her sense of Christian duty hold her hate for his scarlet coat at bay?

Passages from the Bible and faded images of polite society are all he can remember after he awakens to the log walls of his kind prison. Rachel Garnet insists he is a captain in the British army, but how can he hope to remember war, when his “enemy” is capturing his heart?

His injuries are severe, his memory slow to return, his manners too gentlemanly, and the secret of his existence—deadly.

These are only my opinions, and even some publishing houses don’t seem to always agree, so what do you think? What do you like seeing in a blurb/back cover? What compels you to pick up a book?

Angela K Couch is an award-winning author for her short stories, and a semi-finalist in ACFW's 2015 Genesis Contest. As a passionate believer in Christ, her faith permeates the stories she tells. Her martial arts training, experience with horses, and appreciation for good romance sneak in there, as well. Angela lives in Alberta, Canada with her "hero" and three munchkins. Visit her at, or follow on Twitter or Facebook!


  1. I like the idea of focusing on the emotion and not just the facts.

    1. Not always easy to do, but adds more depth. :)

  2. it sounds so easy when you put it like that but I often get hung up on point one -- premise. In fact, I have so much trouble with premise I often write a blurb before I write the story, just to clarify that concept.

    1. I actually find that easier, as well, to write a blurb before the story and just tweak it after. You have a much clearer idea of premise at that point. :)

    2. I had to do the same thing for my second novel. Blurbs aren't easy to get just right, and I knew I'd be revising it, but just getting the premise down in words got me started. Great post!!

  3. Excellent advice. I actually wrote a blurb for my WIP that I felt captured all these elements which made me do a happy dance. Thanks!

    1. Good job! Here's to a pat on the back, then. ;)

  4. Good advice, although you're right in saying not everyone will agree with all your points. I think everyone will agree that you shouldn't give away the ending, but I was surprised to learn that not everyone likes questions at the end of the description.

    1. Plus the trends continue to change. Questions were in a few years ago, and then they were discouraged... might as well just go with what fits the story the best. :)

  5. Great post. I agree with all of your points. Blurbs have to have emotion, the key characters, conflict and a definite hook.