Friday, 25 March 2016

What's In A Blurb?

Scene: a bookshop. Enter a character.

S/he surveys the interior, nods to the proprietor and begins to browse.

Watch the behaviour.

Drawn to genre or attracted by shiny displays? Does the BESTSELLER label call attention or is it the small hand-written staff-pick label?

Pile of Books Zurich
Pile of Books bookshop, Zürich

Observe the second stage. Will s/he opt for the well-known name or become seduced by a cover? A hand reaches out, hesitates and selects a book. Assumptions are already in place.

The cover alludes to content. The lure is set.

What will tip this shy browser into commitment? Will he/she buy because of the copy?

The back cover, the blurb, the puff quote, the elevator pitch... let's break this down.

Some terms (which vary across the publishing world)


Words on the front cover which hint at the story.
"Three secrets. Two women. One Grail." - Labyrinth, Kate Mosse
"He doesn't want you alive or dead. He wants you somewhere in between." - Sleepyhead, Mark Billingham

Blurb/description/cover copy:

The answer to what’s it about? The reader requires two things:
  1. Characters, location, central conflict, danger and hook. People, place, premise, price and prize. All in the style of the novel.
  2. How will it make me feel? Is this going to scare, excite, thrill or reassure me? At the end, do I get a shot of life-affirming joy or a deep-rooted terror of clowns?
Elevator pitch:

One or two liner which conveys the essence of the story, emotion and character. Can be used on advertising, social media and even in an elevator.

Puff quote:

An endorsement from a fellow writer to illustrate a professional opinion.

On Tuesday, Triskele Books had their regular #triskeletuesday twitchat. This week, the subject was blurbs. What should a blurb do? And how does it achieve that?

In such limited space, with so much to achieve, every word must count.

Which is most important - blurb or cover?

And does an endorsement make a difference? The consensus was yes, but only if they are well written and individual to this particular book/author.

As for straplines, especially in certain genres,  they can be strikingly similar. But as with titles, no one holds copyright on straplines, so why not?


 Thanks to all those who participated in our Tuesday #twitchat.
The next subject will be #bookcovers on Tuesday 5 April. See you there!

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