Posted On April 26, 2013 by Print This Post

Yakkity-Yak by Laurie Schnebly Campbell

Welcome back to one of my favorite people – Laurie Schnebly Campbell! Do you freeze when trying to write a book blurb? Who doesn’t? Learn from Laurie on how to write the best blurb for YOUR book – and your readers!

 

What makes people talk about your book before they’ve ever read Page One?

Well, maybe they remember you from high school and can’t wait to see if they’re featured on page 28.

Or maybe they heard the publisher paid a billion-dollar advance to get your manuscript.

Or maybe they saw that Johnny Depp agreed to play the lead when it’s simultaneously released as a movie.

 

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But aside from news like that, pretty much the ONLY thing that gets people talking is word of mouth.

We’ve all heard (or read) comments like:

“I’ve already pre-ordered that one.”

“I hear it’s a great book, can’t wait to get it.”

“It looks really good; I was reading the blurb.”

 

Ah, the blurb.

 

While we might have no control over our publisher’s purse-strings, much less over Johnny Depp, we CAN control the blurb.

But a lot of writers feel uneasy about writing their own. Sure, no problem writing an entire novel, but a blurb?

“No no no no no no no!”

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If that sounds like you, you’re sure not alone. Even writers who are naturally gifted at self-promotion — and, boy, don’t we envy them? — find it tough to condense their fabulous book into 50 words.

Which is easy to understand. If you had to condense your entire life into 50 words, where would you even start?

Getting just 50 words to sum up everything that’s great about a story you’ve spent the past however-many months on can be every bit as challenging.

So that’s why it helps to think like an advertising copywriter.

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All you advertising people out there already know this, right? I DIDN’T know it when I started wondering why writing blurbs and synopses came so easily — far easier writing the actual novels — until I realized they’re all about presenting the product in its best possible light.

In a very short space.

To the people who want it.

 

Who are those people?

 

It’s a good idea to figure that out early in the game. After all, no advertiser would waste money producing a TV commercial or a full-page ad in the New York Times or a billboard on Main Street without knowing who they want this ad to reach.

(Er, whom. But that sounds so pedantic!)

Anyway, we writers tend to be a bit more all-inclusive and democratic than the advertisers who maintain “the ONLY consumers we care about reaching are suburban females age 35-49 with pre-schoolers in a household with income of $50-75K.”

We tend to say “I want to reach every reader on Planet Earth.”

 

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But, drat it, that makes it tough to target our blurb toward any specific market.

It could very well be, of course, that every single reader on earth will agree HERE’s the book they’ve been waiting for their entire life, and they’ll order millions of copies for all their friends.

And even as we authors dismiss such a premise as being unrealistic, some little secret part of us still thinks “yes, exactly!”

The realistic part, though, recognizes that not every reader WILL want this fabulous book. Someone seeking a sweet romance doesn’t want incredibly hot love scenes. Someone who wants a medieval historical won’t be satisfied with the Old West. Someone shopping for a relaxing escape doesn’t want a nail-biting thriller.

But who cares? Those aren’t your readers anyway.

The readers YOU want already know what they’re looking for…and it’s the kind of book you write.

So how do you show them?

 

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Tell, don’t show.

 

In a blurb, you flip the traditional show-don’t-tell advice on its head. Here, telling instead of showing is doing the reader a favor. Someone who’s skimming through a whole selection of possible stories wants to get the flavor of yours in just a few sentences or paragraphs.

Think of it like writing a commercial for a brand new car, or a traditional favorite snack food. You have fifteen seconds to present the image of how this car or this snack food will make life better for someone flipping through channels.

Seems daunting, right?

But you have an advantage — because you don’t have to catch people flipping through channels. They’re flipping through story descriptions because they ALREADY want to buy your kind of book.

So you need to make the most of that advantage, putting your best blurb-writing skills to work. And that’s where we come up against today’s question:

What’s the best advice you’ve heard about blurbs?

Everybody who answers will go into a drawing pool, and the winner gets even MORE great advice during my class on “Blurbing Your Book” May 6-31 at WriterUniv dot com.

Fun stuff, right?

Although maybe not quite as much fun as having Johnny Depp star in the movie of your book…

 

 

Laurie Schnebly Campbell (BookLaurie.com) works in advertising, where her job is to convince buyers they’ll love a particular product. She’s spent years writing about products people might not think of buying, until they saw a message that makes ‘em realize “yes, THIS is what I want!” She’s always pleased, but not surprised, when people who’ve taken this class report increased sales with their new and improved blurbs.

 

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Questions about your book blurb? Now’s the time to ask!

Join us on Monday for From Jane Austen to Jane Jetson – Making Yourself At Home Online with Pamela Mason

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Laurie’s Bio: Laurie Schnebly Campbell combines work for a Phoenix ad agency with teaching other novelists about the craft of writing. She’s also published half a dozen romances (including one that won “Best Special Edition of the Year” over Nora Roberts) and a how-to for fiction writers on creating believable characters. Check out her August workshop on blurbs — and more — at www.BookLaurie.com.

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86 Responses to “Yakkity-Yak by Laurie Schnebly Campbell”

  1. I always learn something from listening to Laurie. Blurbs are really important, as I learned when trying to come up with something for my first Kindle novella. Wish I’d had Laurie’s info then.

    Posted by Alison Hentges aka Georgina Devon | April 26, 2013, 2:49 am
    • Alison, good for you on getting that Kindle blurb done! And, heck, the good thing about any blurb that isn’t confined to a publisher’s website is you can always make changes…although it might be more fun to spend your writing time on another great novella.

      Posted by Laurie Schnebly Campbell | April 26, 2013, 7:22 am
  2. Laurie this blog made so much sense. I always think of the word “Impact” when I read a good blurb or see a good TV commercial or a movie trailer. If it makes an impact and catches my attention then I’m hooked and tend to press that darn ole ‘click to buy’ button!

    Posted by Mimi Barbour | April 26, 2013, 3:03 am
    • Mimi, I love your word for blurbs — you’re so right; that’s what we’re all striving for. And isn’t it fun to see your sales going up-up-up when you create a blurb with impact? (You already know the answer to that; you’ve been doing it all along!)

      Posted by Laurie Schnebly Campbell | April 26, 2013, 7:24 am
  3. Hi Laurie. Thanks again for a great post. Since I have a screenwriting background, a back cover blurb to me seems to be the equivalent of an “elevator pitch”. So if you need to hook a producer, you need to be able to do it in two or three sentences. The difficult part of course is coming up with those perfect three sentences. :D

    Posted by Adite Banerjie | April 26, 2013, 5:39 am
    • Adite, good comparison between the elevator pitch and blurb — there are a lot of similarities. In fact, the only real difference is the delivery, where people who feel comfortable with a “live” read have the advantage in elevators and people who feel better writing it would far rather stick to blurbs. :)

      Posted by Laurie Schnebly Campbell | April 26, 2013, 7:26 am
  4. I used to dread blurbs, but after taking one of Laurie’s classes I got into the habit of writing a working blurb to keep the story on track. It really helped keep the essence of the story true. I highly recommend Laurie’s classes, she is a wonderful instructor!

    Posted by Margie Hall | April 26, 2013, 5:53 am
    • Margie, thanks for the recommendation! And I’m delighted to see you’re still using the “working blurb to keep the story on track” habit — there’s sure a lot to be said for knowing, going in, what the essence of the story is meant to be. Good luck with whatever’s next on your plate.

      Posted by Laurie Schnebly Campbell | April 26, 2013, 7:29 am
  5. Hi Laurie,

    The summing it up is so important. A few sentences to grab a reader’s attention and not let go.

    Mary Jo

    Posted by Mary Jo Burke | April 26, 2013, 6:48 am
    • Mary Jo, it’a a kick looking at your post — just two quick sentences stand out on the page (er, well, the screen) and look wonderfully easy to read. Of course readers will want more information once they’re hooked on the premise of the story, but making it easy for them to START is a great thing.

      Posted by Laurie Schnebly Campbell | April 26, 2013, 7:31 am
  6. Summing up an entire manuscript into about 100 words can be daunting. After taking a class with Laurie about the dreaded synopsis writing process it made sense. Great article.

    Posted by Leann Austin | April 26, 2013, 7:00 am
    • Leann, I’m tickled you spotted the similarities between writing a synopsis and writing a blurb. You’re right on target there; it’s all a question of coming up with those good old Unique Selling Points…the only difference being that in the synopsis, you get just a bit more room to deliver ‘em!

      Posted by Laurie Schnebly Campbell | April 26, 2013, 7:33 am
  7. I totally get the idea of having a working blurb as mentioned by Margie H. above. What a great signpost to keep the story on track, especially for a pantster like me.

    So far I’ve completed three of Laurie’s classes, all of which have given me so many of those “ah ha” moments. She’s turning me into a more competent and prolific writer.

    Something else I appreciate: She has a firm understanding of her craft but teaches with a light hand. Her classroom is a super learning arena. I plan to work my way through all her classes.

    Posted by Cara Gilliam | April 26, 2013, 7:43 am
    • Cara, wow, what a nice post to read just as I was about to head back to bed — thanks for the lovely endorsement, AND for the news that I’ll get to see you in some more classes! Aren’t those “ah ha” moments the most thrilling thing in the world? I still love it when one of those happens. :)

      Posted by Anonymous | April 26, 2013, 7:52 am
  8. And word choice can be so important! simply changing a word can change the tone from humorous to suspenseful.

    Posted by Rowan Worth | April 26, 2013, 8:05 am
    • Rowan, good point about a single word making a big difference — it sure can. I forget the example, but there’s something really cool with an illustration that shows how that one swap gives the whole piece a completely different tone. If you remember that one, I’d love to hear it!

      Posted by Laurie Schnebly Campbell | April 26, 2013, 8:56 am
      • Hm, unfortunately not!! The best I can come up with is the classic–“A rebellious teen defies the law, mugs an old lady, and flees to a foreign land where she kills the first person she meets, and teams up with three other outcasts to kill again.” A potential summary of Wizard of Oz… It’s ALL in the phrasing. ; )

        Posted by Rowan Worth | April 26, 2013, 11:12 am
  9. Hi, Laurie. Welcome back! I’m already signed up for your blurbing class. I’m finding that blurbs come in handy when writing proposals for new books. I’ve had to write three of them in the last couple of weeks so the timing is perfect for your class. :)

    Posted by Adrienne Giordano | April 26, 2013, 8:08 am
    • Adrienne, how cool that I’ll get to see you next month — and boy, you’re right about perfect timing. Good for you on getting so many projects done amidst all the Romance University festivities…you’ve been incredibly busy, haven’t you? With, of course, lots of fabulous people on the team. :)

      Posted by Laurie Schnebly Campbell | April 26, 2013, 8:58 am
  10. This is great for posting blurbs on websites, and e-pubs. My question is–how much say does the author have on blurbs on traditional releases these days?

    Posted by Rowan Worth | April 26, 2013, 8:15 am
    • Rowan, for traditional releases the author doesn’t get a whole lot of say just because the system isn’t set up that way. But where you DO get a say is in all the promo you do on your own, whether for a traditional release or an indie-published…whatever you way on your website, posts, etc is totally your call!

      Posted by Laurie Schnebly Campbell | April 26, 2013, 9:00 am
      • That’s what I thought. I had trouble putting blurbs up–it’s soooo hard to say enough without giving everything away, ESPECIALLY when blurbing books in a series!! The write up for book 3 pretty much ruins book 1.

        Posted by Rowan Worth | April 26, 2013, 11:13 am
  11. Hi, Laurie! Folks, I’ve taken Laurie’s blurb class, and it was a real eye-opener. I thought I was pretty good at blurbs, but Laurie taught me how to get down to the essence of the story. I thoroughly recommend it.

    Cheers,
    Ann

    P.S. Be sure to save your notes. You’ll want to review them before you write the blurb for your next story.

    Posted by Ann Macela | April 26, 2013, 8:27 am
    • Ann, that’s a great suggestion about saving the notes — I’m glad you thought of that; I don’t think it would’ve occurred to me and now I’ll make sure to mention it up front. I remember your wonderfully generous offer in the last class for people having trouble with Word; and here you’re STILL giving!

      Posted by Laurie Schnebly Campbell | April 26, 2013, 9:01 am
  12. Hey Laurie! Great post. It got me to thinking about similarities in the things I’ve een doing recently. I’ve had to be prepared with a short blurb on the nonprofit I started. I’m cold-calling and cold-emailing professional performers and need to pique their interest enough to get them reading or listening further. So I have to nutshell the pure essence of my organization. Also, I have found that the better I know my org, the better I can distill its essence into a short statement that really elicits passion – mine and theirs! I think it’s that way with our books – we may have a working blurb at the beginning, to guide us, and as we go deeper, the blurb is refined to what sparks.

    Posted by Charlotte Raby | April 26, 2013, 8:32 am
    • Charlotte, what a great idea to use your writing skills for your nonprofit work as well — it feels like good karma, somehow, getting the most out of any experience and putting it to work on the next. And you’re right about how much better the blurb becomes, the better you know the material. :)

      Posted by Laurie Schnebly Campbell | April 26, 2013, 9:04 am
  13. GAH! Blurbs. Ask me to write anything except a decent blurb. The good news is, a great blurb can do double duty as the “hook” in a query letter. :-)

    (Yes, I’m still stalking you, Laurie. Spreaders of good cheer like you bear watching, lest they convince the unsupecting public fiction writing is fun, not torture. ;-) )

    Posted by Kathleen Rice Adams | April 26, 2013, 8:33 am
    • Kathleen, I love “GAH!” Talk about an intriguing open — you sure nailed that one. And good point about using the blurb as the query hook; doesn’t it feel wonderfully frugal to have a piece of writing that can do double duty? Now, hmm, I’m trying to decide which of your stories’ blurbs could open with “GAH”…

      Posted by Laurie Schnebly Campbell | April 26, 2013, 9:06 am
  14. I really like Margie Hall’s idea of having a working blurb – in fact, I think I’ll go see if I can come up with one right now. I’d run into the idea of using one word to keep your story on track, but I’ve always thought of blurbs as being something done… retrospectively.

    And, just a day or two ago, I found a sort of related idea on Twitter: write a science fiction or fantasy story in a single tweet. (It was actually a contest; it’s under the hashtag #VurtSF if anybody wants to go look at the results – some really clever stuff there.) If you try to summarize your own novel at that length – hypothetically, of course – you get something shorter than a blurb but longer than a single word.

    So, obviously, you can play with the same concept at different levels of focus…

    Posted by Michael Mock | April 26, 2013, 8:38 am
    • Michael, that’s such an intriguing tease — now I’m dying to read your blurb AND the Twitter stories! Which reminds me of the story-in-six-words challenge whose results I heard on NPR a few years ago, including the original inspiration: “For sale: baby shoes. Never worn.” That still gives me chills…

      Posted by Laurie Schnebly Campbell | April 26, 2013, 9:49 am
    • Trying yet again — Michael, I’m so sorry this doesn’t seem to be going through! I’ll use a completely different reply and see if that does the trick…saying in totally different words how much I like the idea of using different lengths, anywhere from one word to six to sixteen to…gosh, where does it all end?

      Posted by Laurie Schnebly Campbell | April 26, 2013, 2:48 pm
      • So, I went and tried it over my lunch break, and I found something interesting. The One Word and the “book jacket” blurbs focus on one element of the story – call it the Hook, or maybe the central dynamic. The tweet, though, focuses on something else: it’s more about where the story is going.

        I shouldn’t be too surprised. The tweet was written under very different circumstances. But putting all three together really drove home just how different their focuses really were.

        So, naturally, I rewrote the tweet-length one.

        Posted by Michael Mock | April 26, 2013, 4:58 pm
  15. I’ve read blurbs that were written by professional blurb writers. Unfortunately, the blurber obviously hadn’t actually read the book. That or there was a major re-write after the blurb was written. I wanted to read the book in the blurb, not the one provided. My blurb starts from my original outline. I re-write it from time to time as the story develops. I find things important I didn’t realize would be at first. I need to find a way to make blurb writing less painful.

    Posted by Judy | April 26, 2013, 8:39 am
    • Judy, wow, I never knew there WERE professional blurb writers — but good grief, wouldn’t you think they’d at least read the book they’re blurbing? Although maybe that’s like cover artists; we’ve all heard horror stories of a blonde heroine turning up as a redhead…but somehow with words that’s even worse!

      Posted by Laurie Schnebly Campbell | April 26, 2013, 9:48 am
  16. Morning Laurie!!

    Blurbs can make or break your book. I look at the cover first, then the blurb. If it doesn’t catch me, I’m on to the nextone. I’m sure I miss out on some great books that way, but I’m sure I’m not the only one who does it!

    I also highly recommend Laurie’s classes – she’s an amazing teacher!

    I’m thinking Johnny Depp WOULD be a good choice for my lost-at-sea story….=) hmmm……=)

    carrie

    Posted by Carrie Spencer | April 26, 2013, 8:44 am
    • Carrie, I’m right there with you in thinking Johnny Depp would be a perfect hero for that story — hmm, do we know anyone who could tell him that? :) And you’re sure not alone in moving from book to book quickly when looking for an appealing read…the good news is that we CAN make a difference!

      Posted by Laurie Schnebly Campbell | April 26, 2013, 9:47 am
  17. I’ve been told a third will hate you, a third will love you and that middle third is the one you can sway. This speaks to the next big question: how?
    Thanks! Maybe 15 seconds will turn out to be longer than I think it is.

    Posted by Lisa Heidinger | April 26, 2013, 9:11 am
    • Lisa, that’s a great way of looking at it — swaying the middle third. And as for the “how,” that’s where we get into the same techniques they (er, we) use in advertising…which can be covered in a single season of Mad Men, or a couple semesters of college, or four weeks of class…

      Posted by Laurie Schnebly Campbell | April 26, 2013, 10:07 am
  18. Hi, Laurie! I’m super excited about your class next month. :)

    I’m drawing a blank this morning on blurb advice that I’ve heard, but grammatical errors (including spelling) in a blurb are an instant turn-off for me. I know it’s a simple thing, but good editing is one of my sticking points.

    See you in May!
    Jamie

    Posted by Jamie Farrell | April 26, 2013, 9:19 am
    • Jamie, how cool that you’ll be on board next month — with good grammar, besides. :) You’re absolutely right about how a single careless error devalues the entire meaning of the blurb, at least for readers who (like a lot of us writers) view such things as an indication of how good the story actually is!

      Posted by Laurie Schnebly Campbell | April 26, 2013, 10:09 am
  19. Oh Laurie, I can have the opposite problem and I have no idea why. When I write a blurb in a query letter, it has sometimes set up expectations in the reader of said letter that my books doesn’t fulfill, and yet it is exactly what my book does . But the reader has different expectations. When I write the blurb for the book specifically, it tends to come out pretty good. I think about what would interest a reader about my book, so I focus on the key ingredients like heat level, type of paranormal, hero’s angst, maybe heroine’s angst and then leave the reader with a hook so they want to find out what happens. My hook in my debut release went something like this: “Torn, she must make a choice between her financial security and freeing seventy-three trapped souls. Either way, she could lose her Synn.” (Synn being the hero) But I have no idea if it worked yet :-} As you know, it is the synopsis I dread most!

    Posted by Lexi Post | April 26, 2013, 10:17 am
  20. Laurie, your information is always spot on and laid out in terms that are easy to understand. The information will for for those of us who have to supply a kind of blurb for our art fact sheets, too.
    Thanks a bunch.

    Posted by Roz Denny Fox | April 26, 2013, 10:18 am
    • Roz, I hadn’t even thought about art fact sheets — but you’re right; a long blurb is the perfect answer for the amount of space they give you to describe the story. And then even if you can’t use that long a blurb on certain sites, you can always have it handy on your own where the fans are likely to come!

      Posted by Laurie Schnebly Campbell | April 26, 2013, 10:38 am
  21. Laurie,
    Thanks for this great post. It really helps in this day and age of social media – everyone wants a summary and it needs to be short, but intriguing. You gave me some great ideas. Thanks!

    Nan McNamara

    Posted by Nan McNamara | April 26, 2013, 10:32 am
    • Nan, I’m so glad you can use these ideas in all kinds of social media — from a tweeted tagline to a short paragraph for Facebook to a couple of paragraphs on LinkedIn, there’s room for just about every length of blurb! And heck, if it turns into a few pages, there’s always the press release… :)

      Posted by Laurie Schnebly Campbell | April 26, 2013, 10:39 am
  22. Laurie,

    What? No Johnny Depp? Good thing I love your classes. I always learn practical tools and techniques which can be applied to other aspects of writing.

    Since I haven’t taken your blurb class yet, the best blurb advice I’ve received so far comes from Sherry Thomas. She says book blurbs (and queries) are like movie trailers. They should focus on conflict and are meant to sell.

    Hope to “see” you in May.

    -Jillian

    Posted by Jillian Lark | April 26, 2013, 10:36 am
    • Jillian, thanks for sharing that advice about movie trailers; that’s a good comparison! As for Johnny Depp, somehow I can’t QUITE see him as the gentleman hero — but as the thief, oh boy yes yes yes yes yes. So, okay, all we need is somebody to get him the book and wait for him to arrive…

      Posted by Laurie Schnebly Campbell | April 26, 2013, 10:41 am
  23. Heading into the workday, drat it, so don’t anybody worry if it takes a while to hear back regarding a post!

    Posted by Laurie Schnebly Campbell | April 26, 2013, 10:41 am
  24. Hi Laurie–My goal when I create a book blurb is to have a short piece I can use over and over again. It comes from my query letter and tells the who, what, when, where and WHY, as in are these motives believable? The hook needs to be emotional and the goal, motivation and conflict of the H/h should compel the reader to say, Ooooo. I want that book. In fact, I hope it becomes their OBSESSION.

    Posted by Sharon Buchbinder | April 26, 2013, 11:25 am
    • Sharon, a blurb that turns your book into the reader’s obsession is a fabulous goal! And being able to answer all those questions in a very short space is impressive…although you sure don’t HAVE to answer them all. If you can, though, it’s a great thing — might as well give the reader all the information they need.

      Posted by Laurie Schnebly Campbell | April 26, 2013, 12:28 pm
  25. This post serves as a self-promotion. It doesn’t tell you how to write one.

    Posted by Anna Labno | April 26, 2013, 11:34 am
    • Anna, you’re right that a blurb is all about self-promotion. Or, well, promotion of your book…giving readers enough information to get them interested, without giving ‘em so much they’ll figure “no need to buy the book, I got it all here.” But the basic advice is: give ‘em an idea of what’s cool about it!

      Posted by Laurie Schnebly Campbell | April 26, 2013, 12:28 pm
  26. Laurie – I always thought condensing a novel into 50 to 75 words was impossible and then I recognized it’s a bit like opening remarks in front of a jury or your best closing line. As an author, in this tight market, there’s no margin for error. Your class on book blurbing helped me focus on the message I wanted to convey. Every word had to deliver a precise message. This is an informative blog.

    Posted by Sheri de Grom | April 26, 2013, 11:57 am
    • Sheri, I like the comparison to opening remarks for a jury — or, for that matter, the closing line where there’s REALLY no room for error. It’s kind of reassuring to know that with a blurb, at least nobody’s life or freedom is at stake…although, shoot, doesn’t it sometimes feel that way when we’re sending out our previous baby book to face the eyes of people who may or may not love it?

      Posted by Laurie Schnebly Campbell | April 26, 2013, 12:29 pm
  27. Hi Laurie!
    Loved your Plot via Motivation class and tremendously excited about the blurb! My next novel is all outlined PVM style and just waiting for a knock-out blurb. I like blurbs that are smart and offer a “clever hook” if you will. For my first book’s blurb I finally came up with two paragraphs … first sentence “Should the past make way for the future,” second paragraph first sentence, “or the present make way for the past.” I think blurbs can be creatively exciting but looking for a twist similar to that is intimidating!!!! (smile)

    Posted by Nancy LaPonzina | April 26, 2013, 12:10 pm
    • Nancy, that’s a great use of “bookends” for the opening and closing of your blurb — it’s as much fun to see in a short piece of copy as in an actual book, where there’s a lot of satisfaction in reaching the end and realizing it harks back to something you enjoyed at the beginning. Way cool!

      Posted by Laurie Schnebly Campbell | April 26, 2013, 12:31 pm
  28. Hi Laurie,

    You are the muse, even for pesky things like blurbs. I give you credit for helping to make my writing more enticing. I don’t fear “THE BLURB” because of what you taught me (plus your feedback’s great).

    Thanks, Laurie!
    Gina

    Posted by Gina Conkle | April 26, 2013, 1:05 pm
    • Gina, wow, losing your fear of the blurb is a wonderful thing — good for you! It’s such fun seeing those lessons pay off, and in your case that’s not only blurbs but trailers as well. (Although, as someone who’s never even attempted a trailer, I’m totally AWED by a writer who can do that as well.)

      Posted by Laurie Schnebly Campbell | April 26, 2013, 1:25 pm
  29. I learned so much in your blurb class! Great article.

    Posted by Renee Rose | April 26, 2013, 1:47 pm
    • Renee, that’s nice to hear — thanks for letting me know! I still remember feeling awful at having to cut off the end of your blurb when we posted the word-count versions for review, but marveling at how well the story setup played even without the following material that made it so cool. :)

      Posted by Laurie Schnebly Campbell | April 26, 2013, 2:01 pm
  30. I’d love to take your blurb class, Laurie. That seems to be one I might be able to excel at!!!

    PS. My you’re the best blah blah blah comments…are all true!!xx

    Posted by Lynn Price | April 26, 2013, 2:16 pm
    • Lynn, your observation that different writers excel at different things is spot-on…I’m always amazed by how many gifts there ARE among storytellers. People who can come up with great descriptions and titles and action scenes leave me awed, and we all think our OWN gifts are nothing special…but they are. :)

      Posted by Laurie Schnebly Campbell | April 26, 2013, 2:43 pm
  31. Hi Laurie,

    The best advice I heard about blurbs was on Kristin Nelson’s blog when she said:

    When writing your pitch paragraph, all you need to do is examine the first 20 or 50 pages of your manuscript. Then zero in on the main catalyst that starts the story forward—the main conflict from which all else in the novel evolves. It’s the catalyst kernel of your story that forms your pitch.

    Posted by Janet Ch | April 26, 2013, 2:20 pm
    • Janet, that’s a great piece of advice from Kristin Nelson — talk about a handy way of nailing down the catalyst kernel. (Another great phrase which I’m guessing is your own!) Because even while the trimmings and details can sell a reader who loves something special, they’ve pretty much gotta like the kernel.

      Posted by Laurie Schnebly Campbell | April 26, 2013, 2:46 pm
  32. Before I ever went to my first conference, I got some invaluable advice from veteran writers. I was told that you never know who you might run into on the elevator or sit next to at lunch. If an editor or agent happens to ask you what your book is about, have a one sentence initial response ready with a couple short follow up sentences if they show interest. I tend to do that with everything I write now. It has come in handy several times when taking classes where I have to describe the characters and main conflict in 50 words or less.

    I’ve taken most of Laurie’s other classes. I guess it’s time for the blurb class. I’m putting off the synopsis as long as humanly possible.

    Posted by Vicki R | April 26, 2013, 2:57 pm
    • Vicki, maybe you’ll get lucky and never have to write a synopsis — heck, it could be that your elevator pitch will generate an offer without anyone even asking to see more! (We can dream of such things, right?) But I suspect the art department will ask for SOME kind of a description…drat it, anyway. :(

      Posted by Laurie Schnebly Campbell | April 26, 2013, 3:17 pm
  33. Thank you Laurie for giving blurbs the attention they deserve! A blurb is probably the most important marketing tool we have and most of us don’t know how to write a good one! The best advice I’ve heard (which I’m going to take myself next time!) is to write out the most perfect, to-the-point blurb and when you can’t cut it any more–cut out another 10 words. It really makes you question whether everything you’ve got is necessary, and often results in a punchier blurb.

    Posted by Amy Fellner Dominy | April 26, 2013, 3:46 pm
    • Amy, I like that idea of taking out another 10 words! Until there are only 10 words left, I guess, at which point a writer could probably be forgiven for throwing down the pen and crying “Enough.” :) But the spirit is sure good, getting rid of all the inessentials we love and the readers don’t really NEED…yet.

      Posted by Laurie Schnebly Campbell | April 26, 2013, 3:59 pm
  34. Can’t wait to take your class, Laurie! After taking your Synopsis class at Emerald City, I finally wrote a decent synopsis!

    Now I have a request for a partial and blurbs for two follow-on books. This is perfect timing!

    The only advice I can remember about writing a blurb is that you need to create instant empathy for the protagonist. Is this true?

    Posted by Sarah Raplee | April 26, 2013, 4:16 pm
    • Sarah, congratulations on getting that request with your synopsis! Instant empathy is a nice thing, but not an absolute essential. It depends on what the reader is looking for…and while in some books that IS the big draw, other readers are more intrigued by a different aspect of the premise. So you have some freedom, whew. :)

      Posted by Laurie Schnebly Campbell | April 26, 2013, 4:29 pm
  35. I hope this hasn’t posted already in the comments, but I love something Stephanie Bond wrote about blurbs as it relates to plotlines – to write the backcover copy first, before you even write the book.
    Not locking you into a story before you have all the points of the story, but that the blurb of the book will help establish that true north of a book that needs to be found all the way through.
    And wow… I’m learning as much in the comments here as in the whole post. Thank you Laurie!

    Posted by Pamela Mason | April 26, 2013, 4:19 pm
    • Pamela, I like that advice — knowing the essentials of your plotline is a very handy thing to have in mind while writing the book. And you’re right that the comments are an education right here on the page…I’m always so impressed at what happens when a bunch of writers share their knowledge!

      Posted by Laurie Schnebly Campbell | April 26, 2013, 4:31 pm
  36. Laurie – I never thought of a blurb as an advertising pitch. That’s great advice – thank you! I always learn something when you visit RU!

    Posted by Becke Martin Davis | April 26, 2013, 4:52 pm
    • Becke, I’m so glad you always learn something — and if it’ll come in handy down the road, that’s even better. Next time you watch an episode of Mad Men, or even (if they still have ‘em) an old rerun of Bewitched, it’ll be fun imagining all those advertising people working on fabulous blurbs!

      Posted by Laurie Schnebly Campbell | April 26, 2013, 6:04 pm
      • Laurie – I used to sell advertising for newspapers and magazines, but I didn’t work for an ad agency. I worked for the newspapers and the magazine publisher, which was fun but not glamorous! I always thought it would be fun to work for Saatchi & Saatchi, Leo Burnett or one of the agencies that were big back then. *sigh* That was a long time ago!

        Posted by Becke Martin Davis | April 26, 2013, 10:19 pm
  37. Welcome back, Laurie!

    Coming up with a book blurb is kind of like an exercise in hint fiction. The “Baby Shoes” is a great example of telling a story in less than 25 words. I’ve dabbled in hint fiction contests in the past. Call me weird, but it’s kind of fun to distill a story/paragraph into 25 words or less. Also, I agree with some of the other commenters here who stated that writing the blurb before the story helps them maintain focus.

    I like reading the one or two sentence book descriptions listed in the new deals section of Publisher’s Weekly. While they’re not blurbs, they do summarize the important points, i.e. the motivation/conflict in the story.

    Thanks for joining us today!

    Posted by Jennifer Tanner | April 26, 2013, 5:33 pm
    • Jennifer, you’re not weird at ALL — it’s fun distilling a story into 25 words! (Which, hmm, is maybe the same quality that people need to get work in a fortune-cookie factory. :) ) And it’s hard to imagine a better attitude for doing well at hint fiction contests…like the Baby Shoes which I thought was lost forever.

      Posted by Laurie Schnebly Campbell | April 26, 2013, 6:06 pm
  38. Hi, Laurie – I had to drop in since I know you’ve always got a great post.

    Some good advice I’ve heard is to keep the writing punchy and brief and – as you said – to think of it as writing a commercial.

    Posted by Barbara White Daille | April 26, 2013, 6:32 pm
  39. I can’t wait to learn to blurb easier! :) I love your classes, Laurie!

    Posted by Brenda Pandos | April 26, 2013, 9:52 pm
    • Brenda, that’s great to hear — both that you like my classes, AND that you’ll be in the one coming up! I can’t wait to see if you’ll be blurbing a story I already know, or something brand new…I figure either way it’s going to be fun seeing the blurb(s) take shape. :)

      Posted by Laurie Schnebly Campbell | April 26, 2013, 10:52 pm
  40. Thanks SO much, everybody who posted today — talk about a wonderful collection of advice on blurbs! For those of you who are planning on next month’s “Blurbing Your Book” class at WriterUniv dot com, you’ll have a head start with all the expertise shared today. (Gotta love a head start, right?)

    And the prize of free registration to that class goes to — thanks to random dot org, which generated #32 — Sarah Raplee!

    Congratulations, Sarah, and email me (use the addy on my website, BookLaurie.com) about setting up your registration…or if your schedule is too crowded in May, you can donate the prize to a friend.

    Laurie, hoping it’s still Friday on the East Coast!

    Posted by Laurie Schnebly Campbell | April 26, 2013, 11:00 pm

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