Posted On May 8, 2017 by Print This Post

How to Write a (Romance) Blurb by Rosalind James

Welcome Rosalind James in her first blog post for RU – and it’s a doozy! =)

As some folks know, I spent my misguided youth—all right, all right, my misguided middle age—as a copywriter. Which means that writing blurbs for my books was a piece of cake, right?

Wrong. I had to learn how to do it, because writing one type of copy isn’t the same as writing another. But maybe it was a little easier and less scary to learn. So, OK, here are my tips for Writing Your Kickass Romance Blurb.

Look at other blurbs. (You thought this was going to be some technical post, huh?) I learned to do it by going to the library and pulling down books in my genre from the paperback rack. Somehow, it was much easier to spot trends and pick out blurbs I liked from physical books. I read and took notes for an hour. I noticed what I hated as well as what I liked. Which blurbs made ME want to read the book? Because I write the kinds of books that I like to read. After I did my research, I came home, and . . .

Practice, practice, practice. Don’t expect to “write your blurb” and be done. The general rule in copywriting is: the shorter the copy, the longer it takes to write. Every word has to count. It may be hard to think the blurb up in your head. Instead, start writing, then rewrite, rewrite, rewrite. And after that, walk away, come back, and polish. Rinse and repeat. It usually takes me a week to be completely satisfied with my blurb, though the total time I spend on it is normally, maybe a couple hours? Besides the time when I think it up, generally on a walk or a run, towards the end of writing the book.

Write it, mess with it, print it out, look at it, scribble on your paper, go back to the computer and mess some more. Experiment with changing Paragraph 2. Leave both versions there. Print it out again. Etc.

General rules. In romance, my formula is

  • Kicky tagline. (Some people don’t like this; I think it sells books. I put mine in bold.)
  • Heroine or hero’s situation.
  • Hero or heroine’s situation.
  • (Possibly) summation.

Also: Paragraphs! White space! Don’t make people look at a big block of text. Short sentences–heck, sentence fragments–are your friend. (Well, fragments are always my friend. Sue me.)

Example. From Nothing Personal (The Kincaids, Book Two)

When you wish upon a star . . .

Alec Kincaid has never met the obstacle he couldn’t overcome–or the woman who could resist him. And it’s not going to happen now, not with his star shining more brightly than ever in the high-stakes arena of San Francisco’s software industry.

Desiree Harlin doesn’t believe in fairy tales, and she doesn’t waste time wishing. She’s learned the hard way that dreams don’t come true. And with her reputation and hard-won security on the line, succumbing to temptation isn’t an option.

But things aren’t always what they seem. And even stars sometimes fall.

Deconstruction

  • When you wish upon a star . . .: Disney movie; hopefully makes you think of the song and of wishing for dreams to come true. It has a twist, which all my books and titles have—they are all ironic. See second paragraph of blurb for the twist: our heroine doesn’t believe in fairy tales. She doesn’t believe in Prince Charming or happily ever after. But guess what? She’s going to get both of those things anyway. You know it. Hey, it’s a romance novel.
  • First paragraph: Do I tell you he’s a player and a millionaire CEO? No, but you get it, and that the story takes place in San Francisco, and that it’s about the tech industry. You get that he’s cocky and on top of the world, and you get the feeling that he’s about to meet his match and get taken DOWN, and hopefully you’re already rooting for Desiree to do it.
  • Second paragraph: Again, it’s not going to work out the way she thought. And do I tell you she’s a workaholic who’s come up the hard way, has zero stars in her eyes? Nope, but you get it. Just like with writing the book, you want to show rather than tell. Also: using the words “succumbing to temptation,” ONE HOPES, will alert sex-in-books-averse ladies that there is sex in this book. (To be on the safe side, I also include a “steam warning,” which I try to make fairly mild and humorous, as I’m not really that far up the steam-ometer. The steamier the book is, the more “cues” I try to put in the blurb. I still get shocked readers, but it’s not for lack of trying to warn them off.)
  • Third paragraph: What does it mean? Does it mean Alec falls? Or that something mysterious goes wrong? Both, sort of. This book has some suspense, though it’s primarily a romance, and I wanted to imply that without, again, hitting you over the head with it. “But mysterious forces are at work. Forces that will threaten both Alec and Desiree, as well as their growing relationship . . .” Ick. No. I wanted to find a way to tie it in to the tagline, and to intrigue the potential reader. Speaking of which . . .

The goal of the blurb. Not to give away the story. Not to explain that this is a “fast-moving tale that will keep you turning the pages and make you laugh and cry.” Again, don’t tell them, show them. Write it in YOUR voice, the same voice in which the book is written. (If you look at my books, you can tell from the blurbs, I hope, that some books will be funnier than others.) I try to give my blurbs a “funny, smart, sexy, tender” vibe, because I think (I hope) that matches the books. You want to give readers the sense of what they can expect from the book. The goal is to intrigue them enough to either a) Look inside the book; or b) BUY the book.

Hope that helps, and if you have comments on the above, I’d love to hear them!

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Join us again on Wednesday!

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Bio: Rosalind James, a publishing-industry veteran and former marketing executive, is the author of contemporary romance and romantic suspense novels published both independently and through Montlake Romance. She started writing down one of the stories in her head on a whim a few years back while living in Auckland, New Zealand. Within six weeks, she’d finished the book, thrown a lifetime of caution to the wind, and quit her day job. She and her husband live in beautiful north Idaho when they’re not Down Under researching a new Southern Hemisphere story.

http://www.rosalindjames.com
Amazon author page: https://www.amazon.com/Rosalind-James/e/B0094AB0UQ/

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11 Responses to “How to Write a (Romance) Blurb by Rosalind James”

  1. Morning Rosalind!

    Writing a blurb is the most terrifying thing I swear. I’ve taken a few classes on it, and although the teacher never comes right out and said it, I’m pretty sure I flunked. =)

    Thanks for the great example of your blurb, and thanks for posting with us today!

    carrie

    Posted by Carrie Peters | May 8, 2017, 9:04 am
  2. Thanks for the informative post. I am in the process of beginning the release of my first book while editing the second and waiting to send my third for editing. Along with writing the forth. The blurb, cover design [all four books are connected] and marketing strategy are far more work than the writing ever was/is.
    Hoping to see the arrival of spring in southern idaho soon. 😉

    Posted by Randy Brown | May 8, 2017, 10:05 am
  3. Great article!

    I also looked at other blurbs when trying to understand the process. One of the things I like to do is make sure I mention the trope early on in the blurb. Some call this the “hook.”

    Posted by Heatherly Bell | May 8, 2017, 4:27 pm
    • Interesting! I’m usually kinda subtle in my blurbs, but I know others advise putting keywords in there and so forth. Like those Harlequin-type titles. “The Billionaire’s Secret Baby,” etc. I probably err on the side of too little of that, because it makes it sound like a book I wouldn’t want to read. Others say it sells books. Thanks for the comment!

      Posted by Rosalind James | May 9, 2017, 12:06 am
  4. Hi Rosalind,

    Great post! I like how you’ve broken down each element.

    Book blurbs always remind me of those salacious movie tag lines from the 50s and 60s. I think book blurbs are as important as good cover art. It’s the first thing a prospective reader sees.

    Thanks for blogging with us!

    Posted by Jennifer Tanner | May 8, 2017, 6:11 pm
  5. I love this so much, Rosalind! I don’t often buy a book for it’s cover but I frequently buy books when the blurb and/or tagline hooks me. I’ve bookmarked your post for future reference.

    Thanks so much!

    Posted by Becke Martin Davis | May 8, 2017, 11:16 pm
  6. You made it seem easy. I know it’s not but it’s given me a better idea.

    Posted by Barbara | May 12, 2017, 5:42 am

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