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Sell your book without “selling” it: the ultimate book blurb checklist

Updated: Aug 11, 2021

Alright, so maybe “ultimate” is overselling it a bit - but it got you here, didn’t it?

Many writers love writing and are happy to churn out 80,000 or 120,000 words without batting an eye. However, I frequently hear writers complain about blurbs (myself included!). Why? They’re only 150-200 words; that should be a breeze, right?

Yes… and no. Yes, because the good news is that a blurb is short, so it’s easier to scrap one, try again, and repeat. It’s easier to get feedback on blurbs because you’re not asking anyone to commit hours to read your entire manuscript. On the other hand, no, because you need to condense all the character arcs, well-developed world, twists and turns in the plot, and poignant themes into a few short words. It’s honestly amazing how quickly those words can be used up.

As Mark Twain said, “I didn’t have time to write a short letter, so I wrote a long one instead.” It’s often easier to write a long piece because you have space to express yourself and flesh out your ideas fully. Furthermore, blurbs need to “hook” the reader and pull them in, which is often easier said than done.

Frustrated yet? Well, my lovely writer, you might be thinking, how important is a blurb, anyway? People are looking for a well-crafted book to read, not a marketing gimmick… Right? Unfortunately, no, and there are some hard truths about books that every writer needs to come to accept:

[1.] Books are a product that need to be marketed.

As much as a book is your creative darling, the one you painstakingly grew from a seed in your mind into a beautiful garden, it is still a product sold to customers. Good writing and storytelling will keep your audience reading, but good marketing is required to convince them to pick up the book in the first place.

[2.] Writing a strong blurb is essential.

Writing a gorgeous, immersive book and marketing are two very different and distinct skills. Some people have the enormous good fortune to be born with both talents, but for the rest of us ordinary folks, BOTH skills need training, practice, and continuous cultivation.

If you are querying agents, you will need to market your book to them. They need to be intrigued, gripped, and trust that your book isn’t going to waste their limited time. After that, marketing becomes slightly less critical because you’ll have help from your agent and hopefully, one day, a publishing team.

If you are self-publishing, marketing will make or break you. As difficult as it is to convince an agent to read your book, you only need one (granted, very selective) person to say “yes”, but when self-publishing, you will need hundreds or thousands of people to read the blurb and be hungry to read more.

[3.] Writing a strong blurb is hard.

Condensing a story into a paragraph or two is bloody difficult, regardless of your writing skill. That's just a fact, and I won't accept any arguments to the contrary!

OK, so now we’ve established that you absolutely NEED a blurb and that they’re capital-h, Hard. What now? I assumed you clicked on this article for the promised “ultimate” checklist, right?

All you need to do is sign up for the mailing list, and you can get INSTANT access to the blurb writing guide. Is it annoying to sign up for the mailing list right now? Yes, and I'm sorry. First of all, the guide is too long for a blog article. Let's be honest, most people would just scroll through it and forget about it, whereas if you download it, you can refer to it as you refine your blurb.

Need another reason to sign up for our mailing list?

Let's be honest, Twitter's algorithms are brutal. Maybe they don't like monsters, most of all slush pile monsters, but a lot of Steven's tweets end up at the bottom of an abyss where they are washed away by the sands of time. If you're on the mailing list, we can more easily keep you updated about our writing activities and resources without needing to make blood sacrifices to the Twitter gods.

If you're struggling to find a good beta reader who will provide constructive criticism and is sure to help you improve your writing, you're not alone! Why not enter the Slushpile Monster's writing contest to win a free critique from an experienced beta reader?

Inez Rodk (@inezrodk) is obsessed with all things fantasy and sci fi, both as a writer and reader. When she's not lost in a book, you can find her getting rowdy at a pub or tiling her house. She is an official beta reader for the Slushpile Monster's writing contest.

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