Tuesday, August 21, 2012

Getting Started: Writing Blurbs and Descriptions

When I started self-publishing, there weren't quite as many authors doing it as there are now. I ended up looking to the music industry for marketing advice because indie musicians already abounded and were flourishing. Turns out that the ability to describe a creative work is every bit as critical to marketing as a great cover that draws the eye initially.

Here's a short video (3 min) from Derek Sivers who sold his company "CD Baby" and used the proceeds to fund a charity that helps other musicians get going in their careers. What he says about the importance of description in making someone want to listen to a piece of music makes a lot of sense. I also think it explains why a good book description is so important when you are trying to get a potential reader to give you a chance.

If you do a Google search, you will get wide ranging information about "writing good blurbs", while a search for "writing good book descriptions" tends to yield articles about writing descriptions period. My frustration made me decide this was one of times where the good articles needed to be captured and shared. So if you consider "blurbs" to be just author recommendations, then this article is not about blurbs.

In my personal searches I found some articles referred to ALL the content on the back of the book as "blurbs" including author recommendations from other authors or reviewers. However, my focus in this article was on writing the summary description of what the book is about in an appealing enough way to attract readers to take a chance on reading it. The focus of this article is on book "descriptions", but I wanted to make sure it appeared in Google searches, so I left "blurb" in the title. If we ever do an article on blurbs, I'll try to remember to come back to this post and update it with a link.

Despite the number of books I've published now, I might just be the worst person to write on this subject. Why? Because I hate writing book descriptions. When I began releasing my SciFi Romances, I was practically in tears over not being able to describe Book One in a way that seemed fair to how interesting the book was on the inside. Partly I was struggling because I could not find a single helpful site that helped me clarify how to categorize my work. Was it SciFi? Was it Space Opera? Was it a Paranormal Romance? Was it Fantasy? Nothing blocks a book more from marketing success than genre confusion because sales channels demand you choose, and Amazon only lets you choose two. If you can't clearly tell someone what kind of book you have written, how can you sell it in a description? I was a confused mess. I had not experienced that sort of problem with my Contemporary Romances. They were niche, but I at least felt a confidence in what they were. God bless both my editor and my author friend, Teresa Reasor. They each reviewed my efforts and helped me refine them enough to write a decent description.

Even after multiple revisions of several bad descriptions, and the trauma of my confused one, I still have a lot more room to improve. When I released my latest book, to avoid the lengthy work of trying to write a long description, I went with using my shortest one on all channels. It offers little to the reader, or at least that's how it seems to me, even though I followed some good guidelines in creating it. However, as short as it is, the short description is still larger than sites like Sony, Diesel, and Kobo allow via Smashwords. Now I'm watching to see if anyone says anything or if only having the short description affects sales.

One of the advantages of traditional publishing, or at least it used to be an advantage, is that the author sometimes gained a marketing team that helped with basic marketing efforts, like covers, blurbs, and descriptions. In the self-publishing world, the author has to write them. If I ever find an independent freelancer who convinces me they are a magician at writing descriptions, I would definitely consider paying them to write mine. Until then, here are a few of my favorites articles:

5 Tips for Writing a Compelling Book Blurb by Amy Wilkins

How To Write Back Blurb For Your Book

My Method for Writing a Book Description (Karen McQuestion)

Writing Great Blurbs

If you have other sites to add to these, please put the link in a comment.

Post by Donna McDonald


  1. This topic is something that I have been looking into for a while now and your insight is exceptional. Thanks for sharing this information.
    Web Site Content Writing

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  3. I have to admit that is one of the most difficult things I have ever faced in my life was to stare at a blank computer screen while trying to type! I really hope that these articles would help.

  4. Awesome points. In a world of increasing competitive markets, it is not easy to stand out from the crowd and survive. And I am truly aware that the way we create and share our masterpiece has dramatically changed over the past decade.