Thursday, February 19, 2015

The length of blurbs

What I'm talking about is the summary on the back of your jacket - some call it a short synopsis, some a blurb, some a summary. But what I want to know is what are your thoughts on the length? Can a one-sentence blurb work? Two-sentence? Or should it be more normal or else people will turn away? What about a six-paragraph blurb? Too long?

Dan: I think that it's advisable to have at least two different lengths of pitches for your book. First, a brief pitch of 1-2 sentences that captures the essence of your book. These are tough to write for a variety of reasons, but you'll likely use this pitch more often -- on Twitter, on the elevator, or during in-person conversations when someone asks, "So what is your book about?" It might be at a party or in the elevator or during a podcast interview, but no matter the situation, you'll want to have this pitch in your holster.

The second pitch you'll need for things like query letters or cover copy probably runs longer: 2-3 paragraphs, maybe 250 words. The good news is that you can spend a bit more time on the essential elements: character, goal, conflict, and stakes. The bad news is that the length brings new challenges, because compressing a 75k or 90k book into a couple of paragraphs is (in many ways) harder than just a sentence. There's an art to this, and it probably comes easier with practice.

Caitlin: Like Dan says, one sentence pitches have their place, so, conceivably, they could work to sell the book. But, I think the point of those pitches is usually to get the reader to go to a "buy" page with the full blurb. Rarely am I set on buying a book after hearing a one sentence pitch, but there are many that make me think "that sounds cool, I want to know more!" And the "more" should be in the blurb. I, personally, get a little annoyed at super short blurbs, for example like the "We Were Liars" one. But...that books sold really well, so, I guess the lesson is yes, it can work! :)

Karlie: Those 1-2 sentence pitches really do help avoid awkward fumbling and lots of "um"s when someone asks you what you're writing - so I definitely do recommend having those ready. But when I pick up a book, the more information on the back, the better. I've read so much it takes a lot to catch and hold my attention (a sad fact, because I've become rather picky about what constitutes an amazing book) so I really prefer three-four paragraphs.

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