Sunday, April 12, 2015

Revised: Writing a Back Cover Blurb

You thought writing your book was difficult? Now that it’s finished, how about writing a blurb for the back cover?

How do you reduce your book to 250 words, explain what it’s about but not give away the ending? Not so easy.

Breaking it down into steps might help.

1.      Introduce your main character. For my book, The Reluctant Daughters, I have three main characters, so the back cover introduces all three, first the mother, “Matriarch of Steel, Elisabeth Riis,” then her daughter, “Daughter of Bitterness, Mary Ellen Riis,” followed the granddaughters of Elisabeth, “Daughters of Mystery and Hope, Barbara and Lily.

2.      Next you introduce the problem. In the case of this book, Mary Ellen is haunted by her past and is determined to keep her children from repeating her mistakes. Her problem is a powerful politician. Mary Ellen, born to a mother who can barely stand her, turns to a life living on the edge, marries a gambler, then turns to the low and deadly slums of opium addiction. The granddaughters find an evening of rebellious fun leads them on a trail of mystery.

3.      What is the story about? A teaser hints at the story line. “What does New York State Senator and Presidential Nominee Justin Pembroke have to do with Elisabeth’s sudden disappearance?
This story covers a period between 1865 through 1900.

Using the same basic concept, the back cover blurb for The Prince of Keegan Bay.

1.      The main character is introduced. “Based on the ancient Kushawan legend, the infant Hamilton Robbins must die before Christmas night. Seventy-year-old Doll Reynolds has other ideas.”

2.      The problem. “When the American born heir to the kingdom of Kushawa is hidden in an age-qualified retirement community, a battle of wits and tactics develops between the Kushawan Alliance of Royal Princes (KARP), determined to eliminate the infant, and a group of senior citizens.” The paragraph goes on with more detail about other characters involved in risking their lives to save the baby.

    If you are having trouble reducing your book to a few words, ask a friend who has read it to give you feedback on what they think your story is about. It might help you to distill your information to create an enticing blurb. A friend wrote an incredible memoir about how she wanted to die following drastic surgery, Afraid to Live. When it came time to write the back cover, she was at a loss. The story is so personal to her, she can’t see the basic elements necessary.

1.      Kally never wanted life-saving surgery, but when her daughters fed her tranquilizers before her appointment, though she had been determined to refuse, she went like a sheep to the slaughter. Surviving the arduous ordeal, several weeks later she decides she might as well take a European river cruise with her sister because they’d scheduled and paid for it the year before.

2.      During the trip Kally sticks stubbornly to her thoughts that she ought to have died, but slowly as the trip progresses, she begins to find meaning in her life through not only the art in museums, but in the life and love she sees in the people around her.

3.      She wrote the book, so we can assume she survived, but does she?

The above may or may not become the back cover blurb for my friend’s book, but it will give her a place to start. Now it’s your turn. With your work-in-progress, try writing an intriguing and compelling back cover.

Veronica Helen Hart is the author of six books, three published by Champagne Books, two by Double Edge Press and one self-published, Escape from Iran.  


January Bain said...

Good advice, Veronica. It is quite a challenge to write a good back cover blurb. Breaking it down like you suggest is very helpful. Best, January

Julie Eberhart Painter said...

Good advice, the best being getting a fellow reader to distill it for you, thereby cutting to the chase(s).