Tackling the dread blurb and synopsis

Caspar the Mighty Hunter

Writers rarely agree on things. Each of us have our own process, our own genre, our own career goals. Some of us use ‘said’ every time and avoid -ly adverbs like the plague. Others lovingly sprinkle those adverbs in, as well as words like ‘replied’ or ‘responded’.

One thing I’ve noticed almost every author I’ve spoken with hates, though, is writing the blurb and synopsis for the book they just spent months creating.

I get it. Ideally, we should be the ones writing these. It’s our work, we’ve spent hours crafting it. We know it better than anyone!

Do you have any clue how difficult it is to take a 90,000 word novel and condense it down to a single page? Where you hit all the major plot points and characters? Where you don’t leave out any spoilers? Especially when you’re used to using your vocabulary, stretching it to the limits, and have to switch to basic, to the point, language? Where you spend a page or three describing an emotional goodbye and make it a simple: they leave?

That’s a synopsis.

The blurb is a totally different beast. Not only is it shorter (we’re talking maybe 500 words, normally), but you have to craft something that makes someone want to open the book, buy it. So, no spoilers! Good, right? Makes it easier? Um, nope. Finding that hook, that phrase that makes it where the reader’s curiosity and interest is piqued, is hard.

The synopsis goes, with your manuscript, to your agent if you have one. Publishers want those so they can see where your book is going before they open the file. That’s where they evaluate the story. When they look at the book, they’re checking for readability. Do they get lost in the story, even when they know what’s going to happen? Are the mechanics (spelling, grammar, etc.) good? Can they make a profit off of it?

Yes, profitability is a major consideration. As authors, we believe our book is amazing. Publishers (and agents) will pass no matter how good the writing is if they don’t think they can reach the audience that the book appeals to. This is why it’s important to know your potential readership. I don’t write romance. There may be a touch of it, but that’s not the main theme in the book. I won’t have my agent send my work to a publisher who only puts out romance, westerns, or erotica. Because that’s not the audience that my book is geared toward.

The blurb is what goes on the back of the book. It’s what you read in the listing on Amazon. It also goes in the body of the query (by you or your agent) to get the publisher interested enough to look at the synopsis. The blurb’s entire purpose is to entice, intrigue, pique the interest of the reader to where they take the next step. That could be looking at the synopsis. It could be opening the file. It could be clicking on the ‘take a peek’ button. Or it could be opening the front cover.

Authors know how important these two supporting documents are. They make – or break – a sale. And we know we’re the best person to write them.

That does not, in any way, mean we like doing it. But we gotta.

BB/Chan Eil Eagal Orm

2 thoughts on “Tackling the dread blurb and synopsis

  1. I’ve read nearly the whole thing, and I’m not sure I could write the blurb effectively. You go, girl!

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