Here at Best Page Forward, we’ve seen it all when it comes to book descriptions. To help you sell more books, you’ll want to avoid these five common book blurb mistakes.
Blurbs seem simple, until you sit down to write one for the first time. That lonely attempt at condensing a layered plot and a beautifully crafted world into a few sentences can make any author feel like throwing in the towel completely.
And not being able to put your finger on what’s going wrong is incredibly frustrating. Before giving up on your first draft entirely, see if you can spot some of these common blurb writing errors. Eliminating them might be what you need to find your way to back-of-the-cover brilliance.
1. Using Unfamiliar Words
These fall into two categories – unique terms that you’ve created for your story and rarely used vocabulary. Using strange words often means spending extra space explaining them. This detracts from the punchy, intense style of a powerful book description. But if the words aren’t explained, they can alienate readers.
And if the blurb is confusing, readers will assume that they won’t understand the book. There’s time within the full story to expand on unique worldbuilding terms. In the description, stick to words and phrases that any reader can recognize.
2. Repeating Words
This tip might read like the opposite of my first suggestion. And it should be taken with a grain of salt. Yes, the thesaurus will list ‘Davy Jones’ Locker’ as a synonym for ‘ocean. No, you shouldn’t swap out a simple word for a complicated phrase just for the sake of variety.
But most echoes can be eliminated with a bit of rephrasing and adjustment. Blurbs are short. If the word ‘heart’ shows up six times, readers will notice. Even something as simple as directly repeating a character’s name or profession can make the text feel repetitive and boring.
And people don’t buy books they think are going to be boring…
3. Not Identifying the Emotional Stakes
The world is going to end, everything is on fire, and the weather is bad. All legitimate high-stakes situations, especially if a key character has a crippling fear of thunderstorms. But without an emotional connection to the events, they can land with all the impact of a laundry list.
The reader needs to know why your MC cares about these stakes. What is the emotional fallout of the events along their journey?
Are they panicked because they haven’t achieved a dream? Are they fiercely determined to save their family? Are they convinced that destroying the world is the only way to find true love?
Always include an emotional element with the stakes, so that the reader has something to identify with.
4. Answering Every Question
Blurbs are similar to, but not the same as, summaries. A main difference is that they shouldn’t wrap everything up in a bow.
If you resolve the initial cliffhanger of your hook within the blurb, a reader’s curiosity might be satisfied before they click the buy button. If you’re going to answer one question, be sure to tie it to the start of another.
Good blurbs should never quite let the reader relax.
5. Forgetting Transitions
A lot of what gets discussed about book descriptions is sentence level structure. But even the best crafted sentences will fail if they don’t clearly flow from one to another.
Lean heavily on transitional phrases at the beginning of your sentences. Terms like ‘and just’ or ‘but before’ hint at the complication to come. Like mini-hooks, these transitional phrases place doubt about the outcome at the beginning of a sentence. Then readers are engaged enough to read through to the cliffhanger ending.
No one perfects a craft in a day, but keeping a weather eye out for these oh no moments can help you refine your blurb into something that draws readers in and rewards you for all your hard work.