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Blurbs. Help, please!

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Dansinger:
One of my friends is about to have her book published. She just got the blurb from her publisher, and does not like it at all. So I offered to try and smooth her own blurb out for her a bit.

I know, silly, but I'm a softie. When a woman starts crying, I'd do anything to make her dry those tears. Anything.

But I don't know how to write blurbs. I've never done one before.

Obviously, I'm not at liberty to share her blurb here, but I could do with some general guidance. That would be helpful, I think.

So, please, if any of you can tell me the rules, I'd be eternally grateful.

Gyppo:
In essence the back cover blurb has to be short, often no more than 200 to 250 words.  (Look at her publisher's idea of a blurb to fix the acceptable length for that specific market.)

It's the writer's one chance to talk directly to the potential reader.  Assuming you know the story - and some blurbs are clearly written by people who've never opened the covers - imagine how you would describe it to a stranger in less than a minute.

Its purpose is to give a 'flavour' of the book without giving away the story.  To introduce the main character by name and give a brief precis of the problems they face and must overcome.  To clearly establish the genre, and to entice the potential reader to look inside.

Writing a blurb is a fascinating exercise in how much you can leave out but still tempt a reader to open the cover and read a page or two at random.

Below are three examples I used when Ma asked the same question a few years back.

Gyppo

   A Hamper of Havoc.

   Being the adventures of a modern day swordsman and showman and his companions as they perform before crowds varying from millions (on TV) to six (in the pouring rain at a village fete.  Welcome to the wonderful world of the roped-off arena, where normal folks become larger-than-life, and the already larger-than-life sometimes become completely insufferable.  Baron Sable - the Evil Black Knight - invites you to join him.

   =====

   Running Scared.  (A thriller from 1978, so no mobile phones, no Internet.  A different world.) 

   Poaching for fun was one thing, but relying on it for winter survival in The New Forest was different altogether.  Especially when Jim found himself the target in another hunter's sights.  If he hadn't found the dead 'keeper, and hadn't run from the police, his life would have been much easier.

   Unsure who he could still trust, and unwilling to bring trouble upon those he did, his affairs were further complicated  by his feelings towards the young Forest girl Joan.  In an attempt to put things right he casts off his veneer of civilisation and the hunted becomes the hunter.

   =====

   The Flying Ferret.

   A short and lighthearted look at poaching and other rural mischief, from the days when owning a shotgun didn't mark you out as a psychopath, and a decent sized knife was an everyday rural tool not an item of macho 'male jewellery'.  Up until the late 60s to early 70s.  An altogether gentler and more civilised age.

   =====

Jo, with around sixty books to her tally, will have more practical experience if she chooses to join in.

Gyppo

Dansinger:
Thank you, Gyp.

Hopefully Jo will join in as well.

I'd better flex my writing muscles now. :)

Mark Hoffmann:
Before I wrote mine I went to my bookcase and read loads of blurbs. You soon get the idea.

Dansinger:
Thank, Mark.

I ended up going over to my friend's publisher's website and read some or their blurbs for the fantasy novels they recently published. That gave me a feel for what they wanted, and then I just wrote it. It wasn't nearly as hard as I thought it would be. I had a framework, I read the MS, and it wasn't my own novel, so I had the added advantage of social emotional distance.

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