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How to Write a (Romance) Blurb

As some folks know, I spent my misguided youth—all right, all right, my misguided middle age—as a copywriter. Which means that writing blurbs for my books was a piece of cake, right?

Wrong. I had to learn how to do it, because writing one type of copy isn’t the same as writing another. But maybe it was a little easier and less scary to learn. So, OK, here are my tips for Writing Your Kickass Romance Blurb.

1)   Look at other blurbs. (You thought this was going to be some technical post, huh?) I learned to do it by going to the library and pulling down books in my genre from the paperback rack. Somehow, it was much easier to spot trends and pick out blurbs I liked from physical books. I read and took notes for an hour. I noticed what I hated as well as what I liked. Which blurbs made ME want to read the book? Because I write the kinds of books that I like to read. After I did my research, I came home, and . . .

2)   Practice, practice, practice. Don’t expect to “write your blurb” and be done. The general rule in copywriting is: the shorter the copy, the longer it takes to write. Every word has to count. It may be hard to think the blurb up in your head. Instead, start writing, then rewrite, rewrite, rewrite. And after that, walk away, come back, and polish. Rinse and repeat. It usually takes me a week to be completely satisfied with my blurb, though the total time I spend on it is normally, maybe a couple hours? Besides the time when I think it up, generally on a walk or a run, towards the end of writing the book.

Write it, mess with it, print it out, look at it, scribble on your paper, go back to the computer and mess some more. Experiment with changing Paragraph 2. Leave both versions there. Print it out again. Etc.

3)   General rules. In romance, my formula is

Kicky tagline. (Some people don’t like this; I think it sells books. I put mine in bold.)

Heroine or hero’s situation.

Hero or heroine’s situation.

(Possibly) summation.

Also: Paragraphs! White space! Don’t make people look at a big block of text. Short sentences–heck, sentence fragments–are your friend. (Well, fragments are always my friend. Sue me.)

4)   Example. From Nothing Personal (The Kincaids, Book Two)

When you wish upon a star . . .

Alec Kincaid has never met the obstacle he couldn’t overcome–or the woman who could resist him. And it’s not going to happen now, not with his star shining more brightly than ever in the high-stakes arena of San Francisco’s software industry.

Desiree Harlin doesn’t believe in fairy tales, and she doesn’t waste time wishing. She’s learned the hard way that dreams don’t come true. And with her reputation and hard-won security on the line, succumbing to temptation isn’t an option.

But things aren’t always what they seem. And even stars sometimes fall.

5)   Deconstruction

When you wish upon a star . . .: Disney movie; hopefully makes you think of the song and of wishing for dreams to come true. It has a twist, which all my books and titles have—they are all ironic. See second paragraph of blurb for the twist: our heroine doesn’t believe in fairy tales. She doesn’t believe in Prince Charming or happily ever after. But guess what? She’s going to get both of those things anyway. You know it. Hey, it’s a romance novel.

First paragraph: Do I tell you he’s a player and a millionaire CEO? No, but you get it, and that the story takes place in San Francisco, and that it’s about the tech industry. You get that he’s cocky and on top of the world, and you get the feeling that he’s about to meet his match and get taken DOWN, and hopefully you’re already rooting for Desiree to do it.

Second paragraph: Again, it’s not going to work out the way she thought. And do I tell you she’s a workaholic who’s come up the hard way, has zero stars in her eyes? Nope, but you get it. Just like with writing the book, you want to show rather than tell. Also: using the words “succumbing to temptation,” ONE HOPES, will alert sex-in-books-averse ladies that there is sex in this book. (To be on the safe side, I also include a “steam warning,” which I try to make fairly mild and humorous, as I’m not really that far up the steam-ometer. The steamier the book is, the more “cues” I try to put in the blurb. I still get shocked readers, but it’s not for lack of trying to warn them off.)

Third paragraph: What does it mean? Does it mean Alec falls? Or that something mysterious goes wrong? Both, sort of. This book has some suspense, though it’s primarily a romance, and I wanted to imply that without, again, hitting you over the head with it. “But mysterious forces are at work. Forces that will threaten both Alec and Desiree, as well as their growing relationship . . .” Ick. No. I wanted to find a way to tie it in to the tagline, and to intrigue the potential reader. Speaking of which . . .

6)   The goal of the blurb. Not to give away the story. Not to explain that this is a “fast-moving tale that will keep you turning the pages and make you laugh and cry.” Again, don’t tell them, show them. Write it in YOUR voice, the same voice in which the book is written. (If you look at my books, you can tell from the blurbs, I hope, that some books will be funnier than others.) I try to give my blurbs a “funny, smart, sexy, tender” vibe, because I think (I hope) that matches the books. You want to give readers the sense of what they can expect from the book. The goal is to intrigue them enough to either a) Look inside the book; or b) BUY the book.

Hope that helps, and if you have comments on the above, I’d love to hear them!

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cinisajoy
cinisajoy
6 years ago

“Sue me” is a complete sentence lol. Great blog post by the way.

Rosalind James
Rosalind James
6 years ago
Reply to  cinisajoy

Thanks, Cin!

MJ Guidry
MJ Guidry
6 years ago

You always make me smile. Maybe because you write like I do … or vice-versa. And break rules. =)

Rosalind James
Rosalind James
6 years ago
Reply to  MJ Guidry

Thank you!!

L.L. Akers
L.L. Akers
6 years ago

Thanks so much… And right on time. I’m currently all blurbed out and needed to see the bones of a good one to see what I’m after. Back on it!

Rosalind James
Rosalind James
6 years ago
Reply to  L.L. Akers

Good luck! I’ll be watching with interest to see the final product.

Zoe York
Zoe York
6 years ago

Great post, I’m going to save this link as a resource to share with other writers whenever this topic comes up!

Rosalind James
Rosalind James
6 years ago
Reply to  Zoe York

Thank you!

Jan Hurst-Nicholson
Jan Hurst-Nicholson
6 years ago

Thanks. Good and useful advice. Will go back to the drawing board with mine *sigh*

Anna Drake
Anna Drake
6 years ago

Thanks for not just giving us your example of a well-written blub, but also sharing the critical thinking behind it. I used to work news. It’s a different skill.

louise wise
louise wise
6 years ago

Very good! Some excellent tips there.

Marcy
Marcy
6 years ago

I found your link on kindle boards. Thanks for the great tips . The sample was helpful .

Rosalind James
Rosalind James
5 years ago
Reply to  Marcy

Thanks!

R.V. Doon
R.V. Doon
6 years ago

Dropped in from the KB after blurb purgatory. I think you’re right about the tag line. I’m liking how you show and tell the how to guide.

Annabel Chant
Annabel Chant
5 years ago

Thank you, Rosalind. Your advice is always so helpful and inspiring (both here and on other sites). This is just fab, and I’ll be referring to it when I write my new one soon!

Anna Lowe
Anna Lowe
5 years ago

I just have to say that I keep coming back to this post. It is so helpful!

Rosalind James
Rosalind James
5 years ago
Reply to  Anna Lowe

Thank you! I’m really glad to know it helped.

CeeCee James
CeeCee James
4 years ago

Awesome advice, Rosalind! And timely, as I am writing a blurb for my first romance. :) Pretty thankful to be here!

Misty Arterburn
Misty Arterburn
4 years ago

Well, that sounds like a plan! Now to figure it out. Everything in romance is so much easier said than done! Wish me luck and thank you so much for the clear and easy advice. You made blurbs much easier to wrap my head around than any of the other advice out there.

Cynthia L. Mullins
Cynthia L. Mullins
4 years ago

Thank you for writing such good advise. I am working to complete a blurb for my 1000 page Historical Romance and writing short paragraghs is much tougher for me than writing volumes. I have different ideas on what to write and several versions, but the trick is to hook the reader, tell a little but not too much, convey that the book is not G rated to those who might be shocked, give some sense of time period and place, and to describe briefly the circumstances of the hero and heroine. I always print out the blurb on a book… Read more »

Karen
Karen
4 years ago

Helpful post, Rosalind. I’ve done the same thing — taking books off shelves and writing out their blurbs. I don’t claim to be an expert, but I actually enjoy the challenge of the short form. I love writing my own ad copy, too. It’s writing volume that scares me! Yet I feel like I can always improve upon my most recent version. Do you think it helps to have more than one version for a book? I know some promo sites request a unique description.

Gudrun Frerichs
Gudrun Frerichs
2 years ago

Reading your post gave me great inspirations… and lots of more work. Now I have to rewrite all my blurbs. But I like the challenge. Thanks a lot for sharing your ideas!

Susan B James
Susan B James
1 year ago

Spent five hours the other day trying to write the blurb.
I’ll start again tomorrow. I love your new Zealand biiks and I love this post. Thank you.

Angelia Irizarry
Angelia Irizarry
7 months ago

Girl! This is great information! Thank you so much! You are an inspiration!

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