That's the question I'm asking myself today. Is it possible to write a description that captures the essence of a good book in a few short paragraphs? Can a description introduce the reader seamlessly into the narrative, so that they feel comfortable moving on to reading the full book?
As readers, it's a continual search. Once we've read everything an author has to offer, we're left searching for a new writer to fill the void. We all desperately want to find fresh books to fall in love with.
And so we find ourselves faced with the book blurb. The short teaser paragraphs that are so limited in their scope. They can't really capture the nature of the characters, the story arc, and the feel of the writing. We never really know whether we'll love it until we take that chance.
Is there anything an author can do to improve the 'meet-and-greet' that is the book blurb?
To be honest, I'm not sure.
I've been reading the blurbs of some of the books I've purchased recently. And I've been asking myself, what happened when I landed on that author's book page that drew me in? Was it the content? The first line? The testimonials? I wish I could say.
As an experiment, I decided to test out the writing style of one of the fastest selling books out there--The Girl On The Train—on my own book. What I like about the description is that it tells a story, which lets us feel almost as though we're already reading the book:
Rachel takes the same commuter train every morning. Every day she rattles down the track, flashes past a stretch of cozy suburban homes, and stops at the signal that allows her to daily watch the same couple breakfasting on their deck. She’s even started to feel like she knows them. “Jess and Jason,” she calls them. Their life—as she sees it—is perfect. Not unlike the life she recently lost.
And then she sees something shocking. It’s only a minute until the train moves on, but it’s enough. Now everything’s changed. Unable to keep it to herself, Rachel offers what she knows to the police, and becomes inextricably entwined in what happens next, as well as in the lives of everyone involved. Has she done more harm than good?
Here it is, applied to my own novel, The Butterfly Code:
Aeris makes the same trip home every summer. Every year she cocoons herself in the sleepy town of Deep Cove, where life seems perfect. But on this visit, she witnesses something shocking. During a chance meeting with the lead doctor of a new research facility, she sees a mysterious glow in his eyes that's she's sure she wasn't supposed to see. It's only an instant until he replaces his dark glasses, but it's enough. Now everything's changed. She feels an inexplicable attraction to the doctor, and a burning curiosity about the mysterious lab that she can't shake.
Unable to heed the warnings of others to stay away, Aeris is compelled to investigate and becomes inextricably entwined in what happens next—an explosive event that could alter her life and the future of humanity forever.
Does the method work? I've read that mimicking successful blurbs is a tried and true way to make one's own work better. But can they truly 'cross-apply'? Every story is different. As of this moment, I haven't noticed a massive flurry of book buying. But if and when I do, I'll let you know.
Until then, happy book hunting, and if you're an author, I wish you luck with your description. As it stands right now, I'm still on the search for the ultimate blurb.
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Sue Wyshynski is the author of The Butterfly Code. Her writing style has been described as immersive, emotional and action packed. She loves connecting with writers and readers. Leave a comment or send her a message at suewauthor at gmail.com