A Bad Book Blurb Can Kill Your Book

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book blurb

Want to guarantee that no one but friends and family will buy your book? It’s easy: just write a crappy book blurb for your back cover.

This post is brought to you by BlueInk Review.

Believe it or not, the back cover blurb for your novel — essentially a synoptic teaser — may be the most important bit of writing of your self-published book.

Some readers might buy a book based on the title and cover art, so your book’s cover design is hugely significant, but the vast majority will read the book’s back-cover blurb (or overview if they’re purchasing online) to see if the storyline sounds interesting.

Think of your back-cover blurb as a sandwich-board sign promoting the specials outside a new restaurant. If the sign is effective, passersby will enter the restaurant and sample its culinary offerings. If it’s not effective, they’ll just keep walking.

Your blurb is that sidewalk sign. It is your very limited time — those precious few seconds — to get potential readers interested in your book.

Do you want to guarantee that no one will buy your book except for family members and friends? It’s easy: just write a crappy book blurb. Want some help? Here are five ways to ensure your book blurb misses its mark.

1. Don’t write one

The simplest way to screw up your book blurb is to skip the whole thing entirely. That way, potential readers will have absolutely nothing to go on except the title and cover art. I’ve seen more than a few self-published books with no blurb whatsoever — just blank space. I don’t recommend it.

2. Make your blurb as long as your book

I’ve reviewed self-published novels where the back cover is filled, top to bottom, with rambling blurbs — which is almost as bad as having no blurb at all. An effective blurb is short and sweet: it’s called a teaser for a reason. Don’t go into too much detail. Identify the category (mystery, romance, thriller, etc.), introduce your central character or characters, concisely describe the conflict, and end the blurb with a thought-provoking sentence. This is the bait that ideally will hook your reader.

Below are four prime examples of effective blurbs. All of these novels were exceptional and each had impressively strong back cover copy.

The back cover blurb on Merritt Grave’s military science fiction adventure Lakes of Mars instantly hooks the reader with a great first sentence: “Aaron Sheridan doesn’t want to live anymore.”

The blurb for Mark Lunde’s The Phantom of Witch’s Tree perfectly describes the book and its genre twist as a “novel that shatters all the shoot-‘em-up conventions of the traditional western as it shifts seamlessly between dark fantasy, horror, and the supernatural, unleashing a wild ride through an Old West never before experienced.”

Jaye Wells ends her back cover blurb of Meridian Six, an apocalyptic thriller that she self-published in 2013, with the ultimate teaser: “When the world is at war, freedom is a luxury paid for with blood.”

Brian James Gage ends his back cover blurb of The Nosferatu Conspiracy, a dark blend of occult fantasy, alternate history, and apocalyptic fiction revolving around a vampiric Rasputin that he self-published earlier this year, with a great teaser: “History is a lie. The truth will be exposed.”

3. Use an excerpt from your novel

This is risky business. I have seen this work on a few books, but I’ve seen it fail more often than not. And although this may not be the case, it makes the author seem unmotivated — too lazy to write a good back-cover teaser. You want your book to look polished and professional, and having a well-written and compelling book blurb gives the reader an indication of what’s to come.

4. Stroke your ego

When I’m browsing through self-published books or eBooks online looking for something to review and come across an overview that is less about the novel and more about the author, I cringe — and I am not alone.

I don’t mean to be rude, but what does it matter how many degrees you have or how many stories you wrote when you were in grade school or what your hobbies are or how many pets you have? If it doesn’t directly relate to the novel or the inspiration behind writing the novel, don’t share it. This should be about the story, not about you.

5. Write a clinical synopsis

A back-cover blurb is not just a synopsis, which is probably the biggest misconception among self-published authors. So many self-published books I read have a clinical synopsis for a blurb. They may be adequate but, more often than not, they lack passion and power. You’re excited about your book, right? This your chance to get others excited too. Convey your passion through the blurb!

The bottom line is your book blurb should not be an afterthought. It is hugely important and should be as polished and powerful as the actual novel.


Readers of the BookBaby Blog can get a $50 discount on a BlueInk review by using the key code “Allen.” (This does not guarantee a review by Allen.)

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3 COMMENTS

  1. “When the world is at war, freedom is a luxury paid for with blood.”
    This is an example of a good blurb? The first rule of fiction and its blurbs is to avoid cliche. This blurb immediately annoys because it’s burnt hash and comes off as amateurish.

    Otherwise, good information.

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