THE ART OF THE BLURB
Just so you know, this article will end with my blurbs for my novel Pride and Prejudice and Superheroes.
Before taking on blurbs, I’ll just mention loglines and tagline. There is definitely some slightly difference understandings of these two structures, but one thing is agreed: both are different.
According to http://screenwriting.io/what-is-the-difference-between-a-logline-and-a-tagline, we get:
A “logline” is a movie’s concept boiled down to one or two sentences:
On his deathbed, a father tells the story of his life the way he remembers it: full of wild, impossible exaggerations. His grown son tries to separate the truth from the fantasy before it’s too late.
A “tagline” is a short, clever one-off found on a movie’s poster:
An adventure as big as life itself.
A logline can be thought of as the shortest possible pitch of a movie — what a writer could use to sell an idea to a buyer in just a sentence or two. Taglines are used by marketing departments to sell movies to audiences.
I wrote in an online article: “Taglines (slogans or a catchy line like, “She loves the man who hates her.”), loglines (what the book is about in a sentence).” I directed the interested reader to http://www.raindance.org/10-tips-for-writing-loglines. This is a great site because it gives information and ideas on how to create taglines and loglines. This site gives the following information [verbatim as on 12/07/2016]:
Loglines are tricky things – distilling 120 pages of script into one sentence and imbuing it with the power to summarise, titillate and intrigue is a surprisingly difficult task. As a writer it can be hard to develop a good logline because you are invested equally in each part of your work – identifying the crucial story elements and leaving everything else out feels like you aren’t doing your script justice. But remember, a good logline is crucial to selling your script; in a covering letter, in a pitch, in the 30 second window you have with an executive when you accidentally meet on the Great Wall of China. That being the case it is vital that you develop a good logline for your magnum opus, something with sizzle and pop, but also, crucially, something that tells the audience what the script is about.
The difference between a logline and a tagline
A logline is a one (or occasionally two) sentence description that boils the script down to its essential dramatic narrative in as succinct a manner as possible.
A tagline is a piece of marketing copy designed to go on posters to sell the film
– In space no one can hear you scream (Alien)
Crucially, a logline contains all the elements necessary for the telling of a good story. It is written for industry professionals to show them that you can create a viable story for the script – a marketing hook alone won’t cut it.
One further note that you won’t like: A logline is the DNA of your script. If you can’t make the logline work, it’s probably because the story in your script doesn’t work. This is why some people suggest writing a logline for your idea before embarking on the script.
Not sure where to begin? These tips are going to help:
- A logline must have the following
– the protagonist
– their goal
– the antagonist/antagonistic force
- Don’t use a character name
It has no intrinsic information and so is a useless word. Instead, tell us something about the character.
– A sous-chef
– An ex-superhero
- Use an adjective to give a little depth to that character
This is your chance to show some character. Beware of cliche, and also of the power of irony. It’s helpful if the characteristic you describe will have something to do with the plot.
– A mute sous-chef
– An alcoholic ex-superhero
- Clearly and quickly present the protagonist’s main goal
This is what drives your story and it will drive your logline too. Make sure that the goal is present early in the script – if you don’t make good on your logline’s promise early enough the rest of the script won’t get read.
– A mute sous-chef wants to win the position of Head Chef at her boss’ new restaurant
– An alcoholic ex-superhero searches for his daughter
- Describe the Antagonist
The antagonist should be described in a similar, but preferably shorter, manner than the hero. If the hero faces a more general antagonistic force then make it clear that they are battling something, not just life’s bumps and buffets.
– A mute sous-chef wants must fight off an ambitious rival to win the position of Head Chef at her boss’s new restaurant.
– An alcoholic ex-superhero searches for his daughter after she is kidnapped by his dementing, jealous former sidekick.
- Make sure your protagonist is pro-active
He or she should drive the story and do so vigorously. A good logline will show the action of the story, the narrative momentum that carries you through the script. In some cases the protagonist will be reactive, but note, this is not the same as passive.
- If you can, include stakes and/or a ticking time-bomb
These are very useful narrative devices that add urgency tou your script. If they fit in easily, include them in your logline.
– To save his reputation a secretly gay frat-boy must sleep with 15 women by the end-of-semester party.
Some scripts operate in a world with different rules to our own and require a brief setup to explain them, e.g. most science-fiction stories. Others have a protagonist whose personal or psychological history is crucial to the story and needs to be explained. Again, be brief.
– In a world where all children are grown in vats…
– Driven to a mental breakdown by an accident at work, an aquarium manager…
- About the ending
Do not reveal the script’s supercool twist ending, even if it is the next The Usual Suspects. The story, and thus the logline, should be good enough to hold up by itself; a surprise ending should be a lovely bonus found when reading the script. N.B. This all changes when you get to writing your treatment.
- Don’t tell the story, sell the story
Create a desire to see the script as well as telling them what’s in it. Loglines are like poetry, every word counts. Tinker, test, and tinker some more.
If you can’t write a decent logline of your idea before embarking on the script, then maybe reconsider writing that thing. If it’s unfocused and muddled at the logline stage, it’s not going to get any better as you write.
Basically, then, the logline is a single sentence or two that describes the story. It is the nuclear option. The shortest possible pitch. The tagline is something clever and compelling that tugs at the reader’s mind, heart and soul. Often taglines (being shorter than loglines) can be found on book covers and movie posters. One such tagline found on Stephen King’s novel Joyland, is “Who Dares enter the Funhouse of Fear?” It says nothing of the plot or even what the book is about. But it draws us in. And of course, it is written knowing that there is a book title and a book cover image that the reader sees in conjunction with it.
A book can be seen as a contract of promise to a buyer/reader. The book cover hints at what this promise is. It begins the process of an invitation to peruse further. The cover will lead the reader to the short descriptions of invitation to the book’s content. In other words, the blurbs. In this article I will give a description of the construction and descriptors of a blurb and also show some well-known examples as well as examples of my own books. Also, we can see the logline as a micro blurb.
There are two distinct blurbs used by publishers currently; these are:
- A convincing blurb for wholesalers/distributers (a blurb on Amazon for instance)
- An equally convincing back cover blurb if a printed book, or inside page introductory blurb if an ebook.
The back page might also contain a pithy About Author section in combination with the blurb. Also there will be the ISBN and company logos and trademarks as well as maybe 2-3 endorsements. So the back page needs to composite all its parts in an atheistically pleasing way.
According to http://spiritauthors.com/, this is how to approach the distributer presented blurb [their exact words as of 04/07/2016]:
Any copy for a non-fiction book must address and acknowledge where your readers have come from, where they are now, and where you are going to take them. Here’s a rough template of how your blurb should go. Be sure to make each section SHORT with 2-3 sentences maximum in each:
HEADLINE/BIG IDEA: Start with a headline that addresses the ‘big idea’ of the book. Make it short and to the point. Some people recommend putting keywords in your headline. That can be a very useful idea to help get your book to appear in searches, but be sensible about this, and don’t just ‘stuff’ your headline with keywords if they don’t actually convey the ‘big idea’.
THE DESIRE: In your first paragraph, talk to your reader. What’s the journey they’ve been on? What are they looking for? What are the challenges they have faced?
THE PROMISE: In the next paragraph, give a broad view of how THIS book addresses what the reader is looking for.
EVIDENCE: In the next paragraph, give specific examples of how the book delivers on the promise. You might say something like, ‘You’ll learn X, Y, Z, etc.’ This is a good place to use a bullet-pointed list to make it easier for people to absorb.
CREDIBILITY: Somewhere in your text (it could come in the ‘evidence’ part) bring in your credibility. For example: ‘Mary Smith draws upon more than 20 years in the holistic wellness field to give you…’
USP: This stands for ‘unique selling point’. After you’ve given the ‘evidence’, people are going to start asking ‘Yeah…so what?’ There are countless other books on the market in your niche. Why is THIS BOOK different? What’s the angle? What does it do that no other book does?
BONUS MATERIALS: If your book contains a link to any bonus materials, such as a downloadable MP3, worksheets, etc., here’s the place to mention them.
END RESULT: Close your blurb with a simple, one-sentence rewording of ‘the promise’, reminding them of what they will gain from reading the book, and assure them that if they’re looking for X (‘the desire’) they’ll find it here.
I agree with http://www.blurb.co.uk/blog/writing-blurbs-for-novels when they give their Dos and Don’ts [their exact words on 04/07/2016]:
-Reference the genre and central theme
-Create intrigue around the main conflict
-Dive right in and introduce your protagonist
-Keep it short and punchy
-Reference your book-writing or professional status, if it relates to your book.
-Give away any spoilers, no matter how tempted you are
-Give a summary of the first chapter
-Open with “In a world,” or any other overused phrase
-Give everything away
-Say how amazing your book is
-Compare yourself to other writers or your book to other books
Let’s look at an example that follows a formula incorporating some of the important points above. One such formula is described on http://authorsociety.com/17-tips-how-write-blurb-sells [their exact words 04/07/2016]:
Use a formula: Most fiction book blurbs start with a situation (a), introduce a problem (b) and promise a twist (c). They usually end with a sentence that emphasizes the mood (d) of the story.
Here’s an example from the bestseller “The Girl on The Train” by Paula Hawkins:
(a) 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.
(b) 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. (c) Has she done more harm than good?
(d) Compulsively readable, The Girl on the Train is an emotionally immersive, Hitchcockian thriller and an electrifying debut.
Here is the blurb for The Goldfinch by Donna Tartt and winner of the Pulitzer Prize:
Theo Decker, a 13-year-old New Yorker, miraculously survives an accident that kills his mother. Abandoned by his father, Theo is taken in by the family of a wealthy friend. Bewildered by his strange new home on Park Avenue, disturbed by schoolmates who don’t know how to talk to him, and tormented above all by his longing for his mother, he clings to the one thing that reminds him of her: a small, mysteriously captivating painting that ultimately draws Theo into the underworld of art.
As an adult, Theo moves silkily between the drawing rooms of the rich and the dusty labyrinth of an antiques store where he works. He is alienated and in love—and at the center of a narrowing, ever more dangerous circle.
The Goldfinch is a mesmerizing, stay-up-all-night and tell-all-your-friends triumph, an old-fashioned story of loss and obsession, survival and self-invention, and the ruthless machinations of fate.
The similarities are there to be seen.
Here’s another formula from http://www.digitalbookworld.com/2013/4-easy-steps-to-an-irresistable-book-blurb [their exact words 04/07/2016]:
(1) Situation. Every story has to start somewhere, with some people in some sort of circumstances. Describe them simply here.
(2) Problem. Every story (every interesting one, anyway) has some sort of hitch that either makes that situation untenable or makes change inevitable. This part of the description often starts with the word, “But…” or “However…” or “Until…”
(3) Hopeful possibility. Here’s the potential to overcome the crisis. This “cool thing” or “longshot opportunity” makes your audience want to read your story. Yes, the situation (above) seems doomed by the problem (above). Still, there’s hope because of this new twist. Parts 1, 2, and 3, if concisely written, together create the drama that propels the story.
(4) Mood, tone or spirit of the story. Finally, readers want to know what kind of emotional state they’re going to get into while they’re reading this book. Is it a dark, dystopian tragedy or humorous chick lit cotton candy? This is where you set the tone and clinch the deal, turning browsers into buyers.
The formula in action:
So, let’s look at this formula in action. I [Beth Bacon] recently helped a marketing team write the blurb for a new YA book, Spirit Warriors: The Concealing by D. E. L. Connor. Here is this book description, using that formula:
(1) Sixteen-year-old Emme Belrose has it all: four best friends, her own horse, a hidden teepee hangout, and a blossoming romance with tall and handsome Charlie. These friends also have a secret. They can move their spirits into animal bodies: an Osprey, a Mustang, a Grizzly, a Mountain Lion and a Coyote. (2) But when Charlie, who has a gift for seeing the future, has a vision of Emme drowning in the icy Yellowstone River, (3) the Spirit Warriors must train their animal bodies to kill an enemy they know is coming… but know nothing about. (4) Suspenseful, romantic and awash in Native American magic, Spirit Warriors captures the enchantment of the American West and the power of friendship
More examples of bestselling book blurbs:
Title: The Lovely Bones
Author: Alice Sebold
Blurb: My name is Salmon, like the fish; first name, Susie. I was fourteen when I was murdered on December 6, 1973. My murderer was a man from our neighborhood. My mother liked his border flowers, and my father talked to him once about fertilizer.
This is Susie Salmon, speaking from heaven – which looks a lot like her school playground, with the good kind of swing sets, counsellors to help newcomers adjust, and friends to room with. Everything Susie wants appears as soon as she thinks of it – except the one thing she wants most: to be back with the people she loved on earth.
Watching from her place in heaven, Susie sees her happy, suburban family devastated by her death, isolated even from one another as they each try to cope with their terrible loss alone. Over the years, her friends and siblings grow up, fall in love, do all the things she never had the chance to do herself.
But life is not quite finished with Susie yet….
Title: The Hunger Games
Author: Suzanne Collins
Blurb: Winning will make you famous. Losing means certain death.
In a dark vision of the near future, twelve boys and twelve girls are forced to appear in a live TV show called The Hunger Games. There is only one rule: kill or be killed.
When sixteen-year-old Katniss Everdeen steps forward to take her sister’s place in the games, she sees it as a death sentence. But Katniss has been close to death before. For her, survival is second nature.
First book in the ground-breaking Hunger Games Trilogy.
Sixteen-year-old Katniss Everdeen regards it as a death sentence when she is forced to represent her district in the annual Hunger Games, a fight to the death on live TV. But Katniss has been close to death before-and survival, for her, is second nature. The Hunger Games is a searing novel set in a future with unsettling parallels to our present. Welcome to the deadliest reality TV show ever…
Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone
Harry Potter thinks he is an ordinary boy – until he is rescued by a beetle-eyed giant of a man, enrols at Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry, learns to play Quidditch and does battle in a deadly duel. The reason: HARRY POTTER IS A WIZARD!
More tips for a blurb from http://authorsociety.com/17-tips-how-write-blurb-sells are using their exact words 04/07/2016]:
- Treat your first sentence like a pick-up line: Many readers don’t read past the very first sentence, which is why this should have the biggest impact. It should entice them to read on. It needs to be clever, engaging and new.
- Introduce your main characters: For your readers to care, they need to be intrigued not only by the story, but also by the characters. Introduce your characters in the most interesting light possible. Mention them by name and characterization: journalist Sophie Collins, reformed criminal Joe Bradlow et cetera. Give them dimension and put the focus on the dilemmas they face.
- Use a cliffhanger: The aim of your blurb is to leave readers curious and wanting more – so much so, that they would actually buy the book. As in the “Girl on a Train” example, you can use a question: “Has she done more harm than good?” Or you could just hint that there is more to come: “Thrown together by chance and united by their hatred of the Empire, Laia and Elias will soon discover that their fates are intertwined.” (An Ember in the Ashes, Sabaa Tahir). For non-fiction books your cliffhanger should promise a strategy or solution: “this international bestseller featuring Tokyo’s newest lifestyle phenomenon will help you clear your clutter and enjoy the unique magic of a tidy home—and the calm, motivated mindset it can inspire.” (The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up by Marie Kondo)
- Use words that cater to your audience: The words you use should evoke a certain atmosphere and meet the expectations of readers of the genre. Sabaa Tahir uses words like “ancient”, “brutality”, “infiltrate”, “deadly fighters”, “spy” and “dangerous escape” to create a sense of adventure for An Ember in the Ashes.
- Give readers a setting: Transform readers to the place and time of your story to make it more interesting. Example: “Monsieur Perdu calls himself a literary apothecary. From his floating bookstore in a barge on the Seine, he prescribes novels for the hardships of life.” “After Perdu is finally tempted to read the letter, he hauls anchor and departs on a mission to the south of France.” (The Little Paris Bookshop: A Novel by Nina George). If you write historical fiction, just including a time period in your blurb can greatly increase the amount of clicks your book will get.
- Use Hyperbole: Words like “never before”, “incredible”, “unimaginable” and “inconceivable” are powerful tools to spark curiosity.
- Keep it short: Most blurbs are only between 100 and 150 words long, excluding the bit about the author. Keep your blurb around 100 words if you want it to make an impact. Both Amazon and Apple don’t allow much space, so if your text is too long, it will be cut off and the reader will have to click “read more” to see the rest.
- Use short sentences: Buyers are usually just skimming through text, so the easier your blurb is to read, the more enticing it will be. Long sentences won’t grasp the attention of the reader as well as short sentences. Use white spacing to separate thoughts and make it look less like a solid block of text.
- Stay true to your voice: A blurb should give readers an idea of what to expect from your book, which is why it is important to stay true to your voice. Stick to your genre – don’t suddenly make a dramatic romantic novel sound like a thriller in your blurb. You want people to buy the book for the right reasons, otherwise they may be disappointed and leave bad reviews.
- Use fresh eyes: Once you are happy with your blurb, let it rest for a day or so before you look at it again. Print it out to look at it in a different format. Look at it on your phone. Seeing it in a different way will give you a new perspective and you will notice things you haven’t before. Let other people also have a look at it for you.
- Rewrite it many times: The book blurb is not something you should do hastily as an afterthought. Take your time with it. Start out by writing a short summary. Include the plot basics, the characters you want to introduce and some other elements of the story that are important to you. Now write your first version. Read through it and trim it down. Write at least five different versions.
- Split-test your blurb: Don’t just guess what will work for your readers, get the actual data.
- Make use of services like Manybooks that allow you to test two different descriptions for your book to see which one gets the most downloads.
- Send different versions of the blurb in your pitch emails to reviewers and see which version gets you the most responses.
- Create a poll on your blog or website and get your fans to vote on the version they like best. You can get free widgets from sites like GetResponse or SurveyMonkey.
- Run Facebook ads with different “pick-up lines” in your ad description simultaneously and see which ones get the most clicks.
- Set up an A/B test email campaign through providers like Constant Contact, GetResponse or AWeber and send it to your subscribers with different versions of the blurb. Include a link to the book’s Amazon page and see which one gets the best click-through rate.
Here is my additional blurb and blurb-related information for Pride and Prejudice and Superheroes:
ABOUT THE AUTHORS:
T. J. P. CAMPBELL is the author of many books, mainly in the sci-fi genre. He has a lot of experience in writing and in life. On the academic side he has a doctorate in the field of Computer Science and Internet Telecommunications and has attended eight universities. His studies cover both the Arts and the Sciences.
JANE AUSTEN (16/12/1775–18/07/1817) is one of the greatest novelists of all time. She published six major novels including Pride and Prejudice, the novel this novel is partly inspired and borrows from.
“It is a truth universally acknowledged, that a single woman in possession of a free mind, must be in want of a superhero.”
Elizabeth (“Lizzy”) Bennet has always known she had “special” abilities. But she didn’t realise their extent or that she was not alone in owning such abilities. She was to discover that a select group of people including her father and her sisters all had “special” abilities of their own. These abilities varied among their owners and the full spectrum of superhero powers were in evidence. Of course, there was a reason behind such superhero powers. A race known as the Equalisers had provided evidence of alien invaders to the select group of superheroes; aliens invaders who had plans to decimate the human race and who were currently en route in an omnipotent armada of warfaring starships. The Equalisers had given the select group of superheroes their powers in order to give Earth a chance to defend itself against the approaching aliens. Lizzy and her fellow superheroes set off in starship HMS Equaliser in an attempt to thwart the alien invasion. But despite their superpowers they soon realise they are pitted against overwhelming odds. And all the while, complex relationships abound on their starship as an undercurrent of Regency England’s cultural values still pervade among Lizzy and her fellow superheroes. Pride and prejudice loom ever deeper in this Regency imbued science fiction space opera adventure, perhaps magnified by the perilous situation. Will the superheroes succeed? Will Lizzy and her four sisters find love despite their perilous mission? Will pride and prejudice rear its ugly head? Draw yourself closer…and turn the pages…and find out…
This novel is a must for readers who wish to experience the English language in all its sophisticated glory. Expect to revisit all your favorite Austen characters as well as Campbell’s fascinating newly created ones.
Well written and especially recommended for those wishing to learn and experience the English language.
A sci-fi Regency superhero 114,000 word novel.
Combining the two styles of Austen and Campbell to deliver a story full of romantic and yet adventurous elements. Can the Bennets and their fellow superheroes defeat an alien threat? Examine the qualities of pride and prejudice all that much further than England’s Regency Period could ever expose!
“It is a truth universally acknowledged, that a single woman in possession of a free mind, must be in want of a superhero.”
Elizabeth (“Lizzy”) Bennet has always known she had “special” abilities. But she didn’t realise their extent or that she was not alone in owning such abilities. She was to discover that a select group of people including her father and her sisters all had “special” abilities of their own. These abilities varied among their owners and the full spectrum of superhero powers were in evidence. Lizzy finds herself with her fellow superheroes onboard a starship on a mission to thwart an alien armada determined to decimate the human race. Will the superheroes succeed? Will Lizzy and her four sisters find love despite their perilous mission? Will pride and prejudice rear its ugly head? Turn the pages of this wonderful novel penned using the English language in all its sophisticated glory and find out!
Taglines: Regency superheroes in a desperate struggle to save the Earth from an omnipotent alien race.
“Online Best Seller. Highly recommended!”