This topic was originally intended to form part of an overall article within which the variances between blurb and synopsis would be considered. However, it quickly became evident the eventual length of such an article would be unwelcome. The decision was therefore taken to consider synopsis’ and blurbs’ separately. What is a Synopsis? has already been published.
In modern language usage it is often found words or phrases which in the past were clearly understood and comprehended are now frequently interchanged. Naturally this has lead to miscomprehension and some confusion. To assist the reader of both articles, the following is a minimalistic explanation of the two aspects.
Blurb: Short description.
Synopsis: Brief summary of major points.
A blurb is:
‘A short description written to promote a book, film, etc..’ (Oxford English Dictionary)
‘A short description of a book, film, etc. written by people who have produced it, and intended to make people want to buy it or see it.’ (Cambridge Dictionary)
‘A brief advertisement or announcement, especially a laudatory one.’ (Dictionary.com)
A blurb is what usually appears on the back cover of a book. After the cover image and title it is the most important selling point for prospective purchasers/readers.
Some would coin the phrase ‘Joe Public’ however, it is too general a description because books are categorised by genre and it is toward readers of the specific genre the blurb should be directed.
The blurb should:
- Let the reader know what the book is about.
- Indicate protagonist’s dilemma.
- Share an engaging plot point (sometimes referred to as a ‘hook’).
The whole intent is to stir (peak) a prospective reader’s interest.
The following are some thoughts upon what to include in a blurb:
- Introduce primary characters. Just enough for a reader to see if they will appeal to them.
- Set stage for conflict.
- Identify stakes – What would be result if conflict not resolved, without giving ending away.
- Outline plot – sufficient for reader to comprehend what book about without giving too much away.
- Reveal theme e.g. family saga; historical drama; etc.
- Keywords but only if will not take space from more vital information.
Important: It is vital what is shared is accurate and in no manner misleads as to the true content of the book.
It is essential the blurb is a fair representation of the book as a whole. It should:
- Be true to ‘voice’.
- Create mood, feeling and value.
- Avoid endless detail.
- Include cliffhangers (hooks), provided they are valid.
- Cater to the prospective audience. (How the author’s readers like to communicate.)
One suggestion is to treat blurb sentences as if they were ‘pick up lines’.
Note: Fonts and font sizes must be comfortable e.g. not over small or large. Authors should remember readers only have limited time and attention spans therefore, if the blurb is difficult to read they may, and probably, will skip pass and go onto the next item.
As with all matters there are various opinions nevertheless, most will agree a blurb should, must, be short and concise. 150 – 200 words are normally recommended. The driving forces behind this are primarily twofold.
Physical Books: Back covers are required to carry several pieces of information, including barcode and author details. Consequently, there is little space left for the blurb though it is acknowledged, depending upon font and font size, there may be room for more than 200 words.
Digital Books: Even where a physical edition exists, most books are now also published in digital (e-book) format. In these instances the blurb appears in online retailers book pages as a ‘description’. However, though the author will have entered the complete blurb it is a fact in many instances, only the first couple of lines will be initially displayed.
It may therefore be seen, practically, blurbs should be kept concise.
Blurbs are important for publicity and marketing and should be designed to gain readers and prospective purchasers attention. These should not be confused with synopsis’ which are primarily for agents and publishers.
The blurb needs to be concise but include sufficient information regarding what the book is about and what the prospective reader may expect.
Some suggest blurbs should include comparisons with other similar ‘popular’ books and, where available, positive endorsements received. Naturally, it may be seen these would help encourage prospective readers/purchasers nevertheless, these should not be included at the detriment of omitting other more revealing and important information.
Blurbs should be written in the same style and voice as the book.
A point regarding keywords: In modern internet based communication keywords play an important role. However, authors should take care not to ‘stuff’ blurbs will such. To do so will diminish the impact and may well bring condemnation and turn people off.
Drafting a blurb may sometimes feel more challenging than the actual writing of the book. Nonetheless, it is worth the author’s time and effort to work on these until they are able to provide a clear, concise, impactful, blurb.