Every Monday I take a popular post from the past, and I rewrite it with new information and approaches. Today, we’re talking about the dreaded back blurb. Why do we dread the back blurb? Well, because it can be the making or breaking point for the reader. That little blurb on the back can be the difference between a reader putting your book back on the shelf or taking your book to the counter to buy it. But there’s no reason to fret. There are plenty of ways to tackle this scenario, and today, I’m sharing one method. I’ll be using my latest novels in Bad Bloods as an example, but you can also check out the original post for a totally different way to try this out by clicking here.
1. Start with a 35-Word Synopsis
This is actually a method many use to tackle query letters, but I love this piece of advice. Summarizing your book into 35 words forces you to focus on the essentials. Look at it like writing an elevator pitch. In this case, you have a pretty direct formula: Character + setting + conflict + stakes. Stakes are the most important, and by far, the most forgotten one. Think about what your character has to lose. What happens if they decide not to save the world? Why should we care about those repercussions? While you’re writing this, you might start with a one-page synopsis or other notes. Keep those! They will help in part two. But, for now, read my example below. If you’re feeling discouraged, you might notice that I summed up TWO books in 35 words or less. In fact, those two books equal 136,000 words, and I only used 34 words. It can be done.
Bad Bloods in 35 words or less: 17-year-old Serena is the only bad blood to escape execution. Now symbolized for an election, she must prove her people are human despite hindering abilities before everyone is killed and a city is destroyed.
2. Expand. Be Catchy. Target an Audience.
See? I told you that you’d need all those notes as you were trying to cut down to 35 words. Now, you get to use those notes again. (But, Shannon, why did you have us cut it down if we were only going to use it anyway? Because…It focused your work.) So, now that you’re focused on the main concepts, you can emphasize main themes. Be sure to focus on the right genre for the right audience. You don’t want to mention love if love is barely in it. You’ll only attract romance readers then, and they won’t be too happy when they realize they’ve been tricked. This means staying true to your work. Don’t try to force yourself into the latest trend. Be honest. Once you do that, you can show those little details that perfect your voice. Example? I’m going to use the expanded version of Bad Bloods, part one, November Rain. Instead of city, I’m going to name that city. I knew I wanted to bring Daniel into the Bad Bloods excerpt, because he literally tells half the book. I also wanted to bring attention to the romance side and emphasize the political part of the story. Do not forget your stakes!
Seventeen-year-old Serena isn’t human. She is a bad blood, and in the city of Vendona, bad bloods are executed. In the last moments before she faces imminent death, a prison guard aids her escape and sparks a revolt. Back on the streets determined to destroy her kind, Serena is spared by a fellow bad blood named Daniel. His past tragedies are as equally mysterious as her connection to them.
Unbeknownst to the two, this connection is the key to winning the election for bad bloods’ rights to be seen as human again. But Serena is the only one who can secure Vendona’s vote. Now, Daniel must unite with her before all hope is lost and bad bloods are eradicated, even if it means exposing secrets worse than death itself. United or not, a city will fight, rain will fall, and all will be threatened by star-crossed love and political corruption.
3. Edit. Get Opinions. Edit Again.
Okay. So you have a draft, or maybe you even have three drafts. It’s time to run it by a few people. If you can, try to have someone who has read your book read the synopsis to see if they believe that it what you should focus on. Try to have people who’ve never read your book review it. Have them tell you what they think the book is about. Now, edit. And have someone review it again. Edit again. But once you get a great one, stick with it. You can rewrite it a million times. Eventually, you have to choose. Once you have that, you can work on other wonderful marketing tools. Know Cassandra Clare? Well, freakin’ email her and ask her if she’d been willing to give you a review quote. (But, seriously, that would go on the front of the book.) Look at the back covers of your favorite books, find their catch phrases, figure one out for your book, place it somewhere bold. Since I’m not yet at this stage in the Bad Bloods process, I’ll refer to The Timely Death Trilogy instead. The back cover of the first book has a catch phrase (Two destinies. One death.), and it has a direct quote from the story (“Her kiss could kill us, and my consent signed our death certificates.”). Then, the blurb took place. Review quotes were placed beneath it. Your best bet is to look at the back of other books and mimic what you find successful.
I’m starting a new series called “Author in a Coffee Shop.” Episode 1 happened this past Friday.
If you’re wondering what Author in the Coffee Shop is, it’s just how it sounds. I sit in a coffee shop and tweet out my writer thoughts while…you know…I people watch…for inspiration.
Follow me on Twitter via @AuthorSAT next Friday at 7 p.m. CDT for the next episode.
Here’s a sample if you missed out:
I’m such a stereotypical recluse of an author that I just sit in coffee shops in bookstores and stare at people. This is interaction to me.
— Shannon A. Thompson (@AuthorSAT) January 9, 2016
Best part, they shout everyone’s names, so I can pretend I know them. That’s Katie. Katie loves the color purple. And non-coffee coffee.
— Shannon A. Thompson (@AuthorSAT) January 9, 2016
I hope to see you this upcoming Friday on Twitter!
In other news… you can now add Bad Bloods to Goodreads: November Rain and November Snow. I’m also considering leading up to the July releases with short stories of each character joining the “flocks.” A flock is a group of 12 bad bloods that have come together to survive on the streets. In Bad Bloods, there are four flocks, one for each cardinal direction of the city, but only two flocks are left: The Southern and the Northern Flock. Some stories would purposely be left out, but I have six written. If this is something you’d think you’d be interested in reading, let me know! I would start sharing them at the end of February.
Speaking of February, on February 13, I’ll be one of several featured authors at a Barnes & Noble Valentine’s Day Romance Author Event in Wichita, Kansas. (More info to come.) I’d love to see you at Bradley Fair!
Also, my awesome publisher is giving away a Kindle Fire right here.
Starting your 2016 Reading Challenge? Minutes Before Sunset, book 1 in The Timely Death Trilogy, is FREE: (You could read it on your brand-new Kindle Fire.)
Minutes Before Sunset, book 1:
Seconds Before Sunrise: book 2:
Death Before Daylight: book 3: