How important is a blurb to readers?

I had an itty-bitty blog break – just like on my 40th, I’ll have a ‘few’ wines. But like any comeback, I wanted to return with a bang and say, ‘Yeah, that’s right! This is why I blog: because I love to get stuck in, not because I have to.’ And I was bogged down in query hell where Blurb is a king who rules with an iron fist alongside his younger, less important but also unforgiving brother, Synopsis.

But since Blurb and I have had such a close relationship, I thought I would look into the true power that it wields. Does the king become the pauper when you takeΒ  it away from this kingdom of hell? Or will it shine because what makes it king will make it influential wherever it is?

So as a reader, how important is a blurb? As a writer, I’m trying to get the attention of an agent. But do the integral components I’m including, bonded together with a voice meant to create interest, translate to a reader as well? If I took this query blurb and used this on a self-published book, would it hold up?

We know there’s a time for creativity when you’re selling and there’sΒ  a time for sticking to the rules. Even with contemporary music, over all the years, we still have a verse and a chorus. And dissonance, while some people don’t mind it, we still prefer the sound of music that is harmonious – in general. So with a blurb, I guess the creativity can be included with your voice, but you can’t add this to sacrifice character, conflict and consequence – in a query.

So when you pick up a book, do you read the blurb, and if so, what is it about a blurb that pulls you in? I have to say, most times I’m halfway through a book before I even look at a blurb; my reads come from recommendations.

But when you do look at a blurb, you expect it to start like this:

Like anyone, Nancy puts her pants on one leg a time. That is, until she wakes up and finds out she has 60 legs, and the only way she’ll make it to school on time is by doubling her efforts.

So there must be a reason a blurb follows a pattern. But how important is it these days? And when you are in a book store, is it the blurb you rush to, or the first few pages?






19 thoughts on “How important is a blurb to readers?

  1. As a reader, it’s all about the blurb for me. I buy books based on the blurb and the cover. I don’t usually read the first few pages. As a writer, blurbs and I have a love/hate relationship. It means so much and yet it is so hard to nail down. Hope you’re doing good with yours. πŸ™‚

    • It felt strange to ask, seeing that this is how we learn what the book is about. But when I asked a review blogger that I respect about a lacklustre blurb, she advised that she didn’t look at them, and that like me, she reads books on recommendations. My blurb took about six months, on and off; it kept me up at night and woke me at 3 every morning. Every sentence is so important, and when I put too much of my ‘voice’ in it, it got lost in translation. So I took it apart and rebuilt it to get to the core elements, and then had to put it back together with a bit of zing. Don’t want to learn that lesson twice…

      • I suck at writing blurbs so I had a friend of mine (who is an editor) help me. There is so much riding on that blurb and I get you on the sleepless nights. πŸ™‚

      • I think people can have a knack for it, and others have to work on it. But also, like any writing-related skill, the more we practice the easier it will come. So next blurb should only take me 5 months instead of 6? I love that I will be able to help others now. As my blurb and synopsis has finally passed the critique, I can see the elements that need to be added and what classes as confusing…

  2. It’s all about the blurb, bout the blurn, no cover. <<Terrible joke and actually, I'm shallow and if the cover is awful I'm unlikely to buy. The blurb is the same. I don't need the blurb to be spectacular, but I would like it to mention things like main conflict and a little outline. As we talked about, I love a dual pov book, so I look out for that. Also, it'd be nice if writers ensured the level of steam was mentioned, but that's just because I'm a pervy reader and like some steam on the side πŸ˜€

    • But if there was no purdy cover, I wouldn’t be able to nourish my superficial side also πŸ˜› That’s the key with the blurb isn’t it: you have to know what you’re in for without the author saying – hey this book includes steam. Like everything I wanted to mention in my query, I would challenge and say, ‘All of this should be evident in blurb without you having to spell it out.’ That whole showing and not telling business; it just won’t ever go away. Hope it becomes an unconscious process soon πŸ™‚

    • And that’s the key and the hard part: trying to get the blurb punchy but also include the pertinant parts – and also have it written in such a way that people are strung along from one sentence to the next, a little more revealed each moment πŸ™‚

  3. If I’m on the fence about reading or buying a book, I’ll definitely read the blurb and maybe flip through the first few pages, but often I’ll be drawn to certain books because of an attractive cover or an author who I already know I like, and in those cases I try not to read the blurb because then I will be more surprised by the directions the book takes.

    • I wonder if that’s also why I don’t read the blurbs from authors I already respect: I don’t want to ruin the surprise. Like a character I’m connecting to dies early, and I turn to the back and see that this event was mentioned in the blurb, and I feel like a goose. I never really thought about checking the first few pages until recently; it’s a really smart idea. When you are approaching agents, it’s drummed into you to make those first few chapters engaging. But as a reader, I never really gave it a thought; they would have my money before they had the chance to capture me.

  4. Oh wow – a blurb is super important to me when it comes to selecting a novel… so too the cover. I discovered Maggie Stiefvater that way. I had never heard of her, but when I walked into Kmart and saw Shiver sitting on the shelf – with its beautiful blue & white cover and blue font inside – I was bewitched. And then when I read the three paragraph blurb on the inside jacket and short, one paragraph, extract on the back, I was a goner. I HAD to have that novel, no matter what! And let me tell you – that is a big deal for me, as I rarely have enough money to spend on hard covers :p

    • I guess the key to snag readers who buy this way is to have a publisher who has a relationship with book stores that will display your book right where it can be attractive. I do love her blurbs; there is a mystery and beauty to them. Which brings me to this. If you sent that to an agent, would you get the same reaction? So I wonder if the blurb for my published book would be different to one I send to agents – only in so much that there are components I’ve added that readers may or may not be attracted to. And you can create mystery to snag people in, where with a query you can’t be ambiguous or vague.

    • The power of the title is often overlooked – it’s caused me great conflict – and I’ve seen agents and sponsors in writing competitions where it’s almost the first thing they mention. I love that title, or I love the premise, but the title doesn’t do much for me. The hardest part of the blurb for me, was not only which parts to add, but how to convey these to the reader/agent to show my style and the whole tone of the book – that compelling voice that identifies this as mine πŸ™‚

  5. I’ve got to come up with blurbs for my two previously published mystery/suspsnse novels that I will EVENTUALLY get up through Smashwords (King of the Roses and Blood Lies). I never was that impressed with the blurbs the publishers came up with (and the one for Blood Lies had a typo in it!). For my novel-in-progress, I’ve been working on the pitch for the query, and I’m going to shorten that for the blurb. I think the most important thing for the blurb and the pitch is the hook.

    I do read blurbs, and I read first pages. If the first page suggests a way of looking at things from a slant, I’ll get interested. I’ve been doing “great first lines” on my blog to see if I can figure out why they work.

    • I’ll have to come and have a look! Yes, the hook! And again, there are different hooks – those that include conflict, consequence, character and stakes. And ones that are just one really intriguing sentence that is clever. For my query, I tried to combine both. Every sentence counts in that query blurb, doesn’t it?. And I was discussing this the other day, how this query blurb can be different to the one a reader will see as we’re allowed to be compelling, but we can’t be too mysterious or vague as ambiguity may get us rejected 😦

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