It’s time for another group posting of the Insecure Writer’s Support Group! Time to release our fears to the world or offer encouragement to those who are feeling neurotic. If you’d like to join us, click on the tab above and sign up. We post on the first Wednesday of every month. Every month, the organizers announce a question that members can answer in their IWSG Day post. Remember, the question is optional!!! Let’s rock the neurotic writing world! Our Twitter handle is @TheIWSG, and the hashtag is #IWSG.

This month’s optional question: What’s harder to do, coming up with your book title or writing the blurb?
For me, for sure, it’s writing the blurb. A title is short and pithy, a soundbite. It can fly in on the wind and be dropped into your lap as the muse wings by. I like to use the wind metaphor. It’s one I borrowed from Elizabeth Gilbert. In speaking about writing during one of her TED talks, Elizabeth mentioned a friend who said ‘the muse came by on the wind.’ Whenever this author was out on her farm and ‘heard the wind coming,’ she would run for the house to get a pen and paper so she would not miss the words or lose the fleeting grace of the inspired thoughts. I liked that idea. Though I heard it years ago, I still use it frequently.

As for the title of a story, I never worry about it. Because I know that sooner or later, the muse will blow through and gift me something. If I’m paying attention and act quickly enough to catch the inspiration I can jot it down. Simple, huh? Not.
The blurb, on the other hand, is more complex. It is a short passage of text on the book cover, a teaser that invokes the entire story. It’s like the precis of the precis, and it has to be dynamic. For many readers, the blurb is the deciding factor on whether to open the book or not.

The author needs to get the tone right. There are parameters to keep in mind: the blurb needs to tell the reader about the book; it must give insight without spoiling the surprise; the blurb must elicit interest without making false promises. It must cajole, persuade and entice. Some blurbs I edited more times than the stories. It’s not the sort of paragraph that wings in with the breeze. Nah. A blurb is the sort of copy that gets worked to within an inch of its life. And then changed again two years later.

There is an expectation that the blurb is in line with the style of the story. If the book is a horror, the word choice and imagery need to chill. A cozy mystery needs to elicit knowing smiles and whet the curiosity. Comedy should make us titter. Blurbs should match the content.
However, some folks try to cheat by simply setting out a string of questions. Whenever I read a book cover like this, it feels like a cheap marketing ploy. *Note: do not piss off your potential readers. An author needs to be careful about posing a list of questions. A little more finesse is required. A blurb must lure the reader in without sounding like a bald advertisement.
If the blurb doesn’t say enough, the reader may walk away, but on the other hand, if it says too much, the reader may also be turned off. There is a fine line to walk between the two.

What to do?

Copy the greats. That’s what I do. I always look to my role models in children’s literature for tricky jobs like writing blurbs. Look at this excellent example, for Martin the Warrior, by Brian Jacques. The blurb reads: Badrang the Stoat dreams of becoming Lord of the East Coast. After two long seasons of killing and conquering with his ferocious army of weasels, ferrets, foxes, and rats, it seems as if nothing will stop him. But Badrang hasn’t bargained for the bravery and fighting spirit of a young mouse called Martin – a mouse who refuses to bow to the deadly tyrant and who will stand up for his right to freedom at any cost. This blurb does it all in three sentences, does nothing wrong, and manages to elicit reader engagement without asking a single question. It’s perfection.
Only the greats can make it look easy. The rest of us continue sweating.


If you’re a writer, what do you find harder, the title or the blurb? Or, if you are a reader, which do you respond to the most when it comes to choosing books, the title or the blurb?

Keep Writing!
Yvette Carol
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If opportunity doesn’t knock, build a door. ~ Milton Berle


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Comments
  1. Keith says:

    Yvette, I was sharing with an author who lamented writing blurbs, telling her we use them to guide a purchase. We will pick up a book up based on an author, clever title or subject, but the blurb will let us know if it is worth the trouble. So, devotion to both the title and blurb will help at least to me. Keith

    Liked by 1 person

    • yvettecarol says:

      Yes, I do more or less the same thing. Some books I’ve bought on the strength of the title alone. The Enchanted Flute was one of those, by New Zealander, James Norcliffe. But, usually, it will be a combination of title, author, and blurb.

      Liked by 1 person

      • Keith says:

        Yvette, that is a title worth picking up We love old book stores in towns we visit. A wonderful attribute of those stores is an invested owner who usually is the clerk. Some of the best books have come from the book store owners recommendations. One women in a mountain town ran a book club every week. I remember her recommending “A Man Called Ove” and “The Only Woman in the Room. The former peels the layers away from a curmudgeon and is an excellent read. I tell people they will not like Ove in the beginning. The latter is a fictional representation of a true story about Hedy Lamarr, the actress and also inventor. I enjoyed it immensely, but a woman would have even greater affinity for her as she is not taken seriously as a woman and beautiful actress. Keith

        Liked by 1 person

      • yvettecarol says:

        Old book stores are the best! In my town, the “Hard to Find” bookstore is amazing. The logo is The legendary Hard to Find (but worth the effort) bookstore. LOL. The problem is I go inside and somehow the hours disappear. It’s hard to leave again! I’ll keep an eye out for those book recommendations. You’ve mentioned A Man Called Ove before so it must be a good one. Thanks, Keith.

        Liked by 1 person

  2. emaginette says:

    Love the quote. hehehe

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Ha! I don’t like questions in the blurb either. OMG, we’re related. My husband is cringing. LOL. I left a comment yesterday but it didn’t take. I’m backchecking today to see how bad my internet really is. Love your posts, Yvette. They come in my inbox, which makes it so easy.

    Liked by 1 person

  4. Olga Godim says:

    The blurb is a tool that in theory should give out lots of information: the genre of the story, the mood, the protagonists with their goals and obstacles, and maybe even a hint at the resolution. It should entice the reader to open the book. But in practice, I guess most writers struggle with them, and they emerge ‘flawed’. At least mine do. For me, a good title is much easier to come up with than a good blurb.
    As for the ‘enticing’ part, lots of enticing blurbs I’ve read, the ones that would tempt me to start reading, were often misleading or outright lies. They didn’t reflect the book at all. They were just professionally written hooks with a vague link to the plot. I don’t mind the blurbs in the form of questions, but I do want them to tell me the truth about the book.
    That’s why I don’t trust blurbs on their own when I select a story to read. I always read reviews too, to judge if I want to read that book or not.

    Liked by 1 person

    • yvettecarol says:

      That’s where I think we Indies have a definite advantage, in that we have to write our own blurbs. We can’t leave the job to a marketing team. Blurbs sound so much better when they are written by the author. But, the onus is on the author to make a good job of it. They can’t be phoned-in, people!
      Good point about the reviews, Olga.

      Like

  5. jlennidorner says:

    Blurbs are difficult. Which greats do you copy– the best-sellers with blurbs you like the most, or classic books that have sold well over time (even if you don’t like the blurbs), or the best-sellers of your genre?

    Liked by 1 person

  6. Thanks Yvette for this inspiring answer. The last cover blurb is definitely what I look at first. Conquered or not.

    Liked by 1 person

  7. The blurb is really hard to get right. Good to see you followed someone’s lead. Synopses have to be just as hard. Maybe more so. Nice post.

    Liked by 1 person

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