Updated: Sep 26, 2020
The following is a quick bullet-point list of tips for choosing a title and writing a blurb -- these are essentially the notes from a live Writers Chat I did, compiled here for easy review!
First of all, THE TITLE MATTERS! (Let’s just get that out of the way.)
Know your audience (“straightforward” Wattpad title v. literary title for academics/high-brow readers)
A good title won’t make your book do well, but a bad one WILL keep it from doing well
The title is the first thing the readers see, and gives them their first impression of your book. It is like the first test you must pass – title, cover, and blurb all work together to help a reader decide whether to buy, but the title (or the cover WITH the title) are what they see first
The title is a MARKETING decision, and needs to be treated like one (choose with head, not heart)
Elements of a strong title:
Easy to remember
Gives an idea what the book is about
Easy to say/write/type
Comfortable to say to others or share with friends (not awkward to say in public or at a party)
Clarity over cleverness
Only use a sub-title if it’s needed to clarify the title’s context (i.e., The 4-Hour Workweek: Escape The 9-5, Live Anywhere, and Join The New Rich). This is not usually needed with fiction titles.
Know your goals before crafting the title (will you need a title that can work within a series and all the titles tie together? Do you want to craft a certain persona as an author with the mood/humor of your title? Will you be printing it on shirts, etc. later and need it to be something brief and eye-catching? Etc.)
Possible goals for a title:
SELL YOUR BOOK
Start a line of books
Brand yourself/your style of writing (you will have this in your future bio, will have to reference it a lot at future events, etc.)
Look good on a cover/catch attention
Look good on promotional materials
Ideas for coming up with titles:
A quote from the book
A quote from a famous work/poem that describes the theme or otherwise relates to your book
Start with a description of the book and then trim it down until it’s 5 words or less
Use metaphors or symbols associated with the themes in your book
Come up with as many titles as you can think of, then narrow it down – get feedback! You can do a poll, ask in forums, etc. (You can also use Adwords to test a title – I haven’t tried it but instructions are here: http://itrevolution.com/phoenix-project-google-adwords-title-subtitle-testing/)
Main title should be short – no more than 5 words
For self-publishing, the words in the title matter A TON for visibility. Think “what would someone type in the search bar if looking for this type of book?”
Title should pare down the book to its deepest essence – it should communicate the mood & style of the book AND give a hint what it’s about
It must fit the genre of the book in style, word choice, etc.
It should make readers curious to read the blurb (and then the blurb should make them curious to read the book – more on that later!)
Only use clichés if you are reversing them or using them in an ironic/unusual way
DO RESEARCH to be sure your chosen title isn’t already in use before moving forward
A good novel title should reflect the contents of the book in a way that creates an emotional reaction and a curiosity
A title is a promise to the reader – it should match what you intend to deliver (in some way, even if in an unexpected way)
Research titles that have sold well for your genre – don’t copy them, but try to learn from them
We are talking about FICTION blurbs (non-fiction blurbs take a slightly different approach, though the structure is similar)
A blurb is basically a sales pitch on the back cover/online description of your book – its job is to convince readers that they NEED TO BUY YOUR BOOK
Book Blurb is NOT the same as a synopsis, review, or detailed summary of the book. Those all serve different purposes.
Keep it short (or people probably won’t read it – too much text is overwhelming). 3-5 sentences (no more than 250 words max).
Hit the highlights of your premise (but don’t include subplots or too much detail)
Write in present tense, 3rd person (even if your book is in a different tense/POV). You might be able to get away with 1st person in a blurb IF your book is in 1st person, as long as you are careful that the blurb still achieves all its goals and isn’t confusing or misleading.
Use “power words,” emotionally-charged words
Write as the publisher, not the author – SELLING the book is your concern (separate your feelings)
Use testimonials and reviews if you have them (they go WITH the blurb, not in place of it)
Give the reader a sense what’s inside the book but leave them curious (no spoilers; not too much detail)
YOU HAVE TO KNOW YOUR WORK WITH CLARITY to do this well – characters, premise, theme, tone, emotional impact, etc.
You CAN use a well-known comparison if one applies (ex: Harry Potter meets Hamilton in this historical wizard fiction). [NOTE: that example is made up; I’m pretty sure that book does not exist – Pandacorn, write it if you want!] But DO NOT compare yourself to something as though you are the “next” of that – i.e. “The next Harry Potter” or “The modern Tolkien” … these are likely to backfire and make readers more critical of your work because it comes across as arrogant. (If SOMEONE ELSE says that about you in a review, that’s great! But don’t say it about yourself or your own work.)
**Update: Apparently Harry Potter/Hamilton fan fiction IS already a thing! My bad.**
Blurb structure: Different approaches
hook (get attention), content (what it’s about), reason to care
context, characters, conflict (only the initial conflict – no spoilers!)
Situation, Problem, Hopeful Possibility for overcoming the problem, Mood
introduce the main character/s, introduce the secondary characters/events that the main character must encounter, summarize the style/main themes
Main Character, Desire (goals), What’s Stopping Him? (conflict), The Struggle (effort he must put in), The Consequences (desired result and/or stakes if he fails).
All of these are basically different ways of saying the same thing.
Ex: Harry Potter blurb
“Till now there’s been no magic for Harry Potter. He lives with the miserable Dursleys and their abominable son, Dudley. Harry’s room is a tiny closet beneath the stairs, and he hasn’t had a birthday party in eleven years.
But then a mysterious letter arrives by owl messenger: a letter with an invitation to an incredible place called Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry. And there he finds not only friends, flying sports on broomsticks, and magic in everything from classes to meals, but a great destiny that’s been waiting for him … if Harry can survive the encounter.”
A blurb is like a written trailer – needs to show tone, subject matter, premise – but not give too much away
End it with a cliff-hanger
Don’t summarize the whole book or excerpt a piece of the book. Instead, present an outline of the first few chapters.
What you LEAVE OUT is just as important as what you PUT IN – the point is to hook (entice), not explain/inform
Avoid cliché phrases or cliché descriptions – tropes, genre clichés, etc.
A blurb can also function as a rough outline of your book – you can START with the blurb if you’re lacking clarity on what your book is really about
If you have trouble writing a blurb, it could be because you don’t have clarity on your story
Don’t over-do the attempt to create curiosity – you might just end up confusing the potential reader
Try to imagine what the blurb will sound like to a reader, NOT what it sounds like to you
Entice with entertainment and escape from reality (that’s what fiction readers want!)
Use short paragraphs with visual breaks.
*Ex: Twilight blurb
About three things I was absolutely positive.
First, Edward was a vampire.
Second, there was a part of him – and I didn’t know how dominant that part might be – that thirsted for my blood.
Third, I was unconditionally and irrevocably in love with him.
Think of your blurb as a promise to the reader and make sure you aren’t misleading
The first line must HOOK attention! (Like a pick-up-line!)
Write with your target audience in mind – choose vocabulary that will appeal to them
Use exaggeration (“incredible,” “spectacular,” “epic”)
Communicate YOUR VOICE in the blurb as well, so readers know what to expect from the book
TOOLS to test your blurb (some of these I haven’t tried yet and am excited to!)
Manybooks – allows you to test two different descriptions for your book to see which one gets the most downloads.
Create a poll on your blog or website and get your fans to vote on the version they like best.
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 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.
Ways to super-charge your blurb
quotes about your work from famous people (if you can get them!)
quotes about your work from well-known authors (again, if you can get them)
listing of awards or other accolades for you as an author
review data from reviews on Amazon or Goodreads (if you have lots of 5-star reviews, etc.)
Name your characters and characterize them briefly so the reader has an idea WHO the book is about (the same with setting – describe it briefly).
Only include info “About the Author” in the blurb if it’s relevant – i.e., a former detective writing crime thrillers might want to mention that he’s a former detective
Your first line can lead with context/scene or with character – but make sure it hooks!
RESOURCES for more info: