Thursday, May 19, 2011

How To Write A Blurb—Make Your SFR Irresistible to Readers

money bags
It seems to me that many authors who have sold stories to a digital/small press publisher are expected to write a story blurb for the ebook/book in question. If that expectation is the norm these days, then it certainly would hold true for authors of science fiction romances.

According to my 2011 Science Fiction Romance New Release Roundup, the majority of SFR stories released this year will be digital-first. That’s a whole lotta blurbs on the ebook front!

Those same stories belong to a niche market, one that needs marketing mojo just as much as—if not more so—the sister SFR books released by mainstream print publishers. Therefore, I would like to facilitate a discussion about writing effective blurbs for science fiction romance ebooks. The better and more streamlined the blurbs, the more effective a marketing tool they will be.

Blurbs that snap, crackle, and pop can help raise the visibility for SFR. And if authors are the ones writing the blurbs, then this is a very significant opportunity that starts with them.

I’m going to throw out a few ideas to get things rolling. The best advice I’ve seen so far about writing blurbs comes from agent Kristin Nelson’s Query Pitch Workshop:
When writing your pitch paragraph, all you need to do is examine the first 20 or 50 pages of your manuscript. Then zero in on the main catalyst that starts the story forward—the main conflict from which all else in the novel evolves. It’s the catalyst kernel of your story that forms your pitch.
Ms. Nelson has blogged several times about how some of her authors’ queries later became part of the story blurb printed on the (print) book’s jacket. Therefore, the blurb conception actually can begin pre-submission.

Her advice points to the fact that selling a story (without overkill) and telling about the story are two different things. The first leads to sales, the second, to yawns.

Another factor contributing to effective blurbs is readability. Writing for print (in this case, the back cover of a book) is different than writing for the Web. On a book, it’s easier to read large blocks of paragraphs. But online, it’s easier to read text that is broken down into smaller paragraphs, divided by spaces. Might a concise blurb be more effective for online browsing?

Clarity is also important. Unfortunately, I’ve read more than a few blurbs that made me go “Huh?” If I, a hardcore fan, don’t get the story premise on the first pass, then what about readers new to science fiction romance and/or impulse buyers? Aside from the cover, the blurb is there to make a strong first impression.

Finally, and most importantly, is making blurbs exciting. Tempt the reader to want to know more. But what are the most effective techniques? I think that’s one of the biggest challenges, especially since authors will have to develop copywriting skills in order to stand out from the pack in what is becoming a highly competitive market.

What do you think contributes to a successful blurb? Are certain techniques/styles common to science fiction romance? Should certain key words be part of the SFR blurb lexicon? Are there any other issues that need to be considered?

Joyfully yours,