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Blurbs, cover text, and the rest

skip.knox

toujours gai, archie
Moderator
Getting ready to work with a cover artist, close to publication (couple of months yet), and once again I'm struck by how many variations on "the blurb" there are. So I thought I'd start a list. While it's true that they all should say more or less the same thing, every one of these has different length requirements and, to an extent, different goals.

1. Amazon text (in two forms--the text that shows, and the text only seen if you choose Read more.
2. Text on the back of a paperback
3. Text for a Facebook ad
4. Text for Amazon ad
5. Text for any number of other promotion sites, from BookBub to Fussy Librarian and so on
6. Elevator pitch--what you'll say when some one f2f asks you what your book is about
7. Description of the project for your cover designer
8. Description of the book for author interviews (key points you want to make sure to hit)
9. Query letter to an agent (for traditional publishing)

That's a starter list. It's worth noting that this is just the stuff I can think of right now. I invite others to add to it.

It's also worth noting that the limit for many of these is a word count, but for some it's character count. That adds still more complication to the fun.

I post this so that folks, especially first-time authors, are aware of just how much writing they have yet to do, even though the book is done!
 
I feel that, the older I get the more I'm that old man standing on the lawn telling the kids to get off. Which is just a fancy way of saying I want to tell the blurbs to get away from me, I'm tired of all the noise and intrusion and lost balls flying over the fence into my yard. I try so hard to avoid reading them these days.
 

skip.knox

toujours gai, archie
Moderator
>I try so hard to avoid reading them these days.

I look at them enough to find reasons to rule them out--sort of the way one looks at job applications looking for coffee stains and poor spelling. Otherwise, it's the sample (and cover) that sells.

But this thread is really about capturing all the variations that one is compelled to compose, rather than the virtues and woes of any one particular form. And the composition of each can take a ridiculous amount of time, unless one has been blessed by the Copywriting God.
 

skip.knox

toujours gai, archie
Moderator
Just thought of another--actually another set. This is at least something not specifically connected to one book, but for the first-timer it's something that needs to be written *before* you hit Publish.

Author bio

And again, not just one, but several. One for your web site, another for your Facebook, yet another for your Amazon author page, and versions for that paperback version, for author interviews, and for a variety of other occasions and places. Each will have its length limits.

And here's a tip. It's an obvious one, but obvious is a specialty of mine: save them all. Start a folder. Sub-folders for each book you produce. Keep those various versions and variations. I like to have a file that contains a bullet list of core ideas, themes, points. This helps me keep consistency (not that I always achieve it!) across the various versions, and helps me when the time comes to compose a new version.
 

skip.knox

toujours gai, archie
Moderator
>It's hard to enough to write one for me, much less make up ones for my pen names.

And yet, the need is there. I don't think you need a bio for pen names. There's no author bio for James S.A. Corey. But there is for the two actual humans who comprise that pen name.
 

skip.knox

toujours gai, archie
Moderator
Here's another point about writing the blurbs, one that's pressing on me right now.

The story isn't finished. I'm still in the midst of revision, which means there's much room for changing tone in places, even changing certain actions.

But my cover artist wants a description (15 to 20 sentences) of the story. And they want the copy for the back cover of the paperback. Which means anything I say there is in stone. Unalterable. A promise to the reader.

Which means I have to decide now, *before* the writing is really done, what the writing says. Erg.

Why didn't you just wait till you'd finished the book, I hear you ask. Well, I thought I had. The artist gets books six months out, and I was sure really absolutely sure that I'd be done. Done with time to spare. Then Things Happened and the book still isn't quite done. But I thought I still had a bit of room, until I got the email yesterday from the artist and I took a good look at what they want from me.

So, just be aware. Cover artists are busy. So are editors. You have to book them far in advance. If you are an experienced writer, maybe you can hit your deadlines without sweating it. But if you're a first-timer, you might want to take a close look at what an artist you have in mind is going to ask from you. Ditto for advertisers (some promo services are also booked for a month or more).
 

Ned Marcus

Inkling
Some writers write the ads before they've written the book. I sometimes do the same myself. And I've sometimes ended up liking the ad copy more than the initial blurb and ended up using that for the blurb instead. A short blurb, but I think it worked.

That said, I've experienced having to write the blurb before the book's finished, too.
 
Blurbs (and all the rest) are a pain to write. The main thing to keep in mind is that the purpose of all of these is to sell. They're marketing copy in one form or another. Which follows very different rules from writing fiction.

I'm lucky with my cover artist I guess. I deliver an initial version of the blurb at the start of the project and I can send the final one at the end. Updating the text is a few minutes work (it's just plain text in a layer in Photoshop after all). And she doesn't mind updating it once.

I do find the text on the back of the paperback to be the least important one. Few people will see it before buying the book, since it's not in stock in brick-and-mortar bookstores. Which means it doesn't matter if it's out of date or not. People will read the Amazon (or other store) description, not the actual text on the back cover.
 

skip.knox

toujours gai, archie
Moderator
>The main thing to keep in mind is that the purpose of all of these is to sell.

Not quite all. Ad copy is certainly there for exactly and entirely that. But the copy I provide to my cover artist is a dragon of a different color. A number of them are hardly more than a hook (e.g., an elevator pitch), while others are closer to a plot summary. With scads of variations in between. Which is why every damn one of them is its own writing challenge.

The best writing sprint, imo, would be to have to produce a blurb of X words in Y amount of time for Z audience. Now *that's* a writing challenge
 
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