Cover Blurbs

Cover Blurbs

Cover blurbs are always tricky to write, which is why it’s so useful to have a collaborative approach without too many cooks spoiling the broth. In this post, I’m going to take you through the steps of editing, tightening and polishing the blurb for my latest book, The Trickster.

If you watch people in bookstores, you see that a book catches their attention, either from the cover (if it’s shelved face out) or the title (if only the spine shows).

Once a book catches a reader’s attention, the first thing they usually do is read the blurb on the back cover. If that blurb intrigues them, they might look at a few pages. And then maybe they might buy the book. If the reader is shopping online, they follow more or less the same steps

In either case, the blurb is important for convincing a reader to give the book a chance.

I recently worked with my Inspired Quill editor and marketing assistant to create the blurb for The Trickster which came out on March 27. As a first step, my editor, Sara-Jayne Slack, asked me to send her a draft to work with. She then edited it.

Cover blurb for The Trickster – draft 1

Here’s what I sent Sara to start the blurb writing process.

In Lac’s Holding, you belong to a family or you’re lost.

After living on the streets of Rin, pickpocket Dilly is finally home in Lac’s Holding and part of Lady Elenia’s household. As good as a family, she tells herself, even as she hides her past for fear of being thrown out. Hoping to ingratiate herself with Elenia, she volunteers to serve as go-between for Elenia and the man she’s secretly seeing. To her dismay, she learns that the man who abandoned her and her mother in Rin is here, and part of the kinship headed by Elenia’s lover. What kind of kinship is Elenia flirting with?

Hedge Mage Fitch too wants to leave his past behind. In his case, that means his family of smugglers. But first, he has to get revenge for his girl, who died after she drank Winter Fire laced with a potentially dangerous herb. His hunt leads him to the same kinship Dilly is investigating.

As their paths cross, both are drawn against their will away from their own projects into saving Lac’s Holding a danger that draws ever nearer.

Amid the intoxicating chaos of a Lac’s Holding Winter Festival, Dilly and Fitch struggle to save Lac’s Holding and find their futures.

Even when I sent that, I knew it was clunky and too long. The sentences are long. There are abstract words like “ingratiate.” There’s too much incidental information that slows it down. People want to read blurbs quickly. This one was slow.

I think I was just too close to the book to pare things down to essentials. Everything seemed essential to me. I needed another pair of eyes on it.

Luckily, I could rely on Sara to make it better.

Cover blurb, Version 2 from editor, Sara

Sara took what I’d drafted and shortened it considerably to result in the following draft.

“When it comes to family, you’re rich… and I’m dirt poor.”

After living on the streets of Rin, pickpocket Dilly is finally home in Lac’s Holding and now lives as part of Lady Elenia’s household.

To prove herself, she volunteers to serve as go-between for Elenia and the man she’s secretly seeing. To her dismay, she learns that the man who abandoned her and her mother in Rin is here, and part of the kinship headed by Elenia’s lover. What kind of kinship is Elenia flirting with?

Hedge Mage Fitch also wants to leave his past and his smuggler-family behind. But first, he has to get revenge for a loved one killed by drinking Winter Fire laced with a dangerous herb.

As their paths cross amid the intoxicating chaos of the Winter Festival, Dilly and Fitch are drawn against their will into a struggle against their deepest loyalties, in order to save Lac’s Holding and find their own futures.

Sara changed the hook at the start into a quote from The Trickster. She cut the third paragraph from six lines to three. She cut the fourth one from three lines to two. She combined and slightly shortened the last two paragraphs. Even with the cutting, she preserved the most interesting information.

I picked at this version a little. I didn’t like the echo of “living” and “lives” in the second paragraph. I suggested replacing “living” with “survived,” which also seemed like a more active verb. I hesitated about “deepest loyalties” in the last line because, to me, the characters were finding their deepest loyalties. And I wasn’t sure that hook-quote was intriguing enough. After all, at this point, all the lines in the book were blurring together for me.

Sara accepted my changes and sent this second draft to Brigid Kapuvari, the marketing assistant who would be sending out the ARCs for review. Brigid came back with a version both Sara and I liked even better.

Cover blurb, Version 3 from Brigid

Brigid shortened Version 2 by only eleven words, but it read faster to me. I think that’s because it created a pattern that reflected the whole book.

“When it comes to family, you’re rich… and I’m dirt poor.” 

Amid the intoxicating chaos of Winter Festival, attendant Dilly and Hedge Mage Fitch cross paths.

Dilly aims to prove herself to Lady Elena, who plucked her off the wretched streets of Rin and blessed her with a new life of comfort and luxury. Fitch seeks vengeance for a loved one, killed because of a liquor that makes one vulnerable to suggestion.

Their distinct ambitions are derailed, however, when Dilly discovers Elenia’s secret lover is the head of a shady kinship, and Fitch finds his own smuggler-family distracting and luring him into using his unique nudging abilities for treasonous deeds. When pandemonium breaks out in Lac’s Holding, it becomes clear that only Dilly and Fitch know the truth.

The question is whether they can save the day – when those they’re loyal to are standing in the way.

Brigid liked Sara’s hook, the one I was unsure of. She said it was one of the lines that stayed with her from reading the book, showing the value of having a reader’s reaction. Brigid took the last paragraph of the previous draft, snipped it in half, and moved it to be right after the hook. That alone made a big difference. The Winter Festival setting sounded like something that could be fun to read about.

Then she put the goals of both POV characters in the next paragraph. After that, she gave the obstacles to their reaching those goals. That essentially sets up the whole book in very few words.

Brigid is excellent at blurb writing! The pattern of hook-characters-goals-obstacle is one I intend to reuse the next I have a chance.

After Brigid finished, Sara set about polishing Version 3 to create the blurb we used.

Final version from editor, Sara

Here’s the version we finally agreed on with Sara’s tweaks and the reasons she made them. I italicized the changes from Version 3 so they’d stand out.

“When it comes to family, you’re rich… and I’m dirt poor.” 

Amid the intoxicating chaos of Winter Festival, attendant Dilly and Hedge Mage Fitch cross paths. 

After surviving Rin’s wretched streets, Dilly aims to prove herself to Lady Elena, who brought her back to Lac’s Holding and blessed her with a new life of comfort and luxury. Fitch seeks vengeance for a loved one, killed by a liquor that makes one vulnerable to suggestion.

But their distinct ambitions are derailed when Dilly discovers Elenia’s secret lover is the head of a too-ambitious kinship, and Fitch finds his own smuggler-family pressuring him into using his unique nudging abilities for mutinous deeds. 

When murmurs of treason break out in Lac’s Holding, it becomes clear that only Dilly and Fitch know the truth. 

The question is how they can save the city when those they’re loyal to stand in their way.

In the third paragraph, Sara wanted to show that although Elenia brought her home, Dilly had struggled through to survive. Dilly was the hero of that situation.

In the fourth paragraph, Sara changed “shady” to “too ambitious,” because “shady” didn’t precisely capture the problem with that kinship.

In the fifth paragraph, Sara felt “pandemonium” was too long a word. Also, and I’ll quote Sara here, “I want the blurb to feel a bit more claustrophobic and unsure of where loyalties lie, etc. ‘Murmurs of treason’ has that edge of ‘did I hear that right?’ And ‘Who’s the traitor?’”

Finally, Sara also objected to the rhyme of “day” and “way” in the last sentence and changed “day” to “city.”

This version reflects that fact that, as the book’s editor, Sara knew it well, but she wasn’t too close to it in the way that I was.

A happy ending

All of us were pleased with this cover blurb. This version is more or less what now appears on the various sale sites. It had to be shortened slightly to fit on the back cover, but the impact was the same. Numerous small and large changes created what I think is an enticing blurb.

______________________________________

The Trickster is available in e-book and paperback

Inspired Quill Amazon Barnes and Noble

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *