By Veronica Helen Hart
You thought writing your book was difficult. Now that it’s finished, another daunting challenge remains―writing a blurb for the back cover.
How do you reduce your book to 250 words, explain what it’s about, but not give away the ending? It’s not simple, but breaking it down into three steps makes the process easier.
Here’s what I did in my book, The Reluctant Daughters, set in the period 1865-1900.
- First, introduce the main character(s): I have three main characters, whom I introduce in the back cover blurb starting with the mother, “Matriarch of Steel – Elisabeth Riis,” then her daughter, “Daughter of Bitterness – Mary Ellen Riis,” followed the granddaughters of Elisabeth, “Daughters of Mystery and Hope” – Barbara and Lily.
- Next, introduce the problem: In this story, Mary Ellen is haunted by her past and determined to keep her children from repeating her mistakes. Her problem is a powerful politician. Mary Ellen, born to a mother who can barely stand her, turns to a life living on the edge, marries a gambler, and then turns to the low and deadly slums of opium addiction. The granddaughters find an evening of rebellious fun leads them on a trail of mystery.
- Finally, tell what the story is about: A teaser hints at the story line. “What does New York State Senator and presidential nominee Justin Pembroke have to do with Elisabeth’s sudden disappearance?
I used the same concept for the back cover blurb of The Prince of Keegan Bay.
- The main character introduction: “Based on the ancient Kushawan legend, the infant Hamilton Robbins must die before Christmas night. Seventy-year-old Doll Reynolds has other ideas.”
- The problem: “When the American born heir to the kingdom of Kushawa is hidden in an age-qualified retirement community, a battle of wits and tactics develops between the Kushawan Alliance of Royal Princes (KARP), determined to eliminate the infant, and a group of senior citizens known as The Blenders.”
- The story: The seniors, led by Doll Reynolds, risk their lives in a battle with KARP to help save the child.
If you are having trouble reducing your book to a few words, ask a friend who has read it to give you feedback on what they think your story is about. It might help you to distill your information to create an enticing blurb.
A friend wrote an incredible memoir, Afraid to Live, about how she wanted to die following drastic surgery. When it came time to write the back cover blurb, she was at a loss. The story was so personal to her, she couldn’t see the basic elements necessary. Here is my suggestion for her:
- The main character: Kally never wanted life-saving surgery, but when her daughters fed her tranquilizers before her appointment, though she had been determined to refuse, she went like a sheep to the slaughter.
- The problem: Surviving the arduous ordeal, she later decided to take a European river cruise with her sister only because they’d scheduled and paid for it the year before. During the trip Kally remains stubbornly convinced that she ought to have died.
- The story: Slowly as the trip progresses, she begins to find meaning in her life through not only the art she sees in the fabulous museums, but in the life and love she sees in the people around her.
The above may or may not become the back cover blurb for my friend’s book, but it will give her a place to start. Now it’s your turn. With your work-in-progress, try writing an intriguing and compelling back cover.
Veronica Helen Hart is the award winning author of six books, three published by Champagne Books, two by Double Edge Press and one self-published, Escape from Iran. Coming soon is Silent Autumn from Champagne Books. She is the writing group leader for the Daytona Writers Group (Florida Writers Association) and the facilitator for the Tough Tuesday Fiction Writers, which meets at Barnes & Noble in Daytona.