Get Out of the Synopsis to Write Your Fiction Book Blurb

author Maggie Thom Glenna MageauGuest Post
by Glenna Mageau

You’ve written a story and now you’ve decided to self-publish it. Congratulations. However, now you realize you have an issue; you need to have a book blurb or book description, but you’re not sure how to write it. The truth is that many authors struggle with this and aren’t sure where to begin. Many start with writing a synopsis and then spend hours whittling that down into something catchy. Honestly, there is a much simpler and less stressful way.

First, let’s look at the differences between a synopsis and a book blurb.

The synopsis is the detailed summary of your story that contains everything – the characters, the events, the outcomes, and the ending – all spoilers are included. Its purpose is for agents and/or publishers to decide if they want to read your manuscript. It is something that is necessary to write if you are going the traditional publishing route.

The book blurb, on the other hand, also known as the sales blurb or book description, is an Indie’s best friend. It is the enticing sales pitch that gives a glimpse into your story. Its purpose is to grab the reader’s attention and pull them into wanting to read your novel and hence get your book. The book blurb is used on the book’s Amazon or other retailer’s sales page, and also can be used on the back cover of the print edition, if you have one.

So why not start with writing a synopsis?

In truth, if you start by writing the long, comprehensive explanation, it will pull you into every detail, every word of your story, and that’s the worst place to be to write a fiction book blurb. You will be too immersed in all that you wrote and won’t see the ‘forest for the trees’. You’ll have too much information at your fingertips and as an author every word you write, every scene you craft, is your baby, how do you cut any of that out? The truth is that you don’t and that’s why you can’t start with a synopsis.

“You really have to approach writing the fiction book blurb with a different mindset.”

Believe me, once I shifted how I wrote a fiction book blurb, it saved me a lot of time and stress with my latest suspense/thrillers. Now, I truly enjoy writing the blurb; I even get excited about having to do it.

So if you don’t start with writing a synopsis, where do you start? How do you write the fiction book blurb?

  • start with the idea that got you writing your story – if it pulled you in, often there is something in it that will pull the reader in as well;
  • write down (in point form) two or three key events that propel your story forward;
  • note some key characteristics about your main characters (protagonist/hero and antagonist/adversary) that are crucial to the story;
  • setting is always something to include when it is an important part of the story. If you’re writing history, sci-fi, fantasy, dystopian, etc., it is definitely worth including;
  • use who, what, when, where, why and how – to flesh out the key points and elements that make your story unique.

The fiction book blurb is meant to be something short, enticing, and flashy. Its sole purpose is to grab and hold attention. It isn’t meant to tell your story, it is meant to hint at what journey the reader will be taken on when they read your novel. Think of it as taking the best bits and pieces out of your story and weaving them into a mini masterpiece that grabs attention.

The synopsis and book blurb for fiction novels have very different purposes, so therefore should be created differently. So my best advice is: get out of your synopsis to write your fiction book blurb.

What approach do you take to write your catchy book blurb?

Glenna Mageau writes suspense/thrillers under the penname Maggie Thom. When she’s not writing, she runs the “The Write Success Coach”, to help women discover and explore their writing talent. Learn more about Glenna and Maggie at her website and at her Author Central page.

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18 thoughts on “Get Out of the Synopsis to Write Your Fiction Book Blurb”

  1. Nice distinction. I had not thought of it that way but what you say makes sense. Since I don’t pitch to publishers or agents perhaps what I am doing is a short and long blurb – one for the back of the book and a longer one for the “description” on Amazon and Smashwords.

    1. Hi Yvonne. I would say that you are probably doing a short and long blurb. I don’t think it’s something too many authors have thought about. It’s just another thing in a long line to do, when you self publish. 🙂 Happy New Year.

  2. Glenna, I think you nailed it when you said the blurb is not meant to tell the story. That’s where so many authors get balled up, trying to tell the whole story in one paragraph. I think the major distinction of a blurb (in fiction, at least), is that it’s not storytelling, it’s emotion-evoking. Yes, the blurb needs to hint at the journey the reader will be going on, but it’s less about the chronological order or the points of interest and much more about the emotional journey. Good post.

    1. Hi Melissa. I so agree, it is meant to be emotion-evoking and definitely shouldn’t be chronological. I think because many authors who now self publish started out with intentions of traditional publishing. So they learned how to write the synopsis, so have gotten caught up in the – this, then that, then this, then that… It is a hard habit to break. 🙂 Happy New Year.

  3. My approach to writing a book blurb? Take a deep breath, lace my fingers through my hair, and start screaming!
    No kidding, I hate the blooming things. Don’t know how many versions I’ve written for my current novel.
    On the other hand, Glenna your advice really helps.
    Thanks millions. 🙂

    1. Hi. Oh, I have been there. I so used to hate them but since I’ve learned a new way of looking at them and writing them, I actually have fun with them now. So glad this helps. Best of luck with writing the book blurb. Congrats on your current novel, though. Happy New Year.

  4. Great article! I sometimes see “blurbs” that try to tell the whole story. People could skip past that to check the next book because they really just want to know, quickly, “What is the book ABOUT?” They can discover all the details when they read the book. I can write blurbs all day long, but synopses? Not so much! I truly admire people who can write those. When I was searching for an agent for my first novel, I avoided the ones who wanted a synopsis and found that wasn’t a hindrance, but ymmv. 😉

    1. Hi Candace. I too think writing the synopsis is difficult, I used to dislike writing them. In fact I think for many authors writing the book blurb would be a whole lot easier had they never learned how to write or heard of the synopsis first. 🙂 Happy New Year.

  5. Good tips, Glenna. I especially like your idea about going back to what caused you to write the story in the first place. I think that really helps you hone the hook. When my daughter sits down to write a story, she actually writes the blurb first, which I always find interesting. But, she’s more of a plotter whilst I’m a pantser, so that approach makes sense in that style.

    1. Hi RJ. Sometimes I find writing the book blurb first or near the beginning actually helps with where the story is going. I am kind of a split, half pantster and half plotter. I find that the idea that got you excited about writing the story will be exciting for the reader as well. It also helps to jot down notes as you go for those events/situations that grab your attention – works well for pansters. Happy New Year. I guess I will have to stop saying that soon as we are already a week in. Yikes. 🙂

  6. Growing up in advertising taught me how to write blurb-style promotional text. It also taught me that writing it for yourself is much, much more difficult. I suggest that you let a friend do a draft or two. You’ll hate those drafts, but they will help you get going.

    Writers writing about they own work is not as easy as it sounds.

    1. Hi Candy. Isn’t that true? We can easily write for someone else but tend to struggle to get over the hurdles to write our own stuff. I always think of trying to tell my mom about my book. She didn’t read nor really like the genre (suspense/thrillers) that I wrote, although she assured me she loved my novel (she only got to read one), so I try to think, what would make it interesting to her, someone who doesn’t read that kind of story. I find that helps me to get a different perspective on it and it keeps me from thinking I’m trying to entice strangers to read it. Happy New Year.

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