The Strange Art of the Book Blurb

Book blurbs are notoriously difficult to write and get right. Don't fret, help is at hand.

I'm happy with the two I did recently:

For Robert Pierse's wonderful adventure story cum memoir, Under the Bed:Stories & Thoughts from a Desert Island, and Listowel Writers' Week's Winners' Anthology.

I could probably write a whole book on the art of the book blurb.

For blurbs, the challenge is as follows:

You want a block of text that encapsulates all aspects of the book, really conveys what it is, manages to excite and stimulate interest, and is said as briefly and succinctly as possible. That is a tall order, but that is the task at hand.

For now at least, here are three tips:.

1) Sum up the book in one sentence. Although blurbs are longer than a sentence, good ones are anchored in that one attention-hooking sentence. If you have managed to compress the book into one sentence, one sentence that tells the reader what the book is, and stimulates interest, then the blurb will write itself.

2) Grab attention. Focus on the main point of the story, the main plot-line or premise, that manages to arrest the reader and draw him or her in.

3) Ration details very meanly and sparingly. Bad blurbs include peripheral and incidental details. In a blurb, we need the main points; who the author is in one or two words, what the book is about, and what the reader will receive from the book; its message, its relevance and its context.

Robert's book is a kaleidoscope of different elements (memoir, stoires, adventure and history) and required a blurb that justice to all those elements.
Cover of Robert Pierse, Under the Bed: Stories & Thoughts from a Desert Island

Here is the blurb I wrote for Robert Pierse's latest book, Under the Bed: Stories & Thoughts from a Desert Island, which I edited.

Under the Bed: Stories & Thoughts from a Desert Island tells the true story of how one of Kerry’s best known lawyers, Robert Pierse, was caught in a tropical storm off the coast of Belize. While the storm rages on, Robert and his family wonder will they ever get home. Cut off from the outside world, Robert tells stories and reflects on life and society. He remembers the people and events that have shaped him. Under the Bed is a story of survival; how a family, trapped on the other side of the world, told tales and jokes in order to stay together and not abandon hope. It is also the story of a father passing on a message; a hopeful message about the importance of family, and finding meaning in our fast changing and exciting world.

Here is my blurb for Writers' Week Winners' Anthology, 2019, which I also edited:

Writers’ Week Winners’ Anthology 2019 compiles all the winning entries from our most recent competitions. What makes our anthology so unique is its sheer diversity. The writers who win our competitions are accomplished, challenging, thought-provoking, and brilliant, but they also cross boundaries, break moulds, are daring and innovative, and are not afraid of risk.
The result: a wonderful patchwork quilt of literary talent. Within these pages, we have seasoned wordsmiths, but we also have raw new voices. Essays, stories, poems, plays, the innovative and the traditional, the realistic and the fantastical - our anthology is a stunning array of different genres and forms.
The anthology is, first and foremost, about the writers; we want to give them an opportunity to tell the world who they are. But it is also for the readers; so read, reflect, wonder, discuss, and, most importantly, enjoy. Enjoy and keep reading!

Front cover of Winners' Anthology 2019. The range of material posed challenges for me as an editor, and also for writing the book blurb. I think we did a good job but, as always, that is for the reader to decide.
Listowel Writers' Week Winners' Anthology 2019

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