Friday, January 28, 2022

Karen S. Wiesner: Blurbs Series, Part 4: When to Write Your Blurbs

 Writer's Craft Article by Karen S. Wiesner 

Based on Writing Blurbs that Sizzle--And Sell! by Karen S. Wiesner 

Blurbs Series, Part 4:

When to Write Your Blurbs

This is the fourth of six posts focusing on writing effective blurbs for your books.

In the previous installment, we talked about how long blurbs should be and other basics about crafting blurbs. Let's continue. 

When to Write Your Blurbs 

No two authors are the same, and each one has preferences about when to write their blurbs. While I was working on my writing reference Three-Dimensional Fiction Writing (formerly titled Bring Your Fiction to Life: Crafting Three-Dimensional Stories with Depth and Complexity), one of my critique partners was blown away at the prospect of crafting the back cover blurb before a single word of the book had been written. It was inconceivable that this could even be possible, and it seemed backwards to her—writing the story was a prerequisite, in her opinion, since she could only be clear about what needed to go on the back cover after she wrote (and figured out) the story. 

After her comments, I can actually see that this makes a lot of sense for most unpublished or newly published authors. However, I'm on the opposite end of this. From my point of view, I can't imagine not starting a project with a blurb. Literally, it's the first thing I do once I have the original idea for a story (and/or series) and I’ve decided on a title. It's really what helps me solidify a story with characters and conflicts that haunt my mind. 

I usually write my blurbs years in advance of doing any other kind of writing on a book or series. The blurb finalizes the gist of the story and/or series clearly. Once the blurb is written, I can send it to my fiction publisher, knowing I have a solid story/series concept and I can, without question, write a full story based on it. She accepts the project based on this because she's learned from experience that, based on this blurb, I'll craft a thrilling story/series for her to publish…possibly years down the road from the time she first sees the proposal. Though I sometimes have to tweak the blurb(s) once the book or series are finished, my ideas for the story/series only become clear to me after I've written the (albeit long) blurbs, but I will say that it's a rare thing that any blurb is rewritten extensively after the book or series is finished. I believe it almost goes without saying that my long blurb is money in the bank when written in advance of any other writing on the project, given how it catapults the final story/series development and captures the essence of what will later become hundreds of pages when I begin writing that book or series. 

As I said, my initial back cover blurbs do tend to be fairly long, and I strongly prefer to start with the long version so the core of my story is encapsulated in these paragraphs. After the book is written, I'll whittle the long-form blurb (which can be around 450 words in length) down to something shorter that pops. I like to have a 150-word, 100-word, and 75-word blurb versions for each story so, whatever size is needed for various applications, I have something available. Those three sizes do seem to be what's expected for marketing and distribution purposes. I'm a firm believer that longer blurbs can be more effective than short ones, though my original 450-word ones are usually too long to be final back cover blurbs. (I will also note here that I strongly think it's always best to work directly from the original, full-length blurb when whittling instead of starting from scratch in any areas. Full-length blurbs are usually the strongest version of a blurb since it has everything it needs to be intriguing and compelling for readers, luring them into wanting to read the entire book.) 

So what's the best time to write a back cover blurb? As a general rule, professional published writers who are allowed to submit story/series proposals that can be accepted by their publishers long in advance of writing the book(s) should learn how to write a blurb before beginning any serious work on a project. For newer writers, the easiest way might be to wait until the story is written before attempting any kind of formal blurb, but give it a try beforehand at least once to see where it takes you. Even if you write 2000 words or even more, your story ideas will be much clearer and you can use that to write a more concise, less kitchen-sink blurb. 

Bottom line, when you write yours is completely up to you and your particular situation. That said, learning to do it early will immensely benefit you, your story (and series, if you're writing one), as well as your submission/promotion efforts. 

The axiom of writing blurbs that we mentioned earlier applies here: If your blurb doesn’t illicit intrigue or the desire to read the books or the series, it’s not effectively good. When I begin writing a new blurb (series or single title), I can’t imagine a more exciting time for me. Writing your own blurbs should bring forth so much excitement about writing the story/series you’ll barely be able to resist jumping into each one immediately. That's another reason for writing them early. 

While size shouldn't be a factor in writing effectively good blurbs, unfortunately it is these days. There are maximums so strongly encouraged they've become the norm. However, armed with the knowledge of what we're ideally shooting for in terms of length as well as the appropriate application (distribution or marketing--two completely different things), we can approach blurb sizing with true discernment. When to write blurbs depends on the author but writing them as soon as possible will benefit you, your story/series in crazy-good ways. There's no doubt that learning to write effectively good blurbs is critical to your success as an author. Remember, be sizzling in your blurbs if you want your books to sell! 

In Part 5, we'll talk about branding and blurbs. 

Karen S. Wiesner is the author of Writing Blurbs That Sizzle--And Sell!

Volume 7 of the 3D Fiction Fundamentals Collection 

Happy writing! 

Karen Wiesner is an award-winning, multi-genre author of over 140 titles and 16 series. Visit her here:

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