Friday, January 07, 2022

Karen S. Wiesner: Blurbs Series, Part 1: High-Concept and Back Cover Blurbs

Writer's Craft Article by Karen S. Wiesner

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

Blurbs Series, Part 1:

High-Concept and Back Cover Blurbs


This will be the first of six posts focusing on writing effective blurbs for your books.

Cait Reynolds makes me laugh whenever I read her Blurb Hokey Pokey quote: "You put your protagonist in. You leave the best friend out. You put the problem in. You leave the twist out. You do the Hokey Pokey and leave 'em on a cliffhanger. That's what it's all about."

How to write a blurb 101: You put your main character in, you don't need that secondary character. Detail the conflict with just enough to get the questions rising inside the reader's head but not too much that you begin answering those questions or deflating any of the big moments in the book. Hook with a last sentence that drives them panting to open the book and start reading. That's the general idea. But there's a lot more to it because we have to contend with more than just the back cover blurb.

Before we talk about the three types of blurbs, there two things we need to preface with:

1) Ultimately, it doesn't matter a whit if a blurb is long or short or somewhere in-between. We have a misconception these days that being short by definition makes a blurb good and effective while a long blurb is by default in opposition of that, but both flavor-of the-day trends are illusions that you can't afford to rest on. An effectively good blurb means it's both well-written and makes a person want to read the story inside the pages, not just the back--want to enough to actually pay money to do it. Promotional considerations are the major and the main reason for having short blurbs.

2) The only part of that we're going to deal with here is the summary of the book.

How to Write Blurbs

An effectively good blurb has two parts for a single title and three for a series. The discussion on series blurbs is included after the other two that are needed for absolutely every blurb.

Part 1: High-Concept Blurbs The only difference between a back cover blurb and a high-concept blurb is usually length and frequently the high-concept blurb is much more generalized than the back cover blurb. Almost always, it's a single sentence that captures the essence of the story with a solid punch of intrigue straight to the gut. An example of an intriguing high-concept blurb from a book:

The tale of the contestants of a grueling walking competition where there can only be one winner—the one that survives. (The Long Walk by Stephen King writing as Richard Bachman)

If you look at this closely, you'll notice this sentence has two components: A who and a what. The who could refer to a protagonist or an antagonist or any general concept. In the book world, this is usually the main character but it could also be a group of people, a culture, a planet, whatever--essentially who has the most at risk that the reader is rooting for--the main driving force in the story, whether good or evil.

This is a basic formula we can use in the crafting of our high-concept blurbs. For a high-concept blurb, the goal is to come up with one to two sentences, something utterly intriguing. Here's the first section of our Blurb Worksheet:



Now let's tag the high-concept blurb we mentioned earlier so you can see how it fits into the formula. I've chosen a hard one because literally there isn't a high-concept blurb that can't fit into this two-part-component formula, but it might be difficult to initially figure out who's who and what's what:

The Long Walk by Stephen King writing as Richard Bachman:

Who: The contestants of a grueling walking competition.

What: Are forced into a walking competition where there can only be one winner—the one that survives.

 Part 2: Back Cover Blurbs

At its crux, a back cover blurb strives to be a concise, breathtaking summary of your entire story that includes the major internal and external conflicts and the goals and motivations of the main character(s). Let's define the terms that will be on the next section of our Blurb Worksheet:

External and Internal Conflict, and Goals and Motivations

External conflict (plot) is the central tangible or outer problem standing squarely in the character’s way that must be faced and solved by that character. Internal conflicts are emotional problems brought about by external conflicts that make a character reluctant to achieve a goal because of her own roadblocks. In fiction, character conflicts are why plot conflicts can’t be resolved. Your first spark of the story in your mind will usually suggest what the character’s conflicts are, and many times they’re based on someone or something threatening what the character cares about passionately.

Internal conflicts are all about character, and external conflicts are all about plot, but both belong to the main character. After all, if both didn’t affect her in some profound way, they wouldn’t be conflicts for her and therefore wouldn’t even be part of her story.  Additionally, it’s your job as the writer to give the character incentives (specifically, goals and motivations) not to give up until everyone is safe and the main character has what she was fighting for.  Your character can't simply react to conflict--she must act in the face of it. What exactly does she stand to gain if she does something? What will she lose if she doesn't do it?

Focused on the goal, the character is pushed toward the external conflict by believable, emotional, and compelling conflicts and motivations that won’t let her quit before she reaches the goal. The intensity of her anxiety creates worry and anticipation in the reader. Those are the very things you want to highlight in a powerful, succinct way in a back cover blurb.

Now that we know what a back cover blurb needs to include, we can use a short form to provide the jumping-off point in crafting one of our own on the Blurb Worksheet:

Basic Information: Fill out as completely as possible, keeping in mind that you may not use all, much or any of this in your final blurb.

Title of Book:


Time Period(s):

Main Setting(s):

Basic Character and Plot Information:  Fill out as completely as possible for the major characters in your story (usually no more than two or three main and one villain).

Main Character Role (specify hero, heroine, villain, etc.):

            First and Last Name:

            Age and Job:

            Description of the character's personality/hobbies/physical appearance/

            traumas or hang-ups that factor into his or her story conflicts:

            Internal Conflict (i.e., character crisis or what's in jeopardy or at stake):

            External Conflict (i.e., plot crisis):

            Goals and motivations (i.e., what and why character is compelled to act):

Once you've filled out the form above completely, you can inject your story specifics into this formula (note: you would fill this out for each major character):


(name of character)

wants to

(goal to be achieved)


(motivation for acting)

but who faces

(conflict standing in the way).

Let's do this a little backwards and fill out the forms for The Woman in Black by Susan Hill (some sections aren't included if the book didn't have it).

 Title of Book: The Woman in Black

Genre: Ghost story

            Time Period: Presumably during the 1860s.

Main Setting: Crythin Gifford, a faraway English town in the windswept salt marshes beyond Nine Lives Causeway.

Main Character Role: Hero

            First and Last Name: Arthur Kipps

            Age: Presumably young, "up-and-coming".

            Job: London solicitor

             Internal Conflict: The routine business trip he anticipated quickly takes a horrifying turn when he finds himself haunted by a series of mysterious sounds and images—a rocking chair in a deserted nursery, the eerie sound of a pony and trap, a child’s scream in the fog, and, most terrifying of all, a ghostly woman dressed all in black. 

             External Conflict: A menacing spectre haunting a small English town connected to Eel Marsh House, which stands at the end of the causeway, wreathed in fog and mystery, hiding tragic secrets behind its sheltered windows.

Who (Arthur Kipps) name of character

wants (to conclude what he anticipated would be a routine business trip in his goal of becoming an up-and-coming London solicitor but the job quickly takes a horrifying turn) goal to be achieved

because (he finds himself haunted by a series of mysterious sounds and images—a rocking chair in a deserted nursery, the eerie sound of a pony and trap, a child’s scream in the fog, and, most terrifying of all, a ghostly woman dressed all in black) motivation for acting

but who faces (the menacing spectre haunting a small English town connected to Eel Marsh House, which stands at the end of the causeway, wreathed in fog and mystery, hiding tragic secrets behind its sheltered windows) conflict standing in the way

 Here's the final high-concept blurb and back cover blurb for this book:

 A chilling tale about a menacing spectre haunting a small English town.

Arthur Kipps is an up-and-coming London solicitor who is sent to Crythin Gifford—a faraway town in the windswept salt marshes beyond Nine Lives Causeway—to attend the funeral and settle the affairs of a client, Mrs. Alice Drablow of Eel Marsh House. Mrs. Drablow’s house stands at the end of the causeway, wreathed in fog and mystery, but Kipps is unaware of the tragic secrets that lie hidden behind its sheltered windows. The routine business trip he anticipated quickly takes a horrifying turn when he finds himself haunted by a series of mysterious sounds and images—a rocking chair in a deserted nursery, the eerie sound of a pony and trap, a child’s scream in the fog, and, most terrifying of all, a ghostly woman dressed all in black. 

In Part 2, we'll talk about writing series 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 150 titles and 16 series. Visit her here:

Thursday, January 06, 2022


As I've mentioned before, I haven't done New Year's "resolutions" in a long time. Thinking of the coming year in those terms feels discouraging, a potential set-up for failure. What I like to think of are "goals," and preferably modest enough to be fairly sure of accomplishing. Positive reinforcement for one's efforts is always a good thing. So here are a few goals I have for the near future:

Transcribe and release this year's vampire fiction bibliography update by the last week of January at the latest. Write a story in collaboration with my husband to submit to the forthcoming Darkover anthology well before the end-of-summer deadline. Write a brief essay the editor of a vampire journal asked me to compose for the magazine's "Notes" section. Discuss with one of my publishers the possible re-release of my erotic paranormal romances "orphaned" by the demise of Ellora's Cave that I haven't already self-published. I'm also awaiting reprint of a few more "orphaned" non-erotic romances contracted with a different publisher, but the schedule for that process isn't in my control. I don't have any active plans for original fiction in progress right now. Whether I produce any in 2022 will depend partly on whether one of my publishers comes out with a submission call that intrigues me. I considered adding "get through the manga in my TBR stack" to this list, but that objective is probably unattainable, because it's infinite; new books keep appearing. (Heavens to murgatroyd, I wonder how that happens?)

In terms of the bigger picture, I recently read an article about society's goal in regard to COVID-19. The question under consideration was: What do we expect when we anticipate the end of the pandemic? What do we mean when we talk about an "end," and what would it look like? What we do know is that the virus will probably never disappear from the face of the Earth. Which numbers of case rates, hospitalizations, and deaths would we regard as a sign that the pandemic is over? Most likely, it will subside to an endemic level like ordinary flu, kept in check by annual boosters. In another recent article about how pandemics end, examples of past infectious disease threats and their outcomes were analyzed. Some were eradicated, some died out on their own, some had their risks drastically reduced by vaccination, and some became endemic (always present in the environment but not a serious danger to most people). All we can be sure of is that COVID-19 won't last forever—even if it's beginning to seem like it.

Whether in our personal lives or on a nationwide or global scale, we can't meaningfully achieve goals unless we define them in specific, measurable terms. Unless we're sure where we want to go, how will we know when we get there?

Margaret L. Carter

Carter's Crypt

Sunday, January 02, 2022

Resolution 1: Don't Get Fooled Again

Scams are all around us. Maybe mixed in with your Christmas cards is a tiny white postcard from Cochran et al v. The Kroger Co.
Maybe don't toss it without more than a glance. Perhaps you don't need another --likely concurrent-- year of free credit monitoring, but this class action settlement also appears to offer cash if you claim before March 5th, 2022.
Apparently, some authors are receiving cold calls from someone rejoicing in the name of "Powell's Books" (or something similar) that has nothing to do with the reputable bookseller Powell's Books. The reputable Powell's Books does not offer publishing/promotional services... at least, not through telephone solicitations.
Other authors allegedly are having their names taken, and their brands allegedly damaged on Amazon.
Mitzi Szereto has a fascinating an informative blog post about how some scammer on Amazon is allegedly infringing her brand, and stealing her identity to sell their own, allegedly inferior quality porn.

For authors whose brands are perhaps not strong enough to be given specious credit for someone else's allegedly substandard work, there is a chance that their works are being pirated, substandard covers are being slapped on, thinly disguised titles are being attached, and improbable author names are being applied.
Concerned authors may spend hours reading Amazon offerings (in Search, and in Look Inside), and have to get to at least the third page to find out if their works have been pirated.  Then, victims of the piracy have to go through the hoops of the Amazon KDP "Copyright Infringement Report".

There is a brief blog by two lawyers from Pearl Cohen Zedek Latzer Baratz that reports on the alleged (my word) fact that millions of "invalid and false copyright infringment claims" were received by another very popular site.

The problem with the DMCA is that copyright owners of limited financial means are in a bind. One can make a genuine copyright infringment claim, but if the creative user --on a site that appreciates the uploaded content-- files a counter claim (as he/she is often encouraged to do), the copyright owner is up fecal matter creek unless they file a lawsuit.

So-called transparency reports are not necessarily accurate.

The mother of all fecal matter creeks was recently obliged to settle with a very small fish on what the court ruled was a clear cut (or "straightforward") counterfeit case.

Legal bloggers Jeffrey A. Berkowitz and  David K. Mroz of the law firm of Finnegan Henderson Farabow Garrett and Dunner LLP report on the historical victory of Israeli firm Maglula in winning orders from a court:
  • denying Amazon’s multiple challenges to Maglula’s complaint in the first instance;
  • granting multiple inspections at Amazon warehouses (over Amazon’s strenuous and repeated objections)—ostensibly a first of its kind in an IP case against Amazon; and
  • finding Amazon destroyed evidence after Maglula filed its complaint—another first in an IP case against Amazon.
Lexology link:  
Could this be a turning of the tide?

If you buy self-defense-related accessories online, be very careful not to buy a cheap knock-off that might malfunction.

Another word to the wise: use "alleged" and "allegedly" a lot when reporting on other people's dirt. It may not make for the most readable of prose, but it's prophylactic writing.

If you feel like "being activist" for the New Year, there is a hashtag you can use to share warnings and entertaining or salutary experiences, and help others not to get fooled: #SlamTheScam.

Visit for more information. Alternatively, you can follow SSA OIG on Twitter @TheSSAOIG and Facebook @SSA Office of the Inspector General for the latest information on Social Security-related scams. Visit the Federal Trade Commission for information on other government scams.
OIG is the Office of the Inspector General.  They are happy to receive emails, calls, or texts that report scams where suspicious individuals claim to be from the Social Security arm of the Government and wanting to help you.
Happy New Year!
Rowena Cherry 
EPIC Award winner, Friend of ePublishing