We discussed how to write a blurb in general here, and today I want to talk about a specific blurb challenge: writing one for a sequel.
When you write a series, you’re always juggling the backstory. How much information about the books that come before have to be included? Will they stand alone or make no sense if you don’t read them together?
And these are questions that have to be asked when writing the blurb, too. However, because the blurb is marketing material, it needs to stand alone as a story. It needs to establish what sort of tale one finds in these books, and should clearly say “I belong with other books” while being enticing enough on its own.
So here are the simple, “secret” rules to writing a blurb for Book Two or Two-Hundred:
- Make clear references. Even if your readers read book one, it’s probably been a while, and unlike you, the author, they live in other fictional worlds. They’ll need a reminder of who the characters are, what they’re doing, and what they should expect from this story (and if they don’t, they probably won’t read the blurb, anyways. They’ll see that it’s “Book Two” and just buy it and jump in).
- Don’t worry about explaining everything. Chances are, they don’t need to know exactly what happened to read Book Two, if they want to read them out of order. For example, I watched The Return of the King with only summary knowledge of what the story was about. I hadn’t read the books or seen any of the earlier movies, and aside from not really knowing who the shiny woman in white was (Galadriel) and what she had to do with Frodo, I was still able to enjoy the story. It made me want to go back and read the others, but I wasn’t lost because there was enough explanation and context for me to figure out, in general, what was going on.
- Hint at the earlier story. Readers need to know that this is Book Two; they shouldn’t get inside it and be surprised, so make sure your blurb provides some reference to what happened beforehand.
- Keep the blurb’s plot points simple. You may feel like you’re dumbing down the story by not calling everything by their “true” name, or by explaining who and what everything is, but if someone can’t read your blurb by itself, readers who forgot about Book One will enter Book Two confused. They may feel they have to reread Book One before they can touch Book Two, which might just encourage them to read something else instead…something they can more readily “get into” without rereading.
Here’s an example of what not to do:
After struggling through Moria and surviving the mysteries of Lothlórien, the fellowship travels down the river to find that they’re being haunted by dangers without and within. Orcs guard the other shore, and the creature Gollum paddles along behind them, now seen, now unseen.
Aragorn must decide where his path lies. Frodo must look to the east, no matter how little he longs to go there, and he must go alone. And Boromir must try to keep his worries at bay lest the temptation of the ring overwhelm him, to the doom of all.
This blurb, while being too short, is also way too tied to the first book (The Fellowship of the Ring) to make sense to a reader who happens to stumble on it. They won’t know what is “to the east” or who Aragorn, Frodo, or Boromir are. And as for Moria and Lothlórien…they won’t have a clue, and they’re likely to set the book down in disgust and move on rather than hunt for “Volume One.”
Here’s a far better example:
After losing one of their company to the mines of Moria, the Fellowship of the Ring is tested with a new challenge–which route to take towards the treacherous land of Mordor. Boromir longs to return to Minas Tirith while Aragorn is uncertain if the time is right for him, as heir, to return to the “City of Kings.” Meanwhile, the ringbearer, Frodo, knows in his heart that he must go by the most direct route, leaving his friends behind and carrying his evil burden away from them, where it can tempt them no longer.
But it may already be too late. Even now, Boromir eyes the ring, longing to take it back to his city, and a wily creature follows them, eager to reclaim “the precious” as his own. And high above, the evil winged messengers of Sauron lurk, ever looking to take the ring back to the one who forged it in the first place.
This one is far less detailed in some respects. It doesn’t name Gollum, for instance, nor the Orcs, but it gives readers the general understanding of who, what, when, where, how and why, letting them know what sort of story, in general, they’re in for if they read and buy your book.
And after all, that’s what a blurb is supposed to do…isn’t it?
Copyright 2017 Andrea Lundgren
Image by Gratisography, Creative Commons