At most publishers the editors - and sometimes the authors - commonly write the copy that appears on the jackets of their books. There are two good reasons for this: they tend to know their books' strengths better than anyone and it is cheaper than paying someone else to do it.
For a long time Penguin has taken a different view to the industry standard and has employed copywriters across all its divisions to write the blurbs that appear on our books. Why? For one thing, copywriters are dedicated wordsmiths who are able to get a message across in a very short space. Secondly, copywriters are able to bring a freshness and vitality to a blurb that an editor or author who has been immersed for months and sometimes years in a book may find in short supply. Lastly, any copywriter worth her or his salt thinks first and foremost about their audience: the person they hope to reach in the bookshop.
Blurb writing is not scientific, different copywriters take very different approaches to how and what they write. And different writers will produce widely divergent blurbs while trying to achieve the same overall effect - i.e. convincing a bookshop customer to buy the book in their hands.
So how do you write a good blurb?
Over the next week, the copywriters at Penguin would like to share with you their thoughts on how to write a blurb. The views you'll see are as different as they are similar ... but this blurb has already become far too long already. Step up, Sarah from Puffin, Penguin's children's division.
Senior Copywriter, Penguin General
How to write a blurb
Or, how to read a manuscript, note down words and quotes and phrases with instant appeal, atmosphere, an air of mystery, a sense of character, a sense of place and put them all together in a coherent and exciting way. So that whoever picks up the book reads the blurb and thinks ‘I must read this book. I must have this book in my life, to the till we shall go. Immediately.’
No pressure then.
I love writing blurbs. I love it when that flash of inspiration strikes and transforms a blurb which initially began as a ‘join the dots’ - first this happened and then this happened, and then out of nowhere disaster struck but then something wonderful happened – or did it? Cue actual dot dot dots. That is one way not to write a blurb. It’s not formulaic. It’s about the individual story and bringing it to life in a very short space during a very short time in which the potential reader is pondering to buy or not to buy.
I write blurbs for children’s books, so in a morning I can be thinking about pirates and monsters and unicorns and remembering what it was like to be 8, and in the afternoon trying to blurb a sweeping epic set in apocalyptic Britain in between re-reading The BFG. It’s never same old same old, that’s for sure. And that’s what I always try to remember about my blurbs. Keep them varied, keep them lively, keep them inviting. Keep the book in their hands in the shop and (hopefully) keep it in their hearts forever.
Creative Copywriter, Puffin