Talking Story

So Jolly Fish Press asked me to write the blurb for One Boy, No Water. They gave me a week.

No problem, I thought. An hour, tops.

The days went by and I didn’t even think about it. No need to rush. I’ve got a week.

And suddenly, I didn’t. It was DUE. I sat down at the computer and cracked my fingers, holding them poised over the keys, waiting for inspiration to strike.

Nada.

I blinked. I wrote 50,000 words for book one, often writing 5,000 or more words in a day. It can’t be this hard to write a couple of summary paragraphs. Get a grip, I thought. It’s like cleaning the bathroom or doing the laundry. No matter how much you don’t want to do it, you just gotta. Rip the bandage already.

But that’s the crux of the problem, isn’t it? A blurb is not just a couple of paragraphs that summarize a book. It’s all about marketing, all about teasing, tantalizing, enticing someone who liked the cover enough to pick up the book (or to click on a link) to now open a wallet and spend hard-earned money to buy the book.

Now I’ve bought a lot of bad books based on fantastic blurbs, but I can’t remember buying a fantastic book with a bad blurb. Suddenly, the whole success of  my book, of my series, of my life as an author is coming down to a couple of paragraphs.

Ai ka pressah!

Before I completely psyched myself out and started avoiding writing by doing the unthinkable–housework–I looked up ‘how to write a blurb’ on the internet. Here’s what I gleaned.

  • The purpose of a blurb is to convince someone to buy the book. (Duh. If it were to convince someone eat chocolate, I wouldn’t be having a panic attack.)
  • Don’t fall back on overused phrases or get stuck on awesome adjectives.
  • The most frustrating blurbs are a simple selection of quotes from reviews. (No worries there.)
  • Blurbs are usually about 100 words.
  • Before writing a blurb, try to identify who the audience is, what the book is about, and what makes it special. (I’m beginning to think that not all how to blurb bloggers are geniuses at what they do. Maybe that’s why they have time to blog about blurb writing.)
  • Boil it all down to a clear message, but at the same time give enough detail to tantalize. (For example…?)
  • Start the copy in an arresting way that leaves the reader wanting more. (Ditto…?)
  • Write a lot then cut, cut, cut.
  • It’s a good idea to double-check that the names and plot-lines described in the blurb are actually in the book.

Given such cracker jack advice, which also included “try to at least skim the book,” I’m beginning to see why JFP asked me to write it. Besides being the cheapest option, at least they could be sure I actually knew the story and characters.

After pouring soda over ice and watching it fizz, then getting up to let the dogs out, I sat back down and stared at the monitor. This is Zader’s story, I thought. What does he want readers to know? Why should they listen to what he has to say? This is what he said.

Call me Zader. 11 years ago Uncle Kahana found me abandoned on a reef and gave me to the Westin family to raise. He says I can blame my allergies on the Hohonukai side of the family.

I can’t get wet.

I’m allergic to water, fresh or salt. One drop on my skin and it’s like a snake venom nuclear bomb. In an instant, my skin blisters and cracks until it finally turns gray and scaly and flakes off like a bad sunburn.

Don’t get me started on the other weirdness in my life, like the man with too many teeth, the trouble with ‘Ālika, or that my could-go-pro surfing brother Jay is afraid of sharks.

Sometimes life in paradise really sucks.

That’s it, at least until the editor’s red pen hits it.

 

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When you’re allergic to water,
growing up in Hawaii
isn’t always paradise.

With Niuhi sharks,
even out of the water,
you’re not safe.

Everything you thought you knew
about Zader is a  lie.