Blurb Agony

Have I complained lately about the difficulty of writing a blurb? (Blurb = the tantalizing summary listed on the back of a book.) A blurb and a query letter are practically the same thing (because what works for one usually works for the other one; either way, you’re selling your book to someone), and I’ve done 4 query letters over the past 2 years–plus the current blurb.

Just when I think I’ve grasped it, I look at it and realize that I don’t have it after all. It’s like trying to find the end of a rainbow. Or, like Bigfoot, it is no more than a fleeting glimpse of a large object seen from the corner of the eye.

Here is my blurb as it stands now. As discussed previously, I’m comfortable with it being four paragraphs, because I have a lot of real estate to cover on the back of my book. (Although, don’t worry: I will have a snippet from the book on the back too.)

The Yaechahre are a group of humans who give their blood and their obedience to vampires in exchange for safety and security. And for more than two thousand years, it’s been a peaceful occupation.

When Kalyn Reid comes of age and joins the ranks of the Yaechahre, she has no reason to think that things will be any different for her. In fact, her small group in rural Tennessee is unusually close—much more like an extended family than servants and masters.

But there are rumors of a strange new type of vampire: vampires who can’t tolerate the sunlight; vampires who are killing humans—and each other. When one of them defects to Kalyn’s group, he brings news that the Others are preparing for something… but he doesn’t know what.

Their plan is executed without warning, as people in Kalyn’s group are suddenly kidnapped and murdered. When Kalyn ends up orphaned, she turns to her vampire family to protect her from the Others hunting them down. But in the end, it is they who must rely on her if any of them are to survive.

I’m relatively happy with the first paragraph. The second sentence in the second paragraph is eh, okay. I’m pretty okay with the third paragraph. But I hate everything in the fourth paragraph but the last line.

I kind of look at it this way: general premise of the book, introduction of main character and establishment of calm, peaceful existence, followed by a build up of tension, and concluded with drama and suspense of an unbelievable nature. It’s the last bit I’m not feeling. I just don’t think that last paragraph conveys enough shock, horror, and fear.

I mean, Kalyn’s parents and the leader of her group (who is like a second father to her) all die within one week, and Ciaran, the defector from the Others, is kidnapped. Kalyn, Anselm, and Micah have to go on the run, lest they become the next victims. And just when they think they’ve turned the tide, and they’ve laid an ambush for the murderer, he instead ambushes them. Kidnapped and tortured, Kalyn has to offer herself up as a sacrifice to keep von Gault busy until Anselm and Micah can arrive and rescue them.

I just have to condense that into two or three sentences and use few, if any, names other than Kalyn’s (too many names in a small space confuses people–although Anselm and Micah are secondary only to Kalyn in terms of importance).

All suggestions for revisions considered.

9 comments on “Blurb Agony

  1. Wallace says:

    You could always go with the obvious and less subtle Southern approach:

    “Hey y’all! I wrote a bitchin’ story about vampires who don’t glitter. Buy it, you’ll like it, I guaran-damn-tee it!”.

    Or the more literary approach with a throw back to Rod Serling:

    “Picture, if you will, a small town in Tennessee. It may seem ordinary, but look closer. Revealed before you is a miasma of vampires and humans and death, roiling together in a fine boulibase of betrayal and blood. Held together only by the intransigent will of a child, but a child like no other. She alone holds the key to salvation, or perdition…”

    Or perhaps the overly excited spiel of the Movie Phone guy:

    “In a world of vampires and lust, set in a sleepy small Southern town, comes… Acceptance. The story of a wayward lost teen and her hunger for the love of her vampire mentor. See her fight her inner urges as she struggles to keep her sanity and her clothing intact as she is forced to submit to the will of one lusty vampire after another, all the while hoping for his love and…. Acceptance!”

    Or maybe you could just keep the blurb you’ve got. In comparison it’s not half bad.

    • Keri Peardon says:

      ROFL. I’m digging your Rod Serling-esque creation. Maybe I should make that a “review” on the back cover, so I look (and sound) important.


      • Wallace says:

        Have at it! I seldom get a chance to roll out my vocabulary, and those 50 cent words do sound impressive when read with Serling’s voice.

  2. It’s interesting how you felt about the blurb, because the first para held my attention completely, then I drifted as I read the second. I had to focus to pull my attention back in for the final half. Though I don’t know why you hate the last para? I’m a good test case today because I am sneaking internet time when I am really getting ready to go to my niece’s wedding!!

    My initial thoughts are to cut the second para entirely because it doesn’t really add. If you like, I will have a proper look tomorrow – when I have a quiet Sunday after the wedding festivities today.

    BTW I love the sound of the story itself – I’ve read a lot of vampire stories but not one like yours.

    Have a good day. Amanda

  3. Jim Maher says:

    Let me think about it…I know what you mean, though. I am not the biggest fan of writing blurbs or synopses. Yours is almost there. I’ll think about it.

  4. This reads great as a query letter but, for me, less is more on a blurb. I want to know the genre (vampires), the key character (Kalyn) and any potential romance or other hook (I would probably assume the romance was with the defector, so that would be a nice twist if it turned out to be someone else). If there is any chance that the blurb will give away someof the plot (like Kalyn’s parents being killed) I would stop reading the blurb and possibly even the book (I hate spoilers!)

    From what you have written I would say that you only need the first paragraph and the last line, more or less. That would hook me in but still allow me to discover who the Others are etc. Something like –

    “The Yaechahre are humans who give their blood and their obedience to vampires in exchange for safety and security; an arrangement that has worked for more than two thousand years, .

    When Kalyn Reid comes of age and joins the Yaechahre, she has no reason to think things will be any different. That is before the arrival of the Others.

    Kalyn turns to her vampire family to protect her from the Others, but in the end, it is her vampire masters who must rely on her if any of them are to survive.”

    • Well, I like Writer/Mummy’s version – Wallace’s is very funny but perhaps not what you are looking for!!

      I’d like to know about any romance, as well. Also the age of Kalyn, and the period – it’s not clear from your blurb if it takes place in the present day? Another point: I have difficulty with a key name in a novel that is hard to read and that I don’t know how to pronounce. Do you give guidance in the book on how to pronounce Yaechahre? It might put some people off in a blurb to have such a hard and obscure name??

      Anyway, here’s my take on the blurb:

      “The Yaechahre are humans who give their blood and their obedience to vampires in exchange for safety and security. In sleepy rural Tennessee vampires and human Yaechahre have lived almost as family for more than two thousand years.

      When teenager Kalyn Reid comes of age and joins the Yaechahre, she has no reason to think things will be any different – until the arrival of the Others, a violent new group of vampires who kill humans, and each other. When one of the Others defects to join Kalyn’s group, he brings disturbing news that threatens the survival of the peaceful vampires and their Yaechahre servants. He also (sentence here re love interest?)

      Kalyn turns to her vampire family to protect her from the Others, but in the end, it is her vampire masters who must look to her leadership if any of them are to survive.”

      • I like this version amandajanedouglas, and I also agree about name pronunciation, although as long as there is a nice glossary with pronunciation I can live with it (I generally ‘recognise’ a set of letters and leave it as that! That’s why I rarely read science fiction or fantasy any more – too lazy! Wore myself out reading Lord of the Rings as a teenager!)

  5. Keri Peardon says:

    Yes, there is a glossary at the back that tells you how to pronounce everything (and what it means). The short version is that all solitary vowels are long, the two short vowels are “ah” and “eh,” and all consonants are pronounced as in English. So Yaechahre is Yay-ee-char-ee.

    So, it seems that a lot of people (namely women!) want to know if there’s a romantic angle. Yes, there is. Anselm and Kalyn’s relationship is pretty big part of the trilogy, but, in the end, it’s not so much about them getting together as it is about the triumph of good versus evil.

    Below is what I originally had as my blurb, but then I started second-guessing it. One, I didn’t want it to come off as a YA book, because there’s too much violence (and later, sex) for the YA market. And secondly, I didn’t want it to come off as a romance book, because it’s not a romance book in the traditional sense; it’s a fantasy novel with a romantic subplot. My husband doesn’t read romance or YA, but he very much enjoyed it, so I was trying to go for a blurb that was a bit more general and might appeal to a wider audience. But in being general and trying not to say too much, it may be so boring it doesn’t work for anyone.

    ***Kalyn Reid is a different kind of debutante. On her sixteenth birthday she is publicly presented to her family, friends and neighbors as an adult and is given a pearl necklace to mark the occasion. Then she is bitten by a vampire.

    Thus Kalyn enters adulthood as a Yaechahre—a group of humans who have served vampires for over 2,500 years.

    In the days following her Acceptance, Kalyn thinks her only problem in life is how to maintain her dignity around her vampire mentor, Anselm. She has a desperate crush on him, which often leaves her bumbling like a fool. He sweetly smoothes over the awkward moments, but makes it clear that things are “just business” between them.

    But in the blink of an eye, Kalyn’s entire world is engulfed in flames as her father, mother, and group leader die in rapid succession—murdered by a strange new breed of vampire. She, Anselm, and his brother, Micah, suddenly become involved in a dangerous game of cat-and-mouse as they try to find the murderer before he finds them.

    Thrown together in a desperate struggle for survival, Anselm’s resolve to keep business separate from pleasure begins to crumble, and Kalyn finds herself closer than ever to realizing her dreams. But as she watches him execute their enemies with medieval ruthlessness, she finds herself wondering, “Do I really want him?”***

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