It’s ironic, after writing thousands of words to create your novel, that a 100-200 word blurb pitching your baby to potential readers could completely stump you. But that’s exactly how I felt after writing the first two books of The Conjurors Series. I had a ridiculous number of blurb drafts that all seemed cheesy and didn’t do my story justice. So now, as I’m planning to re-release the first book in my series and the second book shortly after, I decided to examine the blurbs of some of my favorite YA fantasy and sci-fi novels.
I was surprised at just how many blurbs for great books didn’t hook me. In a way it was a relief to know that even the pros struggle with describing their masterpieces succinctly. But I did find a number of blurbs that were incredibly compelling, and I analyzed what was working in these cases. Below are the tips that I’ve gleaned from awesome YA fantasy and sci-fi book blurbs.
Tip #1: Echo the tone of your book in your blurb so readers get a sense of how you write.
Example: Daughter of Smoke and Bone, Laini Taylor (Blurb: 170 words)
Around the world, black handprints are appearing on doorways, scorched there by winged strangers who have crept through a slit in the sky.
In a dark and dusty shop, a devil’s supply of human teeth grown dangerously low.
And in the tangled lanes of Prague, a young art student is about to be caught up in a brutal otherwordly war.
Meet Karou. She fills her sketchbooks with monsters that may or may not be real; she’s prone to disappearing on mysterious “errands”; she speaks many languages–not all of them human; and her bright blue hair actually grows out of her head that color. Who is she? That is the question that haunts her, and she’s about to find out.
When one of the strangers–beautiful, haunted Akiva–fixes his fire-colored eyes on her in an alley in Marrakesh, the result is blood and starlight, secrets unveiled, and a star-crossed love whose roots drink deep of a violent past. But will Karou live to regret learning the truth about herself?
Tip #2: Give readers an accurate sense of the plot of your story, especially if you have compelling but complicated setting or premise.
Example: Divergent, Veronica Roth (Blurb: 213 words)
In Beatrice Prior’s dystopian Chicago, society is divided into five factions, each dedicated to the cultivation of a particular virtue—Candor (the honest), Abnegation (the selfless), Dauntless (the brave), Amity (the peaceful), and Erudite (the intelligent). On an appointed day of every year, all sixteen-year-olds must select the faction to which they will devote the rest of their lives. For Beatrice, the decision is between staying with her family and being who she really is—she can’t have both. So she makes a choice that surprises everyone, including herself.
During the highly competitive initiation that follows, Beatrice renames herself Tris and struggles to determine who her friends really are—and where, exactly, a romance with a sometimes fascinating, sometimes infuriating boy fits into the life she’s chosen. But Tris also has a secret, one she’s kept hidden from everyone because she’s been warned it can mean death. And as she discovers a growing conflict that threatens to unravel her seemingly perfect society, she also learns that her secret might help her save those she loves . . . or it might destroy her.
Debut author Veronica Roth bursts onto the literary scene with the first book in the Divergent series—dystopian thrillers filled with electrifying decisions, heartbreaking betrayals, stunning consequences, and unexpected romance.
Tip #3: Consider writing your blurb in first person (if your story is in first person) so readers can relate to your protagonist.
Example: Delirium, Lauren Oliver (Blurb: 125 words)
Ninety-five days, and then I’ll be safe.
I wonder whether the procedure will hurt.
I want to get it over with.
It’s hard to be patient.
It’s hard not to be afraid while I’m still uncured, though so far the deliria hasn’t touched me yet.
Still, I worry.
They say that in the old days, love drove people to madness.
The deadliest of all deadly things: It kills you both when you have it and when you don’t.
Lauren Oliver astonished readers with her stunning debut, Before I Fall. In a starred review, Publishers Weekly called it “raw, emotional, and, at times, beautiful. An end as brave as it is heartbreaking.” Her much-awaited second novel fulfills her promise as an exceptionally talented and versatile writer.
Tip #4: Arouse readers’ curiosity with a compelling mystery.
Example: Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children, Ransom Riggs (Blurb: 155 words)
A mysterious island.
An abandoned orphanage.
A strange collection of very curious photographs.
It all waits to be discovered in Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children, an unforgettable novel that mixes fiction and photography in a thrilling reading experience. As our story opens, a horrific family tragedy sets sixteen-year-old Jacob journeying to a remote island off the coast of Wales, where he discovers the crumbling ruins of Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children. As Jacob explores its abandoned bedrooms and hallways, it becomes clear that the children were more than just peculiar. They may have been dangerous. They may have been quarantined on a deserted island for good reason. And somehow—impossible though it seems—they may still be alive. A spine-tingling fantasy illustrated with haunting vintage photography, Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children will delight adults, teens, and anyone who relishes an adventure in the shadows.
Tip #5: Draw readers into the romance in your story.
Example: Beautiful Creatures, Kami Garcia and Margaret Stohl (Blurb: 113 words)
Lena Duchannes is unlike anyone the small Southern town of Gatlin has ever seen, and she’s struggling to conceal her power, and a curse that has haunted her family for generations. But even within the overgrown gardens, murky swamps and crumbling graveyards of the forgotten South, a secret cannot stay hidden forever.
Ethan Wate, who has been counting the months until he can escape from Gatlin, is haunted by dreams of a beautiful girl he has never met. WhenLena moves into the town’s oldest and most infamous plantation, Ethan is inexplicably drawn to her and determined to uncover the connection between them.
In a town with no surprises, one secret could change everything.
Some race to win. Others race to survive.
Tip #6: Expose how high the stakes are for the protagonist.
Example: The Scorpio Races, Maggie Stiefvater (Blurb: 166 words)
It happens at the start of every November: the Scorpio Races. Riders attempt to keep hold of their water horses long enough to make it to the finish line.
Some riders live.
At age nineteen, Sean Kendrick is the returning champion. He is a young man of few words, and if he has any fears, he keeps them buried deep, where no one else can see them.
Puck Connolly is different. She never meant to ride in the Scorpio Races. But fate hasn’t given her much of a choice. So she enters the competition – the first girl ever to do so. She is in no way prepared for what is going to happen.
As she did in her bestselling Shiver trilogy, author Maggie Stiefvater takes us to the breaking point, where both love and life meet their greatest obstacles, and only the strong of heart can survive. The Scorpio Races is an unforgettable reading experience.
Before I embark on the final draft of my blurbs, are there any other great tips that helped you pitch your story to readers?