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Wednesday, October 16, 2013

Writing Tip Wednesday--Blurbs and Taglines

Your book is written. You've gone through numerous rounds of self-editing and sent it off to your critique partner(s), editor(s) and/or beta reader(s). While the story is still fresh in your mind, you have the perfect opportunity to write Blurbs and Taglines. Whether you plan to self-publish or submit to an editor or agent, you'll need to create a teaser to help sell your book.

Blurb (sometimes called logline) - a short description used for promotional purposes, including on the cover of a book. It's designed to hook the reader's interest in 25 to 150 words. I've seen the blurb referred to as a "short synopsis," but that's a misnomer since a synopsis reveals the ending. Let's stick with blurb.

Tagline - a short phrase or sentence used to spark interest in a book--usually less than 10 words--and also used in promotion and on the book cover. It's often a clever play on words or familiar phrases. A tagline serves a similar purpose to the marketing tool called "branding."

Are blurbs and taglines reminiscent of the dreaded synopsis? They can be--if they don't come easy to you. As with most aspects of writing, the more you practice, the better your skills.

Here's the method I use, in addition to getting feedback from my critique partners--including Cheryl Brooks, who is The Blurb Queen:

Make a list of themes, settings, important issues, words related to the plot, etc. This should include the characters' professions if they play a role in the story. In the case of my new series, Love on the Menu, I'm adding lots of food- and cooking-related words that fit the book's theme. Use your synopsis or timeline to help pinpoint the most important points of the story.
Word list for my upcoming release, Love Served Hot - nutritionist/dietician, chef, Irish, food, cooking, retirement village, eccentric retirees, love, death, healing, family, friendship, trust, foodgasms, eating, community, heat, kitchen, spice, entree, culinary, recipe

Choose your poison. Do you write long? Focus on the 150-word blurb first and then pare down your word count to 50 and 25. If you tend to add layering to your writing after a first draft, start with the shorter blurbs and add descriptive details. Or begin with the tagline, the shortest of them all.

From my list of words for Love Served Hot, I've created a tagline that plays on the well-known saying, "The way to a man's heart is through his stomach." The roles are reversed in my story, so my tagline will be "The way to a woman's heart..." This should trigger the original saying in the reader's mind and imply that food plays an important part in the story, even if it's only at a subconscious level.

My 25-word blurb is bare bones and doesn't mention character names. Here's my rough draft:
"Running a retirement village is far more exciting when the new chef’s creations give the acting director foodgasms, but he’d rather serve them up himself."
It needs a bit more punch, though, so I've tweak it a few words at a time until I created something I think will make readers want to buy the book.
"The hot new Irish chef’s delectable creations may give the lovely acting retirement village director foodgasms, but he would much rather serve them up personally." or
"The hot new Irish chef's delectable creations may give the acting director of a retirement village foodgasms, but he would rather serve them up personally."
Which one do you prefer?

I repeat this process for 50-word blurb, using more information about the characters and the story. Here's the rough draft for the 50-word blurb:
"Not only has Lilith Montgomery hired a chef who gives her foodgasms, he’s tall, hot, and Irish. Keeping the heat in the kitchen is going to be a problem. Falling head over stockpot for his boss wasn’t in the plan, but Flynn Hastings experiments with a recipe for love anyway."
After a few tweaks, the final version looks like this:
"Lilith Montgomery has hired a hot Irish chef whose culinary creations give her foodgasms. Keeping the heat in the kitchen is going to be tough. Falling head over stockpot for his new boss wasn’t part of his plan, but Flynn Hastings finds himself experimenting with a new recipe for love."

For the 150-word blurb, which will be one of my selling tools at online book retailers, I add even more details. My rough draft is 157 words.
"As acting director of her uncle’s retirement village, Lilith Montgomery must hire a chef to run the new restaurant. When she’s left with no other choice, she offers the job to an Irishman whose culinary creations give her foodgasms. Her past experiences with relationships make her determined to resist her attraction to him, even if it means sneaking into the kitchen at night for a taste of his delectable entrées.
Flynn Hastings is finally getting his life back on track after a long year of anger and guilt over his sister’s death. He’s back home near his family and has found the perfect job—with one small problem. His boss makes him want to cook in more than the kitchen. Putting aside his hard and fast rule about mixing business with pleasure, he sets his sights on Lilith. With luck and a lot of patience, their budding friendship will become more than a flash in the pan."
With some tightening and tweaking, I'll bring the count down to 150 words and use more concise wording. Did you notice any repeat words, awkward wording, unnecessary words? How would you change it?

With feedback from The Blurb Queen, I have my final version. And it's exactly 150 words! "As acting director of her uncle’s retirement village, Lilith Montgomery must hire a chef for the new restaurant. She’s interviewed several candidates, but instantly decides on the sexy Irishman whose culinary creations give her foodgasms. Her rotten luck with relationships makes her determined to resist her attraction to him, even if it means sneaking into the kitchen at night for a taste of his delectable entrées.
Flynn Hastings is finally getting his life back on track after a year of anger and guilt over his sister’s death. He’s returned home to be near his family and has found the perfect job—with one small problem. His boss makes him want to cook in more than the kitchen. Putting aside his hard and fast rule about mixing business with pleasure, he sets his sights on Lilith, hoping their budding friendship turns out to be more than a flash in the pan."
Did you notice those stronger descriptions? That sense of urgency grabs the reader's interest, hopefully resulting in the sale of a book.

If you're promoting a romance involving food, be sure the blurb reflects that. A romantic suspense should have hints at the danger the characters face. Remember, your blurbs and tagline should draw interest from your target readers. Make each word count, because you only have a few seconds before they click "buy" or scroll to the next book!

Next week, we'll talk about Queries & Submissions!

Mellanie Szereto
Romance...With A Kick!

4 comments:

  1. Interestingly when I am writing a story I add layering to my first draft but when it comes to my blurbs and taglines I tend to pare down!! But good post.

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  2. Creating meta data for your work for some (like me) is trying. But Melanie has some great advice. I end up too wrapped up in the layers of my work (lost in the onion) that it helps to do this exercise even if to stay to my theme while I write.

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    1. And that meta data will help when I'm ready to click the publish button! Thanks for stopping by, SparrowB!

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