The Daily Journal, Sunday, April 28

In today’s Journal

▪ Topic: Back Cover Blurbs
▪ Daily diary
▪ Of Interest
▪ The numbers

Topic: Back Cover Blurbs

Over at PWW today, Karen posed an excellent question that keeps a lot of writers up at night:

How to create a back-cover blurb that will draw the reader’s interest yet will not “give away” too much (or any) of the book.

DWS has written extensively on this topic, though only a bit here and there. I don’t believe he’s ever done even a lecture on the topic, though if he did I would immediately recommend it.

Still, I’ve gleaned enough from his posts that eventually I learned how to write good back-cover blurbs.

There are only three real “tricks”:

1. Write the blurb in present tense.

2. Open with a great hook in as few words as possible.

3. Say just enough about the POV character (and the organization if there’s an organization involved) to entice the reader to buy the book.

All good fiction is character driven, so you have to make the reader care about the POV character.

Many beginning writers (and some not-beginning writers) tend to let themselves be drawn into listing a series of “this happened, then this happened” plot points. That is the major mistake that “gives away” too much of the book.

Here are a few examples of back-cover blurbs from my own books. Note the hooks, and note how I used paragraphing for emphasis:

From the magic-realism fantasy novel Keeper of the Promise

The prophets promised a king who would restore justice on Earth. But it’s a tall order, and prophecy can be interpreted in many ways.

When the 13th daughter of a 13th daughter meets the 13th son of a 13th son, she is ecstatic. Their union will break the curse that has plagued both their families for generations.

But over time the line blurs.

Is the child a cursed remnant of a prophecy gone awry? Or is he the fulfillment of that prophecy?

From the SF novel In The Siberian Fields

Could you mine the bones of your own ancestors? And if so, at what cost?

In the early 22nd century, the Earth is governed by the World Equality Organization (WEO). Like all corrupt governments, they plant imagined problems for the citizenry, then parlay the citizens’ fear into power.

The Jewish people, who for centuries have been considered “God’s Chosen,” are seen by the WEO as a barrier to that power. A purge ensues.

Jonathan Kirski, embittered by his parents’ decision to give him to a German family so he would escape the purge, has chosen to mine the bones of his people in the Siberian fields.

The bodies don’t decay. The faces are always there.

But Jonathan believes he is prepared.

Are you?

From the SF sequel, The Claim

Adolph Hitler, terrible as he was, was nothing but a pawn, one in a series of strings tugged by a puppeteer. Hitler was vanquished, but the entity that gave him rise never went away.

Two centuries and two decades after the rise of Hitler, the same entity is still pulling strings.

And he’s almost accomplished the goal of his father and grandfathers before him.

From another SF novel, The Advent of Simon Stark

The Solgren, intra-galactic colonists from another planet, have their eye, and their man, on Earth. It would make a perfect new home.

Simon Stark dons a brand new human suit, and it fits him better than he might ever have expected.

As the one great hope of the Selgron Council of Elders, will Stark accomplish what they put him on Earth to do, or will his humanity overtake him?

And if it does, what then? Destroy the planet and move on, or opt for Plan B?

From the crime/psychological suspense novel The Clearing

On one side, Randall B Cregg’s father has always hoped his son would feel a calling to take over the church someday.

The boy does feel a calling, but it is not the one his father hoped for. And Randall’s mother is a veritable fount of Christian charity, even in her traditionally submissive role in the family.

On the other side is Detective Sean McManus. He is a matter-of-fact gumshoe who just wants to work his cases and make ends meet. But moonlighting isn’t always what it’s cracked up to be. Especially when you cross wires with a man like Big Frankie Giuliatti.

Smack in the middle is the clearing. Beautiful. Remote. A perfect setting for magic and romance and the plucking of young, ripe, forbidden fruit.

And a perfect setting for a graveyard.

From book 1 of the Blackwell Ops series (so the organization is as important as the first POV character)

Blackwell Ops is a special, secretive organization. Its operatives conduct swift surgical strikes on persons and organizations around the world.

Former Marine Jack Tilden is one of those operatives. This is part of his story, as told to the author.

Only the more sensitive parts of Mr. Tilden’s story are fictionalized. Everything else is true.

And finally, the opening statement from each of the other Blackwell Ops books. The POV characters are

2, Charlie Task — Sometimes being who you are makes it easier to do what you have to do.

3, Marie Arceneaux — Dynamite comes in small packages. Marie Arceneaux is on of them. Don’t be on her list.

4, Melanie Sloan — Melanie Sloan is young, but accomplished. She is also a force to be reckoned with. Or one that will reckon with you.

5, Georgette Tilden — Georgette Tilden, wife of Blackwell Ops operative Jack Tilden and an operative in her own right, is a deadly combination of charm, looks, and skill. She will disarm, disable and drop you — and you won’t have a chance to blink.

In full disclosure, writing blurbs, like updating covers, can be an ongoing process. One wonderful aspect of this new world is that you can easily update the description (back-cover blurb) of your books.

As I read through many of the blurbs I’d written for my own novels, I found several I will recast to make them more attractive to readers.

Hope this helps.

I rolled out (at my kitten’s insistence) at 5 this morning.

I did attend one short online workshop yesterday before my allergies and a budding head cold drove me to the house to do nothing productive for the rest of the day.

Off and on, I watched TV (mostly ball games) and slept. Today I’m feeling better. I hope to create a cover, promo doc etc. for Blackwell Ops 6, though I probably won’t begin the read-through until tomorrow.

I won’t write any fiction today unless something just grabs me, and I might not write any for the next two or three days. Just have to see how it all pans out.

Talk with you again tomorrow.

Of Interest

See Karen Riggs’ “Pondering the Assassination of Genre” at

See “The Magic of Ed McBain’s 87th Precinct” at A lot of good tips here if you look for them.

See “Write Tight” at

And if you’re interested in more about writing back-cover blurbs (or descriptions), I recommend keying “how to write back cover blurbs in fiction” into your search engine and see what pops up. If for no other reason, than to get a variety of opinions.

Fiction Words: XXXX
Nonfiction Words: 1220 (Journal)
Total words for the day: 1220

Writing of (novel)

Day 1…… XXXX words. Total words to date…… XXXXX

Total fiction words for the month……… 43669
Total fiction words for the year………… 261470
Total nonfiction words for the month… 32830
Total nonfiction words for the year…… 109900
Total words for the year (fiction and this blog)…… 371370

Calendar Year 2019 Novels to Date…………………… 6
Calendar Year 2019 Novellas to Date……………… X
Calendar Year 2019 Short Stories to Date… X
Novels (since Oct 19, 2014)…………………………………… 43
Novellas (since Nov 1, 2015)………………………………… 7
Short stories (since Apr 15, 2014)………………… 193
Short story collections……………………………………………… 31

6 thoughts on “The Daily Journal, Sunday, April 28”

    • Thanks for the comment, Céline. Of course, you’re right. I’d forgotten about that one. Thanks for mentioning it.

  1. Hi, Harvey, The other good element to include with the blurb is questions. Questions raise a reader’s interest: “Will he find his way home?” or “Will the help of two enigmatic time travelers be enough?” And so on. And, as you point out, this is one always valid use of the present tense.

    • Exactly, Michaele. Great point. Not sure why I didn’t mention that, especially given that I made use of questions in the blurbs I posted as examples. (grin)

  2. Great post, Harvey as I am one who struggles with blurbs. I took Dean’s course and learned a lot, but I needed a WHOLE lot more feedback and practice. I understand the basics and I still write crappy blurbs. It’s a good thing it’s a learning PROCESS.

    • Thanks, Alison. I haven’t taken Dean’s workshop on it, but I study good blurbs (what make me want to read more) and compare them with what I know works.

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