4 Formulas for Writing Taglines, Blurbs, and Teasers by Tess Rider
Take-aways from a workshop by Laurie Cooper & Marissa Caldwell, Pub-Craft.com, on how to write taglines, blurbs, teasers, and more, for the genre novelist, presented at the annual Romance Writers of America national conference 2018. A guest article by Tess Rider. Enjoy!
Love them or hate them, blurbs are a way of life for writers. We blurb our books or series, we even blurb our author brand. So why is writing a quick, bite-sized blurb so hard? After attending “Packaging and Promoting Your Book: How to Write Taglines, Blurbs, Teasers, and More,” presented by Laurie Cooper and Marissa Caldwell, I discovered one reason I struggled to create blurbs is because I didn’t have a working formula or set of formulas to use.
The gals from Pub-Craft.com described four simple formulas to aid in writing those dreaded blurbs. Excited to apply my new knowledge, I recently sat down to put those formulas into practice. Below are descriptions of the formulas and my illustrations of each formula.
Formula A consists of three sentences: Make a statement about the story; set up the predicament or challenges to be faced; end with the spin, intrigue, excitement, or a question.
Here’s a blurb for my urban fantasy romance Before My World Turned Blue: Desperate to be with the man she loves, a novice witch turns to forbidden magic. But all magic has its price, and soon she and her true love are locked in a deadly battle with supernatural forces. In the fight to save each other, will they both lose their souls?
Formula B follows a question and answer format: Ask a question; answer the question; prompt the reader to pick up your book.
Now, my example, from my urban fantasy romance, Bring Me to Ruin: What would you do to see your lost love again? For mystery writer Thea Maloney, the answer is easy. Travel to future, battle supernatural forces, and make deals with gods and devils. Find out if she succeeds in Bring Me to Ruin, an urban fantasy romance by Tess Rider.
A third formula – Formula C – goes like this: Introduce character #1. Introduce character #2. Introduce the contact and conflict.
My sample blurb using the same book from Formula B: Thea Maloney is a time-traveling detective on her first case. In the future world he commands, Gerard Wyatt is known only as the General. Can these two headstrong leaders work together or will their secrets plunge their fragile community into a war that humanity can’t survive?
Formula D is all about facts: Story fact #1 – setting, time, place; story fact #2 – theme or situation; a quick view into the hero/heroine’s life.
My blurb for my Haunted Hollow series goes like this: Time is broken. The Earth is in ruins. A ragtag group of humans and supernatural beings have one chance to reconstruct time and save the world, if they don’t destroy each other first. No pressure.
I brainstormed dozens of different versions until I found the combinations I liked best. Using the formulas removed a lot of guesswork, making it easier to focus on the most descriptive words and phrases.
When I found one liners or teasers I liked, I saved those for use in Twitter or Facebook promotional posts or cover blurbs. Laurie and Marissa recommend practicing the short blurbs out loud and memorizing them for use in elevator pitches.
With all four formulas, you can whittle down the language to come up with bite-sized versions or expand each line of a formula into a paragraph to develop longer blurbs.
For example, a micro-version of Formula D could be: Time is broken. The Earth is in ruins. A time-traveling mystery writer has one chance to reverse it all.
A condensed version using Formula A might be: At best, Thea Maloney is a distraction; at worst, a spy. The General knows that falling in love with her was never part of the plan.
Here’s an expanded blurb, using Formula C:
Mystery writer, Thea Maloney doesn’t hesitate when she’s offered the chance to meet the doppelgänger of the man she loved and lost in 1969, even though it means traveling to 2147 to solve her greatest whodunit yet: Who broke time?
Orphaned by the Great Ghost War, the General’s body is as scarred as his soul. Worse, his heart is encased in iron. As he fights to keep his fragile colony of human refugees from imploding, he searches for a way to realign time. Thea Maloney’s arrival is at best a distraction; at worst, she’s a spy. Falling in love was never part of the parameters – until the brave, warm-hearted time traveler proves her mettle and breaks through all his defenses.
Thrust into a war-torn world of deadly ghosts, frightening magic, and ruptured timelines, Thea must determine if her lost love’s doppelgänger is guilty of shattering time. Yet the more she gets to know him, the more she discovers a man tormented by the sacrifices he’s made to keep the last of humanity safe. This brilliant, courageous man just might be the love of her life.
But love is a luxury in a world where any day could be humanity’s last. The General will sacrifice anything, even his life, to protect his people. What surprises him most is Thea’s determination to save him, the colony, and time itself, even if she has to make dangerous deals with gods and devils to do it.
Laurie and Marissa offered these additional tips: When looking for keywords, follow authors similar to you and see what wording they use; do Google searches for your genre and see what pops up; search “top hashtags for [genre]” and make a list of the keywords that turn up. Trends are constantly shifting so check often.
For the hardcore trend trackers, you can use Google Trends, a tool to identify what’s trending in specific regions. I did a search for “paranormal romance” and discovered that, over the last twelve months, the topic peaked in popularity in June and December. States with the highest searches were Georgia and Tennessee. My search also revealed related queries that searchers had made.
With these simple tools and formulas, Laurie and Marissa took the fear out of blurbing and gave me a simple, consistent way to create compelling promotional copy.
If you decide to put some of these formulas to use, I’d love to hear about it. Please describe in the comments below.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Tess Rider writes romance at the crossroads of the paranormal, science fiction, and fantasy. An avid cat lover in search of her next cat, she lives with her wonderfully eccentric husband in an equally quirky Victorian in the San Francisco Bay Area. Tess is a huge fan of Buffy the Vampire Slayer and Doctor Who. She’s an accountant by day, a novelist by night, and an artist at heart 24/7. www.tessrider.com