A Picture With Fewer Than One Thousand Words

Your blurb paints a picture in the reader’s mind.

To play off a famous phrase: fewer than a thousand words to paint a picture.

Or: a picture from two-hundred words.

This is why advice on blurbing will generally advise you to use strong nouns and vivid verbs and put some passion into it. Paint the picture of the book with those words.

Here’s the back cover copy with both kinds of blurbing– the description blurb and the recommendation blurb–for a novel that ranked #5 overall in fiction bestsellers of 2015 according to PW.

Does it put a picture in your mind?

THE MARTIAN back cover copy


Did you notice it actually has TWO description blurbs?

Yes, it has the abbreviated one made up of three sentence fragments in eye-catching Mars red text larger than the type that follows.  That is actually a very brief blurb. The sort you can use in promo materials that don’t use much text.


The micro blurb. 😀

It tells you the who, the where, the what happened, and the stakes. It tells you the genre. It even hints at the emphasis on the single character. A reader who enjoys science fiction, alien world, survival tales will definitely read further.

The second blurb, the longer one, gives us details of who “one man” is and how he found himself in that life/death struggle. But that first one is the hook. It takes maybe two seconds to read and tell a browser what they need to know to flip to chapter one or go to the register and buy. Or to move on to the next book.

A whole lot of folks bought THE MARTIAN.

The sentence fragment format also feels more like “action.” It implies a story with “breathless” tension. Do you speak in complete, long sentences when you’re running out of air, sprinting to shelter, or scared out of your wits?

The longer blurb is enticing. We see how complicated the situation is–the gripping problem is compounded, the odds “impossible.” And we learn what makes him special–his profession (astronaut/engineer), his particular skill (resourcefulness) and personality trait (gallows humor).

The review blurbs from well-known periodicals carry authority and emphasize both that there’s lots of humor and that it’s super suspenseful.

Did that hook you?

Did you get a picture from those words?

I saw a space-suited man on red soil–dust storm in the distance– all alone but with dark sky above and determined eyes staring out of that helmet.

What did you see?

This is very well-crafted back cover copy with two descriptive blurbs–micro, standard–for multiple uses and two recommendation blurbs.

A winner we can learn from.
Want the book? Get it here: The Martian

Next time:

Diverging from the Standard Form