Blurb writing will get to the best of us. It’s difficult to separate yourself from the work and look at it as someone who’s never seen it before. Some say that’s almost impossible, and they are probably right. You know too much about the story, the characters, the ending, to write something that will effectively draw a new reader in without giving too much away.
It took me a long time to recognize this of myself, doing most of the work for the past ten books alone without much help, paid or otherwise. Because I’m starting this new pen name with the idea that I’m going to put all my knowledge I’ve learned in the past five years into practice, I’ve started doing things I’ve never done before, and that includes asking for feedback in the various Facebook groups I’ve joined. While I’ve gotten some really great advice I was able to use, there were some, I feel, who posted just to jab at me, listen to themselves talk, or, I don’t want to make assumptions, but really just wanted to say something nasty because they were probably jealous. You know the posters I’m talking about. They aren’t supportive because you’re doing something they want to do, and I’ve seen this behavior in more than just writing groups. You’re making progress, they aren’t, and it shows. But no matter what their reasons are for being nasty, it still hurts, and sometimes it gets to the point where you wish you never would have asked for feedback at all. The only thing is, being a writer/author isn’t a one-man ship, and you’ll sink if you try to do it all alone. Sinking will be different for everyone–no sales, burnout, a combination. We need help and finding your crew is easier said than done. It can take years to find a handful of friends you trust and who will always have your back, and bonus if they’re writing the genre you write in so you know their advice is solid.
Anyway, I posted the blurb to My Biggest Mistake, and while yes, there were some really great people who wanted to help, and did, there were a few nasty people, too, and here’s what I learned. I want to say, too, that I’ve been guilty of doing these things and being subjected to it will definitely shape how I help people in the future.
If you don’t have a real answer, then don’t answer. In one group, someone just threw up a “how to write a blurb link” and called it a day. While that might have been helpful, I wasn’t asking for resources, I was asking for help, advice, opinions. I didn’t expect anyone to rewrite my blurb (though there were a couple who did–more on that later) but throwing up a link to an article wasn’t helpful, and for the work he put into answering me, and the work I put into skimming by it, he could have just not posted at all.
If you have a criticism, offer a way to fix it. My blurb was too long, I knew that when I posted it, so when a couple people said, it’s too long, but didn’t offer a way to cut it down, that’s not helpful. I already knew it was, so if you’re going to say something obvious without offering a solution, you’re better off not saying anything at all.
If a romance writer is asking for help, be a romance writer if you want to answer. This goes for all genres. Sometimes writing is writing, so you can get away with helping someone that doesn’t write in your genre, but have something concrete to offer if you’re straying outside your lane. One woman was particular nasty, insulting my first person blurb saying it looked “homemade” and I need to do what others in my genre are doing because I need to fit in if I want readers. She obviously doesn’t read or write billionaire romance because almost 100% of the billionaire romances written in first person POV also have blurbs that are also written in first person. I told her this and thanked her for her input. She treated me like I was a first-time author who didn’t know what I was doing, and I really struggled with being the nice guy and not putting her in her place. If I had been just starting out and needed some true advice, she could have driven me to tears. Her comment was not helpful in the least and she could have kept her opinion to herself.
Be careful if you’re going to take the time to rewrite someone’s blurb. A couple of people in one group did this, and I really really appreciated the time they took to do that. Sometimes you can get a few great lines out of doing it their way. In the past I’ve rewritten blurbs (mostly chopping up what they already had and making it tighter) and I feel like they’ve always been positively received. But when you’re rewriting someone’s blurb, especially if the blurb is written in first person, that blurb is written in your voice, not theirs. One person rewrote my blurb and while her voice was strong, it sounded nothing like my characters. She gave me some ideas for what I could add to mine, but keep in mind doing this for someone may not reflect their voice so don’t be offended if they can’t/don’t use it, and when you’re on the receiving end of a rewritten blurb, be careful of taking it in its entirety. (Not to mention, you’re treading heavily on supposed copyright issues and some indie authors are really weird about that. You don’t want a cease and desist email hitting your inbox six months later because you used their blurb verbatim and it made them angry.) Your blurb needs to reflect you as the author and your characters as people your reader wants to get to know. The person who helped me made my characters sound young, and there definitely would have been a disconnect between the blurb and my book. I did grab some ideas though, and thanked her for her time.
Never offer unsolicited advice. This caught me a few weeks ago when I looked up someone’s blurb after she she sent me the cover to look at in a Twitter DM. I noticed her blurb was written in third person, but her book was written in first. I DM’d her back (I know–I deserved what I got) and said a lot of blurbs now are going the 1st person POV way if the book itself is in 1st person. I don’t want to say she went off on me, but she wasn’t pleased with the advice. I get it. She hates first person blurbs; she published her book the way she wanted it published, etc. I apologized for overstepping and I will never offer unsolicited advice again. It’s getting to the point where I rarely offer any advice at all (especially on that bird app). There are some people who are just so precious about their books that Stephen King could offer advice and they still wouldn’t take it.
In the end, I think I was able to rework the blurb so it sounds better, shorter, and there were a couple of things that confused the people who took the time to help me, and I was able to rewrite and clear those up. I think the blurb sounds good now, and if it doesn’t resonate, I can always change it on the book’s buy-page.
It would be nice if we didn’t need help; if we could do all this 100% on our own and come out with a successful product. Unfortunately, that’s not going to be the case with most books or authors and if you can find author friends who can help you in an honest and kind way, hold on to them. For some reason, I don’t have good luck posting things to FB for feedback. I might have cultivated an abrasive attitude over the years; stiff and know-it-all-y is the tone I present without meaning to. I’m trying to be better, and in the group where I received the most feedback, I’ve been posting with the intent of helping rather than getting back. Some people only post when they need something, and that’s fine if they can get the feedback they need without giving anything in return.
The fact is, I don’t want to do this alone, and my books are better for it if I don’t try. I hope when you post looking for feedback that you are able to find good people who are truly trying to help you and that you have the mental health needed to ignore the rest.
What are you tips and tricks for writing blurbs? Do you have a FB group you like, or do you tweet out for help on Twitter? Let me know!
Until next time!
I’ve quit Facebook because I didn’t really find it as helpful and user-friendly as I’d been finding WordPress, Instagram, and Twitter.
As for asking for feedback, I started doing that with my first blog; a few months later, on a writer-reader platform called Wattpad (there are others, as well). I used to post my stories on there with blurbs and get feedback (one or two readers, but getting them is actually great). It’s how I learnt the differences between good advice and bad advice.
When I have unsolicited advice to give someone, I ask the person first if they want to hear; if they say yes, then go ahead, if not, then I don’t.
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All good tips! And great point about good advice and bad advice. Just because people sound like they know what they’re talking about, that doesn’t always mean they do! Thanks for reading, Avalon!
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This is why I’m currently not in ANY groups. Even when you’re honest, open, and specific, the demons still show up.
I was asking for critiques on character sketches when out of the blue, this woman begins to address my PLOT! Grrrr! How are you addressing a story that hasn’t been written yet??? And that is not what I asked for!
I was nice as long as I could be, then left the group, unjoined, unsubscribed… and thought about defragging my laptop! 😀
I send my blurbs to a few author-friends I trust, and also take note of the blurbs of books that make me 1-click in a hurry! 😉
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I’m glad you had friends you could fall back on! It’s probably why I struggle–because I’m not that great at the networking, especially with those who write in my genre. I’m trying to get better, just because it’s so valuable to know people in your genre. It’s something you don’t realize just starting out. Relationships take time to nurture and I don’t want to come across as needy or out to use people.
Thanks for reading, Ms. Felicia! I hope you’re doing well! 🙂
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