What is a Blurb?
According to the Maquarie Dictionary a blurb is ‘an announcement of advertisement, usually an effusively laudatory one, especially on the jacket flap or back of a book’.
For authors, the back cover blurb is an essential marketing tool for their book. It tells potential readers a little bit about the book’s contents without giving too much away. It explains why someone should buy and read a book, and shares snippets of information about the author.
Features of a Blurb
Blurbs are usually found on the back cover of a printed book. An ebook blurb is more likely to be at the front. Ebook store websites often use a shortened version of a printed book’s blurb to describe what the book is about to assist people browsing their pages. Readers visiting a book store (either ‘bricks and mortar’ or virtual) will first be attracted by a book’s cover, then head straight to the blurb. A well-written blurb helps to converts potential readers into paying customers.
Blurbs should be brief and punchy; around 100–150 words is ideal. An attention-grabbing headline or tagline is a good tactic to use at the start of the blurb. The tone should be upbeat with a catchy opening sentence that taps into a reader’s emotions. Often the first sentence is a question which is designed to set up a query in a reader’s mind. The genre, main theme and protagonist should be mentioned early, then some mystery should be created around the main conflict. Finally, it’s a good idea to include in a few details about the author that gives them credibility as an authority in their subject field or as a capable writer. This could include the fact that they are already a published author.
Advantages of a Professionally Written Blurb
By the time an author is ready to write the blurb for their book, they have become so involved in the story that they may find it difficult to distance themselves from it. This is where an external viewpoint from someone else who has read the manuscript is useful. And a professional copy writer will know just what to say and how to say it to entice readers to buy the book.
An engaging blurb that is engaging and cleverly written conveys the message to the buyer that they are purchasing a good quality book. Employing a professional to write your blurb is a wise investment and one of the key factors in ensuring the success of your book.
Many people think writing children’s books must be easy. After all, they are shorter than adult’s books and most have pictures that use a lot of space. The truth is, writing a story with fewer words is much more difficult than writing a lengthier story and there are many elements to consider when writing children’s books. It is a good idea to keep these tips in mind if your goal is to write for children.
Types of Children’s Books
Children’s books fall into several sub-categories:
Toddler Books (ages 1–3)
Books for toddlers are usually 12 pages long, under 300 words, and contain very simple content. They should be about everyday life that very small children will recognise or provide information about colours, the alphabet, numbers, shapes, etc. Often printed in a board book format, they might contain features that allow readers to interact, such as lift-the-flaps or buttons that can be pressed to hear sounds.
Early Picture Books and Picture Story Books (ages 4–8)
The picture book category can be divided into two – early picture books (for younger readers in this age range) and picture story books for older children. The average early picture book contains fewer than 1,000 words while picture story books are usually 32 pages in length with 1,000–1,500 words.
Picture books rely heavily on the words and pictures working together to tell a story. The text should be minimal and whatever is left out of the text should be obvious from the illustrations. Picture books need to include multiple scenes or locations so that there is plenty of variety in the images. The pictures help children who can’t read yet to understand the narrative; therefore they should incorporate bright colours and simple sans serif fonts in order to be appealing to small children. For children who are beginning to recognise written words, the pictures work as an aid to their learning. These type of stories are basic, written in chronological order and from the main character’s point of view. Using third-person (he/she/they) narration is the best choice for small children who might otherwise become confused when being read to by an adult. Younger children respond well to poetic techniques such as alliteration, rhyme and repetition.
Easy Readers (ages 6–8)
Aimed at children who are starting to read on their own, the length of this type of books varies. However, on average, it is somewhere between 1,000 and 2,500 words. They are highly illustrated but have a more grown-up format, often with short chapters. The story works without pictures but the pictures help early readers to feel less daunted than being confronted by pages of text.
The grammar used in easy readers is simple, with short sentences, short paragraphs and age-appropriate language. A few words above the reading ability of this age group are often included to challenge the reader. Right from the opening scene, the narrative is fast paced with the story being told through action rather than commentary and dialogue rather than indirect speech.
Chapter Books (ages 7–10)
Chapter books are longer and have a more sophisticated style than books for younger children. Chapters are still short but sentences are more complex and if there are any illustrations, they are usually black and white line drawings. Plots are more developed involving multiple conflicts for the main character to overcome. Characters should be of a similar age or a little older than the upper age limit of these readers.
Middle Grade (ages 8–12)
These books are longer again, with longer chapters, more sophisticated themes and complex plots and subplots involving more characters. This is the age where children become obsessed with characters so books for middle grade readers are often written as a series. The pace is still fast but may be interspersed with more interior monologue, encouraging readers to think for themselves. First person point of view is popular with this age group as it allows more intimacy with the main character and readers feel more involved in the action as it unfolds.
As a self-publishing author, it can be challenging to make a decision about the best printing options for your book. Once your manuscript has been edited and typeset, and the front and back covers have been designed, your book is ready to be printed. At this point, however, there are all sorts of different choices you need to make ranging from: what book printing process to use, book trim sizes, hardback or paperback format, full-colour or black and white interior pages, book cover finishing treatments and binding styles.
The first consideration is to select the best book printing process for your own publishing objectives in terms of price and print quality. And, as with everything in life, there are always associated costs to consider and practical decisions that have to be made.
Types of Book Printing Processes
There are three main types of book printing formats: Print On Demand printing, Short run digital printing and Offset printing.
Print On Demand
Print on demand (also referred to as POD printing) is a digital printing process that produces books on an ‘as needed’ basis – even for a single printed book. When a customer orders a book title, the copy is printed on demand, bound, laminated, and then shipped directly to them. In this way, Print on Demand is a process which makes it possible to publish books only as they are needed in response to a customer’s order. As a result, Print On Demand offers authors the freedom to publish their book without having to store any inventory (i.e. printed copies of their book) and thus removes the costs associated with storage and handling.
Short Run Digital Printing
Short run digital printing is a cost-effective method for self-publishing authors to order smaller print runs than would normally be possible via traditional offset printing.
Unlike offset printing, digital printing does not have the upfront expenses associated with the creation of printing plates or time-consuming set-up processes. This ensures that the unit cost of each book is relatively low and hence an affordable option for printing less than 1,000 copies.
Offset printing is a printing process which involves using a sequence of rollers (also called cylinders or drums) to deliver ink to the paper surface. Offset printing is cost effective for large print runs (over 1,000 printed copies) and produces very high-quality printed books. Offset printing is effective for any book size, paper type and cover style (i.e. paperback or hardback).
As a self-publishing author it is quite likely that you’ve considered publishing your book as an ebook. Ebooks offer a very low-cost way to publish a book, whether you do it yourself or use a paid/royalty-based ebook conversion service. Self-publishing (whether ebooks, print books or both) is becoming increasingly popular as it means that you can earn higher royalty rates, get your book into more online book stores and, of course, gives you full control over the pricing and other aspects of the publishing process.
Advantages of Ebooks over Printed Books
- Ebooks are convenient and practical. You can take your bookshelves with you wherever you go. This is particularly advantageous when you are travelling and may have luggage and weight restrictions.
- You can access ebooks at the touch of a button. Within seconds, you can buy an ebook and download it to a variety of devices, including a tablet or smartphone, a laptop or notebook or a specialised e-reader. You don’t have to visit a book store or wait days or even weeks for your purchased book to arrive in the mail.
- Ebooks are a cheaper option than printed books. There is no need to store piles of books or pay for packaging and delivery. When books cost less, people tend to buy more.
- Producing an ebook is kinder to the environment than producing a traditional book as no paper is required.
- Because of their search function, it is easy to find relevant information in an ebook than a printed book. Just like a search engine, typing in a few words will allow you to find a particular section of a book easily and quickly.
- Ebooks offer a value-added reading experience as they can incorporate a variety of media such as videos, graphics, audio and animation, to help authors convey their message.
- Ebooks can be sold and distributed efficiently via online book stores, which means they are available to readers from all over the world. In addition, ebooks are now available from most public libraries.
Different Types of Ebook Formats
Reflowable ebooks have no fixed pages. Text and graphics reflow to fill the reader’s screen depending on whatever font and type size the reader has selected.
If your book has a simple design that’s mainly text (or it has small images that are embedded between paragraphs), a reflowable ebook format is a good choice because it is versatile and can be viewed on the majority of tablets, smartphones and and e-readers.
Genres that are usually created in reflowable ebook formats include:
- short stories
- biographies and memoirs
- non-fiction books with simple page formatting and few graphic elements.
Fixed layout ebooks
A fixed-layout (or fixed-format) ebook has defined pages like a print book or PDF. The elements on the page are formatted and laid out in the same way as for print books or PDFs.
Fixed layout ebooks are visually striking and suit non-fiction books with illustrations or design-heavy page layouts such as children’s books. Fixed layout ebooks can be viewed on all screens except eInk Kindles (original, PaperWhite, Voyage). Consider using a fixed layout ebook format if the text in your book needs to wrap around images; graphics, illustrations or other images need to stay in a specific position within the text; or you would like to set a background colour for your book or create multi-column text pages (like a magazine layout style).
Genres that are best suited to fixed ebook format conversion include:
- illustrated children’s books
- travel guides
- photography books
- health and fitness books
- art books
- comic books
- some types of textbooks and business books.