100 agonizing words

I recently spent five excruciating hours at my keyboard and have less than 100 words to show for it.

Granted, they are some of the most important words for my next novel—second only to the title, I’d argue—but the fact that so much time yielded so little leads to believe that blurbs are the blight of the publishing world.

OK, I may have griped about the challenges of various writing exercises over the years:

Today, however, I’m prepared to go on record as saying all else pales in comparison to penning the dreaded book blurb.

Not to be confused with a full-fledged synopsis (the bare-bones summery generally reserved for agent and publisher queries), a blurb is a relatively small chunk of text tasked with huge responsibility: selling the idea of the book to readers.

Blurbs are often found on the back cover as well as the product description page of an online retailer. Working in conjunction with an engaging cover art and a snappy title, the successful blurb hooks the shopper, converting a prospect into a customer.

Long blurbs run the risk of revealing too much. (Technically, revealing the protagonist, antagonist, and main problem should suffice.) Conversely, if the blurb is too concise or vague, an amazing plot could come off as uninspired.

It’s a balancing act even tightrope walkers fear.

Cropped out book blurb from the back cover of If Souls Can Sleep

Here’s the book blurb from If Souls Can Sleep.


For my last book, If Souls Can Sleep, I limited the blurb to five sentences: two for an enticing headline, one to tease the protagonist and plot, and two to introduce the world of dream drifters. Because that blurb received praise from reviewers, I took a similar approach to Book Two of The Soul Sleep Cycle.

Without further preamble, here is the still-in-progress blurb for If Sin Dwells Deep:


She swore to defend the dreamscape.
But who will save her from herself?

When her mentor goes missing, straight-laced Allison must rely on her alter-ego, the rebellious goddess Syn, to rescue him. Trusting anyone at Project Valhalla could cost her her life, but fighting alone might damn her very soul.



If Sin Dwells Deep — a parallel novel to If Souls Can Sleep — exposes the secret world of dream drifters and the classified government operation charged with protecting the collective unconscious from those who would use their abilities to corrupt life, death, and what lies beyond.


Given how important these 100 words are, I welcome/encourage/demand feedback. Would that blurb motivate you to flip open the cover or, better yet, add to cart? If not, why?

Thanks in advance for your comments!



Filed under Writing

11 responses to “100 agonizing words

  1. Loved the blurb for If Souls Can Sleep! For Sin, the phrase “the collective unconscious” threw me off and I had to read that whole paragraph again to really get it. It’s just really long — maybe split the last part into two sentences to break it up a bit?

    Good luck!!

  2. I actually thought the bottom blurb was pretty much perfect, “collective unconscious” included.

    The top chunk I was less sure about. The “who will save her from herself” is cliche enough that it might turn me off, though I don’t know what to replace it with (how helpful of me, right? 😉 )

    For the text below it, one small tweak I’d suggest – “…straight-laced Allison must rely on Syn, her rebellious alter-ego, to rescue him.”

    I just like more closely juxtoposing “straight-laced” with “Syn”, even if there isn’t a good way to also include that Syn is a goddess.

    Dang, man. I don’t envy you this task. I love the second book, though, and I feel like you’re close here.

    • Thanks, Dave! I originally had “But who will rescue her?” which, I fear, makes her sound too much like a damsel in distress…and is also cliche.

      A little more tinkering and I can put the blurb to bed (hopefully fewer than five more hours)!

  3. Brooke

    You are remarkably talented David! Word choice is great – just that last section I had to re-read. Exposes who..in charge of what..from who…that do what…it lays it all out there but almost too much to take in.

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