Good Blurbs—The Ultimate Guide to High-Stakes Storytelling

Published 12 Apr 2024
by Anca Antoci

What is the blurb?

The blurb is the description on the back cover of a book. If the cover is supposed to grab your attention, the blurb’s job is to make you want to read the book. It seems simple, doesn’t it? What makes writing so difficult, then? The reason is simple: if you don’t capture the reader’s attention, they will just keep scrolling. So, no pressure!

Although I have seven published books under my belt, I still dread writing the blurb. It’s like I don’t know how much to say without giving too much away. So I do what I always do when I get stuck: I research successful stories.

What I mean by that is that I go to Amazon and search for the best-selling books in my category. Why? A blurb’s main goal is to persuade readers to keep reading and, ultimately, purchase the book. My aim was to figure out what all those book blurbs had in common. So I read probably fifty blurbs or more and here’s what I learned.

In a nutshell, it’s all about the stakes. No stakes, no interest. High stakes, high interest, and hopefully high sales. No, not everything is about the money, but if you can’t pay the bills, you can’t afford to write. And you want to keep writing, right?

Think about it like a movie trailer

If you are a visual person, as most artists are, it might help to envision the blurb of your book like the trailer of a movie. If you think about it, they both serve the same purpose: to convince the audience they need to see/read the story. Would you want to see the movie if the trailer was boring? Good trailers aren’t about special effects, they’re about high stakes. Why? Because humans react to emotions and you want the audience to get invested in the story and rut for the character.

What else stands out about movie trailers? They’re short and leave you wanting more. Aim the same with your blurb. Make it short and pack a punch. If you make it too long, and give too many details, you risk your audience losing interest.

Perhaps you don’t enjoy hearing it, but people have short attention spans. I wish I could say it only affects younger generations, but I’m in my 40s and if I see a long blurb and I’m not hooked from the first one or two lines, I’ll keep scrolling. Wandering why that’s happening? I assume it is the variety of choices. If I could only pick from ten or twenty books, I would patiently read every single line of the blurb of each book, to make sure I pick the one best suited to my tastes.

But with millions of books available, it feels like there’s infinite choice, so why not keep scrolling until something grabs you? Just so we’re clear, I’m not debating whether this is a good habit or the right thing to do. I’m telling you this is happening and if you want to sell your book, you’d better hook the reader a.s.a.p.

Now that you understand why a well-written blurb matters, let’s talk about those stakes. If you’re like me, you don’t want some vague advice about adding high stakes to your blurb. You want actionable tips on how to write a blurb, right?

By examining the best-selling books on Amazon, I reduced the common denominator to answering these five questions:

  • Who is your main character?
  • What do they want?
  • What are they willing to do to get it?
  • What stands in their way?
  • What happens if they fail?

Answering these questions truthfully will make the blurb practically write itself. Why did I mention truthfully? That’s a great question. As a book blogger, I’ve learned that a promising blurb doesn’t always guarantee a great story. It’s important to deliver on the promise of the blurb to avoid disappointing readers. Otherwise, you’ll hear about it in the reviews.

This is a bit off topic because it’s not strictly about the blurb, but I promise it’s relevant to the story. Last year there was some TikTok drama over a book that failed to deliver. The problem wasn’t the blurb. There were many reported issues with “Lightlark” and one of them was that the author promised tropes and quotes did not appear in the book at all. Now, I don’t want to start a debate over “Lightlark”, but I would like to point out that if you as an author promise the reader something (in the blurb, on TikTok or any other medium) and fail to deliver, the readers will raise hell. In this case they bombed the book with one star reviews. Don’t make this mistake!

Here’s how answering these five crucial questions will make your book blurb amazing, akin to a movie trailer.

Who’s your main character?

Your main character is the hero of the tale, the embodiment of the journey readers are about to embark upon. It’s a no brainer that you need to introduce them to the reader. Think of the main character as the linchpin. But don’t go overboard with too many details (keep those for the actual story). Their essence needs to be distilled into a few powerful lines, reflecting their personality, struggles, and aspirations. Readers want to connect with characters, to feel their joys and fears. A well-crafted blurb introduces your main character in a way that compels readers to say, “I want to follow this person’s journey.”

What do they want?

Desires fuel stories. Your main character needs a clear and captivating goal, something that stirs emotions and curiosity in the readers. Whether it’s love, revenge, redemption, or survival, the blurb must hint at this desire. Readers should feel the urgency and passion behind what the character is seeking. You need to write them in a way that triggers a reader’s empathetic response, making them say, “I need to know if they achieve this.”

What are they willing to do to get it?

Getting what you want in life is a struggle. Of course, there needs to be a challenge or a sacrifice. It’s good for the character’s arc to have them make a choice (at least once) and it can’t be an easy or obvious one. Readers want to know what lengths the main character is willing to go to realize their goals. Will they risk everything they have? The blurb should tease these sacrifices, portraying the character’s determination and conviction. This creates intrigue and leaves readers eager to uncover the lengths to which the character will go.

What stands in their way?

Conflict is the pulse of any story. It’s the obstacles, adversaries, and dilemmas that stand between the main character and their goal. The blurb should subtly introduce these roadblocks, painting a picture of the trials and tribulations the character will face. Readers need to anticipate the struggle, feeling the rising tension that promises an engaging read.

What happens if they fail?

Consequences add depth to a story. The higher the stakes, the higher the engagement, right? If there’s no risk for the protagonist, there’s no emotion for the reader. There’s nothing worse than a bored reader. Readers want to sense what’s at stake, the price of failure. The blurb should hint at the potential fallout if the character doesn’t achieve their goal. It could be personal loss, endangering others, or a catastrophe on a grander scale. This element of the blurb should leave readers with a lingering question: “What happens if they don’t succeed?”


You wrote an amazing book and now you’re struggling to write the blurb? Join the club! It’s not easy, but I hope my tips help stir you in the right direction. So, think of your blurb like a movie trailer. Create a snippet that mirrors the heart of your story—clear, concise, and emotionally evocative. If you answer these five key questions about your main character and their journey, you’ll make your blurb so exciting that readers will want to jump right into your adventure.

Remember, the blurb is a promise to your readers, and delivering on that promise will not only satisfy them but also build trust, ensuring a rewarding reading experience and positive reviews. Be true to your story and your blurb will hook the right readers.


  • A blurb is a crucial book element enticing readers to delve into the story.
  • Craft it like a movie trailer, aiming to captivate and compel the audience.
  • High stakes are pivotal — make the readers emotionally invested in the character’s journey.
  • Keep it short and impactful; a lengthy blurb risks losing reader interest.
  • Answer five essential questions to compose an engaging blurb:
  • Who is your main character?
  • What do they want?
  • What are they willing to do to get it?
  • What stands in their way?
  • What happens if they fail?
  • A blurb is a promise; deliver on it to build trust and ensure a rewarding reading experience.