Kootenai River in NW Montana, near Canadian Border

Kootenai River in NW Montana, near Canadian Border
photo by Gene Tunick of Eureka, Montana

Sunday, February 5, 2012

Tip O'Day #284 - "Grab 'Em by the Collar"

Your genial host, novelist Dixon Rice, tries his hand at writing a blurb.

Joanna Penn recently blogged about what makes an effective book blurb in The Creative Penn. It needs to be brief, no more than 100-150 words. If space allows, you may want to make some about the author remarks, but be sure to include:

(1) A hint of the plot.
(2) Use of words that evoke images and resonate with readers of the genre.
(3) Main characters named and characterized.
(4) Idea of setting.
(5) A question or a hint of mystery that draws the reader in.
(6) Some hyperbole.
(7) Finally, quotes about the book or previous books by the author.

I like Joanna’s analysis. A blurb should be some of your best writing, not feeling like a book report. It should briefly convey a sense of the plot, setting, main characters and themes. A blurb needs to grab readers by the collar, getting them to look at the opening page (or click on the online sample pages) to see if the writing lives up to the hype. Following is my 150-word attempt to apply this concept to my novel, The Assassins Club.

Deputy Marconi spoke softly. “We know you’ve been killing people, Ty…”

Deputy Trueblood pushed his partner aside. “The point is, we want in.”

Ty blinked. “Excuse me?”

In Montana’s Rocky Mountains in the 1970s, college student Tyler Goode figures he “accidentally” became a serial killer.

Another serial killer, a bearded, thirtyish man, emerges nude from the ocean in Baja California. He thinks he is Jesus. He walks up the coast, killing when it pleases him, and gathers a Manson-like tribe of losers.

Ty and Jesus eventually collide in this fast-paced suspense-thriller, but only one will survive to pursue his addiction.

See why reviewers say: “…so fast moving, you don't stop to think how it's all going to end. But even if you did, it will still be a surprise.”

“So real you can taste it.”

“An engrossing read with a compelling plot... This novel will keep you guessing until the end.”

So what do you think - did I grab you by the collar?


  1. Hi all. My writing is spontaneous, I get up in the morning and start writing whatever pops into my head. I do not follow an outline and my characters usually create the plot on my own. I've self published two novels and am about to release a third. Editing is hell, but necessary.
    Arthur Levine

  2. Characters do seem to write theirselves. As for a blurb; I loved 'grab you by the collar' 'cause it hinted at so much. What makes me, as a reader, want to pick up a book, a plot summary, blurbs, or review blurbs, it isn't my opinion so they don't have much say in whether I'll read a book.

  3. Reviews will not ever be my reason to pick up a book.
    New York's Best Selling list or Top Ranked on Amazon does not mean a thing to me. I have writing awards out my ears, but that is not what keeps my fans coming back for more. It is the fact that my life story inspired readers to read my stories of inspiration and poetry. Then the readers found I liked writing a wide array of subjects for all age groups and tried to please all my readers. I have previews to all my books, then they can decide if that story is for them or not.
    I am sure you grabbed quite a few people by the collar with this blurb. It did not help me decide whether I would pick the book up however. I am personally not into blurbs as a way to find out whether I want to read the book. I like the free preview, maybe.