A romance novel’s blurb is one of the main things I look at before I decide whether or not to 1-click. Sure, I look at the cover and I glance at reviews on Amazon and Goodreads, but nothing scares me off a book faster than a bad blurb. If I don’t like the blurb, I won’t even read sample chapters. Why bother? In my experience (which is vast--scarily vast, like the frozen Russian tundra, people), if the blurb sucks, the book will, too. So, what constitutes a good blurb versus a bad blurb? Well, here are a few red flags I’ve found in romance novel blurbs that almost always indicate the book will suck ass (authors, please take note):
A fiction novel
When the blurb mentions that the story is a fiction novel, it’s an automatic nope for me. Why? Because all novels are fiction. That’s what makes them novels. Calling a book a fiction novel is redundant (I hate inefficiency), and it makes it seem like the author is an amateur who doesn’t even know what they’ve written. And just like I wouldn’t want a 1st year med student performing brain surgery on me, I don’t want to read clueless amateur fiction.
“Journey of self-discovery”
This phrase makes me sleepy every time I read it. It’s soooooooo boring. It doesn’t tell me anything about the book. It’s something you could probably say about every book ever written. I mean, can you think of too many characters who didn’t grow and discover something about themselves during the course of a book? I sure can’t. I’d be pissed if I could, frankly, because that’d just be shoddy writing. I just don’t have the patience for shoddy writing.
I don’t really want to hear about a “whirlwind” anything. It’s an over used descriptor in romances. A whirlwind journey, a whirlwind romance, a whirlwind rush of emotion...blech. Enough with the whirlwinds. Call it something else, folks.
“A roller-coaster ride of powerful emotions”
First of all, this is such a cliche. If these are the only words an author can think of to describe their book, then I have to assume the book isn’t at all imaginative. In other words, authors, avoid cliches like the plague. (See what I did there? Like the plague? It’s a cliche, get it? *clears throat* But I digress…)
“You’ll laugh, you’ll cry”
Don’t tell me how to feel! You’re not the boss of me!
Character name salad
If there’s more than 3 character names mentioned in the blurb, chances are the author wasn’t as concise as they could have been while crafting it. And if the author wasn’t as concise as they could have been in the blurb, I have to assume they weren’t as concise as they could have been while writing the book, either. (Rule of thumb that I go by: in a romance, unless it’s a love triangle romance, really only the hero and heroine are important enough to have their names mentioned in the blurb. Everyone else is a secondary character and doesn’t deserve top billing in the blurb.)
More than 500 words
Blurbs don’t need to be more than 500 words. (In fact, 200 - 300 words is preferable, in my opinion) If a blurb is more than 500 words, chances are the author has a rambling writing style. I can’t abide a rambling author. Also, anything more than 500 words is most likely a synopsis of the story, which is VERY different than a blurb. If an author doesn’t know this, they’re most likely an amateur. (See brain surgery example above)
If a blurb hasn’t been proofread, why would I assume the book has been? I’m not exactly a grammar and spelling Nazi, but even I get distracted by tons of errors in a book. I don’t have the time or the patience to deal with those kinds of distractions. Also, since the blurb is probably the best marketing tool a book can have, if the author doesn’t care enough to make sure it’s error free, that just smacks of laziness, and if he/she doesn’t care about the book, I’m certainly not going to.
Unless you’ve won a RITA or a Golden Heart (awards I’ve actually heard of), I don’t really want to hear that an author is “award winning”. It just doesn’t mean anything to me, since I’m not at all familiar with writing awards. It just sounds like something anyone can claim, you know? I mean, my kid once gave me an award for being the best mom ever. Does that mean I can call myself an award-winning blogger? Probably. Now, before I start getting hate mail from authors, let me just say that I’m not trying to belittle an author’s accomplishments. Winning writing awards is something to be proud of. But if an author feels the need to brag about it in a book blurb, it sounds a little desperate—like they’re grasping for validation from their readers. (“I’m a good writer. Really, I am! See, I’ve won awards and everything!”) The only validation authors should need from their readers is book sales and maybe the occasional positive book review. That is all.
What about y’all? What red flags do you look for in book blurbs? Let’s discuss!