Consider the following loaded description, which is not that uncommon:
Amanda, the eldest of three daughters whose father was thrown from a horse and instantly killed, is in urgent need of a husband. But Fate is not without some mercy. Amanda meets Louis, and it’s love at first sight. They marry, and then tragedy strikes again. The bond of Amanda and Louis’s recent union is not strong enough, and one day, Amanda discovers he has abandoned her. Years later, he returns, and Amanda can’t deny how much she still loves him. But can she forgive him? Will she ever be able to trust him?
The moment he lays eyes on her, Louis knows he has to have Amanda. She doesn't need a dowry; he has plenty of money. Never mind that some of his family members think her unsuitable. When Amanda agrees to marry him, he’s the happiest man in all of London. But when tragedy befalls them, he has no choice but to leave her. Three years later, he returns, knowing there’s every chance Amanda doesn't want him back. But he’s determined to earn her trust and hopefully, her love.
Perhaps A Second Chance (written by an author wishing to remain anonymous) is Amanda and Louis’s heartbreaking and heartwarming story. Can they overcome their difficult past and find happiness with each other again?
Personally, I would only start reading this book if I opened the preview and the story began no more than a chapter or so before Louis’s return to Amanda. Why? Because all the highpoints of the events that took place prior to his return have been told to me, and I would just as soon learn more about them through back story. However, odds are the story will not begin anywhere near this event.
Authors write blurbs like this one and think to lure readers into buying their books due to an imperative need to know what the tragedy was, why Louis left, and perhaps a need to empathize with the characters’ angst. Some authors think once readers begin the story, they’ll be dazzled by impressive dialogue and drama and unforgettable characters. The problem is readers possess too many facts beforehand to be impressed or dazzled.
Suppose the book began by introducing readers to Amanda’s loving father surrounded by his daughters. Next would come his tragic death, followed by Amanda’s marriage, her second tragedy, and her husband’s abandonment. Regardless of how dramatically this material is brought to life, for at least the first twenty-five- to fifty-percent of the book, readers are trudging through the same facts they've already read about in the description. It’s like going to a surprise party that isn't a surprise because someone has already spoiled it for you.
Any decent party will have refreshments and sweets that can serve as compensation for the deprived thrill of surprise. However, in a book, even though readers might not consciously register it, this absence of surprise translates into low-wattage interest and comments like: “This story is all right, but I’m having trouble getting into it.” At the same time, if the author is lucky, those readers persevere until something happens in the story that’s news to them. Nevertheless, the lag in their initial enjoyment could cost the author many a high-starred review or the coveted “You gotta read this book!” tweets.
I once DNF’d a book because I had learned too much about the plot from the description. This particular description was three or four lengthy-paragraphs long and covered a number of years as well as some major character interactions. When I started reading the story, I found the characters interesting, and the dialogue worked. However, I couldn't sympathize with anything that threatened the hero and heroine because I already knew they had overcome these situations; in addition, I still had a long way to read before I’d reach the chapters providing any new storyline. I sought to notify the author about this problem. Unfortunately for me, the author, and future readers, this book was traditionally published, and there was no “Contact me” source available.
So what is the criterion for a great book blurb? The best way to write a book blurb is to aim for a minimum-spoiler description that centers on enticing reasons for reading the book. These enticements are relative to the genre, and authors need to beware of the expectations of the readers. Regardless of genre, the blurb should provide the kind of information and emotion that makes readers want to find out more about the story.
Book blurbs don’t have to be short in order not to be blabby. Study the blurbs of books written in your genre or in the genres you like to read. Study long ones, medium ones, and short ones. Examine whether or not they are too blabby. If they aren't and yet they urge you to learn more about the book, determine exactly why that is the case.
Afterwards, here’s your homework: Once you understand how to create a persuasive book description, decide how you would rewrite the example presented here. Consider how many of the details provided could have been left out while still sharing enough about the story to interest readers. Alternatively, you can skip over to your own book. With your newly acquired expertise on how to write a book blurb, determine whether or not yours is one of those blabby ones in need of a good revision.