The Art of the Blurb

BY HANNAH GUY • April 21, 2019

The Art of the Blurb

“You can kill a book quicker by your silence than by a bad review.” ―E. A. Bucchianeri


Nothing sells books better than a recommendation. And one of the most significant tools for selling your books is an endorsement by a trusted third party. If you’ve published your book and received reviews, you now have a whole new avenue for marketing and promoting your work—and it’s a powerful one that can translate into a lovely sales boost.

But how do you turn that review into a blurb? And how do you use it?

What is a blurb?

Used in promotions, a blurb is an excerpted quote from a third-party review or article. Often these excerpts can be used as a form of endorsement, to recommend aspects of your book in glowing terms. In short, it is praise. Beautiful, marketable praise that other people will see, believe, and then use as inspiration to go buy your book.

What am I allowed to excerpt?

Traditionally, most blurbs are pulled from reviews of your book that were published in newspapers, magazines, and book blogs. You can also grab quotes from any media coverage of you or your book, such as an author profile or news story. Some authors or publishers have also been able to get bestselling authors to blurb a book in advance of its publication, although this is far more difficult to achieve. (It’s usually either a personal favor or the result of an agent’s or publisher’s networking connections.) In some cases, authors can pay for a well-known writer to blurb their book.

How do I create a blurb from a review?

Given the potential for unethical excerpting—a dangerous practice that can destroy both your credibility and your publishing career—there is a specific format to follow for excerpting a review. Your goal is to maintain the integrity of the review without changing it. (Check out Kirkus Reviews’ Indie excerpting policy for detailed guidelines and tips.)

1. Ensure the review is for public use. If you’re not sure, email the publication's editor and ask. Use only reviews by a professional publication, reviewer, or blogger. Do not excerpt individual, unprofessional reader reviews.

2. Then select the passage you might like to use:

“I was wary about this author’s book, but I was wrong. This book is a fantastic read. The moment I discovered the main character’s dilemma, I was deliciously entranced. I can’t put it down!”

3. Edit the passage, sentence by sentence. Try to eliminate any discussion that does not describe you or your book in glowing terms.

“This book is a fantastic read. The moment I discovered the main character’s dilemma, I was deliciously entranced. I can’t put it down!”

4. Use ellipses to mark any text that has been eliminated from the beginning, middle, or end of sentence. An ellipsis must also be used if you removed a sentence from the middle.

“This book is a fantastic read.”
“…I was deliciously entranced.”
“I can’t put it down!”
“This book is a fantastic read…I can’t put it down!”

5. Properly format and attribute the excerpt. Use double quotation marks to signal that this is an exact quotation. Add a space and an em dash before the name of the person or publication. The publication name itself should be italicized. Reviewer or author names are not italicized.

“I can’t put it down!”—Hometown Paper
“This book is a fantastic read…I can’t put it down!” Suzy Kirkus, New York Times bestselling author

6. Don’t be afraid to excerpt a mediocre or negative review if it praises some aspect of your book or the writing. Just be sure to leave out the bad parts, or anything that might suggest your book is anything but excellent.

Before: “I was wary about this author’s book, and I was right. This book is terrible. The only notable part is how the author skillfully captures the troubled nuances of a dysfunctional family. Skip it.”

After: “…skillfully captures the troubled nuances of a dysfunctional family.” —Hometown Paper

Where can I use blurbs?

The more blurbs you have, the more you can use them throughout your book marketing, in different ways. Use the top-tier excerpts (glowing praise, five stars, and high-profile reviews) for your biggest book marketing efforts.

Front cover

Front cover reviews can add credibility and recommend your book to anyone who sees it. You've probably noticed them on the covers of your favorite authors' books. This is the perfect place for your very best blurb. Talk to your book cover designer about best practices for placement, fonts, and size.

Back cover

Leave some space below your book description to add one or two of your top blurbs. Knowing that your book has been lauded by a known paper, magazine, or site can convince book store browsers that this is a good purchase to make.

Online/Printed ads and promotions

Many authors pay big bucks for advertising, which should include not only a picture of your book cover but also text that entices readers to buy your book. A well-designed ad—either online or printed on a postcard that you hand out at bookstores—with an “I can’t put it down!” blurb is both eye-catching and encouraging to buyers. This, of course, translates into book sales, and who doesn’t love that?

Press releases

If you’re sending out press releases or announcements to the public, including an excerpt is a great way to remind them of who you are, why you’re great, and why the media should be featuring you or your book. Knowing that other people are talking about you increases your chances of getting more coverage.

Website and book sales pages

Wherever there is a chance to tell people about your book, there is a chance to tell people why they should buy your book. A good blurb will do this every time.

What not to do when pulling blurbs for your book

The biggest mistake you can make when excerpting reviews for your book is to lie. Fabricating a review or destroying the integrity of an existing review can completely undermine your credibility as an author. For this reason—and we cannot stress this enough—ensure that the information you provide is completely accurate, properly attributed, and is permitted for reprint.

Pay it forward 

A great review or endorsement is one of the most valuable gifts an author can receive. Express gratitude to those who took the time and effort to read and review your book, and when you get the opportunity, pay that effort forward. Review or endorse a book you love. After all, one of the best parts of belonging to the writing community is playing an active role in celebrating and supporting great books and authors.

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