The Art of the Blurb

It’s hard to imagine a less artful word than blurb. 

Confronted with the humbling task of crafting a blurb in support of an upcoming book by a professional writer—such an honor—I engage in the strategy I always use when faced with an unfamiliar form of writing: I seek out mentor text. 

Because the upcoming book to be blurbed is a Stenhouse title, I start with one of their recent publications: Welcome to Writing Workshop, by TWT’s own Stacey Shubitz and Lynne Dorfman. 

The first thing I notice: This book is bursting with blurbs, covering the opening pages as well as two more on the back cover. 

Perfect! I dig in to study what makes an effective blurb. What characteristics do these blurbs have in common? What makes one blurb stand out amongst a sea of blurbs? As a reader, which blurbs would have persuaded me to purchase this book (that I have clearly already purchased). 

These blurbs are short—one to two sentences, top. 

Hmm. Several writers have used the second person, appealing directly to the reader. . . A less formal choice, for sure. . . and yet, it is inviting. I wonder: Is this unique to this text, or is this a characteristic of blurbs across publishers? 

I’m seeing patterns in how blurbs begin:

  • “With passion and expertise. . .”
  • “With clarity and conviction. . .”
  • “With a pronounced reverence for teachers, for students, and for the literacy giants whose shoulders we all stand on. . .” (That one’s my favorite!)

These openings establish credibility and trust. 

None of the blurbers try to synthesize the content in any detail, but instead focus more on how the book might be used (or needed, really) by the reader. 

  • “. . . your own personal literacy coach. . .”
  • “. . . go-to resource. . .”
  • . . . a powerful writing workshop roadmap with thoughtful detours along a writer-centered exploration.” 
  • “It will be your mentor text. . .”

The imagery evokes energy, purpose, and value:

  • “. . . infuse new life. . . a lifeline to get started. . .”
  • “. . . a bright, undiluted vision. . .”
  • “In a treasure chest of every imaginable detail. . .”

All these blurbers understand that what and how we teach connects to our beliefs and to what life as an educator is actually like. There are patterns in the word choice that reflect this:  crafted, thoughtful, exploration—joyful, purposeful, meaningful—punchy, friendly, practical

Finally, I am struck by WHO is blurbing this mentor text—almost every one is a literacy leader I have read and heard speak, which I might have predicted. Less expected: at least two are members of the TWT Slicer Community, and two others are authors of the book I am currently composing a blurb to promote. (This can’t be a coincidence. . . .)

Reading down the list of blurbs—this time not reading to analyze the parts but instead to process the whole, I’m struck by a new idea: the blurb serves a much greater purpose than simply persuading readers to buy a book. 

The blurb connects readers with writers (and writers with each other) who share beliefs, goals, and vision. 

Reaching out to ask a fellow educator to read your book and (potentially) write a blurb is the ultimate compliment (especially for the newbie blurber). 

Writing a blurb is an act of gratitude and support for colleagues who engage in challenging work together, sharing and celebrating the learning of kids and adults.

The blurb creates (and reflects) community. 

This post is for day three of the 2020 Slice of Life Challenge from Two Writing Teachers Blog.

(A secondary goal as I slice today is to see how many parts of speech I can use/invent that incorporate “blurb”—attempting to buffer the edges of this clumsy word through overuse.) 

5 Comments

  1. Stacey Shubitz

    Writing a blurb is difficult. I feel as though you’ve given us a tutorial on how to do it for anyone who is going to write a blurb in the future.

    Btw, I was shocked to see my book mentioned in this post. It is chock-full of wonderful and thoughtful testimonials. What an honor it was to read them as they came in!

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  2. paulabourque

    Writing a blurb takes so much longer than the brevity of text would lead you to believe. I love that you looked at others as mentor texts and analyzed what you observed. That’s impressive! I also love your versatile use of ‘blurb’ in your clever “attempt to buffer the edges of this clumsy word through overuse”. Good luck blurbing! It’s an honor to be asked!

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  3. writingandlaughing

    Thank you for this in-depth look at the blurb! It’s a literary piece that I often chat with my students about (you know, for that great Sneak Peek), but it’s one that I honestly haven’t given all that much thought to. However, after reading your slice I will be looking at blurbs with a newfound sense of respect. Also… of all of your blurb-related words, blurber is my most favorite. It’s really fun to say out loud.

    Like

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