Thursday, 10 July 2014

Chat-up lines - Karen Bush


The original blurb, for a short
book by Gelert Burgess.
Although it's also claimed that the Germans had already
invented it four years earlier - Karl Robert Langewiesche
being the creator ... 

          Okay, so you have a fabulously eye catching cover image and the title you've chosen couldn't be more perfect ... but don't forget the blurb for your masterpiece. That's pretty important too. It may only be a few hundred words or so, but often it can be harder to write than the book itself.

          It has to encapsulate what the book is about, and make your potential reader want to download a sample - after which they will hopefully be hooked and buy the book. If it's factual, it needs to outline the information contained within. Bullet points are helpful in creating a list - as well as a bit of text explaining just why your book is so brilliant, a list will be easier for the casual browser to work through in finding out what is covered.

          With fiction, things can be a bit more complicated.
          It should appeal to readers of your particular genre - but ideally, also be so intriguing that others are inspired to give reading outside their preferred comfort zone a try. But although you want to give a taste of what is within, either by way of an extract or a brief precis, you mustn't give so much away that you spoil the story.

          This is the blurb for Connie Willis’ Doomsday Book:
     "Studying history had never been so easy.
     Pick a project: a time and place. Persuade your departmental head – time travel facilities are limited – do the required reading and attend the special skills courses. Then off you go. Simple.
     Except that nothing could have prepared Kivrin for the brutal reality of fourteenth-century England.
The dirt, the smells and the cold.  Then, among the rumours of a sickness sweeping the land, the awful, dawning realisation that there had been an error in the time-coordinates of her drop. That she was stranded right in the path of the inexorable, day-by-day progress of the Black Death …”

          It explains the basic plot scenario nicely, and makes you immediately want to turn to the first page to start finding out more. 

          Very much briefer but equally good, this is the blurb for Terry Pratchett and Neil Gaiman’s Good Omens:
“According to the Nice and Accurate Prophecies of Agnes Nutter – the world’s only totally reliable guide to the future – the world will end on a Saturday. Next Saturday, in fact. Just after tea …”
          It perfectly captures the mood of the book and its anarchic sense of fun … see? Blurbs don't necessarily need to be long to seize the reader's interest - in fact if it is too long, the reader may well drift off in search of entertainment elsewhere.

          Another way of putting together an attention-getting blurb is to include a clip of text as well as a brief scene-setting bit of text. This is how the blurb from Catherine Jinks’  Pagan’s Crusade goes about it:

     “ So here I am, standing in a sea of dirt, with a big mad Templar lobbing rocks at my head … I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again – my guardian angel has a mean sense of humour.’

      It seemed like a good idea at the time. Joining the Templars. I mean, I had to do something to pay off those debts. Didn’t want to end my short but valuable (to me, anyway) sixteen-year-old life lying in a Jerusalem backstreet with my throat cut. So – helping some knight to put on his clothes, eating regular meals, saying a few prayers, escorting pilgrims – how hard could it be?
Of course, nobody mentioned that my knight would be so noble he’d put St. George to shame. Or the fighting of the infidel. Or the disembowelling. No, they definitely didn’t mention the disembowelling.
     And, tell me this – how the hell am I going to grow a beard by tomorrow?”

          You might also decide to include a review. But bear in mind that these can also put some people off if they dislike the source of the review. Comparisons to other authors can also repel some readers. I know that after years of seeing countless books being compared to Tolkien or Lord of the Rings, I grew very wary of them. Not because I dislike Tolkien, but because I was fed up of getting suckered into reading books which fell way short of the standard.

          So you see what I mean about getting the blurb right? It is important, and it is difficult to write. So spend enough time on it - remember that this is the thing that is going to convince your potential reader to at least check out the free sample.



5 comments:

Chris Longmuir said...

It's the most difficult part of the book, the blurb. I think it takes a different skill set to do it. The kind of skill marketing and PR people have.

Debbie Bennett said...

I've never had a problem with blurbs. Don't know if they are actually any good but they just seem to write themselves

Lydia Bennet said...

I'm ok with blurbs. I think perhaps people tend to say too much in them, sometimes people have posted them and asked for comments - and they've basically given away half the plot! I think of them as more like a film trailer or teaser to make the reader curious. I think it's well worth putting review quotes on the cover especially from well known people or experts in the field. Tell you what guys, you write the bits between my covers, and I'll write all your blurbs!

Reb MacRath said...

On this side of the Pond, the word blurb refers to a quote from another writer praising the author's new book. But whatever word we use, a product description, or teaser--or blurb--is a necessary skill to learn. I agree with Chris on this: I've never found it easy. Enticing and teasingly simple...That seems to be the way to fly.

Catherine Czerkawska said...

Quite like writing blurb - well sometimes I do. Smaller publishers now often want input from the author about the blurb although you're inclined to bow to their superior knowledge of what might or might not sell. I tweak mine quite a lot on my eBooks, must admit.