Wouldn’t it be nice if blurbs were honest? If they could just tell you why a book is cool, and who would like it?
“This book is rill good. It’s got a mermaid protagonist, which is new, but she’s also a space mermaid? And we explore life in a vacuum through her eyes. Great science moments, a lot of mythical references, fast writing. Dive in.”
Alas. We are humans, and therefore will only believe that something is good if we make it extremely complicated.Our brains are so conditioned to accept things that we know aren’t true, that we believe that knowing the thing is more or less a lie allows us to determine how far from the truth a thing is. We know the pristine, juicy, plump-bread-covered sandwich from the fast food joint is going to be steamrolled, tough and any vegetables on it likely had to be re-hydrated and dyed prior to consumption. We know the sumptuous photos of a hotel will likely reveal a seedy (sometimes literally) underbelly. And book blurbs tend to make even Anne of Green Gables read like a psychological thriller.
Anne was tragically orphaned, and sent to live as unpaid labor for a brother and sister at their ancestral homestead. Unwanted, unskilled, and unable to escape her fate, Anne must use her wits and her charm to survive. But the townsfolk know she’s not one of them. How long can she fight back before something breaks?
But this is what we expect! A book better come with a blurb. Or at the very least, a riveting out-of-context paragraph. And y’all, these things suck to write. I would say I spend at least a day (about 5-8 hours) writing each one, and I have all my beta readers comment on it. You see, the shorter a piece of writing is, the more careful you have to be with word choices.Every word needs to communicate something: an idea, a tone, a feeling. And, as this is essentially a trailer for a book, it needs to be captivating and detailed, but manage not to give away anything you hope the reader learns organically. If you’ve ever written a blurb, you know the struggle. If you’ve not had that joy, go ahead and try it for your favorite book now. And tell me how it goes.
I think part of it is that they’re not natural. Who talks like that? Does anyone go up to their friends and say “Y’all need to read this book. Character Protagonist just wants to live a simple life. But Opposing Force is opposed. So, Character Protagonist must choose: Is desire more important than this other important thing? Sometimes, the answer isn’t easy.”
NO! We say “Hey dude. I think you’d like this book. It’s got that trope you like.” And really, which are you more likely to buy? The over-wrought blurb with the question whose answer will always be “yes?” Or the one someone you know says is good? I guess what I’m saying is that booksellers should employ friends to stand among the stacks and personally recommend things to every potential buyer. Please, Amazon, get on that.
I have begun working on the blurb for Blood And Bone not because I’m anywhere near done, but because I had an idea that I didn’t hate for it, and because I’m trying an experiment. I believe that I might find it easier to write my blurbs if I write the cursed thing after the full outline is complete, but before all the writing is done. I think knowing the story, but not having all of the world coursing through my mind may make it easier to determine which details are important. I think it worked, too. I think I have at least 95% of the content as I want it, with a little wiggle room for smoothing out word choices.
No, you can’t see it yet. Sorry.
But! As I tricked my friends into helping me with this most-tedious process, it evolved into a revolt against convention, and a plea for honest blurbing. So, I will share with you some of their honest blurbs.
For the series:
For Blood And Bone:
I think these are sufficient. You see how they capture the essence, the true tone of my thousands of hours of work? Masterful. Good work, gentlefolk.
And now, if you’d like actual help writing a real blurb, go check out Libbie Hawker, who is much less frustrated and a jillion times more patient than I. Trust me. These tips do make blurbs way less painful–more like a broken arm than a burst appendix.
On that note, enjoy! See you next week, and be sure to check out my Facebook page for snippets and notes from the upcoming works!