Tag Archives: blurb

To blurb or not to blurb

Blurb definitionOne of the things that sucks about being an indie is that you have to sell your books. I know that seems pretty obvious, but but it’s harder than it looks! In the old days, every book had a blurb on the back of it, or inside the flap on the dust jacket, and that blurb gave us just enough intriguing insight into the book that we bought it.

Here in the US, the word blurb originated in 1907. American humorist Gelett Burgess’s short 1906 book Are You a Bromide? was presented in a limited edition to an annual publishers’ trade association dinner. The custom at such events was to have a dust jacket promoting the work–they did things right in those days! His definition of “blurb” was “a flamboyant advertisement; an inspired testimonial.”

Blurbs can and do sell books.

wool by hugh howeyBut what will sell books? Let’s take a look at Wool, by Hugh Howey:

This is the story of mankind clawing for survival, of mankind on the edge. The world outside has grown unkind, the view of it limited, talk of it forbidden. But there are always those who hope, who dream. These are the dangerous people, the residents who infect others with their optimism. Their punishment is simple. They are given the very thing they profess to want: They are allowed outside.

f scott fitzgerald The Great GatsbyOr F. Scott Fitzgerald‘s classic novel, The Great Gatsby:

“Whenever you feel like criticizing any one,” he told me, “just remember that all the people in this world haven’t had the advantages that you’ve had.”

He didn’t say any more, but we’ve always been unusually communicative in a reserved way, and I understood that he meant a great deal more than that. In consequence, I’m inclined to reserve all judgments, a habit that has opened up many curious natures to me and also made me the victim of not a few veteran bores. The abnormal mind is quick to detect and attach itself to this quality when it appears in a normal person, and so it came about that in college I was unjustly accused of being a politician, because I was privy to the secret griefs of wild, unknown men. Most of the confidences were unsought — frequently I have feigned sleep, preoccupation, or a hostile levity when I realized by some unmistakable sign that an intimate revelation was quivering on the horizon; for the intimate revelations of young men, or at least the terms in which they express them, are usually plagiaristic and marred by obvious suppressions. Reserving judgments is a matter of infinite hope. I am still a little afraid of missing something if I forget that, as my father snobbishly suggested, and I snobbishly repeat, a sense of the fundamental decencies is parcelled out unequally at birth.

There are huge differences in these blurbs:

Hugh Howey (an indie) tells us about the plot of his book-and it is intriguing. I bought it based on that blurb.

(Charles Scribner’s Sons) (Fitzgerald’s original publisher) used the opening lines of the book–and that was intriguing as well.

Choosing to use the opening lines for marketing is dangerous–it could be an epic failure, for those who want to know what the book is about.

Back Cover of Mage-Guard of Hamor by L. E. Modesitt Jr.

Back Cover of Mage-Guard of Hamor by L. E. Modesitt Jr.

Even more dangerous than that is the increasing trend toward eliminating the blurb and going with nothing but recommendations mentioning other works by that author.  Let me just say now, I HATE THAT! For the love of Tolstoy–talk about the book I am going to buy, please! Any blurb, even a bad one, is better than glowing reviews by paid reviewers. 

But this trend just proves to me that the BIG PUBLISHERS are just as much as sea in the this regard as we poor indies are, small comfort though it is.

I will be writing blurbs for my own work again soon, and so I am looking at blurbs on the covers in my library, and trying to see what it was that attracted me to that particular book. I admit that many times it was the cover art, and not the blurb, but when I picked up a book by an author that was unknown to me, I read the blurb, and considered carefully whether or not to spend my dearly earned wages on that book. I was taking a risk–because what if I hated it?

It’s a conundrum.  Perhaps I can go with “One ring to rule them all…”

No… I suppose that’s been done…but it’s an awesome blurb, short and to the point….

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What the label says

Parisfal - Creator - Hermann Hendrich PD-Art Wikimedia CommonsDuring the Christmas hiatus I’ve been revisiting the manuscript of Mountains of the Moon, tightening it up. I will be sending it to my Beta readers soon, preparatory to the final edit. In the meantime I have still been searching for cover art – my head has an idea of what it needs to be, and I haven’t found it yet, nor have I created the right blurb, although I’m getting close–we want a short, intriguing, sell-the-book sort of blurb.

Huw The Bard progresses slowly–some things just can’t be rushed. I had hoped to have him ready this spring, but that may not happen. The cover is ready, the blurb is ready, but editing is going more slowly than I had anticipated. That is one area I will not rush, so it will go on the back burner for a while. I still plan to enter Huw in the ABNA Contest this year, if and when it is announced, in the genre of Fantasy, as I hope it will be ready to go by then. Nothing is sure or certain in this business, however.

DobrynaThe editing of Julian Lackland is progressing at a good rate–he may be ready for publication before Huw. His cover and blurb are also finished, as is his book trailer. Huw still needs a proper trailer, but we are rolling toward victory!

In the meantime, I am still writing Valley of Sorrows, and it is going really well.  All the threads in my mind are coming together well on paper. That may be a finished novel yet!

One thing that is a bit difficult is trying to decide what genre my work falls under and what labels will get my books to the people who most want the sort of tales I write.  Huw the Bard and Julian Lackland are Historical Fantasies, but there is no genre to cover that! The Tower of Bones series is Epic Fantasy, or so I think, so that is easy (?).

But I’ve never had any luck with my labels.

And labeling is critical–many people won’t look at work that is not in their favorite genre, so they may not stumble upon a work they might enjoy. Conversely, if it is mislabeled, a reader might buy it, find it is not their cup of tea, and write a stinker of a review, based on the fact it is really not at all a historical mystery and what was the author thinking anyway?

So this is my goal for this coming year year: Write good books, label them properly, and perhaps sell a few.

Quaglio_KipfenbergI’ve learned many amazing things about this craft over the last year, things I never knew I had a knack for.  I  sourced the art and designed my own covers for two books, and  Alison DeLuca (our fearless leader at Myrddin Publishing Group) says they will be good covers when the books go to press.  I have helped several authors get their work ready for publication and I managed to make it through another NaNoWriMo as a Municipal Liaison unscathed.

A new year looms, bright and shiny. My ambition is to get the hang of the trickier parts of the marketing of my work–properly labeling it, and making it available to prospective readers. After all, if they can’t find it, they can’t read it!

I hope your Christmas was a warm and cozy thing with good food and family that puts the fun in dysfuntional. I hope the new year brings you everything you need, and some of what you want. I wish you long life and happiness, and the wisdom to appreciate it!

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