Thursday, March 7, 2013

Book blurbs that turn me off

This is not based on a study. This is not based on sales and marketing numbers. This is based on what I hate.



A book blurb is the summary on the back of a book that tells you who escapes the bomb-rigged shack, or who falls in love with the guy from the plane ride, or who gets locked in a cellar and has to eat his own foot. A good one can get you to read a mediocre book you might be wavering on. Instead of feeling cheated, I always admire this in a book blurb. I'll get to the end of a book that was only so-so, and think, "Man, that was a great book blurb!"

I think it's a tragic thing that a bad book blurb can turn people away from reading your book before they've even given the thing a chance, especially if you, as an author, had nothing to do with writing the blurb--say, some marketing intern at your publishing company wrote it on the back of his lunch napkin on the way to a meeting.

For me, it's not so much the structure of the blurb that turns me off. It's not even so much if the story sounds lame like it isn't my thing. I have trigger words. If I skim the back of a book and see one, I set the book down and never look back.

My biggest trigger is the word epic. If I see it on a book cover/flap, that's it. There is no chance of me reading your book. I think this is because I don't think you have the marketing intern has the right to call your own work epic. It's like calling yourself award-winning in your Twitter description of yourself. Why don't you just come out here and gag us all with a spoon? I mean, what are you, the Iliad? I don't even care if your work does happen to be epic. For heaven's sake, don't say it.

Another word that I really hate reading is saga. By definition, unless you time-traveled to 12th century Iceland, your book is not a saga. It resembles a saga. And, really? Why would I want to read a long, invloved story about your heroic family?

I also hate words like moving, inspiring, and (gah!) poignant. I will not read anything that proclaims itself to be poignant. Maybe I'm always in the mood for a lighter read, or maybe I just think, say, inspiring is a subjective word and you don't get a say in what's inspiring to me. Either way, you just ensured I won't read whatever it is you wrote.

And there is almost no quicker way to turn me away from your book than by asking me a question. You come off as an insolent jerk, presuming your work has meaning to me. And especially don't ask me a question that has an answer I don't care about. I'm not going to bite.

Can truths of religion be proven with solid logic, or are we doomed to blind faith for the rest of eternity?

Um, don't care.

Have you ever wondered what you would do if your survival depended on what you read in this epic survival guide?

Not really.

Are you ready for the adventure of a lifetime?

Yawn.

So I'm a blurb snob. Now you know.

5 comments:

Karlene said...

Daughter of Helaman by award-winning author, Misty Moncur. The epic saga of a young girl caught up in the ravages of a war that will change the future of her people. Moving, inspiring and poignant, this book will tug at your heartstrings. Will Keturah's God protect her when the Lamanite raiders come to her village? Will Keturah's skills be enough to save those she loves? Read it and see!

Sorry. Couldn't help myself.

Karlene said...

Oh, and I really liked your book even though I think CFI's blurbs are lame and too short.

Kimberley Griffiths Little said...

Ha! I just blurbed a book for a fellow MG author with Razorbill - my first time to be asked to blurb a book! - and I'm so glad now I did not use epic, poignant, or inspiring! Whew! ;-)

Rebecca H. Jamison said...

LOL. I think I might have written a question in one of mine. Thank goodness for editors!

Konstanz Silverbow said...

Ooh my goodness you nailed it! I HATE reading blurbs with questions at the end! It annoys me. I also have trigger words that make me not want to read it. Most of which you named!

I also really hate super long ones that aren't connected, instead it's a bunch of sentences strewn together in an attempt to sound haunting or mysterious.

So glad I found this blog!