I love reading. I do. My kindle is bursting, my shelves overflowing, and my postman constantly unhappy about the packages he has to carry to my door. I’m forever adding to my wish lists and I spend an ample proportion of my wage on books. And I read across genres, constantly on the lookout for that great read. And I’m happy to try most things, as I’ve been pleasantly surprised by the most unlikely candidates. But the one thing that will, without fail, put me off reading/buying a book is a poorly written blurb.
The back cover/ ebook blurb is where you have to hook people, to get them to want to read your book. Sure, some people are drawn to a book by the cover, or reviews, or excerpts, but those are mostly things that get them to consider the book. Which brings us back to the blurb.
As with most things, it’s often easier to give advice on what not to do (although I shared some useful advice from a workshop last year on structuring these here). Flicking through Goodreads, I was reminded of just how casually some people treat their blurbs. I find it uncanny how the same people that will meticulously edit their books, who will ensure they’re free of clichés and full of originality, can be the same people who will riddle their blub with phrases like ‘unimagineable consequences’, ‘terrible fate’, ‘race against time’, ‘murky past’, ‘harbouring secrets’ etc etc. You get the idea.
The same goes for the verbal blurb. I got asked the other day what my book was about and, caught on the back foot, I managed to stammer “errr, it’s fiction. Contemporary fiction.” Luckily, this conversation was with friends, so the raucous laughter that followed my terrible sales pitch allowed me to salvage the situation. But, under different circumstances… (In case you’re wondering, it’s a story of immaturity, misunderstandings and betrayal, although what it’s about depends on who’s narrating it…)
In today’s environment of too many good books and not enough time, no-one can afford to let an opportunity slip. So make sure you give your book blurb the attention it needs. If it’s worth the reader’s while, it’s worth yours.