The Back Blurb Sells Your Book: thoughts on novel-blurbing

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Now.  If you had, say, recently completed a novel and were, oh I don’t know, picking out blurbs to sell said novel– you’d probably reject “capably written sentences” or “fair-to-middlin’ characters”.

Yet, yesterday in the library, I flipped a paperback novel over and saw the following:

“..the characters here are appealing.”

‘..poignant story..”

“..amusing..”

I slammed the book back into the shelf.

Hollywood Producer in my Head:  What the F?  “Appealing”? “Amusing”?  That’s the half-assed way you describe your horrifically shy, gaseous and drooling friend to another friend who may possibly date her.  “Well, she’s amusing– she’s got kind of a poignant background.”  Is your book a f*!@ng charity case? Blurbs cannot hedge bets.  They don’t whisper, they scream.  Forgo “Gentle humor” if you can instead say “Cough-blood out loud funny”.

Hollywood producers aside, you can overdo the blurb thing.

Case in point:  The grotesquely over-used “This book will change your life” or, worse, its coy counterpart “Buyer beware: This book just may change your life.”  Plenty of books have changed my life, sure, but I don’t like them bragging about it.  And yet.

And yet– it works.  On me, you, everybody.  “This book has changed my life” has tipped me over to buying a book.  I mean what if it’s true this time?  I’m a sucker for change-your-life crap– I simply cannot afford to take the chance on missing out.  Good Lord.  Not at my age.

“Great front covers grab a reader’s attention.  But it’s the back blurb that sells the book.” (Conventional Wisdom that is also probably true)

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Thanks for stopping by.

Slightly Related Addendum:  Two marvelous fiction sentences plus their back blurbs:

1).  “Obviously, he knew he had innards, he was not an imbecile, but so repulsive did he find the idea that his handsome body might be stuffed like a holiday stocking with slippery, snaky coils of steaming guts; undulating meat tubes choked with vile green and yellow biles, vast colonies of bacteria, fetid gases, and gobs of partially digested foodstuffs, that he blocked the fact from his cognizance, preferring to believe that his corporeal cavity — and that of any woman to whom he was romantically attracted– was powered not by throbbing hunks of slimy, blood-bathed tissue but by a sort of ball of mystic white light.” (the great Tom Robbins, Fierce Invalids Home From Hot Climates)

Blurb on back: “Whoever said truth is stranger than fiction never  read a Tom Robbins novel..” The San Diego Union-Tribune

2)  “She might easily look forward to enjoying an unchanging middle-aged activity, while generations of youth withered round her, and no star, remotely rising, had as yet threatened to dim her unrivalled effulgence.” (the great E.F. Benson, Queen Lucia)

Blurb on back:  “If you do become a Luciaphile– and of course you will– you’ll be in the company of Noel Coward, Gertrude Lawrence, W.H. Auden and Cyril Ritchard.” Detroit News

That, my friend, is a damn blurb.

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