25 March 2012

On back-cover blurbs

In the writers' circle to which I belong I have often mentioned that the 100-word blurb (the one on Amazon and on the back of the cover) is one of the most important parts of book marketing. It is painfully ironic that the people who publish and distribute books don't like to take a lot of time to read much about them. They are as lazy as many other readers.  So as an author or book promoter you have to be quick, interesting and unique.  You have to interest someone as early as possible, even to get him to read till the end of your 100 words.  And you need to make him want to pay $19.00 for the book (or $6.95 plus $79.00 for the Kindle).

I actually enjoy writing an introductory blurb.  It's an exercise in brevity (something I could always use) and it's fun to try to depict the book accurately and as efficiently as possible.  Andy Warhol once suggested that each of us will be famous for 15 minutes.  (I don't know if I've got to my 15 minutes yet.  Maybe I am just an optimist.)  Imagine, now, that you were granted one minute of your fame to depict your book to people who, if they liked how it sounded, would buy it, read it and rave about it till you became a millionaire from the book sales.  This might be your one chance at stardom.  What would you say to such an opportunity?

At the risk of appearing self-important here, I shall pose my opening chapter to Deirdre, the Oyster's Pearl as a pretty good example:
http://www.amazon.com/Deirdre-Oysters-Pearl-Jonnie-Comet/dp/1448635799/ref=ntt_at_ep_dpt_11
Please don't count the words; it won't flatter either of us!

Here is the one for the forthcoming
Sylvia:
This is longer, intentionally so; but it sets up enough of the story itself that you have an idea of what to expect.  This blurb may be edited later as the book nears completion.  As yet I have not wholly addressed some of the plot elements this blurb hints at and so I maintain this blurb as a kind of guide to what has to be covered by the text proper.

I won't claim that my blurbs are anything terrific; I view them as mere tools to accomplish what I need for them to do, no differently than I view the clever little tools I have made to facilitate the restoration of the boat.  The tools are not the boat; they are the means for me to benefit from the boat and for the boat to earn its keep.

And so goes for the blurbs we have to write for our books.  For my part I believe that these blurbs are adequate to introduce the book in such a way that the book itself appears interesting.  To do this I prefer to pose questions or to leave cliffhangers that can only be satisfied by reading more than the first third of the actual book.  And I do aggrandise or exaggerate certain plot elements in order to make them seem more like the core of the story-- the same as the preview does for the feature film.  Watch the 'trailer' feature on some DVD film you have to see how often it distorts or even misrepresents the film you know so well.  This is part of salesmanship; and, though we are all much more artists in our writing, we must learn some degree of marketing in order to survive-- and, perhaps more importantly, ensure that our work survives our efforts in promoting it during our lifetimes.  So don't be afraid to really pump up your work in those 100 words.  Make it seem like the greatest thing there ever was-- so long as it's really representing the story you really wrote and not the one you only should have done!

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