Tuesday, October 27, 2009

Writing back cover Blurbs. Oh my!


My new editor at Solaris, asked me to write a 100 -150 word blurb for each book of the King Rolen's Kin (KRK) trilogy. Since these books are 120K, 130K and 150K, reducing them to bite sized blurbs seemed insurmountable.

Let's see, I had to retain enough of the feel of the story to get that across. I had to encapsulate the important conflicts of the plot, without revealing too much. And I had to do all this while making it sound interesting and enticing. Easy ... sure.

In the past, I've found it easier to write a blurb for a book I haven't written, than for one already completed, when I'm familiar with all the subtle twists and turns. Rather than tear my hair out, I went back to my KRK file and pulled out my Chapter Outlines which contain scene breakdowns.

When I'm writing an intricate plot that stretches over 1,500 pages and three kingdoms with parallel time lines, I keep notes for myself on what happens in each scene. I've learnt from experience there are times when I wake in the middle of the night thinking, 'Oh no, I forgot to mention that X was wearing his lion tooth trophy necklace early in book two.' Then I have to go back and find the right scene and the right place to mention this in passing. If I haven't done a scene breakdown I spend ages looking for the right spot. So I have this handy tool that reduces each book to the important events in each scene. But these documents are up to 10 pages long. At least I was one step closer to writing a 100 word blurb.

Still not there though. So I resorted to the old faithful:-

Who is the story about?
What do they want?
Why can't the achieve this?
How do they overcome it?

Only I avoided the last line because these were blurbs to tease the readers. After three days of intensive writing, editing, putting aside for a couple of hours, going back to it. I had the blurbs written. Under 400 words in 3 days -- Wow!

After all that I had to wonder, do the reading public pay much attention to blurbs? Do you buy a book on the strength of the back cover blurb?

19 comments:

C Kelsey said...

Rowena,

If I'm looking at a new author, the back cover blurb is often all I have to go on for the book. So, at least with me, they can be a prime seller. I don't open the book and take a look inside if the blurb on the back doesn't interest me.

Anonymous said...

More and more I buy online. The Amazon blurb, which is probably the same, is all I have to go by.

Not to raise the pressure, or anything . . .

MataPam

Anonymous said...

On paperbacks, that's all you have. There's nothing on the inside to read. So, yes, even with authors I love, I read the back cover because just because I love them doesn't mean I'll buy THAT book if it doesn't look interesting to me.

Linda Davis

Brendan said...

What was your pitch to the publisher? Could you use that? I presume it got your agent and editor excited, would it work on the general populous?

Rowena Cory Daniells said...

Kelsey,

You're right, with a new author it is all you have to go on.

Rowena Cory Daniells said...

Matapam,

Gee, thanks. No pressure.

If you buy through Amazon, do you read the reviews? And if you do, do they influence you?

Rowena Cory Daniells said...

Linda,

You said: So, yes, even with authors I love, I read the back cover because just because I love them doesn't mean I'll buy THAT book if it doesn't look interesting to me.

Exactly. More pressure.

I look at blurbs, but they annoy me because they're often generic. So I wanted to make these just a little different. Sigh.

I haven't heard back from my editor yet.

Rowena Cory Daniells said...

Brendan,

Good point.

I would use the proposal as a leaping off point, but the books had grown and changed so much, especially books 2 & 3, that the proposal was no longer applicable.

Kate said...

I read the blurbs. Usually it's a case of title or cover looks interesting, or someone's recommended that book, so I look at the blurb. If that interests me, I'll take a look inside where I can.

Amanda Green said...

Like Kate, I read the blurbs and the inside blurb when it's there, especially if it is a book by an author I'm not familiar with. For those I order from Amazon, I do read the reviews as well, although how much credence I put in them depends on a number of factors.

Chris McMahon said...

Well - I almost never read the blurb.

I will look initially at cover art, then I will read the first few pars & perhaps fick through the book and look at the balance of the style. I can usually tell the tone of the book from a few paragraphs and get an idea of where they will take the characters from how the prose and expression changes through the book.

matapam said...

The problem with Amazon is that I'm usually searching for a particular author or title. I'm unlikely to hunt around and browse through random books that pop up in "Other people who have bought this book . . . "

I'll read the blurb, but generally buy the book based on a recommendation from someone. I rarely scroll down to the reviews.

Rowena Cory Daniells said...

Kate,

I come from a graphic art background so a great cover will make me pick up a book, but it won't make me buy it.

Friends saying 'try this book', do it for me.

Rowena Cory Daniells said...

Amanda,

I find reading the reviews interesting on Amazon. I look for a trend. If several reviewers refer to some aspect of the book as being really good, then I take it to mean it is.

Rowena Cory Daniells said...

Chris, trust you to be different!

Rowena Cory Daniells said...

Matapam,

What we all writers need is a pile of friends who tell their friends, this is a great book, pass it on!

Chris McMahon said...

Hey - I am to please!

Sarah A. Hoyt said...

I hate, hate, hate, hate writing back cover blurbs. And right now I'm working on the one for Darkhips Thieves which is SUCH a complex book and so hard to sum up. I mean, there's the very short "She never wanted to go to space/space will never be the same again" and after that... well... things get difficult.

Rowena Cory Daniells said...

I feel for you, Sarah!