Monday, November 10, 2014

Judging a Book

I'm going to repost from the "Heard on the Backseat" section of my much ignored blog.

Me: You can't judge a book by it's cover.
Eleven year old daughter: Unless it's the back cover.

This comment was timely because it came at a time when a slew of emails were going back and forth about the blurb of the upcoming book Musical Youth. The blurb is one of the more important components of a published novel. First the reader checks out the cover and if that intrigues them enough, they flip it (whether in reality or online) and read the back. If you can't hook them with the blurb then you may as well give up right away.

So I'm going to write about what I've learnt about writing a blurb and how we constructed the Musical Youth blurb.

1. (Optional) An eye-catching header. We went with "Music, Discovery, Love"  centered and large at the top.

2. (Optional) A Tag line. This can be in question form, something that intrigues the reader. For Musical Youth we asked the reader their opinion "Can one summer make the difference of a lifetime?"

3. Then we briefly introduce the protagonist and characters. It's a good idea to introduce them by name, so that the reader connects to them right away. Give a bit of their essence and the relationships that make them interesting. With Musical Youth the name of the protagonist is interesting in and of itself, so we're already way ahead of the game.

Zahara is a loner. She's brilliant on the guitar but in everyday life she doesn't really fit in. Then she meets Shaka, himself a musical genius and the first boy who really gets her. They discover that they share a special bond, their passion for music, and Zahara finds herself a part, not just of Shaka's life, but also that of his boys, the Lion Crew.

4. The Problem statement. What is a book without a problem, something which affects and fundamentally changes the protagonist? The blurb should give an idea of what the protagonist has to overcome so that the reader (who now considers the protagonist among their best friends) is drawn in to the meat of the book. This was the biggest challenge in the development of the Musical Youth blurb. It was difficult to balance giving away enough to create interest and not giving away too much of the plot. Check out the end result on Amazon. #MusicalYouth

5. Finally, there is the conclusion that gives the readers an idea of the type of book that they are about to read. We could have gone with something like "Musical Youth is a beautifully crafted novel with a musical thread running through it" but someone beat us to that, unfortunately.

And that's the end of that. Of course this is just one approach. Tell me about your experience with blurb writing? How important is it in the process to publication?


Charles Gramlich said...

I either go directly to the back cover or open the book at page 1 and read the first paragraph or so.

Carol Mitchell said...

OK, so we definitely have to catch you with the first line!

Liane Spicer said...

Writing the blurb is hard. I am constantly tweaking my blurbs because I'm never satisfied. I suspect the author is usually too close to the material to write a great blurb. But alas, we have no choice sometimes, so I use a process like the one you've outlined.

G. B. Miller said...

It took me the better part of three months to write a blurb for my first book, but strangely enough, about one hour to write for the 2nd.

Dayton Ward said...

For my tie-in work, it's not unusual for someone to write a blurb for those books, and send them to the authors for approval. More often than not, I'll rewrite what they send me. Sometimes it's just tweaking and rearranging and "pumping it up," and then there are the times I just start over and do the whole thing from scratch, because GRR! ARGH!

So, yeah, I take it seriously :D