Sunday, August 28, 2011

Another lesson in self-publishing: the blurb

If you’re a regular reader of this blog, you’ll know how vital it was to me to get the cover exactly right on BUT I TOLD YOU LAST YEAR THAT I LOVED YOU (my third book, but the first one I’ve published myself.) I think a cover has to represent the contents of the book, to be attractive, and to seduce the kind of reader who will enjoy the story.

OK, so once that reader has picked up the book, what do they do next? They turn the book over and read the blurb on the back. So writing a winning blurb is the next stage on the way to the till. Just as most writers don’t get to choose their own covers, most writers don’t get a say in their blurbs. Self-publishers have no choice. What a responsibility.

back cover for blog

As far as I can see, the blurb has to do the same thing as Chapter 1, but it has to do it in one paragraph, not twenty pages. It has to give a potential reader a clue about the theme and the tone of the book, and – for my books - the characters.

Writing the blurb for the back of BUT I TOLD YOU LAST YEAR THAT I LOVED YOU wasn’t too taxing. But I gave it a lot of thought before I began, and I had to make a difficult decision: should I tell the reader that Sol has Asperger’s syndrome, or should I leave them to realise it for themselves, just as Fran doesn’t realise until the end of the book? On the one hand, the subject of Asperger’s might attract some readers who are particularly interested in the subject. On the other hand, it could put some readers off.

And then there is the question of whether one should let out a key part of the plot in a trailer. Would it spoil the enjoyment of the book?

Some recent research at the University of California showed that advance information about a plot doesn’t spoil the reader’s enjoyment of the story. It actually enhances it. The researcher suggested that spoilers don’t spoil enjoyment, because plot is a relatively superficial aspect of storytelling…which is something I’ve always felt. I love theme, I love character, I love dialogue, and I care about the texture of the narrative, but plot is just something that I have to use to achieve narrative drive, to keep the reader turning the pages.

I have a friend who always reads the last page of a book first. She wants to know what happens, so that she doesn’t rush through the book to find out, and in doing so misses all the pleasure along the way.

Getting back to the subject of my blurb, I rather wanted people to LIKE Sol, and I thought they might not judge him so harshly for some of his apparently unsympathetic behaviour, if they knew the reason behind it. So I did dither before deciding not to reveal his ASD in the blurb.  

But in any case, the book is about far more than Asperger’s syndrome. It’s about mature marriages per se, and what a couple does when they get to retirement and want different things. I got a lovely letter this week from a reader (it made my day) who thought the book tackled the unanswerable question - “Is it harder to cling on or to let go?” She is the first person to point this out and I’m delighted that she did – because it’s yet another theme of the book.


1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Ah, it's a personal reading style. Perhaps most people wouldn't read the last page first, but I do, too. Sometimes the last chapter and then go back to the beginning. I like it like that! For some reason it doesn't bother me at all to know how a book or movie ends. On the other hand, I sometimes read a book or watch a movie more than once and you certainly know how it ends the second time around!