Saturday, October 8, 2011

Blurbs and Spoilers

The blurb is the first thing most people see after the title when they are making reading decisions. In our end of publishing, based on an informal survey, the author seems to be the one responsible for the final blurb. Only one of the publishers mentioned by my respondees drafts a blurb, and that pub also wants author input for the final. One wants a long blurb, which they edit into final form. That leaves a lot of responsibility on the authors' shoulders for an ad in 50 to 200 words to say "come read more!"

Also judging from the amount of grumbling heard, this isn't easy to do. Judging from what I've seen in my hunt for stories, it's hard to do well. This is a lure, not a complete arc, and authors are trained to do a beginning, middle and end to stories (well, most are) which a blurb shouldn't have.

Some blurbs I've seen recently had a whole lot too much information. By the time I got to the end, I felt I'd met a synopsis, complete with everything but the final resolution, and once or twice, that was in there too. TMI, and not enticing. Not just because I felt like I already knew what was going on, but because I was afraid that the flaw of trying to tell too much would be reflected in flaws in the writing.

Writing a review without horrible spoilers is harder than I ever thought. One thing though, if the element is mentioned in the blurb, it quits being a spoiler if I talk about it in the review. The author put it out there, I'll use it. I'll still try not to be too detailed, but it's fair game, the author said so.

I review and offer opinions, but I'm basically a loudmouth reader and want to spend my time with a good book. Every file I open is one I want to love, and I've probably been scared away from some good stories by some bad blurbs.

Sometimes the tone of the blurb doesn't match the tone of the book. Sometimes the blurb is so dull that only a leap of faith gets me to read. Sometimes that leap of faith goes unrewarded. And this is the worst of all – sometimes the blurb is the best part of the book.

What makes a good blurb? A reader wants to know a couple of things. Who are the main characters? What makes them interesting? What are they up against in terms of the relationship? What are they up against in the outside world? Put those in the blurb, it attracts me. But don't tell me how they fix it.

If this is all laid out in 1-2-3 fashion and each separate bit is interesting, I might forgive that the combo doesn't sparkle and read it. We've all seen blurbs with the charm of paint by number paintings.

Joe Shmoe is a twenty-something shoe salesman with a thing for boots. His love life sucks since his last boyfriend left him for a soybean farmer. He hasn't fondled any feet or eaten any tofu in six months and he's lonesome.

Patrick Hatrack is a vegetarian accountant and never wears boots. His evil sister says he HAS to come to the party dressed as Dr. Frank N Furter, bringing him into Joe's shoe store. Joe can help him find boots but will Patrick help Joe find love?

Oh, there's another thing that isn't enticing, ending the blurb on a question that can be answered "Well, duh. It's a romance, of course it will/they will." "Can their love survive?" is an automatic eye-roller for me. I might still read it, but honestly now, that's a "Well, duh" question. Except in the Bittersweet line at Dreamspinner, which I really like, BTW, though I know it's not for everyone.

I'm making all this up. Any resemblance to any story in print is accidental, but anyone who wants to write it is welcome. Also warped. There's enough in there of interest that I'd consider reading. But it could be so much better.

Anyone who wants to take a whack at rewriting this blurb for fun and giggles is welcome to it. Make up a story detail or two of your own if you want. And as a reward, I'll post an example of one of your real blurbs. :D

Tell me what you think about blurbs, writing or reading them,  and how much they influence your reading choices.


  1. I take up that challenge!

    A shoe salesman with a thing for footwear and no one to fondle is going to notice a sexy accountant who needs thigh-high boots to wear to a costume party. Trouble is, Patrick Hatrack wants pleather; he's a vegetarian. If Joe Shmoe didn't have such a grudge against tofu, he'd be happier about hunting down a synthetic pair in the back room. How long can animal products interfere with animal attraction?

  2. You really don't know how tempted I am to write this story! ;D

    Here's my go at the blurb. Can't resist punning, I'm afraid:

    Working as a shoe salesman might seem like the dream job for a man with a leather boot fetish, but Joe Schmoe finds it a slow form of torture. Since his last boyfriend left him for a soybean farmer, Joe hasn’t fondled anyone’s toes, but temptation is never more than a step away in his workplace.

    Patrick Hatrack is a man on a mission: to find a pair of thigh length boots to complete his Frankenfurter outfit for his sister’s party. Militant veggie Patrick won’t contemplate leather, but with his oversized feet, finding a synthetic substitute is proving impossible. When the sexy young salesman with the gentle hands presents him with a pair in real leather, Patrick is torn between his principles and his libido.

    Joe feels like he’s finally found a sole mate in Patrick. Now he just has to persuade him there’s nothing corny about his foot fetish. After all, if the boot fits...

  3. I realise that's a long blurb I've come up with, but I don't really have a problem with blurbs being long - it's when they give away the entire plot I have an issue. Certain publishers seem to be worse at this than others.

    My experience with publishers has been that you provide them with your blurb and they rewrite it to make it sparkle. My blurb for Barging In came back a whole lot better after Samhain had worked their magic on it.

  4. Patrick Hatrack needs boots for walking, and Joe Shmoe, the lonely shoe salesman with a foot fetish has just the thing for him. Sparks fly from the moment Patrick bares his magnificent feet to the awed Joe.

    Alas, Patrick, the devout vegetarian will only touch pleather, while Joe, whose ex left him for a soybean farmer, bursts into tears at the mere mentioning of tofu. To make matters worse, Patrick’s diabolic sister want nothing else, but walk all over their fledgling romance.

    Joe and Patrick will have to find a way to overcome their dietarian divide and meddling relatives, if their love is to survive.

  5. Oh you guys are wonderful! I'd read this story with any one of those blurbs and run away from it with my original one. And shoe shopping will never feel the same again.

    Jo, help yourself to the plot bunny.

    Let's see if anyone else wants to try...

  6. I've been on a comdey kick lately, so I give you the blurb for "Pleather Love":

    Got boots? Lately that's all Joe Shmoe has since his boyfriend traded a leather lover for a soybean farmer, leaving poor Joe with a hole in his heart and a newfound hatred of tofu. His inner foot fetishist longs for the right pair of size twelves to trot through the door and relieve his loneliness.

    Firmly believing that leather is evil, vegetarian bean counter Patrick Hatrack is horrified when his sister demands that he attend her party dressed as Dr. Frank N. Furter. He doesn't have a problem with the bustier or fishnet stockings, but where the hell is he going to find size twelve, black pleather boots with six inch heels? On short notice? Hearing through the grapevine about a certain shoe store that caters to exotics, he takes a chance, and soon finds a handsome man kneeling at his feet, cooing over his tootsies. And when that man says, "I have just what you're looking for," can he mean more than just the perfect pair of boots?


Tell us what you really think.