Wednesday, December 30, 2020

Writer's Wednesday: Is a blurb part of the story?

 In my review of The Long Way to a Small Angry Planet, I noted that I started listening without reading (or re-reading, given how long I'd had the book on hold at the library) the blurb. The way that affected my reading experience made me realize that our blurbs aren't just important for marketing--they are actually part of how most people read our books. That understanding has me working on a better sense of what and how to write the blurbs (book-jacket summary) to improve not just the likelihood that the person looking at it will buy the book, but also their experience of reading the book.

Of course, all the holiday stuff distracted me from this question, so it's taken me until now to write this post, and precious little thinking has taken place. But here are the things I think I get from reading a blurb:

  • The main character's name and something about him/her--life circumstances, if not personality.
  • Setting. I presumably know genre in the broadest sense, at least, but the blurb will tell me if the SF story takes place on a far-flung planet or a future earth, or the mystery is set in New York City or a small town in Maine.
  • The main conflict of the story.
  • Some sense of the goal.

Diving into a story without knowing any of that isn't a bad thing--but it made me feel like it took extra time to get my footing. On the other hand: maybe I was experiencing the unfolding of the story the way the author intended? 

Ultimately, though, I think that the blurb starts the reader off with a certain sense of being invested in the character(s) even before starting to read. And that has to be a good thing, from a writer's perspective, because it increases the odds that the reader will keep going.

 What do you think? Do you read the blurbs or back-cover copy before you start a book? How do you think that changes your reading experience--and what do you think is most important to find there? Leave your thoughts in the comments!

Oh, and don't forget to check out my books at the Smashwords End of Year Sale! Rebecca's Smashwords Page.

Oops--looks like time to update the "all covers" image, too!

5 comments:

  1. Interesting. I often get a book, based on the blurb, but by the time I get to read it I have little memory of the blurb. But you’re right, re-reading the blurb (or as some do, reading it at the start of the book) does help me find my feet much quicker.
    Maybe I should pay more attention to blurbs this year. And it’s a good thought for writing my own.
    Actually, maybe that’s why it’s easier for a beta reader to write the blurb!
    Happy new year, relatively speaking.
    Jemima and boys <3

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    1. Yeah, I'm going to think about it more as I hone that blurb for the new book.

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  2. I only read them for new to me authors or settings. Read 12 of the Dune series, and only read the first blurb. Same thing for other authors. Once I find an author I like, I tend to read several of their books consecutively. I buy your's to make me feel better. All of your stories are feel good tales.

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  3. Hi Rebecca - I do sometimes read the blurb before I start the book ... but certainly blurbs have sent me off buying recently ... then there's the elevator pitch aspect, let alone the cover to draw a reader in. The blurb and pitch should both summarise in their way the book's story-line ... difficult to do for many authors ...

    Interesting thoughts ... take care and all the very best in 2021 - Hilary

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  4. All of your responses are making me think that my feeling of being at sea without knowing any of the characters or the basic storyline (from not having read the blurb) is part of my own dislike of the unknown, not the more common reaction!

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