How Not to Write a Novel Back Blurb

I thought I might see a lot of interest in the subject of independent adoptions yet there were only two comments, and those from people who read this blog faithfully. Thank you loyal supporters, you know who you are!

Not even the friend who suggested I write it and to whom I submitted it for an accuracy check commented, so I guess everyone is otherwise occupied with more important matters. Even though it seemed the readership was quite substantial and a modest increase from my usual traffic, still not much comment action.

I did receive some “likes” though which is always fun.

WordPress sends a congratulatory email when someone “likes” a post. Congratulations! They say. Someone liked your post well enough to press the Like Button. Pressing the Like Button isn’t exactly a physical challenge, now is it? And it’s not like they brought me a Chili Macaroni Casserole or anything. But still, WordPress considers it a moderately big deal.

I’m back to writing about writing.

I finished up my novel, Perigee Moon, this week so I’m on to the next task, that of designing a book cover. To do this, I must write a “back blurb” and I’m not sure why I need it since the book is self-published and is never going to be sitting alongside the likes of books with cover pictures of Fabio on the bookshelves at Wal-Mart. The blurb is to sum up your novel, to “sell” it and, much like the headline at the top of a sleazy tabloid magazine, is supposed to tempt you into picking it up and tossing it into your shopping cart.

“Bill Clinton Dying!” Yes, probably. Aren’t we all?

“Nick & Jessica’s Sham Marriage: Why Are They Still Faking It?” Who’s this again?

“Jen Tells Pals: Angie’s a Monster!” Really, Jen. Get over it.

“Possible reconciliation between Kim Kardashian and Reggie Bush?” Could someone please remind me why we should care about these people?

Based on your willingness to give the teeniest of shits about any of the above topics may in fact influence you to purchase the magazine in order to get the true scoop. Of course, you could be really tacky and stand there and browse through the magazine while the clerk zips your cat food through the scanner, but he’s trying to engage you in conversation because 1) you are incredibly good looking, 2) you are incredibly interesting, or 3) he’s bored. Any bets?

Back to our subject at hand. The title has to grab you enough that you want more. The headline “Bill Clinton Suffers Sniffles” isn’t quite as compelling as the fact that he might be dying. And while this is not a dissertation on Bill, I suspect many people might be interested in what the Old Guy has done now to put him in such ill health. One can only imagine.

The back blurb of a novel has to grab you, make you want to read it. So it needs to contain lots of good keywords and it should be true to the type of novel it is — only more so. It should be exaggerated, and enticing, and earth-shattering. But it’s a PITA to write one and I’m not very good at it.

If I said something like “action packed, tense suspense and drama on each page”, this would not be indicative of what my novel is all about. The people who don’t want action packed won’t buy it and the people who do want action packed will be pissed off because it’s not that kind of novel.

I found five pieces of back blurbs that I find tempting:

Compellingly written, running the literary gamut from menacingly dark to hilariously funny, this is an epic saga of one family’s trials and triumphs in a world of sin, guilt, and redemption.

I’m hooked on all of this. Compellingly written (although, says who?) and menacingly dark and hilariously funny and epic saga always grab me. Not to mention sin, guilt and redemption. It isn’t any wonder that I found this paperback in my possession.

…a brilliantly crafted story of parallel lives, familial secrets, and the redemptive power of love.

Brilliantly crafted, I like that. Is that better than compellingly written? I love the idea of parallel lives and familial secrets. And you can’t beat the redemptive power of love.

But for his wife, who feels like a tiny gnat buzzing around her family’s edges, “walking away from it all” is not a premeditated act, but an impulse that will lead her into a new, exciting and unimagined life…

I love that she feels like a tiny gnat buzzing around her family’s edges. This portends to be about a woman who feels diminished, unimportant and I’ll just bet she does something really cool and then her family takes a second look and says, Well, I guess Mom wasn’t as much of a loser as we thought she was.

An extraordinary, moving story, this novel explores the complexities of love — how it survives time and heartbreak, and how it transforms us forever.

Ah, the idea of the complexities of love and how it survives time and heartbreak. How it transforms us forever. The romantic in me can’t resist this.

This intense new novel follows a middle-aged man as he contends with a past he has never much thought about — until his closest childhood friends return with a vengeance, one of them from the grave, another maddeningly present.

An “intense” novel, that sounds good. A middle-aged man, I like it that the character is the same age as the ones I write about, and I really can get into the idea of a past he never much thought about, and childhood friends returning with a vengeance, and from the grave. Wow, that’s got to be great.

Here’s how I might write my back blurb:

A compellingly written, beautifully crafted story. Menacingly dark yet hilariously funny, an epic saga which crosses the boundaries of four generations, of a man who feels as unimportant as a mosquito being batted outside the familial edges as he attempts to remember the complexities of love yet fears it can’t survive the test of time. A heartbreaking story of forgotten pasts and uncertain futures emerge as his closest childhood friend returns with a vengeance from Buffalo.

What do you think? Pretty good huh?


Back to the writing board. Back blurbs are killers to write.

Oh, and one more thing, Bill Clinton is not dying.