Blurb – strange word, strange process

Blurb. It is not a word that rolls easily off of the tongue. Nor is it a process that flows from the mind. The definition in my Oxford Reference Dictionary:

Blurb n. descriptive or commendatory matter, especially a description of a book printed on its jacket. (Said to have originated in 1907 by G.Burgess, American humourist, in a comic book jacket embellished with a drawing of pulchritudinous young lady whom he facetiously dubbed Miss Blinda Blurb.)

Pulchritudinous! Now that is a word. Maybe I could use it in the blurb for my sequel (when I have looked it up… [definition: (literary) beautiful]).

I can’t, of course, because my blurb must use its maximum-200-word potential to good effect. Grab the reader, sum up the flavour of my book, entice you to hit the ‘buy’ button in the few brief seconds spent reading it. Using words that require definition would possibly deflect from that purpose.

CreateSpace’s explanation of my blurb:

The Book Description displays on your book’s detail page and in your eStore. This Book Description is a marketable synopsis of the main plotlines or key messages in your book. In conjunction with being commercially appealing and written with the main marketable theme in mind, it should also be a clear representation of what your target audience will receive upon purchase of your book.

Easy then? No, it isn’t. I read some very good advice recently; that you should complete the blurb for your book early on in the writing process. Long before the book is finished. That, as with your manuscript, you should take the time to read it, re-read it and read it again, throughout the process. Amending and improving as you go. Live with the words for a while, sharpen the phrasing. I didn’t do any of that, of course. I handed the job of writing my blurb over to the CreateSpace marketing team. And then I changed it. I showed it to the PR-employed Eldest Daughter, who changed it some more.  So it now bears little resemblance to the original blurb, created by the marketing team, which I had paid for. My feeling was that they had revealed too much of the story line. Hinted at secrets which unfolded within the chapters and should wait to be discovered by the reader.

If you are a writer, you are the person that knows your book best. Every twist, turn and development is there because you imagined it, constructed it and wrote it down. Consequently you, and you alone, are the person best equipped to write the blurb for your book. By all means, let other’s proof read it and consider suggested changes. Run it past anyone you know with experience in relevant fields – friends who buy books in your genre, mates who work in marketing or PR, librarians or bookworms…the list goes on. Then go with your gut and follow your instincts. Opinions are great and should be listened to, but they are only opinions. And you are allowed to have your own. Keep the faith when five different people are telling you five different things. You can work it out you know.

I hope that my blurb (partial view above) is “descriptive or commendatory matter”. That it is “commercially appealing” and “a clear representation of what my target audience will receive upon purchase of my book”. But that’s a hell of a lot to fit in to maximum-200-words. Time will tell if the words entice complete strangers to put their faith in me and spend their hard-earned money.

I hope that they do, but I hope even more that when they have, they really enjoy the book.

2 thoughts on “Blurb – strange word, strange process

  1. Great post! I read that once as well: draft your blurb before you write your book. But why would I hang on to a little paragraph I wrote about a trip I was going to take before I took it? Yes, we draft the outline of the plot, have good ideas about where it’s going to go but the thing evolves as we write it. My view: write now; blurb later 🙂


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