Thursday, 21 March 2013

Book Blurbs

Continuing my Thursday Challenge to myself to click ‘Random Article’ in Wikipedia and write about whatever article comes up first, and also link the topic in some way to writing.
Today’s article was about a movie called Pancho Villa, a ‘spaghetti western’ made in 1972, starring Telly Savalas and Clint Walker. The plot, according to Wikipedia, is: After being double-crossed in an arms deal planned by arms dealer Scotty, the Mexican revolutionary Pancho Villa and Scotty raid a US Army weapons depot in retaliation.
I have to admit that this ‘blurb’ does absolutely nothing to attract me to the movie. For one thing, it’s totally confusing. If Pancho Villa has been double-crossed by Scotty, why is he then working alongside him? And why are they raiding a US depot? In retaliation for what?
Secondly, I have absolutely no interest in arms deals, or raids on weapons depots.

Thirdly, I’m not madly keen on westerns either!

This made me think about book blurbs, and what attracts me or put me off when I read a blurb.

Starting with the third point, just as I’m not interested in western movies, there are various genres of books that don’t interest me. Paranormal, erotica, fantasy, sci-fi – if I see any of those words in a blurb, I’m very likely to put the book on the shelf (or turn to something else on Amazon). Of course I accept that plenty of people do like western movies, and have different tastes in books. It’s simply a matter of personal choice, and doesn’t reflect the quality of the movie or book.

Second point – the ‘subject matter’. In the movie, this was arms deals and raids, which of course are not restricted to westerns. Again, however, it’s not something I would choose to watch. The same applies to books, even if I am looking specifically at my personal choice of genre i.e. contemporary romance. If I see a book about a Greek shipping billionaire, or a rich Arab sheikh, or Italian count, I’m unlikely to buy it. Similarly, if there’s murder or fraud or other crime, I probably won’t be tempted either.

Which brings me to maybe the most important point about blurbs. The Pancho Villa blurb is one of the worst I have read, not just because it is confusing, but also because it simply doesn’t tell you enough about the story. It seems there is a fine line between revealing too much in a blurb, and not telling enough.

The best advice I read about blurbs was quite simple:

1. Who’s the hero?
2. Who’s the heroine?
3. What’s the main conflict?
4. End with a question which is basically the ‘log line’ or main hook for your book.

Thus the ‘blurb’ for my recent release was: Anna Richards has a dream of going to live and study in Paris, but when Matthew Carlton comes into her life, her dream changes direction. Attraction sparks between them, but Matt’s behaviour is strangely inconsistent. Anna is shocked when she discovers the reason and is sure there is no future for them. Can Paris work its magic and make her dream come true?

What puts you off in a book blurb - and what attracts you? 

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