Thursday, 9 August 2012

The Problem with Blurbs

You have no doubt heard the phrase "you can't judge a book by it's cover." You may also think it's complete nonsense because, let's face it, how the hell else are you supposed to judge a book? A nice front cover (or spine) catches my eye, and then I look at the blurb to decide if I want to read the book. And where is that blurb located? Ah, yes, on the cover. (Unless it's not on the cover, more on that a little further on).

But I have issues. You may have noticed this, but today I specifically mean issues with blurbs. There are, as there so often is, three distinct types.

Type 1 - The blurbs that tells you too much
I need a blurb to give me a flavour of the book, to get me interested and wanting to know more, without leaving me able to guess exactly what's going to happen. In the blurb for Twilight by Stephenie Meyer, it is stated that Edward is a vampire. Except we're not supposed to know that for two hundred pages, meaning that every time Bella wonders why Edward acts so strangely, the reader wants to hurl the book across the room. There are other things about the Twilight books that might make you want to hurl them across the room, but this is a particular problem for me. The blurb shouldn't tell me everything that's going to happen in the novel, that's akin to someone telling you the ending of a movie and you thanking them and carrying on watching it anyway.

Type 2 - The blurb that doesn't tell you anything
The other extreme is the blurb that doesn't tell you enough. You'd be surprised how often this happens. I recently bought a book called Starters by Lissa Price. It's blurb reads: "First, Callie lost her parents. Then she lost her home. And, finally, she lost her body. But she will stop at nothing to get it back." Now, the fact that this isn't what happens in the book aside, it's not really enough to convince me to read a book. Sure, it piqued my interest, but there wasn't enough there to convince me I wanted to read the book. All it really told me is that it's a young adult novel and it's presumably set in the future. Given the current huge popularity of YA Dystopian novels, I need more to make me choose this one over another. Luckily for me, this book also fits the profile for...

Type 3 - The blurb that isn't where it's supposed to be
How often have you picked up a book, flipped it over to find out what's it about, and instead of a blurb, been met with a bunch of uninteresting quotes from people who liked the book? Have these quotes ever convinced someone to actually read a book? I rarely bother to read them, they have no bearing on whether I will like a particular book, so why bother? It actively annoys me when I have to open the book up and look for the blurb. It makes me not want to buy it. In the case of Starters, I did actually buy the book, but it does bother me. The trusty internet defines a blurb as: A short description of a book...written for promotional purposes and appearing on the cover of a book. On the cover. So please, for the sake of my sanity, stop hiding the blurbs inside your books. I'm on the verge of creating a new personal rule about not buying books unless the blurb is on the back cover. Yes, I really would do that.

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