Monthly Archives: May 2010

BLURB…BLURB…BLURB. What Works?

As time creeps ever so slowly toward my manuscript [finally] being turned into a novel, the question of what makes us choose a book becomes much more than a passing interest. 
     So I thought I’d combine my search for answers with a new-found ability to add a poll button to my posts and ask all you book-buyers [and borrowers] to choose which of the following blurbs [randomly picked from my bookshelves but with an eye for different styles] most hits the mark.
     There may be other bits and pieces on the inside, etc. but I have concentrated just on what is on the back cover because I figure that’s mostly what we read first when considering a purchase.
     If you feel like adding a comment about why something does or does not work, please do.  But don’t forget to vote.

 BLURB STYLE #1  – What the Story is About.   
The China Garden by Kristina Olsson

Over two hot weeks one summer, cracks emerge in the veneer of a small coastal town.
When a newborn baby is found abandoned in a backyard, this dramatic event pierces the lives of three very different women.  Laura has returned home for her mother’s funeral after years in exile, only to discover her upbringing was based on a lie; elderly Cress, the moral compass of the community, conceals her own vices; while young Abby walks the streets, her bruises wrapped in baggy clothes.  But it is gentle Kieran, an unlikely guardian, who knows their secrets and watches over them.
As their lives collide, what is buried can no longer remain hidden.  The China Garden is a captivating story about betrayal and its echoes across generations.

 BLURB STYLE #2 – Reviews Only.                    
Away by Amy Bloom

Advance praise for Away
‘Raunchy, funny, and touching.  Away is an elegant window into the perils of invention and reinvention in New York in the twenties.  Amy Bloom’s heroine, Lillian, Is an unforgettable young woman’  Caryl Phillips
‘A book full of tender wisdom, brawling insight, sharp-edged humour and – if it’s possible – a lovely, wayward precision.  Amy Bloom has created an unforgettable cast of characters’  Colum McCann
‘It’s such a strong vibrant story, brittle with its underlying tragedy, and fascinating for the pieces of history it reveals along the way’ Georgina Harding
Away grabs you by the throat from the first page to the last, breaks your heart and shakes all your senses awake’ Emma Donoghue

 BLURB STYLE #3 – Excerpt + One Line Grab + Review Quotes  
Galax-Arena by Gillian Rubinstein

All the suffering and pain of their lives was cancelled out by the beauty and courage of the performers.  I understood for a moment why they put their entire being into the performance even though they were being used like slaves and animals.  In the Galax-Arena, they were free.
Confronting and stunningly original, Galax Arena challenges our way of thinking about the world.
‘Innovative, provocative, effortlessly ethical and utterly convincing … a brilliant book.’  Katharine England, Advertiser (Adelaide)
Galax-Arena is chillingly real … A first rate thriller that will leave readers hoping for a sequel.’ Booklist (USA)

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PEARL DIVING, GENRE JOSTLING and WINNING THE LOTTERY

I’ve heard it said that writers often pitch their fiction wrong.
     Could it be that it is wrong to pitch our fiction?
     ‘Who is your target audience?’ we get asked.  Now, this is fair enough if the answer is as broad as, say, children or teenagers.  It also works if you have a narrower target such as knitters or wood-workers or butterfly-wing collectors. 
    
But it seems that an answer along the lines of ‘people who like to be surprised by fiction’ doesn’t cut the mustard.  ‘Someone who has no preconceived notion of what this story is about’, does not float a publisher’s boat.  What about ‘a reader interested in journeying into fields unknown?’  No cigar.
     Don’t get me wrong.  There is nothing wrong with fitting tightly into a genre, if that is where you want to be.  If a reader is in the mood for a romance guaranteed to produce – despite a lot of angst and more than a few misunderstandings – an ending where the heroine ‘gets her man’, then isn’t it wonderful that they can grab a Mills and Boon? 
     If you want to get your rocks off with a little hanky-panky, its hard to go past a Best of Erotica anthology or you could take a dip into Toshba Learner’s  Quiver.  Some brilliantly-researched, good quality gore and suspense?  Patricia Cornwell.  A scientifically-believable eye-opening tear-jerker? Jodi Picoult perhaps.  Clever and Witty? Jasper Fford.
     Sometimes, though, isn’t it just enough to know that the author has written for an adult audience? 
    
Personally, I  don’t want to read ‘something like I read last summer’. 
    
Just because you might have enjoyed  Twilight,  doesn’t mean you want to read everything written by Stephenie Meyer or, indeed any story from  the ‘new Stephenie Meyer’. 
    
I don’t really want to be told ‘If you liked  Frankenstein: revenge  then you’ll love A monster called F. 
     
Am I the only person who wants to pick up a book, weigh it in my hands, scan the blurb, read the first line, and then make a decision to buy or not to buy?  Are there really not millions of readers who would like to give something a go and see if they like it? Aren’t we clever enough – or daring enough –  to trust our instincts? 
    
The more I consider it, the more I think,  perhaps I am alone.
     You see, I’m the same with DVD’s.  I love to browse the aisles of ‘Video Ezy’, looking at the cover pics, reading the blurbs, and then – horror of horrors – taking a $4 gamble ($2 on Tuesdays) and taking something home to watch.  I might be bored beyond words by a Where the Wild Things Are or completely surprised by a Whip it.
    
I know that purchasing a book is a far bigger investment than renting a movie but I still think we should all take the gamble.  I mean, pulease, people buy lottery ticket’s  don’t they?  According to  WebMATH*, the odds of winning the lottery are 1 in 8,145,060. 
     I have done my own ‘extremely scientific’ research (read: I’ve chatted with friends about it) and I can tell you that the odds of purchasing a book that you enjoy and would recommend to others is quite high.  For every random book that we have selected, we reckon the odds are six to one:  six ‘brillos’ to every one ‘dud’.
    
So in the words of self-confessed ‘queen’ Molly Meldrum, ‘do yourself a favour’ and grab yourself a copy of whatever book takes your fancy.  See where the author can take you.  See what the story makes you think about. 
     See how fiction can change the way you look at the world.

*WebMATH also brought forth this little gem:  someone eating an oyster has a 1 in 12,000 chance of finding a pearl inside.    Diving, anyone?

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My Soapbox #1: LEAVE MY CODEINE ALONE

I’m fed up with the majority suffering because of a minority.  Minority is the polite term: idiot fringe is perhaps more apt. 
     Quite frankly, I am sick of worrying about a bunch of lunatics intent on finding more things to abuse, to get addicted to, to kill themselves with.  Believe me, if a bunch of whack-jobs want to get their hands on a tonne of codeine, limiting the sale of painkillers like Nurofen and Panadeine isn’t going to stop them.
     Why are we Australians allowing sniffling little bureaucrats sitting in ivory towers to dictate our lifestyle?  Some ‘do-gooders’ have come up with a set of arbitrary rules that are not going to curb drug abuse one iota. 
     The main result of over-regulating the purchase of analgesics is that our elderly parents and grandparents will now have to traipse off to their doctors and chemists on an almost weekly basis.  People who have paid taxes all their lives have to suffer more pain in order to get out to get their painkillers!  They have to put up with sixteen-year old shop assistants in pharmacies taking their details and no doubt sprouting that old refrain ‘have you used this medication before?’ just so the community can look after the well-being of a bunch of freeloading druggies.
     Amy Simmons of ABC News writes that there have been ‘reports of addicts taking up to 80 Nurofen Plus tablets a day, crushing the opiates and injecting them’
(www.abc.net.au)   Idiots like that are going to get their fix, despite any amount of regulatory measures. So leave them to it, I say.
     And leave my codeine alone.

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