This was the weekend they didn’t play golf.
Humans are such easy prey.
Maybe he would find the girl. Maybe he would find himself.
It’s nothing personal.
Someone said get a life … so they did.
In space no one can hear you scream.
The other week I did one of the single most difficult things I have ever done while working on my book Flight of the Vajra: I wrote the flap copy. More like, wrote it—and rewrote it—and re-rewrote it.
I am reminded once again why advertising a work is in some ways more difficult than writing the work itself. There’s so much to be said about it, and you have to say it in a few sentences—and sometimes not even that much. Sometimes all you have to work with is a few words at the top of the back of your book jacket.
Why not start in that very space? I told myself, and so four words came to mind: Seven Against The Universe! Not the most accurate version of what was going on, but among the most compelling I could come up with, and it wasn’t so inaccurate that I was considering filing a lawsuit against myself.
Blurb copy is appallingly hard, for all the reasons I talked about last time and before. You’re attempting to take something you have lived with for so long and reduce it to a couple of words designed to get someone’s attention. For the shy, introspective, just-read-the-story-it-speaks-for-itself type, this is murder. You don’t want to perform that kind of tearing-down, because that’s … well, dishonest. That’s the road to horribly misleading ad campaigns where you take a grim, downbeat piece of material and market it as a fun romp.
I bring this up as often as I do, and pound on it as hard as I do, because your problem is also my problem. I have been one of These People for far too long, who resisted the idea that a story could be, ought to be, boiled down to a few words on the back of a book.
Except it’s not. A blurb is not a story. A blurb is a blurb. A blurb is showmanship and tubthumping, and most anyone over the age of six (and even a few below that age) are going to know this.
It’s not just blurbs that work like this. The very title of a work is the same way. You don’t name something The Adventure, because that tells us nothing about it (well, unless you’re Ridley Scott and you have the nerve to simply name a movie Legend because hey, Tom Cruise and Tim Curry are on the poster).
Bring back to mind the same attitude you had when picking a title, and it gets that much easier to write blurbs.
The whole business of “why should I even have to do this?” weighs heavy on a lot of people, so here’s my attempt (however piddling) to put that part to rest once and for all:
We live in an era that is saturated by attempts to get our attention in every conceivable form. The mere presence of a brand name somewhere is an attempt to get your attention, to remind you that this particular incarnation of something is brought to you by a certain corporate collective, and if you want something like it you know where to go. I can (and often do) wring my hands over that state of affairs, because it creates an environment where the fact that something is sold is more important than the thing itself.
But barring a revolution tomorrow, there’s little that can be done about it except in small steps, and some of those small steps include making the wisest possible use of this state of affairs.
Go forth and blurb!
(Bonus points go to anyone in the comments who can identify the above movie sluglines. No Googling.)