PDA

View Full Version : The Oft-Maligned Blurb and Tagline



mscelina
04-05-2010, 07:07 AM
Hey guys--

I was wondering if you would help me to conduct a spot of research? You would? Great--

Here's the deal: another AW personage and myself are developing a workshop for authors/editors about creating blurbs and taglines for your books. As part of that workshop, I need to conduct an informal poll about what YOU think the purpose of the blurb/tagline is and why. Any additonal details from your experiences as either a writer OR a reader would be greatly appreciated.

And just as a specific starting point--a BLURB is the back cover jacket copy of your book, a mini-synopsis of the story in both fiction and non-fiction. (for an e-book, it's the synopsis on the buy page.) A TAGLINE is the one sentence-description of the book that you'll find on a website about the book before you click on it to get more information. With me so far? Great!

And please--any and all information will be hugely appreciated. So please vote--you can choose more than one option--and elaborate if you feel the need. Thanks!

Celina

scarletpeaches
04-05-2010, 07:13 AM
I said both to describe the book (for the reader's benefit) and to sell it (for everyone's).

The reader needs to know what they're buying into, of course.

And if the book sells? Publisher gets munniez, writer gets royalties, reader gets a good book; everyone's happy.

mscelina
04-05-2010, 07:19 AM
SO when you, as a writer, are working on the blurb of your book (and if you haven't yet, Scarlet, hop to it!) what are you thinking about when you write it? what makes a good blurb for you?

Chris P
04-05-2010, 07:29 AM
I've been surprised at how difficult these are to write, at least for me. In a blurb, I look for indication of genre, setting, and (most important to me as a reader) the twist on the conflict that I haven't encountered before.

scarletpeaches
04-05-2010, 07:30 AM
SO when you, as a writer, are working on the blurb of your book (and if you haven't yet, Scarlet, hop to it!) what are you thinking about when you write it? what makes a good blurb for you?Haven't you heard tt42 call me the Synopsis Ninja? :D

My process for writing is a brainvomit first draft, and a quick edit. Thorough, mark you - but quick, 'cause, ugh. Edits = boring.

Then I move on to the synopsis and query. Thus far when I've been asked for a blurb, I've been able to 'cheat' and lift the one or two paragraphs about the book from the query letter and call it good. So whenever I write a query letter, I try to make it 'blurby'.

The first line of my query letter/blurb has to be hooky. And this is the bit that takes longest to come to me. When it drops into my head - usually when I'm doing the dishes or bathing; isn't that always the way? - I know. The penny drops, and I think, "Yes! That's it!" If I saw that hook on an epub website, I'd be intrigued...or tickled...or hell, aroused. ;)

A good blurb for me is one that encapsulates the book in one or two paragraphs, touching on main events but leaving out enough to make a potential buyer think, "Hmm...interesting."

A hook, some conflict, and a question.

We're told time and time again that a synopsis should fill in the blanks, tell us the ending, not end on a cliffhanger - and I endorse that wholeheartedly. A blurb, on the other hand, should be on the cover of a book and make the reader want to flip back and open it, to read and find out for themselves how things pan out.

Whew. I witter on sometimes. Bet you regret asking. :D

mscelina
04-05-2010, 07:54 AM
Not at all. That's exactly the kind of information I need.

Writing blurbs is hard--it's also the most important 150 words you'll write for the benefit of your manuscript. I just need to get a good cross-section of information to help us develop this workshop. :) Ah...the AW guinea pigs. We're always so willing to jump through hoops for each other. It's pretty darn cool.

Thanks for responding!

scarletpeaches
04-05-2010, 07:58 AM
Writing blurbage is fun. :D

A challenge. Damn frustrating at times. But fun.

I say the above and add the reminder: I am a bit weird, so take that as you see fit.

Also, if you want to see my queries, I can PM or email them to you. Not sure if that would be any help, unless you want to see what my idea of a hooky, blurby query letter is.

PS: 'Hooky' and 'blurby' are real words. Honest.

swvaughn
04-05-2010, 03:21 PM
SO when you, as a writer, are working on the blurb of your book (and if you haven't yet, Scarlet, hop to it!) what are you thinking about when you write it? what makes a good blurb for you?

I'm generally thinking: DO NOT WAAAAANT! I hate writing blurbs. :D

I voted for the same two options as Scarlet: describe the story, sell the book. When I read a blurb, I want to know that something really cool and interesting is going to happen - and I want unanswered questions. But it has to be something beyond, "Will (main character) survive?" because of course the main character is going to survive.

I want stakes and I want shiny plot points. :D

When I have to write a blurb, I cry bash my head on something try to focus on the main plot (because it's pointless to try to work in the zillion subplots that come with a novel), the main problem, and one unique characteristic of the MC(s). I think it's more important to describe What's Gonna Happen in the blurb, rather than How Amazing My Protagonist Is. The villain also gets a sentence or two, again focused on his/her role in the plot.

I must say, I about cried with relief when I found out Pocket was writing a blurb and tagline for me. I'd already done blurbs for a couple of my pseudonym books and I hate, hate, hate writing them. I can describe other people's books all day, but mine? Pffft. :tongue

Ol' Fashioned Girl
04-05-2010, 04:09 PM
The first line of my query letter/blurb has to be hooky. And this is the bit that takes longest to come to me. When it drops into my head - usually when I'm doing the dishes or bathing; isn't that always the way? - I know. The penny drops, and I think, "Yes! That's it!" If I saw that hook on an epub website, I'd be intrigued...or tickled...or hell, aroused.

Best one I ever wrote - the one that got me my agent - came to me as I was falling asleep one night.

Thank gods I could remember it when I woke up next morning.


PS: 'Hooky' and 'blurby' are real words. Honest.

I'm stealing those two and adding 'tagliney' to the list.

timewaster
04-05-2010, 05:07 PM
SO when you, as a writer, are working on the blurb of your book (and if you haven't yet, Scarlet, hop to it!) what are you thinking about when you write it? what makes a good blurb for you?

I've never written my own blurbs someone at the publishing house does it.

Jersey Chick
04-05-2010, 05:22 PM
I hate writing blurbs. I suck at writing blurbs (makes mental note to get SP on speed dial because she haz ninja-mad skillz). I'd rather write and edit six books than write one blurb.

But a good blurb is golden. I'm jealous of anyone who can write them **snaps fingers** like that.

Soccer Mom
04-05-2010, 05:41 PM
Okay, I'm a weirdo. I like writing blurbage. I often write blurbage before writing my story. When I'm in the middle of one project, I invariably get the idea for awesome new projects (Doing anything else sounds awesome when I'm slogging through the middle of a book). I sketch down the ideas to come back to later. I try and distill them into blurbage. If the ideas remain too nebulous to set down on paper, I abandon them.

I'm one of those outlining weirdos too. I write a short outline and then a looooooooooooooooong one. My long outline is about half rough draft, half synopsis, but it helps me work out plot kinks and characters. The short outline turns into my synopsis.

I selected that blurbs and tags are to sell the book and hook readers.

Jamesaritchie
04-05-2010, 05:52 PM
Hey guys--

I was wondering if you would help me to conduct a spot of research? You would? Great--

Here's the deal: another AW personage and myself are developing a workshop for authors/editors about creating blurbs and taglines for your books. As part of that workshop, I need to conduct an informal poll about what YOU think the purpose of the blurb/tagline is and why. Any additonal details from your experiences as either a writer OR a reader would be greatly appreciated.

And just as a specific starting point--a BLURB is the back cover jacket copy of your book, a mini-synopsis of the story in both fiction and non-fiction. (for an e-book, it's the synopsis on the buy page.) A TAGLINE is the one sentence-description of the book that you'll find on a website about the book before you click on it to get more information. With me so far? Great!

And please--any and all information will be hugely appreciated. So please vote--you can choose more than one option--and elaborate if you feel the need. Thanks!

Celina

A blurb is a statement from another writer, or pulled from a review, praising the book. Jacket copy is the synopsis written by the publisher, and it serves exactly the same purpose the synopsis we send to agents and editors serves.

It's not a mystery. It's there to convince the reading public to buy the book, just as the purpose of the synopsis we send to agents and editors is there to convince them we've written a great book.

But why would a writer or an editor ever have to create either one? That's a job for marketing, and they do it very well.

mscelina
04-05-2010, 07:24 PM
Perhaps a little less ego from you would be nice occasionally.

If you read my post instead of quoting it, you'll note I gave you a specific starting point for this question--this is a workshop designed for e-published writers.

Here let me quote and bold it for you since you missed it in your zeal to copy and paste the OP instead of reading it:


And just as a specific starting point--a BLURB is the back cover jacket copy of your book, a mini-synopsis of the story in both fiction and non-fiction. (for an e-book, it's the synopsis on the buy page.) A TAGLINE is the one sentence-description of the book that you'll find on a website about the book before you click on it to get more information. With me so far? Great!



I can make it a bigger font if that's too hard to read too. I'd also like to point out that I stated quite clearly I needed input as writers and readers. *shrug*
I really don't require your snottiness in this thread, thank you very much. Why don't you run along and stomp on some daisies or something if you have nothing productive to add.

For everyone else that answered with a desire to help instead of a desire for self-mastabatory condescension, thank you very much! I really appreciate your input.

thehairymob
04-05-2010, 07:35 PM
I agree with what Scarletpeaches said about it describing and to sell the book.

mscelina
04-05-2010, 07:37 PM
Okay. Can you tell me why? :)

scarletpeaches
04-05-2010, 07:39 PM
But why would a writer or an editor ever have to create either one? That's a job for marketing, and they do it very well.Probably because my publisher asked me to.

Unfortunately, the New York/London publishers have yet to recognise my genius, so I'm with a smaller publisher at the moment.

Not that I mind; writing blurbs and taglines hones my writing skills and allows me some input, something I know is less likely with the bigger publishers.

thehairymob
04-05-2010, 07:47 PM
Well you have to tell the reaader what the book is about but at the same time not too much as to spoil the story for them. You want it to sound interesting enough so the customer wants to pick it up to read and therefore buy. So the blurb should pique their interest and sell the book at the same time.
For instance my first horror book A Winter Journey could be describe as this.
I group of seasonal worker travelling through a snowy night and crash. Good story with a supernatural twist.
That one line isn't going to sell my book but it does tell the reader what it is about, so the blurb must be more than telling, it also has to sell the product. :)

Jersey Chick
04-05-2010, 08:16 PM
It's a gift and I don't have it.

I wish I did. I'm not kidding when I say I envy people who can write them. I get it all worked out in my head, but for some reason, I can't get it down on paper. How moronic is that? Somewhere between brain and keyboard, everything goes pfzzt!!!

mscelina
04-05-2010, 10:44 PM
I hear a lot of writers say that--much the same way they talk about query letters. Why is that? Why is it that a writer who can crank out an 80k novel has so much trouble with a 150 word blurb? Anyone have any ideas?

Bubastes
04-05-2010, 10:47 PM
I hear a lot of writers say that--much the same way they talk about query letters. Why is that? Why is it that a writer who can crank out an 80k novel has so much trouble with a 150 word blurb? Anyone have any ideas?

Queries and blurbs are closer to business writing than creative writing, IMO. When I write practice queries/blurbs, I can tell I'm using the same synapses that I use for my day job writing, which are not the ones I use when I'm writing a story. For business writing, I focus on manipulating words to achieve a specific business result, so I become more analytical and detached. I think about a reader's point of view even more than when I write a story because in the query/blurb case, my writing needs to subtly persuade the reader to DO something (i.e., fork over money).

Okay, that was probably as clear as mud, but does that make any sense? That's my theory on it, anyway.

Chris P
04-05-2010, 10:56 PM
I hear a lot of writers say that--much the same way they talk about query letters. Why is that? Why is it that a writer who can crank out an 80k novel has so much trouble with a 150 word blurb? Anyone have any ideas?

For me, it's because I know everything there is to know about my novel, what the characters are up to, what they want, and what I wanted to say with the novel. There are no unimportant parts, and I want you to know all of it! Also, in the novel I have an almost unlimited opportunity to develop it how I want and to lead the readers where I want them to go.

Driving once the passenger is in the car is much easier than getting the passenger into the car in the first place.

veinglory
04-05-2010, 10:57 PM
To me a tag line is just a short teaser that draws the readers to want to know more.

The reason for the writer to provide one is that they best understand what the book is about.

Mr Flibble
04-05-2010, 11:11 PM
I hear a lot of writers say that--much the same way they talk about query letters. Why is that? Why is it that a writer who can crank out an 80k novel has so much trouble with a 150 word blurb? Anyone have any ideas?


It's like the difference between writing a novel and writing poetry - it takes different talents. Frankly, blurb writing is an art in itself and I admire greatly anyone who can do it.

Besides it's easy to write long....

scarletpeaches
04-06-2010, 12:12 AM
To be honest I don't see what the problem is with synopses, queries and blurbs beyond a reticence when it comes to selling your own work and possibly sounding boastful.

Yes, I know my book inside out but I see that as an advantage. Writing blurby stuff for tt42 first might have helped, or maybe I just naturally find it easier. I guess selling someone else's books with no 'writer's embarrassment' (because they weren't my books, o' course) gave me the experience needed to be able to say "I'm good at this. I can sell books."

So I figured - if I can sell tt42's, I can sell my own.

I mean, I can piss out an 80k novel in a matter of months; writing a 1,000-word synopsis or 200-word blurb shouldn't be any problem, right?

Only thing I can suggest is pretending someone else wrote the book and asking yourself, "Okay, how would I sell this book?"

Jersey Chick
04-06-2010, 12:20 AM
I can't describe my books - when someone asks me about a particular one, I stumble all over myself trying to sum up 90k words in a paragraph or less. It's a mystery.

Mr Flibble
04-06-2010, 12:29 AM
To be honest I don't see what the problem is with synopses, queries and blurbs beyond a reticence when it comes to selling your own work and possibly sounding boastful.

It's nothing to do with not being able to sell myself

It's all to do with being able to distil a complex story into a few words in an effective manner


I mean, I can piss out an 80k novel in a matter of months; writing a 1,000-word synopsis or 200-word blurb shouldn't be any problem, right?

That's the thing, I can write one. Whether it's any good or not is another matter entirely because it's not the same as writing a novel. The art of it is different. I can ride a horse. I would probably fall off a camel quite a bit :D

SPMiller
04-06-2010, 12:43 AM
Everything that appears on or in a book, or in its advertising material (if any), is designed with exactly one goal: to sell the book. This is a business.

That said, one of my favorite fantasy publishers, which IIRC also happens to be the biggest, won't accept query letters from unagented writers.

Jersey Chick
04-06-2010, 12:45 AM
I'd be on the ground next to you, Idiots r us - I can write the synopsis/blurb/pitch thingie - but five seconds after I send it off, I already know how could have made it better.

I'd pay someone to write them for me.

Lady Ice
04-06-2010, 12:50 AM
Taglines don't really mean anything. They're there to get the potential reader's attention. It's normally used for movies. The one for a film called Disclosure, about an alleged sexual assault, is 'Sex is Power.' That gives me a vague idea of what the film might be about but it's mainly there to grab your attention. A catchy one-liner, basically.

Blurbs give the reader an idea of what to expect from the novel. It's basically the premise of the novel, with a hint at how it might turn out.
So for Romeo and Juliet I might do:

In fair Verona, the young romantic Romeo falls in love at first sight with the beautiful Juliet, daughter of his family's enemy. They elope but family feuds and misunderstandings result in tragic consequences.

So as a reader, I know the premise (two people from rival families fall in love), what the writer does with the premise (makes the two run off together) and a suggestion at the sort of ending it might have (you can choose how much you want to hint here).

SPMiller
04-06-2010, 12:53 AM
Two infatuated kids from feuding families kill themselves.

Next?

mscelina
04-06-2010, 01:04 AM
Taglines actually mean a lot more now than they used to. The tagline and the cover are the only things that will cause an electronic purchase to click through to the buy page and the excerpt. So while the big traditional publishers have people to do these things, the smaller presses and e-pubs don't. The writer has to know how to do such things for themselves.


Two infatuated kids from feuding families kill themselves.

Next?

*snicker*

scarletpeaches
04-06-2010, 01:40 AM
I'd pay someone to write them for me.Hmm...

*strokes chinbeard*

mscelina
04-06-2010, 02:58 AM
You'd make a fortune. Hell, I'd pay you to write mine too.

SPMiller
04-06-2010, 03:14 AM
My strategy so far for writing blurbs/queries, the results of which I can only describe as worthless, has been to pick whichever story elements people find coolest and glue them together in the smallest possible number of words. It'd be nice if QLH's resources helped, but queries really do seem to require a different sort of writing skill than dramatization in prose.

mscelina
04-06-2010, 04:03 AM
That's one of the reasons why the unnamed AW personage and myself *coughbirolcough* are putting this workshop together. A lot of writers feel the same way. It's hard to reconcile how important that 150 word blurb is when you're just produced a novel-length story. But it really it is. It's what convinces the reader to buy the book. It is also--and this is vastly important--what convinces a reviewer to review your book. Most review sites will post the book title and publishing information and the blurb and allow their reviewers to select what books they're going to review. So when you have a great book, but the blurb says something like, "This book is chock full of action, drama and intrigue set in Tsarist Russia." why would anyone want to review it? Or buy it? And, unfortunately, there are a lot of great books that have blurbs like this, written by great authors who just can't understand why their book isn't selling and not even getting reviewed.

KathleenD
04-06-2010, 05:49 PM
I do blurbs pretty well, but it's coming from a different part of my brain than the part that runs my fiction writing.

My first job post grad school was writing brochure copy and panel blurbs for conference programs.

For me, the HARD part was learning to sustain tone, mood, and tension over more than a buck fifty words.

HelloKiddo
04-07-2010, 09:32 AM
I answered as a reader, not as a writer. I picked #1 and #4.

I don't think they tells us the type of book it is. The cover, title, and genre tell us that.

I don't think it's to sell us the book so much as it is to get us to read the book. Business is acquired by word of mouth, not just every copy sold. Of course, a sell always makes people happy too I'm sure :)

Kryianna
04-08-2010, 04:34 AM
As a writer, I love writing blurbs and taglines. Like a few others have said, I'll write those before even writing the book.

As a reader, there has to be a blurb otherwise I won't buy a book. I started reading romance two years ago, but still haven't read Nora Roberts, even though I've heard so many good things about her books. Every book of hers that has had a cover that made me pick it up only had her picture on the back cover. Her name is enough to get old readers to buy, but not newbies.

Jersey Chick
04-08-2010, 04:47 AM
**jots down names of people who like writing blurbs**

**checks bank account**

**smiles**

mscelina
04-08-2010, 06:40 AM
Wouldn't do that, JC. You have an evil editor who will make you write your own. I wouldn't mess with her. She's scary.

V. Greene
05-04-2010, 08:13 PM
If it's any help to the now-month-old research, I came onto AW today expressly for the purpose of learning how to write the jazzy sell-y stuff. I think the reason it's hard to do is that if we could tell what we consider essential to the story in 100 words, we would have, and we wouldn't then have written the novel.


But why would a writer or an editor ever have to create either one? That's a job for marketing, and they do it very well.

I dream of being famous enough that someone else has to write the jacket copy, the tagline, and my authorbio. Meanwhile, I am the marketing department.