When I walk into a bookshop to browse, the first thing that catches my eye is probably the cover. Something about the artwork draws me in, makes me want to pick up the book and take a closer look.
The next thing I do is check the blurb.
Blurb is crucial. Those words on the back cover? They give me, the potential reader, a taste of what is sandwiched inside that rather attractive cover - and if it's interesting and appealing enough, I might check out the first couple of pages and who knows? I might even buy the book...
StarMark's going to need a blurb.
There's loads of advice on writing blurbs. The main advice seems to be 'keep it short, make it interesting, and pack a punch.' Others suggest including a hint of the plot, the main characters, words that evoke the genre, an idea of setting, a question to suggest mystery, a strong theme if the book contains one, and even something about the author or what other people think of the book...
Trying to include all of that sounds harder than writing the flippin' book! How do you condense the essence of your story into around 150 words? Where do you even start?
So I took a look at the blurbs from some books I have on my shelf.
I'm not sure that in Dickens' day, there would have been a blurb on the book cover - I imagine all books at that time to be leather bound and gilt-edged, without the need for anything other than a title. However, a Puffin Classic copy of A Christmas Carol says this:
Go on a ghostly journey with Ebeneezer Scrooge... Scrooge is a mean old man with no friends or family to love him - he's just so miserable and bitter! One freezing cold Christmas Eve, Marley's Ghost pays Scrooge a visit and an eerie night-time journey begins. The Christmas spirits are here to show Scrooge the error of his nasty ways. By visiting his past, present and future, will Scrooge learn to love Christmas and the others around him?
OK, so we have character (Scrooge) who's not very nice, we know it's a ghost story which happens at Christmas, and Scrooge has a lesson to learn from the encounters. Sets the scene and leaves the reader with a question...Nice. (Although I probably would have changed the first sentence to read less...teenagery.)
Sir Terry Pratchett is my favourite author, so I don't always read his blurbs - I'd buy the books, regardless. But here's what's on the back of my copy of The Colour of Magic:
On a world supported on the back of a giant turtle (sex unknown), a gleeful, explosive, wickedly eccentric expedition sets out. There's an avaricious but inept wizard, a naive tourist whose luggage moves on hundreds of dear little legs, dragons who only exist if you believe in them, and of course THE EDGE of the planet...
Hmmm. Setting, characters, a hint of fun - and literally leaves you hanging on THE EDGE. There's a pattern emerging.
Harry Potter and the Philosopher's Stone:
Harry Potter thinks he is an ordinary boy - until he is rescued by a beetle-eyed giant of a man, enrols at Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry, learns to play Quidditch and does battle in a deadly duel. The Reason: HARRY POTTER IS A WIZARD!
Now that one's actually very clever. See the word 'thinks'? And 'rescued'? Completely undermines the use of the word 'ordinary'. Regarding character, only Harry is mentioned, though it hints at Hagrid. There's no mention of Dumbledore or Ron or Hermione, who are pretty major players - nor even He-Who-Shall-Not-Be-Named...
And my own Granny Rainbow:
Granny Rainbow has a knack for solving problems. Whether it's getting rid of the Black Shadow, improving a violinist's performance, helping to mend a quarrel or putting the secret ingredient into perfect marmalade, she has a potion or a powder for the job. Step into a world of colour with these illustrated short stories about a very special lady.
You know who the main character is, what she does, and that there are pictures. I reckon that's not bad, even if I do say so myself.
I only took a small sample of blurbs, but it was enough to get me started on a blurb for StarMark. I had something left over from the agented days, when the book first went out to UK publishers, but it felt very explain-y, and too long for a back cover. So I tried to write something a bit more question-y, to hook the reader in. I'm not sure that it hits the spot exactly - and the team at Bedazzled Ink will do a much better job of writing the finished copy - but it's a start:
Imagine your future, written on your skin.
The StarMark; black on the skin at birth, which changes to gold when it's your turn to be in charge.
But what happens when you don't know it's there - and someone else discovers it before you do? Especially when that someone will do anything in their power to stop you from fulfilling your destiny?
Irvana is about to find out...
So be honest - would that blurb make you want to read StarMark? And if not, what else would you want to know?