Blurbs on Books

You see an interesting book on the shelf at the library, an interesting title has grabbed your attention and the design on the spine makes you pull the book down. What a lovely cover! Great cover art and a likely read, you think, but just to be sure you turn it over.

One thing that will make me put the book back down (if it’s a paper back) is if there is no blurb. I hate when a book looks really interesting and you want to know what it’s about and the publisher has made it impossible for you to do so. There are reviews on the back that say: “Superb!”, “Wonderful read!”, “Amazing writing, the author does it again!”. What is so superb? Why is it a wonderful read? Great, so it’s amazing writing, now what has the author done again exactly? At least in hardback you can sometimes luck out on the inside of the sleeves, though not always: “This author has written the next great American classic while pushing the boundaries of modern writing, is there anything she can’t do?” Um, write a freaking blurb?

As for the occasions when a blurb is written I would have to say there are some words that will make it put it right back down: steamy, sultry and erotic right off the top of my head. The size of my Romance tag might belie this, I actually do not like novels that go into depth about what goes on between the sheets. I have yet to find any in print authors that write this at all well, either believably or in a way that is anything but overdone and tawdry. Fanfiction authors have written better stuff than I have seen in print.

I also have seen blurbs that just go on and on and on for four paragraphs telling you the whole life story of the novel. I remember reading in a book store once a likely novel’s blurb. After the first paragraph I was intrigued, but then the second paragraph spoiled the first and then the third spoiled the first two and then the fourth spoiled the ending. I just read the whole novel and I didn’t even crack open the book!

Occasionally a young adult book will go the opposite way and only have a two sentence or so blurb, followed by all the rave reviews they could cram in the space that remained. It always seemed to me that those books, sometimes fairly short themselves (to the point where the full text of all of the reviews might have given it a run for its money) really only needed two sentence to sum up the plot after all, and that’s just depressing.

So what do I like in a blurb? Just be sensible. One or two short paragraphs. No major spoilers. Oh, and be an interesting book, if you can possibly wrangle it.

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