Author Topic: Blurbs made easy  (Read 1878 times)  

Offline Martitalbott

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Blurbs made easy
« on: April 16, 2017, 12:19:44 PM »
Bad blurbs are a curse to an otherwise good book. Some blurbs come off as preachy, some give too much away, and some are downright boring. A bad blurb tells the reader the author doesn't have a clue what the book is about. So here are a few hints.

The reader only wants to know what the book is about, and you have maybe 30 seconds to grab their attention. I know a lot of us are using tag lines and in some cases that works, but not always. To work, it has to be a real zinger, and then it has to be followed up with enticing details.

Longer is not always better. A long blurb can also imply the author doesn't have a grasp on the basic story, so giving thought to the basic story is a good place to begin when you're ready to write the blurb. Then break it down.

Choose only one character
Describe his or her problem
Add a hook.

His or her problem is the basic story and every book is a mystery, so a blurb is simply a mini-mystery. I'll use one of mine as an example. It's short, to the point, and this free book has been downloaded over 100,000 times since 2010.

"In love with a woman he had only seen once and could not find, the Highlander, Kevin MacGreagor (Character) was growing older and needed a wife to give him sons. (Problem) No other woman pleased him, not even the daughters of other lairds, so he finally settled for Anna sight unseen. But when his men went to meet her guard, she was all alone and badly beaten. Who could have done such a thing and why?" (Hook)

I hope this helps.
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Offline Out_there

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Re: Blurbs made easy
« Reply #1 on: April 16, 2017, 12:41:08 PM »
Appreciate it.

Genres: Thriller/Mystery
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Offline Evenstar

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Re: Blurbs made easy
« Reply #2 on: April 16, 2017, 01:01:57 PM »
I really like reading short blurbs too.

My method is to write it out long and then hack it back to the basics as much as possible. 

I also try to find a really good one paragraph line that I can put in bold at the top.


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Re: Blurbs made easy
« Reply #3 on: April 16, 2017, 01:05:38 PM »
Totally agree with the short and concise message!

Here's my first under my own name...

The past is always just behind you...

Wracked with guilt over the death of his mentor five years ago, Sam Wright has descended into a life of minor criminality and bourbon.

That is until he finds himself with a murder to solve, and a new, unlikely partner who threatens to to snap him out of his self imposed punishment.

As the ghosts of his past and the bad the decisions of the last five years rise all around him, Sam must keep his head to solve a murder, and find a way back to the life he once knew.

Still working on it, but it's getting there..

Offline Jack Krenneck

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Re: Blurbs made easy
« Reply #4 on: April 16, 2017, 01:49:05 PM »
The reader only wants to know what the book is about, and you have maybe 30 seconds to grab their attention. 

Old-school research on physical books shows that readers spend an average of 15 seconds reading a blurb. Note, that's an average, so it includes those times the reader liked it and read the whole thing, which pumps up that 15 seconds.

The digital world works even quicker than that. The bottom line is that you have about 5 seconds to grab someone's interest - thus the need for a good opening.

Offline MonkishScribe

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Re: Blurbs made easy
« Reply #5 on: April 16, 2017, 03:37:06 PM »
This is good advice. A lot of blurb writers (or people querying agents or editors) feel that they need to explain everything. You don't. You need to hook people into reading the first pages with something that is a rough approximation of the story in question. If you could tell the whole plot in two paragraphs, why would you have written the book in the first place?

Offline hardnutt

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Re: Blurbs made easy
« Reply #6 on: April 16, 2017, 04:12:09 PM »
I'm going to have yet another go at mine. This is it so far. It's a 4-novel box-set, so it's a bit long. I've put a reviewer's quote at the top. Good idea or not?

'Darn good read.


DEAD BEFORE MORNING #1

A murder victim with no face. A media calling for answers. And a detective with a family not averse to a little gentle law-bending.

Newly-promoted British Detective Joe Rafferty and his partner, Sergeant Dafyd Llewellyn in a murder mystery involving the killing of a young woman bludgeoned beyond recognition, with no ID and found in a secure place to which she supposedly had no admission. Who is she? How has she gained access? And who was responsible for her murder?

DOWN AMONG THE DEAD MEN #2

A murder victim with no enemies. A dead patriarch. And a detective whos struggling.

British Detectives Joe Rafferty and his partner, Dafyd Llewellyn, in their second murder mystery investigation, set out to discover who killed Barbara Longman, a woman with no known enemies. But it soon becomes apparent that the murder has been committed by someone who must have known the victim very well.

DEATH LINE #3

A murdered seer who failed to predict his own future. A partner who refuses to see the murder as an inside job. And a Detective whos coming up empty.

Third novel in the Rafferty & Llewellyn mystery series, Death Line sees the detective duo trying to solve the murder, with his own crystal ball, of the famed 'seer', Jasper Moon. Gradually it becomes clear that Jasper Moon was a man of many parts, not all of them appeared very savoury.

THE HANGING TREE #4

A disappearing murder victim no one would miss. A witness destined to haunt him. And a Detective who felt ambivalent about getting a conviction.

The detective pair investigate the murder mystery of the vanishing hanged man. But when the hanged man turns up in Dedman Woods for a second time, the British detectives are able to confirm that he is a man many had reason to hate. Because Maurice Smith, charged years earlier with four child rapes, had escaped on a legal technicality. Was someone acting as the public executioner, dealing out their own form of justice on the legendary Hanging Tree?


'Evans' series has stand out central characters and clever plots.' AUNT AGATHA'S BOO
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Offline Martitalbott

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Re: Blurbs made easy
« Reply #7 on: April 16, 2017, 04:29:08 PM »
Totally agree with the short and concise message!

Here's my first under my own name...

The past is always just behind you...

Wracked with guilt over the death of his mentor five years ago, Sam Wright has descended into a life of minor criminality and bourbon.

That is until he finds himself with a murder to solve, and a new, unlikely partner who threatens to to snap him out of his self imposed punishment.

As the ghosts of his past and the bad the decisions of the last five years rise all around him, Sam must keep his head to solve a murder, and find a way back to the life he once knew.

Still working on it, but it's getting there..

It's usually not a good idea to address the reader directly. First line could be misunderstood as preachy.

Try giving your character more personality - something like,

Sam Wright had been beating himself up for five years over the death of his mentor, and even the bourbon didn't help. The last thing he needed was a know-it-all partner and another murder to solve....
                  

Offline Martitalbott

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Re: Blurbs made easy
« Reply #8 on: April 16, 2017, 04:42:48 PM »
I'm going to have yet another go at mine. This is it so far. It's a 4-novel box-set, so it's a bit long. I've put a reviewer's quote at the top. Good idea or not?

'Darn good read.



DEAD BEFORE MORNING #1

A murder victim with no face. A media calling for answers. And a detective with a family not averse to a little gentle law-bending.

Newly-promoted British Detective Joe Rafferty and his partner, Sergeant Dafyd Llewellyn in a murder mystery involving the killing of a young woman bludgeoned beyond recognition, with no ID and found in a secure place to which she supposedly had no admission. Who is she? How has she gained access? And who was responsible for her murder?

DOWN AMONG THE DEAD MEN #2

A murder victim with no enemies. A dead patriarch. And a detective whos struggling.

British Detectives Joe Rafferty and his partner, Dafyd Llewellyn, in their second murder mystery investigation, set out to discover who killed Barbara Longman, a woman with no known enemies. But it soon becomes apparent that the murder has been committed by someone who must have known the victim very well.

DEATH LINE #3

A murdered seer who failed to predict his own future. A partner who refuses to see the murder as an inside job. And a Detective whos coming up empty.

Third novel in the Rafferty & Llewellyn mystery series, Death Line sees the detective duo trying to solve the murder, with his own crystal ball, of the famed 'seer', Jasper Moon. Gradually it becomes clear that Jasper Moon was a man of many parts, not all of them appeared very savoury.

THE HANGING TREE #4

A disappearing murder victim no one would miss. A witness destined to haunt him. And a Detective who felt ambivalent about getting a conviction.

The detective pair investigate the murder mystery of the vanishing hanged man. But when the hanged man turns up in Dedman Woods for a second time, the British detectives are able to confirm that he is a man many had reason to hate. Because Maurice Smith, charged years earlier with four child rapes, had escaped on a legal technicality. Was someone acting as the public executioner, dealing out their own form of justice on the legendary Hanging Tree?


These are really hard to write and I probably haven't taken the advice I am about to give you, but I would shorten the last three blurbs as much as you can, and concentrate more on getting them hooked on the first one. That's where the gold is.

Like I said, the reader only wants to know what the book is about, not what someone else thinks about it. So no, I wouldn't take the chance.

****
Newly-promoted British Detective Joe Rafferty and his partner (are/were called to the scene of a grizzly murder involving the killing of a young woman who was bludgeoned beyond recognition. She has no ID and was/is found in the last place she was ever supposed to be.

Who is she? How has she gained access? And who was responsible for her murder?

 (These are the common questions, so try spicing it up a little. Choose a piece of evidence and then say something like...but what could a wire, phone number, word, letter, etc., near the body possibly have to do with her murder? )

****
                  

Online A.G.Barnett

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Re: Blurbs made easy
« Reply #9 on: April 16, 2017, 04:44:25 PM »
It's usually not a good idea to address the reader directly. First line could be misunderstood as preachy.

Try giving your character more personality - something like,

Sam Wright had been beating himself up for five years over the death of his mentor, and even the bourbon didn't help. The last thing he needed was a know-it-all partner and another murder to solve....

Thanks for the tips!

I'll rework it.

Offline Lee Sutherland

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Re: Blurbs made easy
« Reply #10 on: April 16, 2017, 05:19:32 PM »
Any tips on mine?  I thought it was hooky, but then I was told it might be too vague, so I added a little more details.

It went from this:

It all started with a broadcast and a countdown timer.  Twelve hours later, electronics stopped working.  A few days later, the dead started walking.

At least, that's what everyone tells Simon Finch, but he has no recollection of the past two years.  Where did the time go?  That's the part Simon doesn't understand.

Now, he's on a mission to find his family and find answers, but the world's not what it used to be.  Small settlements have risen in humanity's downfall and Simon must navigate from camp to camp, following the trail his family left behind.  He knows to fear the dead, but in a world so dangerous, can he trust the living?


to this:

When North Korea issued their manifesto and subsequently cut off contact with the outside world, no one took it seriously.  Four months later, a twelve-hour countdown timer appeared on every TV.  There were no demands.  No statements.  When the timer hit zero, electronics stopped working.  A few days later, the dead started walking.

At least, that's what everyone tells Simon Finch.  The last thing he remembers is diving into the lake on a warm summer morning before heading off to college.  When he emerged, his family was gone, the skies were dark and the only clue he had was a plume of billowing smoke on the horizon.

Simon is forced to put his own future on hold for a future he doesn't understand.  Now, he's on a mission to find his family and find answers in a world where survival is the only thing that matters.  Small settlements have risen in humanity's downfall and Simon must navigate from camp to camp, following the trail his family left behind.  He knows to fear the dead, but in a world so dangerous, can he trust the living?

Lee Sutherland | Twitter

Offline Martitalbott

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Re: Blurbs made easy
« Reply #11 on: April 16, 2017, 09:56:48 PM »
 When North Korea issued their manifesto and subsequently cut off contact with the outside world, no one took it seriously.  Four months later, a twelve-hour countdown timer appeared on every TV, and when the timer hit zero, electronics stopped working.  A few days later, the dead started walking. At least, that's what everyone tells Simon Finch.  The last thing he remembers is diving into the lake before heading off to college. When he surfaced, the skies were dark and the only clue he had that the world was is trouble, was a plume of billowing smoke on the horizon.

I really think the last paragraph sounds too much like a thousand other blurbs. The good news is, it's really easy to change a blurb if one like this doesn't work.

Sometimes adding more detail doesn't mean adding more of the story.


                  

Offline ALWMOE

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Re: Blurbs made easy
« Reply #12 on: April 16, 2017, 10:15:41 PM »
I'm going to have yet another go at mine. This is it so far. It's a 4-novel box-set, so it's a bit long. I've put a reviewer's quote at the top. Good idea or not?

'Darn good read.


DEAD BEFORE MORNING #1

A murder victim with no face. A media calling for answers. And a detective with a family not averse to a little gentle law-bending.

Newly-promoted British Detective Joe Rafferty and his partner, Sergeant Dafyd Llewellyn in a murder mystery involving the killing of a young woman bludgeoned beyond recognition, with no ID and found in a secure place to which she supposedly had no admission. Who is she? How has she gained access? And who was responsible for her murder?

DOWN AMONG THE DEAD MEN #2

A murder victim with no enemies. A dead patriarch. And a detective whos struggling.

British Detectives Joe Rafferty and his partner, Dafyd Llewellyn, in their second murder mystery investigation, set out to discover who killed Barbara Longman, a woman with no known enemies. But it soon becomes apparent that the murder has been committed by someone who must have known the victim very well.

DEATH LINE #3

A murdered seer who failed to predict his own future. A partner who refuses to see the murder as an inside job. And a Detective whos coming up empty.

Third novel in the Rafferty & Llewellyn mystery series, Death Line sees the detective duo trying to solve the murder, with his own crystal ball, of the famed 'seer', Jasper Moon. Gradually it becomes clear that Jasper Moon was a man of many parts, not all of them appeared very savoury.

THE HANGING TREE #4

A disappearing murder victim no one would miss. A witness destined to haunt him. And a Detective who felt ambivalent about getting a conviction.

The detective pair investigate the murder mystery of the vanishing hanged man. But when the hanged man turns up in Dedman Woods for a second time, the British detectives are able to confirm that he is a man many had reason to hate. Because Maurice Smith, charged years earlier with four child rapes, had escaped on a legal technicality. Was someone acting as the public executioner, dealing out their own form of justice on the legendary Hanging Tree?

Not to hijack the thread, but response to the above, my 2-cents worth: #1, "A little law bending" sounds strange, especially if they are involved in a brutal crime. Too passive. A family with money and power bends the law to their own ends.

#2 "A detective who's struggling" doesn't sound strong. Perhaps "struggling" could be "with a tormented past" or "just back from a harrowing ordeal."

#3 "A partner who refuses to see the murder as an inside job. And a Detective whos coming up empty." Who's the partner? The seer's, the Detectives? If it's the Detective's, mention the Detective first, then the partner.

#4 What's a disappearing murder victim? Confusing, but even "A murder victim who disappears" might be better. Who's the witness destined to haunt?


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Offline Rosalind J

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Re: Blurbs made easy
« Reply #13 on: April 16, 2017, 10:25:14 PM »
It may be helpful to note that blurbs are written in present tense.

Offline ALWMOE

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Re: Blurbs made easy
« Reply #14 on: April 16, 2017, 10:26:17 PM »
Any tips on mine?  I thought it was hooky, but then I was told it might be too vague, so I added a little more details.

It went from this:

It all started with a broadcast and a countdown timer.  Twelve hours later, electronics stopped working.  A few days later, the dead started walking.

At least, that's what everyone tells Simon Finch, but he has no recollection of the past two years.  Where did the time go?  That's the part Simon doesn't understand.

Now, he's on a mission to find his family and find answers, but the world's not what it used to be.  Small settlements have risen in humanity's downfall and Simon must navigate from camp to camp, following the trail his family left behind.  He knows to fear the dead, but in a world so dangerous, can he trust the living?


to this:

When North Korea issued their manifesto and subsequently cut off contact with the outside world, no one took it seriously.  Four months later, a twelve-hour countdown timer appeared on every TV.  There were no demands.  No statements.  When the timer hit zero, electronics stopped working.  A few days later, the dead started walking.

At least, that's what everyone tells Simon Finch.  The last thing he remembers is diving into the lake on a warm summer morning before heading off to college.  When he emerged, his family was gone, the skies were dark and the only clue he had was a plume of billowing smoke on the horizon.

Simon is forced to put his own future on hold for a future he doesn't understand.  Now, he's on a mission to find his family and find answers in a world where survival is the only thing that matters.  Small settlements have risen in humanity's downfall and Simon must navigate from camp to camp, following the trail his family left behind.  He knows to fear the dead, but in a world so dangerous, can he trust the living?


Might be a little too much. Is this too little?:

"Two years of memories erased and Simon Finch can't believe the world he's awakened to. Death, distruction, and darkness. Nothing remains of his old life. There was a manifesto, demands, and then the dead started walking. Now he's on a mission to find his family in a world where survival is key. He fears the dead, but can he trust the living? Can he ever find his family?


Al W Moe | Blog | Facebook | GoodReads | Google +

Offline Jena H

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Re: Blurbs made easy
« Reply #15 on: April 17, 2017, 05:34:34 AM »
I've always felt that the KISS principle is the way to go:  Keep it Simple, Silly.   In other words, short and sweet.

Some blurbs reveal the entire plot of the book... sort of what people used to write when querying agents or editors.  That's NOT what a blurb is supposed to be.  The goal of the blurb is simply to pique the reader's interest (not peak or peek, but pique).  Provide enough info to let them know genre and basic idea of the plot (MC solves a murder, foils plot for world domination, meets a huge movie star, etc..) and get them interested enough to want to actually read the details for themselves.
Jena

Offline Mare

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Re: Blurbs made easy
« Reply #16 on: April 17, 2017, 05:41:07 AM »
I appreciate this thread so much! I struggle with blurbs. I sometimes think I drag my feet at finishing a book because I know the dreaded blurb comes next.  :) This has been a helpthanks to all for your comments.

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Re: Blurbs made easy
« Reply #17 on: April 17, 2017, 05:47:38 AM »
I'm going to have yet another go at mine. This is it so far. It's a 4-novel box-set, so it's a bit long. I've put a reviewer's quote at the top. Good idea or not?

'Darn good read.


DEAD BEFORE MORNING #1

A murder victim with no face. A media calling for answers. And a detective with a family not averse to a little gentle law-bending.

Newly-promoted British Detective Joe Rafferty and his partner, Sergeant Dafyd Llewellyn in a murder mystery involving the killing of a young woman bludgeoned beyond recognition, with no ID and found in a secure place to which she supposedly had no admission. Who is she? How has she gained access? And who was responsible for her murder?

DOWN AMONG THE DEAD MEN #2

A murder victim with no enemies. A dead patriarch. And a detective whos struggling.

British Detectives Joe Rafferty and his partner, Dafyd Llewellyn, in their second murder mystery investigation, set out to discover who killed Barbara Longman, a woman with no known enemies. But it soon becomes apparent that the murder has been committed by someone who must have known the victim very well.

DEATH LINE #3

A murdered seer who failed to predict his own future. A partner who refuses to see the murder as an inside job. And a Detective whos coming up empty.

Third novel in the Rafferty & Llewellyn mystery series, Death Line sees the detective duo trying to solve the murder, with his own crystal ball, of the famed 'seer', Jasper Moon. Gradually it becomes clear that Jasper Moon was a man of many parts, not all of them appeared very savoury.

THE HANGING TREE #4

A disappearing murder victim no one would miss. A witness destined to haunt him. And a Detective who felt ambivalent about getting a conviction.

The detective pair investigate the murder mystery of the vanishing hanged man. But when the hanged man turns up in Dedman Woods for a second time, the British detectives are able to confirm that he is a man many had reason to hate. Because Maurice Smith, charged years earlier with four child rapes, had escaped on a legal technicality. Was someone acting as the public executioner, dealing out their own form of justice on the legendary Hanging Tree?

I am not going to attempt to critique the blurbs, as I haven't even done my own!

However, being really picky, one point of fine detail that stood out to me was reference to "British" detectives. I assume you mean England and Wales? Scotland and Northern Ireland have their own police forces and different legislation applies.  The local forces would, as far as I know, take the lead on crimes in their areas, cooperating cross-jurisdiction as needed. Non-UK readers may not notice, but as a Scot, this leapt out at me.  ;) You may decide to leave it alone, but might be worth considering if there is another way to phrase it?


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Re: Blurbs made easy
« Reply #18 on: April 17, 2017, 06:06:31 AM »
I'm going to have yet another go at mine. This is it so far. It's a 4-novel box-set, so it's a bit long. I've put a reviewer's quote at the top. Good idea or not?

'Darn good read.'

Not that one.

Offline Martitalbott

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Re: Blurbs made easy
« Reply #19 on: April 17, 2017, 06:53:41 AM »
It may be helpful to note that blurbs are written in present tense.

I strongly disagree. Present tense is a turn-off for me and many others. For a time US journalists tried that and then gave it up, when people told them how stupid it sounded to say the news was happening now when it was actually yesterday or even before. It's according to taste, of course, but then I write historical novels, so present tense really would sound silly for my books.
                  

Offline Martitalbott

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Re: Blurbs made easy
« Reply #20 on: April 17, 2017, 06:56:03 AM »
I've always felt that the KISS principle is the way to go:  Keep it Simple, Silly.   In other words, short and sweet.

Some blurbs reveal the entire plot of the book... sort of what people used to write when querying agents or editors.  That's NOT what a blurb is supposed to be.  The goal of the blurb is simply to pique the reader's interest (not peak or peek, but pique).  Provide enough info to let them know genre and basic idea of the plot (MC solves a murder, foils plot for world domination, meets a huge movie star, etc..) and get them interested enough to want to actually read the details for themselves.

Agree. I think where people get confused is that Amazon calls it a "description" instead of a blurb.
                  

Offline Rosalind J

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Re: Blurbs made easy
« Reply #21 on: April 17, 2017, 08:05:08 AM »
I strongly disagree. Present tense is a turn-off for me and many others. For a time US journalists tried that and then gave it up, when people told them how stupid it sounded to say the news was happening now when it was actually yesterday or even before. It's according to taste, of course, but then I write historical novels, so present tense really would sound silly for my books.

It's not agree or disagree, though, or about taste. It just is, which makes past tense in a blurb register "off" to the reader. Here's the Historical Romance Top 100 on Amazon. https://www.amazon.com/gp/bestsellers/digital-text/158571011/ref=pd_zg_hrsr_kstore_1_4_last

It was probably done originally to register immediacy, a sense of "You are here," but at this point, it's universal.


« Last Edit: April 17, 2017, 08:07:13 AM by Rosalind J »

Offline A J Sika

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Re: Blurbs made easy
« Reply #22 on: April 17, 2017, 08:30:51 AM »
I strongly disagree. Present tense is a turn-off for me and many others. For a time US journalists tried that and then gave it up, when people told them how stupid it sounded to say the news was happening now when it was actually yesterday or even before. It's according to taste, of course, but then I write historical novels, so present tense really would sound silly for my books.

Actually, most blurbs are written in present tense (even when the book is in 3rd past) including in historical novels because of the immediacy. Check for yourself
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Offline Martitalbott

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Re: Blurbs made easy
« Reply #23 on: April 17, 2017, 10:37:22 AM »
It's not agree or disagree, though, or about taste. It just is, which makes past tense in a blurb register "off" to the reader. Here's the Historical Romance Top 100 on Amazon. https://www.amazon.com/gp/bestsellers/digital-text/158571011/ref=pd_zg_hrsr_kstore_1_4_last

It was probably done originally to register immediacy, a sense of "You are here," but at this point, it's universal.




What is the point in being an Independent author if you have to go by all the traditionally publisher rules? It is about taste - the reader's taste. I won't read a book with a present tense blurb and I'm not alone.
                  

Offline crow.bar.beer

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Re: Blurbs made easy
« Reply #24 on: April 17, 2017, 12:57:35 PM »
I won't read a book with a present tense blurb and I'm not alone.

I'm similar. I won't take a breath of air that contains nitrogen.