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Authors' Forum => Writers' Cafe => Topic started by: Ian Coates on October 05, 2017, 11:15:16 pm

Title: What makes a good book blurb?
Post by: Ian Coates on October 05, 2017, 11:15:16 pm
What is it in a book blurb that makes you want to go and find out more?

Goodreads a running a poll with 3 examples from a thriller, and we want to know which makes you most want to open the book to find out more.

Which is your favourite?

https://www.goodreads.com/poll/show/162290 (https://www.goodreads.com/poll/show/162290)
Title: Re: What makes a good book blurb?
Post by: Jan Hurst-Nicholson on October 08, 2017, 12:33:20 am
Will be interesting to see the result.
Title: Re: What makes a good book blurb?
Post by: AltMe on October 08, 2017, 03:10:26 am
None of them do a thing for me. In fact, they seemed like 3 different ways of telling the same thing, not 3 different ways of getting you hooked.

The main character is not defined properly in any of them.
The challenge seems to be to get his job back. (boring)
If there are any stakes, none of them really point them out. (life in danger is not a stake, its expected.)

All 3 fail.
Title: Re: What makes a good book blurb?
Post by: Debbie Bennett on October 08, 2017, 03:44:12 am
Not overly fussed on any of them, but 1 is the best of the bunch. But then I'm an ex-Customs Investigator ...
Title: Re: What makes a good book blurb?
Post by: Jena H on October 08, 2017, 08:31:28 am
The first one is too talky, too much extraneous information that doesn't really grab me... not sure why it's in first place.

The second one doesn't mention James' career, which I think is a plus.  I think the 2nd and 3rd are better in that they at least mention the espionage and cloak-and-dagger activities that thriller readers love.

It seems to me that with so much at stake for the main character, I would downplay the "reinstatement" and "getting his job back" angle and highlight the aforementioned cloak-and-dagger, save-the-world stuff.  His quest for reinstatement may lead to the other stuff, but the primary 'thrill' of a thriller is about uncovering evil plots and saving the world, not in getting HR to put him back on the payroll.
Title: Re: What makes a good book blurb?
Post by: crow.bar.beer on October 08, 2017, 08:36:48 am
They're all too short for a novel, IMO...
Title: Re: What makes a good book blurb?
Post by: rockondon on October 08, 2017, 08:41:41 am
They all fail because the stakes are crap. Who cares if he lost his job. I could never get into a book when I start off wanting to hand the protagonist a diaper and tell him to quit being a baby.
Title: Re: What makes a good book blurb?
Post by: Jena H on October 08, 2017, 08:41:57 am
Meant to mention...   your book's cover channels James Bond, so I think that's another reason to play up the action/adventure/espionage/cloak-and-dagger element of the story in the blurb, rather than the humdrum motivation of career advancement.
Title: Re: What makes a good book blurb?
Post by: AltMe on October 08, 2017, 08:47:16 am
Meant to mention...   your book's cover channels James Bond, so I think that's another reason to play up the action/adventure/espionage/cloak-and-dagger element of the story in the blurb, rather than the humdrum motivation of career advancement.

I didn't even look at the cover, and its more put off I'm afraid.

The James Bond illusion is bad enough, but the star? Its says 'Jew', not Middle East. The cover says James Bond wannabe in a Jewish conspiracy. I'm not even going to make it to the Blurb.
Title: Re: What makes a good book blurb?
Post by: Paranormal Kitty on October 08, 2017, 09:44:33 am
I didn't even look at the cover, and its more put off I'm afraid.

The James Bond illusion is bad enough, but the star? Its says 'Jew', not Middle East. The cover says James Bond wannabe in a Jewish conspiracy. I'm not even going to make it to the Blurb.

I don't like the cover either, but Israel is in the Middle East.
Title: Re: What makes a good book blurb?
Post by: I'm a Little Teapot on October 08, 2017, 12:06:20 pm
None of them inspire me to check out the Look Inside. But honestly I wouldn't make it past the cover.
Title: Re: What makes a good book blurb?
Post by: ShayneRutherford on October 08, 2017, 12:30:13 pm
I wouldn't make it past the cover either. But judging just on the blurbs, none of them did anything for me. There's nothing to make me care about the protagonist, so I have no reason to care about the stakes, unfortunately.
Title: Re: What makes a good book blurb?
Post by: AltMe on October 08, 2017, 06:19:52 pm
I don't like the cover either, but Israel is in the Middle East.

Israel isn't on the cover. The star is.

It might be blue instead of yellow, but a star like that is not something you have in isolation on a cover. There are too many throwbacks to history about it.

If it was historical fiction set in Nazi Germany, its fine. If its not, the cover is a bomb waiting to go off.
Title: Re: What makes a good book blurb?
Post by: Paranormal Kitty on October 08, 2017, 06:30:03 pm
Israel isn't on the cover. The star is.

It might be blue instead of yellow, but a star like that is not something you have in isolation on a cover. There are too many throwbacks to history about it.

If it was historical fiction set in Nazi Germany, its fine. If its not, the cover is a bomb waiting to go off.

I'm assuming the connection that was trying to be made was to the Israeli flag, since one of the blurbs mentioned Mossad. The Star of David isn't something offensive...it's a symbol of the religion and of the country. I agree that the cover doesn't signify the genre in any way whatsoever...but a "bomb waiting to go off" I doubt. I also don't think it would in any way look like a historical fiction cover either. More like what you tend to see on indie non-fiction.
Title: Re: What makes a good book blurb?
Post by: C. Gold on October 08, 2017, 07:07:49 pm
I have problems with all three. The first one is speaking to me and the big issue is proving my innocence? *Yawn*. The second one doesn't have any stakes, it just asks questions like a mystery. The third one is ok, but the stakes aren't high enough to make me interested. I'd go with something more like:

Peace in the Middle East could become reality, but not if the Mossad have their way. Only one man can stop them and save Israel - assuming he survives long enough.

It mentions the conflict, props up the man as the only one who can do the impossible, and implies the stakes are saving an entire country. Plus it throws in the personal danger. So, toss out all the personal junk and get right to the heavy meat of what's going on and use that as the hook to pull readers in. I don't care that his career is trashed or who did it or that he's distracted by his wife's cancer. I mean those could be important if the scope was that narrow. But you've got this whole Middle East peace talks deal, Mossad, assassins, threat to Israel... that's way more interesting and should be the main focus for whatever hook you come up with.
Title: Re: What makes a good book blurb?
Post by: Louise Bourgeois on October 11, 2017, 01:38:50 pm
Somewhat surprised no one mentioned the thing that stuck out to me the most. Yes, these are all valid criticisms, but the thing about this blurb I'm getting is that the whole conspiracy is set up as a sort of mid-book twist. You go in expecting a typical cop thriller, pick apart the clues, culminating in a plot to sabotage potential Middle East peace.

The problem is that, as others said, is that I'm not really getting that this is meant to be anything other than a standard action thriller, in which case you definitely do want to get right to the action. Start big to show the conflict and the stakes, then work down to how the protagonist relates to solving the conflict. Unless the protagonist is the one triggering the wider conflict, avoid starting a blurb like this with them. And even then, try to avoid talking about the MC's issues and focus on what the overarching conflict is.

He's lost his job and his wife is possibly dying? Okay, that's a good story set up... for a dark slice of life personal drama. There's a police cover-up and you can potentially prove your innocence? My mind is like one of those old-school scales with the arrow still quivering next to "Personal Drama". This is a story that sounds like it can be resolved with anything from high-impact explosive ordinance all the way to accidentally finding some binned paperwork. Except from what I'm reading in between the lines, if I saw this book on a bookshelf or while scrolling on Amazon, just from that sentence I'd assume it was a personal drama.
The inclusive of the very personal 'wife dying of cancer' because why on earth would that be a major plot point in a thriller unless it's going full Osmosis Jones? If it's labeled 'thriller', I wouldn't get a very clear idea of why it was labeled such until I read it.

C. Gold's blurb, on the other hand? Now how else are you going to resolve such a plot except with high-impact explosive ordinance? Even if it weren't labeled 'thriller', I'd sooner expect that this man would come in guns blazing or via professional espionage before I'd guess that it were something like a geopolitical speaker drama.

Blurb 2, as another one mentioned, reads more like a mystery-crime story instead of a thriller.

Blurb 3, again, puts too much focus on the stakes being James Winter's life.

As mentioned early on, it makes no sense to claim that the stakes involve his life being in jeopardy. In just about any action story, unless there's a damn good reason otherwise, a MC's potential death should never be the biggest thing at stake. It's already a given that his life is in danger because this is an action story.

You can almost think of it in video game terms. Are you going to beat the final boss because if you don't, you'll die? Or is it because you've got to save the world or rescue the princess or take control of the city or win the championship or kill the invaders or whathaveyou? If you die, you just restart from a respawn point. Now I have played a video game where the MC's life was the big thing at stake. It was a very good game. And it worked because having his life being the stakes for resolving the conflict made sense since the conflict was (basically) whether or not he could prove himself worthy to come back to life. And if you ever died in gameplay, there was always a sense was that you genuinely failed the game and your MC's story was a complete tragedy.

A geopolitical James Bond spy/action thriller? Having "—or die trying!" is a neat bad*ss quote to add to a blurb, but it's an addition that's very rarely necessary.


Tl;dr: All three mini-blurbs are unfocused. They'd work only as bit lines in much longer blurbs, but if they were complete blurbs, they're all pretty mediocre and misrepresent the genre of the story.