The movie Kingsman: The Secret Service movie trailer promises a lot of what I look for in a movie and motivates me to find a babysitter, maybe purchase high-priced popcorn, and sit in the dark with strangers for a couple of hours. It has action, adventure, comedy, and British accents. It has beautifully choreographed fight scenes reminiscent of The Matrix and with a dash of James Bond swagger. It also features the underdog trope where an unrefined young man is recruited to join the secret service and save the world!
*Wipes fan-girl-drool off of chin*
Movie trailers or teasers, as they are also rightfully called, tease viewers into wanting to see the movie. The purposefully selected music—often filled with thrilling, emotional, and powerful chords—the well thought-out scenes plucked from the movie, and artfully placed in this two to three minute snippet entice viewers and movie aficionados to smile from ear-to-ear and vow, “I must see this movie.”
For readers, the blurbs on the back of a book provide the same experience as a movie trailer for viewers.
I love reading and it tickles me bright pink when my students (who are more than not reluctant readers) gawk at me with such astonishment, as if I have sprouted a second head or grew a third eye, while I gush about my latest favorite book. Books that possess the ability to transport me to another world, another time, or even another dimension and hold onto me until the very last sentence. These reading experiences often motivate me to become a better writer. A couple days ago, each of my classes participated in what is called a “Library Book Pass”. Basically, the teacher and/or students select books from the classroom library, based on the eye-catching cover, genre, and their Lexile score (an individual’s reading ability measured in number). With a book in hand, we sit in a rectangle or circle, and read the book for 3 minutes (starting with the blurb first) and then make comments about the book. Comments vary from person to person and can reveal our likes, dislikes, whether we recommend the book, if it’s too long or too short, and much, much more all within three minutes!
Within three minutes, my students, (which are the future buying readers of the present and future) passed on a book because:
- It didn’t engage them.
- Slow start. No action.
- The characters were boring.
- The beginning or opening scene was confusing.
- Not enough details.
- The genre itself didn’t appeal to them.
As a writer, I found these observations interesting and quite telling. Readers can be quick to judge a book just by the cover and/or the blurb on the back. A crappy cover can kill the life of a book. And a blurb riddled with weaknesses is just as lethal. And whether the cover appeals to their senses, a reader can decide whether or not to rush to the checkout counter and purchase your literary darling . . . or not. Come to think of it, I wonder how much time readers strolling around a brick and mortar bookstore, or scrolling pages on Amazon spend on eligible books before they buy or move on. I highly doubt most customers spend three or more minutes dedicated to a book BEFORE they buy it. The decision to buy or abandon a book takes place sometimes much faster! Writing from personal experience, I’ve decided to buy a book within seconds.
Me: Oooh, pretty cover. Ooh, interesting premise. *Rushes to checkout counter, erstwhile pushing stroller, digs in wallet, pays the monie$* DONE DEAL!
If the book cover is the most important seller of a book, then the blurb is the second most important!
And don’t even get me started on blurbs. For the past two weeks, I‘ve been drafting, revising, editing, and re-drafting the blurbs for several of my manuscripts. One, soon to be published, and two I hope to send out to agents. It’s funny how the blurb is much, much harder to write in comparison to the daunting 100,000 manuscript itself.
Now, why is that?
Sit down. This may take a while.
Well, a blurb is a short summary or a promotional piece accompanying a creative work. The closer I move toward my goal of being a published author, the more I realize that a blurb and a synopsis have a lot in common (except the way they sound. A synopsis sounds like some strange heinous and contagious disease, while a blurb sounds like two goldfish sharing a chaste kiss, but I digress – thanks for your patience).
Both the short synopsis and the blurb tell a summary of a novel, entice the reader into wanting to read more . . . and buy that book! However, a blurb does NOT reveal the ending of the book, whereas a synopsis includes the entire story – beginning, middle, and the spoiler ending! Synopsis are also used to showcase your writing style, organization, and invite an agent and/or publisher to want your book.
Another reason the blurb and synopsis are harder to write is because the manuscript must be compressed and condensed to its most essential parts, like grapes pressed into fine wine. And the longer wine sits and ages, the better it will taste. Hopefully.
So, after writing the blurb, I didn’t revisit it for a couple of days, which stretched into a week. I wanted it fresh in my mind so that way any weakness would stand out more starkly and slap me in the face. I wanted the best for the back of my book, so that way readers would want to take it home, hug it, squeeze it, and call it “Fabulous”.
So, a technique I’ve used to write the blurb for my books is using the synopsis as a starting point and then moving backwards. Deleting the ending and any ideas in the book that reveal too much gets backspaced too. Why? Because with a blurb less is often much, much more, and will invite the reader to want to spend some time in one of my many literary worlds.
It’s amazing what I learn from my wonderful middle school students in the midst of a good old Library Book Pass. Cheers!