Was it murder--or something serious?
Philip Marlow in Murder, My Sweet

Wednesday, July 18, 2012

To Say Nothing of the Dog

I've been trying to catch up on the stack of Publisher's Weekly collecting dust by the sofa and I happened upon their bi-annual Self-Publishing Edition.

I've got to give those folks who submit to their work for review in that edition credit because PW really goes in for the snark these days, and they sure as hell don't temper it for newbies. Not that they should, but...ouch.

Anyway, what really caught my eye were the ads run by Authorhouse and iUniverse. Or, more exactly, the blurbs for the books being advertised.

I really think the three key elements to attracting the random book shopper online (which is pretty much where all self-pubbed work is sold) are TITLE, COVER, and BLURB.

Now writing a great book is difficult. Selling a great book is difficult. But putting together a great title, a great cover and a great blurb? Not so difficult.

Actually, let me revise that. Putting together a great cover is not easy (I sure can't do it), but it's easy to find someone to do that for you for a reasonable price.

But these blurbs! Godalmighty. I mean, I hate writing blurbs as much as anyone but...

Jordan never took things for granted. He knew the value of one's dog and a beloved girlfriend -- when unworldly puppets kidnap them he chases them through a twisted portal! Somehow he must save his girl. He must get them back.

I puzzled over that one for a while. Putting aside all those unwieldy "thems"....unworldly puppets. Hmm. Does the author mean OTHER worldly puppets or does he actually mean puppets that don't get out much -- barring the occasional beloved girl and dog-napping? WHAT is a twisted portal? And that poor hardworking exclamation point trying valiantly to infuse a little excitement into the proceedings. Or preceedings, as the case may be.

And then finally that limp last line, which reads like a pained attempt to get some afterthought reference to the dog in there, since the dog was specifically mentioned.

Or this one.

Get ready for a 3D emotional rollercoaster ride. You will laugh and cry with all your senses being aroused. Read Scherf's Poems and you'll reflect on, remember and relive your emotions evoked by a profound relationship and the growth you experienced from loving.


It's so difficult to feel my way past the 3D emotional rollercoaster ride. I mean...aren't roller coaster rides already in 3D? And the laughing and crying with all senses aroused. So...I'm smelling, hearing, tasting, seeing, feeling my laughter and tears?

I guess what's most distressing here is this is a blurb for a book of poetry, and if anyone ought to know how to make each and every word count, it should be a poet.

The key to writing a good blurb is to keep it smart and simple. Just say what you mean -- while focusing on what would make that interesting to someone else.

I'm not trying to be mean here. It's just...the blurbs are the easy part. If the blurb is a mess, why would anyone take a chance on the book?

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