The blurb is so simple that Year 1 children – the five to six year olds – can recognise the thing. They point to the patch of text on the back of book cover, proudly telling you “It’s the bit that tells you about the book.”
Is that truly what a blurb does? Does it tell you too much? Or not enough? I’ve been thinking about this because I’ve had examples of both.
In books I’ve written for an early reader series, the standard blurb format sometimes gives the twist of the plot away.
Eight enormous elephants turn a little boy’s house upside down.
It seems nothing can stop them . . . until a little mouse appears.
When Ed dropped his gum on as stormy day, little did he know what would happen. Can Granny save him from the Big Bad Blob?
Why? I wanted both the mouse and the Granny to be a surprise.
Does it help the young reader’s reading and enjoyment to know what the surprise is? Would it help readers of Christie’s “The Murder of Roger Ackroyd” if the blurb contained the words But the narrator did it all along?
The writer doesn’t usually write the blurb, in my experience. The words comes from someone at the publishing house. The copy editor? The editor? Are the words agreed with marketing who must surely know what aspects of the book might make it sell? It’s all a mystery to me.
However, for my long novel for upper junior readers, A BOY CALLED M.O.U.S.E, there was some information missing.
The book blurb emphasizes Mouse’s earlier life and his time in a dreadful school. Here’s an extract:
Mouse cannot know there are people who want to kep him hidden away . . . or worse. Frightened and alone, what Mouse does know is that he must get away from Murkstone Hall – and fast.
The blurb is gripping and compelling stuff, but nowhere does it mention that the final third of the book takes part in the busy backstage world of the Victorian theatre, nor that the play that involves Mouse is A Midsummer Night’s Dream.
Originally I had decided this had been missed out because someone at my new publishers felt that any hint of “the theatre” might put readers off. Maybe it would have attracted readers? I’m not sure. Or perhaps it just was that, with a long and complex story, there just wasn’t enough space for everything? Ah well.
I looked at quite a few book blurbs before writing this post and must admit that one stood out:
Once I escaped from an orphanage to find Mum and Dad.
Once I saved a girl called Zelda from a burning house.
Once I made a Nazi with toothache laugh.
My name is Felix.
This is my story.
I can’t help wondering whether it was Morris Gleitzman or his publisher who wrote that blurb for "Once".
Can any of you explain the mysteries of blurb writing? Or do you have your own favourite “blurb” blurbs?