Thursday, 3 July 2014

Written the novel - now for the blurb!

With the manuscript of the new Esme Quentin novel currently being copy-edited (exciting news of that coming soon!), I've been focusing on writing the blurb. Always a challenge!

The word 'blurb' is said to have originated in 1907 when a young lady, the fictitious Miss Belinda Blurb, was pictured on the dust jacket of a book at a publishing trade event, apparently shouting out the merits of the book. She was said to be 'blurbing'. The term stuck.

The trick with a book blurb, of course, is not to give too much away, while hooking the reader into the story.

A good blurb shouldn't be too long winded and should only offer a taster of the story, rather than a plateful.  There's nothing that turns me off more than a rambling summary of events in the first quarter of the book. And I lose the will to live if I'm not completely grabbed by the first sentence or two. 

While browsing my bookshelves for inspiration (something you can't easily do with a kindle, it has to be said!) I came across this example.

"What can you say about a 25 year old girl who died? That she was beautiful. And brilliant. That she loved Mozart and Bach. And the Beatles. And me." 

The blurb (and opening lines), of course, to Erich Segal's Love Story, published in 1970.

Segal had originally written it as a screenplay but it was rejected by the main studios as being too sentimental. It was suggested that Segal write it as a novel instead. It proved good advice. It spent a year in the New York Times' hardback bestseller list and sold tens of millions of copies, helped no doubt by the movie of the same name, which came out later that same year. 

The book is only 127 pages long. Erich Segal said of it, "The average person takes an hour and a half to read the book. The movie lasts longer." That can't happen often, if ever!

Love Story has a special place in my past reading list. It was the first book I ever read which made me cry. A lot.


  1. A very topical post for me to be reading Wendy, thanks. I am at the same copy-editing stage as you and have also just turned my attention to the blurb. I absolutely hate blurb that tells you everything that's going to happen in the book. Even with my poor memory I'm not going to forget being told someone's going to die for example and that ruins the story for me.

    I have picked out a quote from my book to open with but am stuck at the moment on the next bit to write!! I did the same with my first one and I've been told it's intriguing which is what will get me to buy a book but you can't please everyone so I'm sure that there are others that will say it doesn't tell them enough. Good luck with writing yours Wendy - I shall look forward to reading it!!

    Also I haven't read Love Story but shall definitely add it to my list - I love a book that makes me cry (how weird is that!!)

    1. Very cathartic, a good cry! I remember being shocked at how it got me (I was in my teens at the time). I recall sitting on the stairs and balling my eyes out! :-)

  2. Love Story is one of my all time favourite books and it is the first book that made me cry alot too !

    1. Ah, how lovely. What big softies we are! :-)