Tuesday, August 13, 2013

Sensationalist taglines and blurbs

I finished reading Jane Casey's The Reckoning last night.  I enjoyed it and will publish a review early next week.  When I finished the book, I re-read the cover tagline and back cover blurb.  They've been written to give a certain impression of the book, but are really quite misleading.

Cover tagline: The police call it murder.  He calls it justice.
Back cover blurb:
To the public, he's a hero: a killer who targets convicted paedophiles.

Two men are dead already - tortured to death.

Even the police don't regard the cases as a priority. Most feel that two dead paedophiles is a step in the right direction.

But to DC Maeve Kerrigan, no one should be allowed to take the law into their own hands. Young and inexperienced, Kerrigan wants to believe that murder is murder no matter what the sins of the victim. Only, as the killer's violence begins to escalate, she is forced to confront exactly how far she's prepared to go to ensure justice is served...

He does not call it justice.  He's not a hero to the public; the public do not know about him because the police do not tell them.  In fact the public and media are entirely absent from the book.  The police do regard it as a priority and they throw more resources at the case, not less, as it escalates.  Kerrigan does not have to confront exactly how far she's prepared to go to ensure justice is served, she already knows and she never waivers from the task at hand.

Usually this kind of blurb writing, which bares a superficial resemblence to the story, wouldn't really bother me, but for some reason it tweaked a nerve very late last night.  Oh well.  The book's still worth a read.


Anonymous said...

Rob - I couldn't agree more about how misleading blurbs can be. The only thing that annoys me as much as misleading blurbs is blurbs that give away the whole plot of a story...

Keen Reader said...

Looks like whoever did the blurbs didn't read the book but probably just skimmed a little here and there.

As an author yourself, I imagine you'd be quite annoyed if a publisher did this to one of your novels?

And yet, what could one do about it? Once the book is out of the author's hands, I don't suppose he/she has much control over cover blurbs?

Rob Kitchin said...

I think you're probably right that the blurber did not give the book a close read. I also think they felt they were writing a blurb that was exciting and had a strong hook. And it does do that job. And maybe the author was happy enough with it. It just really jarred with me when I finished the book then read the blurb, and I had a disconnect moment.

I've written the blurbs for my own fiction books and they have been tweaked but not radically re-written. I've had blurb presented to me for my non-fiction books and I've nearly always rejected it and re-written or substantially re-jigged. What the publisher/publicist thinks are the selling points and what I do are often different things I have a decent idea of the market as I've usually read a lot of the competition to be able to write my book and I am part of the target group. It's also why I do the indexes to all my books (with the exception of the encyclopedia - even I wasn't daft enough to do that; it took someone a year or more to index the whole thing which was c.5 million words!) as I usually have a better idea what another academic will be looking up than someone not connected to the field at all. My first book had a professional index and it is a disaster.

I think it's important that the author does have a say in the cover and blurb. I have had to insist on that a couple of times where the publisher did not think it necessary. At the very least I want to make sure they've spelt my name correctly and I have had covers presented to me where it hasn't been. I've even had a cover presented that had the wrong title!

Keen Reader said...

Thanks, that's very enlightening (and a little scary!).

Marina Sofia said...

So there is something to be said for getting the authors to write their own blurbs - maybe just tweaking them a little. I too find this annoying - and wonder how many perfectly worthy books have been rejected by me because of sensationalist blurbs (which all start to sound rather samey after a while). Did you hear about the book written by a voiceover artist called 'In a world...', because apparently 9 out of 10 movie trailers from Hollywood start with those words?

pattinase (abbott) said...

Some writers are asked to provide so many blurbs that they can't begin to read the books. So perhaps the author should just provide them. At least there will be no mistakes made this way.