On Blurbs and Flap Copies

As I was reading this article about book blurbs, I was reminded of a book I saw recently in a store. Lately I’ve been trying to pay more attention to books written by Portuguese authors, but I’m invariably put off by the subject matters, covers, blurbs or flap copies (this being the text on the back part of the book cover). It’s a pity, and I realize this might sound a bit superficial, but… If people in the publishing business don’t care about the book enough to make a decent job of presenting it, then why should I care enough about it to buy it?

The particular book (which I’m not going to single out here) that prompted this discussion was one of a supposedly highly recommended author, whose flap copy sounded like it was written by someone who never looked at a book in his / her life. It was the most boring, utterly pointless piece of writing I had ever read. It managed to take what might have been an interesting story to a list of unrecognizable names and events, and even gave out the ending. Why, oh why would you do this to any book? How about looking at other similar, successful books out there and realize what made their descriptions attractive to those who bought them? You’d think people who have been in the business long enough (this was the author’s 4th book with the same publishing house) would put a little more effort into it. Unfortunately, all it did was make sure that I wouldn’t take a chance on the book (and the cover didn’t help, either).

Blurbs can be almost as bad. One or two can be beneficial, but when the cover is filled to the brim with praise from a myriad of sources I don’t particularly care about, it starts to get a bit annoying. That, and when the author / book gets compared to better-known authors / books that have anything to do with one another (for example, I don’t know, saying you’re a mix of Tolkien, Orwell and Salman Rushdie, or something like that) just screams bullshit marketing. Most readers I know aren’t stupid. Then again, I don’t know that many readers, so my sample might be skewed.

Bad covers are also an issue that baffles me, but I will leave that for another time, another post.

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4 thoughts on “On Blurbs and Flap Copies

  1. André Nóbrega says:

    I absolutely agree with you on all that. In my case, excessive or stupid blurbs are the perfect thing to create a negative first opinion of a book, mainly if it is the first time looking at it. And in a world where so many good books have been written, no one wants to lose their reading time with a new thing that apparently looks like bullshit. Those comparisons with Tolkien are specially annoying. One might think that nowadays fantasy writers are all “the new Tolkien” or at least should be, when it really isn’t the case. Flap copies for fantasy books are something at which Portuguese seem particularly bad at, and I don’t know if it is because writers and editors don’t care or if none of them know better, but the latter seems unlikely.
    Well, enough ranting, just felt the need to write down and explain my agreement. Here’s to hoping they get better!

    • Yes, it’s really annoying when every fantasy writer is “the new Tolkien” or the book is “the new Harry Potter”. And when there are too many blurbs, one starts to think that they are too desperate to sell it. Not a good thing for the book!

      It saddens me when one important aspect of the book gets overlooked. Specially the cover!

  2. André Nóbrega says:

    If you want to laugh (or cry) at some of the worst covers ever done, check http://causticcovercritic.blogspot.com – the author himself describes the blog as “one man’s endless ranting about book design…”

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