Book blurbs. They tease, they intrigue, they get us excited. Whenever I buy a book, I look at the blurb first. Point is – they matter.
I know the majority of authors have no control over their blurbs, so this minor rant is more focused on those folks who do decide what’s plonked on a book’s cover. So, please, can you stop with the spoilers?
Take Octavia Butler’s The Parable of the Sower, for example. It’s blurb spoiled the reading experience for me because it (spoiler warning, I guess) revealed how the protagonist loses her village and family and is forced into an American dystopia.
By itself, there’s nothing wrong with that. It’s a good hook, sounds interesting, and explains what the book is about.
The problem is, this doesn’t happen until nearly halfway through.
If a blurb describes an event in the story, I expect to read about it as soon as possible. Preferably in the opening chapter. I already know it’s going to happen, it’s the event that convinced me to start reading, so why wait?
Instead, by revealing such a major turning point, I was left wondering when the story I was promised was going to start. I was bored and frustrated.
I understand there’s a lot of pressure to write a blurb that convinces people to buy the book, but revealing something like that demonstrates no confidence in the story and weakens the reading experience. It’s unfair to author and reader.
A blurb shouldn’t reveal anything the first chapter doesn’t. Uprooted by Naomi Novik has a great blurb. It summaries the important points – Wizard. Check. Enchanted forest. Check – and hints at what’s to come. It reveals nothing past what happens in the first chapter. The rest of the story is left for the reader to discover.
While I wasn’t 100% happy with everything that happened in Uprooted, I had a lot more fun reading it than I did Parable of the Sower. I was surprised by each twist, new character, and by how the story evolved. I felt like I was discovering a story, rather than waiting for one.
A blurb should benefit the book, not detract from it. It shouldn’t spoil anything past the first few chapters. And if nothing blurb-worthy is happening in the opening chapters, maybe those chapters shouldn’t be there.