Episode 29 Newbie Writers Podcast
Damien fills us in on the progress of his poetry find and what to do with them.
February 19, 2007
How to write a blurb
At most publishers the editors – and sometimes the authors – commonly write the copy that appears on the jackets of their books. There are two good reasons for this: they tend to know their books’ strengths better than anyone and it is cheaper than paying someone else to do it.
For a long time Penguin has taken a different view to the industry standard and has employed copywriters across all its divisions to write the blurbs that appear on our books. Why? For one thing, copywriters are dedicated wordsmiths who are able to get a message across in a very short space. Secondly, copywriters are able to bring a freshness and vitality to a blurb that an editor or author who has been immersed for months and sometimes years in a book may find in short supply. Lastly, any copywriter worth her or his salt thinks first and foremost about their audience: the person they hope to reach in the bookshop.
Blurb writing is not scientific, different copywriters take very different approaches to how and what they write. And different writers will produce widely divergent blurbs while trying to achieve the same overall effect – i.e. convincing a bookshop customer to buy the book in their hands.
So how do you write a good blurb?
Over the next week, the copywriters at Penguin would like to share with you their thoughts on how to write a blurb. The views you’ll see are as different as they are similar … but this blurb has already become far too long already. Step up, Sarah from Puffin, Penguin’s children’s division.
Senior Copywriter, Penguin General
Or, how to read a manuscript, note down words and quotes and phrases with instant appeal, atmosphere, an air of mystery, a sense of character, a sense of place and put them all together in a coherent and exciting way. So that whoever picks up the book reads the blurb and thinks ‘I must read this book. I must have this book in my life, to the till we shall go. Immediately.’
No pressure then.
I love writing blurbs. I love it when that flash of inspiration strikes and transforms a blurb which initially began as a ‘join the dots’ – first this happened and then this happened, and then out of nowhere disaster struck but then something wonderful happened – or did it? Cue actual dot dot dots. That is one way not to write a blurb. It’s not formulaic. It’s about the individual story and bringing it to life in a very short space during a very short time in which the potential reader is pondering to buy or not to buy.
I write blurbs for children’s books, so in a morning I can be thinking about pirates and monsters and unicorns and remembering what it was like to be 8, and in the afternoon trying to blurb a sweeping epic set in apocalyptic Britain in between re-reading The BFG. It’s never same old same old, that’s for sure. And that’s what I always try to remember about my blurbs. Keep them varied, keep them lively, keep them inviting. Keep the book in their hands in the shop and (hopefully) keep it in their hearts forever.
Creative Copywriter, Puffin
Write a blurb about your day. Maybe your week. Treat your experiences like a story or a movie trailer and see what you come up with. I’d like to read some. Send some to email@example.com
Word of the Week.
Colophon, a weird-enough word in its own right, is the name for the inscription at the end of a book that gives facts about its publication or design — hence the old saying “from title page to colophon”, from beginning to end. These days the data is more frequently on the title page and its reverse and the word is often used instead for a publisher’s emblem or imprint on the spine or title page.
The adjective colophonian, which might seem to be connected, has an entry in the Oxford English Dictionary, but only to say that its appearance in some dictionaries of the late nineteenth century to refer to a publisher’s colophon was actually an error based on a misreading of a book of 1678. The word was actually Colophonian (with a capital C), which refers to an inhabitant of Colophon, a town in Lydia that is part of modern Turkey.
However, it might still come in useful — there isn’t a word in the language that means “relating to a colophon” (even though there is the, admittedly extremely rare, colophonize, to supply a book with a colophon), and colophonian is as good a candidate as any.
Colophon and its relatives come ultimately from a Greek word meaning a finishing touch or summit. None is to be confused with colophony, a pine resin which is named after ancient Colophon.
Bring Out Your Dead.
From Dionne Lister’s upcoming book: Shadows of the Realm: Book one of The Circle of Talia
Bronwyn and Blayke’s world is at the mercy of an invasion from the Third Realm. They are being watched, hunted and sabotaged. When the Dragon God interferes, it seems the world of Talia, will succumb to the threat. Can they learn enough of the tricks of the Realms before it’s too late, or will all they love be destroyed?
The young realmists’ journey pushes them away from all they’ve known, to walk in the shadows towards Vellonia, city of the dragons, where an even darker shadow awaits.
Apprentice realmists, Bronwyn and Blayke, are only beginning to learn the secrets of syphoning power from the Second Realm when they are thrust into life-threatening danger. Their world, Talia, is under threat from the demonic Gormons, and The Circle must call on all its resources to defend against them. Blake and Bronwyn are sent to Vellonia, city of the dragons, in desperate search of a solution. The Gormon priests are already breaking through the magical barriers, on the verge of bringing death and terror to Talia, and they will do anything to stop Bronwyn and Blake.
The young realmists must call on all their cunning and resources to stay one step ahead of the Gormon priests. Then one of their own is murdered. Not knowing who to trust, and just when they think things can’t get any worse, the capricious dragon god, Drakon, forces Bronwyn into an untenable decision: jeopardize her life, and those she loves, or do nothing and leave Talia at the mercy of the Gormons. Bronwyn must act, knowing either choice could mean the destruction of all they love.