Poetic License in a Book Blurb: MILK & HONEY by Rupi Kaur

NOTE: The Giveaway is still ongoing. Click here for information on how to get a chance to have a blurb created by me (or an edit by me or a bunch of other cool editing prizes).

This one is especially fun. I have loved poetry since childhood, have many volumes of it, have written some, won a few contests, published a couple. So, let’s take a look at a crazy mad bestselling poetry volume by Rupi Kaur: Milk & Honey.

Poetry books are not expected to be runaway bestsellers. How many book covers or blurbs do you remember (if you’ve ever been inclined to browse or purchase some). I still have vivid images in my head of some faves of mine.

Milk & Honey has a very simple cover design: black background, white bees and text. It stands out for its low-key design in high-contrast B&W. But let’s take a look at the back cover blurb:

milkandhoneyback

 

That’s right. A poetry book with a poetry blurb. How absolutely perfect is that?

Analysis: The back cover description is a short poem. It’s in the poet’s own voice telling you, the book browser, the tone and subject matter–very personal–of the poetry found inside.

It’s also utterly accessible. The audience knows they won’t have to tackle the sometimes indeciperable, complex, modern poems that put many off poetry.  The voice reads as honest, genuine.

The text is accented by a bee illustration. No deviation exists in the black and white cover design with black and white text and drawings from front to back: it’s consistent.  Tone matches art: an individual voice with a single bee (echoing how personal this is, one person’s singular voice in verse, and referring to the title, as bees make honey.)

Even the bar code cooperates beautifully–lines of code, lines of poetry.

It’s harmonious.

Inside, you find this same simplicity but reversed:  illustrations in black on white, black text on light pages.

Key words: Strong, emotional key words draw in the sensitive reader or one whose life has had pain and required healing. That’s kinda universal, yes?  They are these: journey, surviving, poetry, blood, sweat, tears, heart, hurting, loving, breaking, healing.

Conclusion: The genius of the back cover blurb is that it offers you the book information (genre, theme) with a taste of the contents (style, voice, look) in exactly the form  you’ll find inside: stanzas, not prose paragraphs, with drawings, in B&W.

I think they did an amazing job presenting this. A totally successful poem-blurb.

Blurb Exercise: Can you echo in your blurb what’s in the book? I think you probably can. Ask yourself this: How can I present on the back cover or Amazon page or promo copy what’s inside in such a way that the browser actually experiences the content style and voice in the format of the work itself?

Take your recently completed manuscript–or WIP or already published book–and see what you can do. This should be fun if your book is not the usual novel or novella or straight prose work: a poetry book, a play, a picture storybook, an illustrated travel diary, an email-format memoir, a how-to with photos, a coloring book. Harmonize the outer with the inner.

If you wish, please share in the comments. I’d love to see what you came up with.

 

The Book Blurb for Today’s #1 Kindle Book (Paid) at Amazon: Ghost Gifts by Laura Spinella

On a whim, I decided to check what was the #1 Kindle (paid, not free) book today. Right now. 2/17/16 in the morning. It’s #1 in Kindle suspense, books/romantic suspense, and  books/ghosts.

Here’s the blurb for Ghost Gifts by Laura Spinella:

All Aubrey Ellis wants is a normal life, one that doesn’t include desperate pleas from the dead. Her remarkable gift may help others rest in peace, but it also made for an unsettling childhood and destroyed her marriage. Finally content as the real estate writer for a local newspaper, Aubrey keeps her extraordinary ability hidden—until she is unexpectedly assigned the story of a decades-old murder.

Rocked by the discovery of a young woman’s skeletal remains, the New England town of Surrey wants answers. Hard-nosed investigative reporter Levi St John is determined to get them. Aubrey has no choice but to get involved, even at the terrifying risk of stirring spirits connected to a dead woman’s demise and piquing her new reporting partner’s suspicions.

As Aubrey and Levi delve further into the mystery, secrets are revealed and passion ignites. It seems that Aubrey’s ghost gifts are poised to deliver everything but a normal life.

This is the longer sort of back cover/book description blurb. No fancy style or font or color use.

Here’s how it looks on the back cover of the paperback:

GHOST GIFTS back cover

The text is superimposed on a dark background where the long hair of the gal on the cover carries over, blown by the wind. A sprig of violet flowers adds a touch of color (and hope?) at the top. It’s a very plain and serviceable back cover. The look isn’t particularly eye-catching, but what about the blurb itself?

First sentence: All Aubrey Ellis wants is a normal life, one that doesn’t include desperate pleas from the dead.

What the main character wants, and what the character has. Her ordinary world and her goal, and the thing in her “ordinary world” that offers conflict. She can sense the “desperate pleas” of the nonliving. Ghosts. A gift. A gift that assures a lack of normality.

That’s a good opening line.

Next we find out what that gift cost her (backstory, wounds, past conflicts)–an unsettled childhood; a destroyed marriage.

Then we get what the character does (real estate writer) and how she copes (hides her ability.)

Then the inciting incident: an assignment on an old case when skeletal remains are found.

Ah, a mystery that needs solving. And we have a character with the kind of gift that can solve it. Plot points.

She is then partnered (other important character) with a reporter. Romance will ensue (as the last paragraph hints). The stakes: will her ability, her secret, be revealed along with others, causing her life to be unsettled again?

There are hints of other stakes: dangers that come with revealing secrets and engaging in a passionate relationship.

Story questions: Will the mystery of the murder be solved? Will her relationship work out? Will her life become better or worse as she involves herself in this case? Will her partner accept her Ghost Gifts? Will she ever have a normal life?

It’s not a never-been-done in fiction ability, that of hearing/seeing ghosts. It’s a trope we’ve seen before.

But it’s still a compelling plot premise. And the promise of romance is a hook for certain readers (romance /romantic suspense fans). It has a mystery for mystery fans. It  has paranormal stuff for paranormal fans. All those are hooks (genre ones) that are worth including in blurbs.

It hooked me. I chose it from all the Kindle First offerings this month.

Does this blurb work for you? How would you make it better?

You may purchase the novel here: Ghost Gifts

Next time:

Well, come back and see.

 

How Numbers Work In the Blurb for the Bestselling Mystery Novel of All Time

For our third and final example on using numbers in book blurbs, let’s take a look at the #1 mystery novel ever: Agatha Christie’s And Then There Were None. While you  may think there isn’t a number in the title, there is: none. None is equivalent to zero.

But an interesting fact is that this is not the original title. The original title contained a vulgar word we don’t like to use anymore in modern society (a good thing), one beginning with n and ending in r. You can Google it up. In the US, it was changed to Ten Little Indians. Still not PC, but more acceptable than the original.

As you see, the number that is key to the novel is 10.

Here’s a back cover:

 

And then There Were None Christie back cover

There are several things to recommend this exceedingly well constructed back cover–both in blurb and design.

First, notice the top right exclamation. If you ever studied journalism or just are aware of how those front pages are constructed for print papers, you know that top right is where you place the thing you consider priority–the lead story. The eye automatically goes to the top of a page first. Put something important at the top. If it’s a key recommendation or statement or story question, that’s a good place.

Top right on this back cover has a clear, all-caps, exlamation-point statement that will nab the attention of any mystery novel lover (or any reader who enjoys fiction, period). THE WORLD’S BESTSELLING MYSTERY!

That’s a pretty emphatic statement that has to make any browsing reader curious.

Now we get into the countdown. Starting from the key number 10.

In the novel, there are serial killings, countdown killings, in an isolated location. (See image on top left that gives a sense of an isolated island residence.)

Notice that the countdown doesn’t go on to the end. Just enough to get a count going, leaving it hanging–which is also effective, isn’t it?

Each countdown in the blurb gives a story element. Key terms that ignite interest when it comes to mysteries: strangers, isolated, guilty secrets, haunted, violent storm, begin to die, dead.

And the question finale, the story question itself: Who among them is the killer and will any of them survive?

Being in an isolated location, taunted by a nursery rhyme, dying one by one, and the killer in their midst–that’s a fabulous, “hook-ish” set-up.

The countdown always adds suspense and dread. (Just as in the previous novel, where you know if they got the number ahead of you, you’re next.)

The final recommendation blurb by TIME–an established and well-known journalistic entity–gives the final “read me” nab to the browser, assuring them this mystery is an “ingenious thriller.”

Even if you don’t have TIME or famous writers giving you rec-blurbs, you can use key imagery on your back cover and, if applicable, a clever countdown or numerical motif for all your types of blurb uses.

Next Time:

Well, wait and see.

What is a blurb, anyway?

The word “blurb” is used in more than one publishing context.

Both uses are characterized by brevity.

One use refers to those recommendations that  grace book covers or are included in front matter or promo materials. These are shout-outs by fellow authors or well-known persons (a celebrity, authority, etc). The point is to say, “This book does not suck, so buy it.” The authors, experts, or celebrities add a sense of authority: their recommendations matter to a segment of the reading population.

If my favorite author drops a praise-bomb for a novel, it’s guaranteed that I will go check it out on Amazon.

A bestselling author of cozy mysteries who is also a homicide cop–two points of authority for the audience– might blurb for a debut author in this way:

“Romance, suspense, and adorable kittens made this book unputdownable for this cat-loving detective.”

A famous sweet romance author might blurb this for a fellow sweet romance writer:

 “Fans of my bestseller, MARY KISSED JUAN, will swoon for this touching reunion story set in a charming seaside town. WATCH THE WHALES WITH ME is the kind of romance that warms your heart and eases your soul.”

A successful real estate entrepreneur might offer this:

“Follow Rupert’s advice in WHY WORK AFTER THIRTY? and you’ll retire a millionaire without wrinkles. I know. I used this system to earn enough to buy my own island while in high school.”

So, that’s one kind of publishing biz blurb.

The kind I like to focus on is not a quote/recommendation. Although, sure,  it may include character quotes if they hit the right note and intrigue. You’ve probably noticed that descriptive/synoptic blurbs may be preceded by the recommendations or followed by them on cover copy or retailer pages or ads.

Here’s a really short–and funny–example of the second kind of blurb that you may have come across on social media:

wizard-of-oz-blurb-600x337

 

This micro-blurb contains several key points of story description: where (surreal land), what genre (fantasy), who/main character (a young girl), what problem/inciting incident (kills someone), who/allies (teams up) and why/goal  (kill again).

That’s actually enough to make you think it’s an intriguing story, even it doesn’t convey the actual tone or genre of the real thing. This reads like a suspenseful or thriller type of fantasy with an evil m/c. We know it’s a magic-drenched musical with some humor, and the protagonist never intends to kill at all.

The “book description” kind of blurb is more effective when it’s longer than this television guide type of example. You want to hit as many key points as will hook the target readers. But you don’t want to spoil the tale (in fiction) or bore them silly with too much info (in non-fiction and fiction).

Blurbing poetry is a whole ‘nother thing. We’ll skip that for now.

So that’s my kind of blurb: a brief description of a book which is used for informational and promotional purposes.

The Oxford Advanced Learner’s Dictionary phrases it this way:

a short description of a book, a new product, etc., written by the people who have produced it, that is intended to attract your attention and make you want to buy it

The only quibble I have with that definition is that in this brave new century, with the explosion of self-publishing, the person who actually writes the blurb may not be the one producing it (ie, the author or editor or publishing house marketing assistant or copywriter). It might be a friend, a critique partner, a writing support group team effort, or a freelancer hired to do so.

Anyone who has the chops can craft a blurb for an indie author’s book.

Coming next:

How To Start Organizing Information For Your Book’s Blurb