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.

 

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A Picture With Fewer Than One Thousand Words

Your blurb paints a picture in the reader’s mind.

To play off a famous phrase: fewer than a thousand words to paint a picture.

Or: a picture from two-hundred words.

This is why advice on blurbing will generally advise you to use strong nouns and vivid verbs and put some passion into it. Paint the picture of the book with those words.

Here’s the back cover copy with both kinds of blurbing– the description blurb and the recommendation blurb–for a novel that ranked #5 overall in fiction bestsellers of 2015 according to PW.

Does it put a picture in your mind?

THE MARTIAN back cover copy

 

Did you notice it actually has TWO description blurbs?

Yes, it has the abbreviated one made up of three sentence fragments in eye-catching Mars red text larger than the type that follows.  That is actually a very brief blurb. The sort you can use in promo materials that don’t use much text.

A MISSION TO MARS. A FREAK ACCIDENT. ONE MAN’S STRUGGLE TO SURVIVE.

The micro blurb. 😀

It tells you the who, the where, the what happened, and the stakes. It tells you the genre. It even hints at the emphasis on the single character. A reader who enjoys science fiction, alien world, survival tales will definitely read further.

The second blurb, the longer one, gives us details of who “one man” is and how he found himself in that life/death struggle. But that first one is the hook. It takes maybe two seconds to read and tell a browser what they need to know to flip to chapter one or go to the register and buy. Or to move on to the next book.

A whole lot of folks bought THE MARTIAN.

The sentence fragment format also feels more like “action.” It implies a story with “breathless” tension. Do you speak in complete, long sentences when you’re running out of air, sprinting to shelter, or scared out of your wits?

The longer blurb is enticing. We see how complicated the situation is–the gripping problem is compounded, the odds “impossible.” And we learn what makes him special–his profession (astronaut/engineer), his particular skill (resourcefulness) and personality trait (gallows humor).

The review blurbs from well-known periodicals carry authority and emphasize both that there’s lots of humor and that it’s super suspenseful.

Did that hook you?

Did you get a picture from those words?

I saw a space-suited man on red soil–dust storm in the distance– all alone but with dark sky above and determined eyes staring out of that helmet.

What did you see?

This is very well-crafted back cover copy with two descriptive blurbs–micro, standard–for multiple uses and two recommendation blurbs.

A winner we can learn from.
Want the book? Get it here: The Martian

Next time:

Diverging from the Standard Form