A word about Blurbs

22, February,2008

Justine Larbalestier, a sterling, award winning, Australian YA fantasy author (another author I haven’t read but who’s blog I follow) posted a guide to blurb etiquette on her blog. http://justinelarbalestier.com/blog/?p=1020 

It got me wondering – what if book blurbs followed the same rules of accuracy as say, a Murdoch tabloid.  

This book is a farce comparable to the Hitler diaries, the unashamed plagiarism of Lord of the Rings by Mr Millionwords will have Tolkien lovers banging at his publishers door. That this book was even published is at best a scandal.

 “Another example of a  sharletan writer that publishers need to watch out for.”

Compared to this the telephone book is an excellent read.” 

As I read this I imagined my fingers gripping the author’s throat !.” 

The best I can say, is it’s not quite worst book I have ever read.”

 In all good conscious I could not recommend this book to anyone.  If it was a dog you would beg the vet to put it down.”  

I would rather have my eyes poked out by burning sticks, my legs peeled with a cheese grater and my head stuck in a bull-ant nest than read another word of this steaming great heap of puss infected dung.”     

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Has a writer’s beliefs / lifestyle / opinion, influenced your decision to purchase a book (positive stories are allowed)?  What line would they have to cross before you walked away from them? 

Why I ask is due to a couple of podcasts I’ve listened to lately. Recently, on Adventures in Sci-Fi Publishing, the author Terry Goodkind was interviewed I like a ripping yarn, and the few books I’ve read of Terry’s definitely fall into that category.  In the second half of the interview he was asked why he thought fiction was in decline, which devolved into an exposition by Goodkind on Objectivism. 

Objectivism is (according to my very biased view) a philosophy where greed is not only good but heroic.  Obviously, there is more to it than this and it has many adherents in the U.S. – particularly in the libertarian, hill billy militias (Damn!  Sorry my bias momentarily got the better of me again).  If you want a more informed view you can look it up in wikipedia. 

Right or wrong it’s a philosophy that I (obviously) have real problems with, and it definitely colours the way I think of Goodkind as a person.  I like his books but knowing a bit more about the author will probably lessen my enjoyment of them. 

By way of comparison have a listen to the interview he did on the Dragon Page, Cover to cover where the issue wasn’t mentioned.

Another podcast was an interview with Howard Jacobson on the Bat Segundo Podcast.  He is a forthright author with some strong views on Jewishness and Zionism.  An interesting interview but I don’t think I’d like to have around for dinner.

 So my fellow readers what would make you walk away?
Are the author and the story totally separate beasts?
Do we applaud their willingness to openly stand by their beliefs, or would we prefer not to hear it if it interferes with us enjoying the story? 

To any published writers – without giving anything away, are there areas you steer clear of in interviews, or have been advised to steer clear of? 

To any involved in publishing what advice would you give a prospective author? Are their no go zones?

A word about covers

5, April,2007

I’m not sure I have ever bought a book on the strength of the cover, but I have certainly avoided a book based on one.

Jennifer Fallon has released a new novel, The Lord of Tides. Its’ getting rave reviews and I think I’ll buy it. I regularly read Jen’s blog, (she is a very funny person), but I have not yet read any of her novels.
She writes Fantasy, a genre I like to read, and the reviews for her books have been excellent – but the covers.

The title may say Lion of Senet, but the cover screams ‘Lawrence the taffeta elf and Gwendolyn the perfomance artist in the mystery land of Pastel.’

This is not something I want to be seen reading on the train.

Just to put this in perspective, I am a 180cm, steak eating, beer drinking, male**.

The good news is the novels have been reprinted with new covers (hoorah). Do I feel more inclined to buy them – Yes. Will I? Maybe. (If you are reading this Ms Fallon; yes of course I intend to buy them – the whole backlist including the book of Nantucket Limericks).

Other covers?

I avoided Terry Pratchett for a long time because of the covers. My first thought was “The Magic Far Away Tree meets Merlin’s idiot love child”.

I think the publishers realised this because the Australian reissue showed a touch of over compensation. The new covers – mat black. Mmm, stately nihilism – doesn’t exactly capture Terry Practhett.

Then there were the early covers for fantasy legend Terry Brooks’ the Sword of Shannara – ‘Poppy the elf and his brave band of adventurers’, honesty you could have put a smurf in there and not altered the tone.


Tom Sharpe
writes a funny novel, but OMG the covers. Why put cartoons of over endowed, under clad nymphets on your cover. I couldn’t read them until my kids went to bed, and forget the train.

Admittedly, these were published in the days when the Benny Hill show was considered comedy gold.

Some covers I like.

To put ‘Jonathan Strange and Mr Norrell‘ in a plain black and white cover showed a nice sense of irony. It might have been more helpful to potential readers if the cover showed a bloated illustration, so needlessly detailed that it overwhelmed the purpose of the core image. But that’s just my opinion (seriously, why hide a good 300 page story in a 1000 page book).

What’s your worst cover?

**I also like Sushi, a good Sauvignon Blanc and Impressionist art.

POD-DY Mouth is finishing up. This person was a frankly a bit nuts.

She reviewed hundreds of books a year (1,600 in the past 12 months), and not just any books but “Self Published” books – the crap she must have read! Sifting the pearls from the swine and letting us all know about it. So it comes as no real surprise that she has finally cracked and is bailing out.

This leaves a big hole.

I like the idea of POD/Self publishing/Subsidy Publishing**. It fits into the emerging models of community and communication fostered by the internet. It empowers individuals, and on that basis alone has the potential to influence the way publishing is done.

One of the big problems for we the reader, is knowing what is worth reading and what is dross. I really hope someone (or some group) takes up the mantle dropped by PM.

**I know these are not the same thing – if you want a good summary of the differences, have a look at the Self Publishing FAQ by Moira Allen, editor of Writing-World.com