30 June, 2011

I Pick Up A Book. The Main Event Mentioned In The Blurb Comes Around 200+ Pages Into The Story.



I don't like waiting around for things to happen in the books I read. There has to be a hook, and then there has to be some event that catapults the main character(s) into the central conflict the story is built on. So that's why I sometimes skip blurbs altogether, if I like the reviews and the cover of a book.

They can take away the tension. If you ask me, a story should pull the reader in blurb or no, and hold them there on its own. But I've read several books whose back cover, inside flap, or summary (depending on the format) has told me all I need to know to guess at least some of the plot--and not only that, I have to sit around waiting for the main character(s) to catch on to what's happening, sometimes so slowly it's painful to watch them stumble about trying to get the hang of the situation.

Of course, it can go in the opposite direction, too. If there's just some dramatic, broad statement on the inside of the cover, that can deter me from reading the book if I think there's a chance it's going to follow an unoriginal plot, or there just simply isn't enough information about the characters and the rest of the story.

Have you ever skipped a blurb? How much do you think they help--or hinder? How much should a blurb give away about the plot and characters, before it says too much?


-----The Golden Eagle

50 comments:

Bethany Elizabeth said...

This is one of the hardest things about picking up books, because so often those blurbs aren't written by the author. A badly written blurb can misleadingly make the reader think the book is badly written, which isn't fair. It really depends on the book, you know? Some books need a fairly descriptive blurb, others shouldn't have any. When I read Robbe-Grillet's Jealous, the book blurb (and commentaries at the beginning of the book) flavored the entire story differently than it was supposed to be read.

KarenG said...

I always read the cover material, and the first few paragraphs. That gives me a sense of what the book's about, and the writer's style. I've read a few like this, that don't seem to live up to the hype. One was a huge YA bestseller and I hated it.

Emily Rittel-King said...

AMEN! Reading blurbs is something I do after I read the book. Often I find they don't tell me anything about the book, they're just trying to reel me in. In a way, I feel mislead because the blurbs are frequently embellished.

abkeuser said...

I rarely read blurbs. I'm not even sure its a conscious thing. My mom handed me The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo and I'm a quarter of the way through it and I say: "This is a murder mystery?" nad the BF looks at me like I'm crazy, because he did read the blurb. (Side note: never did enjoy that novel)

Rogue Mutt said...

I only read the cover copy if I don't know the author. Sometimes afterwards if I didn't really understand what the author was driving at in the book.

Michael Offutt said...

I hardly ever read cover material. Instead I hear about the book via someplace else, author interview or whatnot and decide to try it out.

Su said...

Good question! I had to think about it! I'm pretty sure I always read the blurb, and I agree they can be pretty hit-or-miss. If I pick up the book because someone recommended it, then I at least begin the book regardless of the blurb. Otherwise, I've read books based on the blurb that I could only stand for about 10 pages, and I'm sure I've put books down based on the blurb that I would have enjoyed.

Sarah Pearson said...

I do read the blurb, but I don't let it influence me into reading a book. For that I read a couple of random pages within. If an event is mentioned in the blurb I like it to happen quickly so I can get on reading the part of the story I (hopefully) don't know anything about.

Dana said...

I do read the blurb, and it, along with the first page or so, does influence whether or not I'll read the book. Recently, I picked up a book with an interesting blurb, started to read it, and discovered that the event described didn't happen until the midway point of the book. I even found myself flipping back to the blurb to check and see if I was reading the book I thought I was; the text (until that midway point) and the blurb seemed to describe two entirely different novels. I was extremely disappointed.

Heather said...

As a reader blurbs are very important to me. I want to know what the book is about before I buy it. Blurbs that annoy me are those that reveal too much, like you said, or don't reveal the genre of the book. If it's paranormal, sci-fi, or straight up fiction, I want to know because that will effect my decision to buy.

LynNerd said...

I love that photo! I'd say the blurb should beg a question but not give away too much. Sometimes that can be hard to accomplish.

Michael Di Gesu said...

These are really good questions Golden...

I generally like to read a bit of the blurb... If it gets me on the first sentence or two, I stop reading and get the book. I don't like when they give too much away.

Alex J. Cavanaugh said...

Too much hype or overdramatizing in the blurb loses me.

Tere Kirkland said...

Oh, I do hate blurbs that give half the story away. If a story needs that much buildup just to get to the PREMISE, there's a problem.

I'm usually more of a first few pages person, anyway. I always regret buying a book without reading a sample.

Laila Knight said...

I like blurbs, but sometimes the blurb really doesn't tell me much about a story, which leads to disappointment. I will confess that I prefer to know more about the characters in a blurb than the conflict.

Madeleine said...

Interesting. If the reviews are good that will prompt me to check the book out, though some novels that are well liked by others really don't appeal to me, so I go for title, blurb and opening paragraph/page to make my choice. :O)

K. Howard said...

Blurbs are a marketing tool, and something I support because without them I would never read. I like knowing what the book is about before I start, so books without them annoy me. That said, I believe the blurb should only state the plot of the first quarter to third of the book with various, semi-important details (like location and time and a snippet but not all of the back story). I firmly believe the book must go beyond the back blurb to be something worthwhile.

Old Kitty said...

OH I always read the blurb. Well first I see the book cover. If I like it, I pick up the book and read the blurb - always. If the blurb sounds interesting, I open the book and read the first sentence! I think blurbs for me are so important - they offer a tiny window to what's on offer! Take care
x

nutschell said...

Hi Golden Eagle!
I've given you a BLOG AWARD. Feel free to drop by anytime to pick it up. Just a little something to brighten up your day. :)

warm regards,
nutschell
www.thewritingnut.com

Cally Jackson said...

I'm with you on this one. Blurbs often give far too much away, reducing the tension of the book's beginning. If I know the author, I will often skip the blurb and dive straight in.

Quite often, there's a time gap between when I buy a book and when I read it. In these instances, I won't re-read the blurb before I start the book - I like to give the author the opportunity to tell me their story the way they intended, without the marketing team intervening.

Krispy said...

I definitely know what you're talking about. It can get pretty annoying when something is known/obvious to the reader but the characters have to act like it's a big mystery.

I think blurbs should give an idea of what the book is about without giving too much away, but it is a hard line to tread sometimes. I always read the blurb because I like knowing what I'm getting into, especially if I'm going to buy something. On the other hand, blurbs can be pretty off the mark too, so I do rely on other sources (e.g. reviews, word of mouth).

Brian said...

HeeHee, if I skip ahead I often forget what came before!

Lindz Pagel said...

I just finished a book last week where a major plot-point that was revealed on the back didn't come into play until the last 50 pages of the book.

Like you said, it was frustrating knowing something the character didn't. Not to mention having to wait around for her to catch the train.

I will read a book blurb, but not rely on it solely. I also take reviews into account.

Susan Kane said...

I know what you mean. Sometimes the blurb helps and sometimes it hurts. Same thing happens with movie previews.

Kari Marie said...

Misleading blurbs drive me bananas. Same goes for movie trailers that depict a movie in a certain light and then you get there and whammo! I'm turning around and wondering if I'm in the right movie theater.

Angelina C. Hansen said...

I prefer to go into a novel completely blind. Starting with the first page, I keep reading until the story either bores me to death or offends me, neither of which happen very often. I like to be surprised.

Rusty Webb said...

I skip blurbs all the time if it's a book from an author I love. They do give away so much. Of course, if it's an unknown author, or if I think the cover is interesting, but I'm still not sold, then I'll check out the blurb on the back. So I at least know what I'm getting into.

Madeline Bartos said...

My mom asked me what the book I'm reading is about, and I told her I didn't know because I didn't want to read the blurb. I have always noticed that about books, especially movies. The trailer tells you what's going to happen, but then you have to wait for it. What's the point?

Misha said...

Blurbs used to be very important to me. However, lately I have found myself to be completely misled by blurbs. I expect something based on the blurb and get something else. I think I am more dependent on blogger reviews rather than cover blurbs.

Hilary Melton-Butcher said...

Hi Golden Eagle .. I always read the cover material and get a gist of the story - then decide if I'm interested ..

I think writing those pieces must be quite tricky ... and I'll now definitely remember your article about the subject here!

Happy 4th July weekend .. Hilary

Ellie Garratt said...

I always read the blurb, it's what makes me buy the book. Having said that, I'm off to check my own blurbs now, in case I've put too much into them!

Ellie Garratt

Talei said...

Never skipped a blurb, that after the cover is what draws me in. ;-)

Have a fab weekend dear Eagle! x

GigglesandGuns said...

Hardback I read the inside jacket and something random from inside.
Paperback, just the random choice inside.
I don't put much faith in blurbs.

Samantha Sotto-Yambao said...

Um, okay...I hate to admit it, but I'm a huge sucker for blurbs.

Clarissa Draper said...

I rarely read the blurbs on the books. Mostly I go based on the reviews. Especially the reviews on from the bloggers I trust. That way I'm usually never disappointed.

Josh Hoyt said...

That is an interesting thought and I have never really thought about it. I think you have a point. I like to know what the story is about though it helps me relax and not worry about if I am going to like it or not.

Charles Gramlich said...

I just started reading Lonesome Dove because I've heard so much good about it. It's over 900 pages so I've been hesitant, and so far it has not lived up to the hype. there is no real hook and no action so far. Just a lot of talking. I'm hoping something happens soon.

Carol Kilgore said...

Sometimes I read them, sometimes not. It depends. More if the author is new to me.

Happy Weekend!

Talli Roland said...

I've never skipped a blurb - that's what sells the book to me, except if I know the author.

Alleged Author said...

I hate when a blurb doesn't match the book. I've read some awesome summaries on the backs of books only to be disappointed once I started reading. Sigh.

Beth said...

I usually read the jacket cover or back of the book, but like you I hate it when it the big event happens at the tail end of the book.

...I feel like I haven't commented in forever, sorry. I got busy for a while, but I'm back to making my rounds now.

Alessandra said...

Very interesting topic. I don't care about the cover but I like to read the blurb, mostly I read books that I have heard good things about it, not from book reviewers but from friends. If I friend/relatives tells me that a book is for me (we don't always have the same tastes) I will try it. But I am in the book business, my friends know me well, and if a blurb is well done I appreciate it: life is short and there are too many books to read :-)

ciao
A.

The Golden Eagle said...

Bethany: I had wondered about that--sometimes there's a lot of disconnect between the book and the story, and it seemed like the author hadn't written the blurb.

KarenG: That's happened to me, too!

I've never tried reading the first few paragraphs of the book itself; but it would in most cases give more information than the blurb itself.

Emily: True. Embellished, exaggerated, and sometimes taken off course. :P

ABKeuser: Not many people recommend books to me . . . so that's never happened in my case.

I haven't read The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo--I'm not sure I want to, although a lot of people do seem to like it.

Rogue: I'll do that, too, if the author's point was lost while I was reading the book. Of course, sometimes that doesn't even help.

Michael: A lot of the books I read (i. e. take out of the library) I pick up because I see them on the shelf, no other reason; although I will pick up some novels if I've read a review of them.

Su: I try not to judge a book by its blurb; although I've probably done the same, and put down a book I might have liked if I'd gone beyond it.

Sarah: Exactly! I want to run into parts of the story I don't know already, because of the blurb.

Dana: Blurbs sometimes influence me, too. It depends on how they're written.

Isn't it weird when the blurb and the book don't match? It's frustrating, too--the reader should get what they expected from a blurb. (Unless it's way more spectacular than originally thought.)

Heather: I actually like it when a blurb doesn't reveal the genre--LOL. Sometimes it's a letdown, but I've read several books in unexpected genres because of their blurbs.

LynNerd: www.bookshelfporn.com is one of the best book photo sites around. ;)

It can be hard to accomplish--it's too bad that so many of them are misleading about the story itself.

Michael: I suppose it's a bit like querying, only to the general public and not to an individual agent; you have to hook whoever's reading the blurb.

Alex: Me, too. "The end is near!" or something like that won't really influence me. :P

The Golden Eagle said...

*LynNerd: For some reason that link didn't work.

The Golden Eagle said...

Tere: I agree! The story should engage the reader from the start, and not need all the hype beforehand.

Almost all the books I read come from the library--so that's not as much as a problem fore me. :P But it is disappointing to look forward to a story and then realize a chapter in it's rather different from the expected.

Laila: As long as the blurb doesn't give anything away about the main event in the story, information about the characters can be good--especially if the blurb manages to put in depth and personality.

Madeleine: I rarely read the opening page when I find a new book; I just go by reviews, cover, author, and sometimes the blurb.

K. Howard: Yup. A book has to have more to it than what the blurb says about it--a blurb should say something about the story, but not too much to lay out the plot.

Old Kitty: They can, it's true; and sometimes it's done quite effectively!

Nutschell: Thank you so much for the award! :)

Cally: I do that, too--often. And sometimes I'll pick up a book if an author I like has positively reviewed it. :)

Same here! It works for me, because I usually forget the blurb's content other than a few major details. :P

Krispy: That's one of the things that really bugs me--open with a bang, don't have the reader sit around for the characters to find out what they already know.

Reviews are my main source of information on books; and most of them are on blogs.

Brian: Me, too. ;)

Lindz: The last 50 pages? Geez. :P I don't like waiting around for the first!

Reviews are something I consider, too.

Susan: Good point there--I've seen several previews that put too much in.

Kari: Sometimes it's a nice surprise, but still, I like to know what I'm getting into with movies; trailers can be cool, but make sure it's related to the actual film!

Angelica: They don't often happen to me, either; and if a book offends me, I'll often read through it and rant about it somewhere. :P

The Golden Eagle said...

Rusty: Same here! The fact it's written by a certain author is enough to pull me in, oftentimes.

Sometimes I read the author bio before the blurb; it can be interesting to know the author's background in relation to my impression of the story.

Madeline: I don't know. :P

Misha: Thank goodness for blogger reviews! I'll often pick up a book because of them.

Hilary: I agree--I know I'd have trouble writing a blurb for my book if I ever got the chance to.

You too! :)

Ellie: Makes sense--that's what they're there for!

If your blurbs are anything like the one for Cosmic Seed, I'm sure they're good. :)

Talei: They can be an effective hook!

Gigglesandguns: I usually stay away from reading something in the book itself--I'm afraid I'll glance at something that gives away part of the story.

Samantha: Nothing wrong with that! They're the main marketing strategy; and while some are misleading, many are quite good.

Clarissa: I'll pick up books by bloggers I trust as well--even if they're outside the usual genre or type I read.

Josh: I agree, knowing at least something about the story before I dive into a book can help.

Charles: That's one long book.

Hope the story improves!

Carol: Me, too; if I don't know the author, I'll often read the blurb.

Talli: Knowing the author does change what I think of a book; based on previous things I've read by them, or if I "know" them some other way, like through blogs. :)

Alleged Author: I don't like that, either. Sometimes I wish there was a book to go with the misleading blurb. :P

Beth: It's frustrating to finally get through all the hype and tension, and then it all ends.

Life takes over once in a while--so no worries. I know I haven't been commenting as much, either, lately.

Alessandra: I usually go by book reviews; not many people I know in real life recommend books to me.

LOL. Yes, there are too many books to read in the world! ;)

Donna Hole said...

No, I always read the blurb. I've been known to pick up a book from the cover art, but have to read and be interested in the blurb to buy to book. Like KarenG, I usually read the first few paragraphs. I'll also flip to a few pages throughout the novel to see if the writing is consistent.

I may be an avid reader, but I'm also a book snob. I need more than one criteria to judge a book by. Cuz once I buy it, I will read the whole thing, even if I don't like it eventually.

But yeah, if the context of the story doesn't live up to the blurb, or if the cover doesn't reflect the book plot, I get seriously annoyed. Especially if I took a chance on a new (to me) author.

........dhole

The Happy Whisk said...

I love that picture. Fantastic find. Happy Reading and Happy Eating.

Shannon Lawrence said...

I can be attracted to a novel for a variety of reasons, including the blurb, word of mouth and yes, even the cover (despite the fact that I know it's not even by the author and may not truly have anything to do with the book). I do frequently read the blurb, though, and can be turned off if it isn't good, which may not be fair to the book/author, but is just the way it is. Having said that, being a writer I've found writing the logline/summary/blurb is shockingly hard! You want to tell enough of the story to interest someone in it, while not giving anything away or misleading them. I hate when I read a book and the blurb was entirely misleading. It pretty much guarantees I won't pick up a book by that author in the future.

Tina @ Life is Good
and I are joining forces in another challenge. We're going to visit and comment at each of the participants, starting with the reflections post. We hope you'll join us!

Shannon @ The Warrior Muse

The Golden Eagle said...

Donna: I pick up a lot of books just based on their cover, too. :P

I usually continue reading books I don't like, so that influences whether or not I pick up a book that appeals through the blurb or not. Or sometimes I just want a story that I'm likely to enjoy.

Same here!

The Happy Whisk: www.bookshelfporn.com

;)

Thanks!

Shannon: I've come across several novels whose pitch made me think it was something completely different from the actual subject--at bit disorienting, and if the real story doesn't appeal, it can be disappointing. Sometimes it isn't, though. :)