Writerly Rant #16
Yeah, so they say, ‘Don’t judge a book by it’s cover’ but rarely does that happen. More often than not, an author or publisher has taken pains to make sure their book cover says the best it can about the contents inside. If a book’s title and imagery catch my eye, I will flip it over and read the blurb. This is what finalizes the sale for me.
I’m a tactile buyer. Sure, I get E-books for my various e-readers that are unrelated to a promised book review, but generally I do a thorough search of that author or title online and carefully consider the cover image and blurb. In the book store my eyes scan the vast rows of shelves and I will look at the back or inside jacket cover generally on a whim.
Blurbs are incredibly important for selling a book – it’s the first look we have at the content in written form. If it sparks an interest in me, I buy it. I don’t flip open the book and read a few pages, like some people – I just don’t have that kind of time. Most often, this practice has served me well, but there have been a few times since I started buying my own books where I’ve been upset with either the outcome of the book or the plot in general.
I attribute this to false advertising.
As a pre-teen I bought a book by AVY (I don’t remember the title now), but it was supposed to be about a young girl coming to grips with her life after a severe accident. Half-way through I realized that her doctor’s had transplanted her brain, or something like that, into the body of a chimp. I immediately stopped reading and gave the book away. The severe disconnect between the back blurb, my expectations, and the actual contents of the book left a bad taste in my mouth and I’ve never read another book by AVY since.
My last episode with a less-than-connected book and it’s blurb came four years ago with a fantasy series developed by TOR Books. I was so enthusiastic about the series, based on the cover and blurb, that I bought all 5 books already in print. I dug in with high expectations only to learn that this particular author was more interested in detailed battle scenes than the plot involving the Prince-turned-King and the use of magic in the realm. When I read that one of the Prince’s soldiers had to become a eunuch because of the mission he was sent on, and could not properly consummate his marriage (the one the Prince arranged for him in the first place), I tossed the book aside and never read the remaining series. I can’t help being a romantic at heart.
My latest grumble comes from a teen fantasy series that holds a real sense of mystery about the theatre and the promise of a new look at magic and the dangers of an unknown past. I opened the book and had to force myself to read the first three chapters. Then I abandoned it for something else. It read like a middle-grade book even though the main character just turned 17. The simplicity of the main character and the set up of the first few chapters had absolutely nothing to do with the book’s blurb about an child who may not have a choice in her life because of the stars in her eyes. The blurb was sophisticated and revealed a tantalizing back story of forbidden and hidden magic with a personal battle between fate and destiny. I was not impressed with inner naivete.
While I realize that it’s usually not the author who writes the blurb for their book when it comes to traditionally published publications, 9 times out of 10 my ability to pick a book that I will enjoy, using my simplistic method, works just fine. What I can’t stand are the occasional false-promises spouted in blurbs written in a style wholly different from the rest of the book. As rare as this disconnect is, I find it infuriating. I spend my hard-earned money using the tools provided to me by the publishing media and I can’t enjoy my purchase.
And no, I don’t return the books. Usually by the time I get around to reading my purchases, it’s 6 months to a year later and I’ve already lost the receipt. Now, I’m not saying my methods are perfect, but if the industry could at least remain consistent with the outer media of a book matching the inner offering, there would be more satisfied readers out there who would be interested in coming back for more.
* * *