Book descriptions are the worst. My absolute favorite part about being with a publisher now is that I don’t have to write to the blurbs on the back of my books anymore. Honestly.
But I don’t just hate writing them – I hate reading them. I’ve read a large amount of books in my life, and I would say a good 90% of the descriptions I’ve read sound like crap to me. This is even on books that I really love.
For example, my favorite books in the whole world are Slaughterhouse-Five by Kurt Vonnegut and Cat’s Cradle (also by Vonnegut). I put off reading them for most of my life because based on the descriptions I thought they sounded stupid. Then a coworker was reading Hocus Pocus (a different Vonnegut book), and he said, “Here. You have to read this.” And then I did, and I loved it, and went on to read most everything Vonnegut has written.
Sometimes I read reviews of books, even glowing reviews, before I consider reading a book, and I almost always thing, “This sounds horrible.” I don’t know why exactly, but that’s what always happens. And then, many times, I go on to read books and think, “Wow! This is very enjoyable!”
There is some kind of disconnect, at least for me. And this only applies to books. In movies, I’m always fine. I can read descriptions and reviews. In fact, I’ve read Roger Ebert’s reviews on everything with kind of a fervent devotion.
So if you’re trying to sell me on a book, you should never give me a description. Well, maybe a small one. For example, if you’re trying to get me to read Jurassic Park, you might say, “This has dinosaurs in it.” That’s it. Here’s It: “There’s a clown.” And now Silence of the Lambs: “There’s a couple serial killers.” Slaughterhouse-Five: “It’s about WW II.” Or possibly “It’s about time travel.” But don’t say “WWII and time travel,” that’s too much, and I’ve already decided that it’s going to be stupid.
I was just thinking about that today, because I was getting a couple new books. I looked a couple new ones, and I was like, “These all sound dumb.” But they probably won’t be. Well, some of them might be.
People often ask me what I’m currently reading. Right now, I’m working my way through the complete collection of “Calvin & Hobbes” by Bill Waterson as well as Bodies in the Barrels Murders by Jeremy Pudney, which is the true story about a famous Australian serial killer. Next up, I think I’ll read Alfred Hitchcock and the Making of Psycho by Stephen Rebello, and probably a book about Ed Gein.
For the past six months or so, I’ve almost exclusively read non-fiction or graphic novels. Or re-read books I’ve read before. In non-fiction, I prefer biographies or books about murders and WWII. Some of the books I’ve read recently for the first time are Auschwitz: A Doctor’s Eyewitness Account by Miklos Nyiszli, The Elephant to Hollywood by Michael Caine, Catch 22 by Joseph Heller, The Stranger Beside Me by Ann Rule, SuperFreakonomics: Global Cooling, Patriotic Prostitutes, and Why Suicide Bombers Should Buy Life Insurance by Steven D. Levitt and Stephen J. Dubner, Emergency: This Book Will Save Your Life by Neil Strauss, God, If You’re Not Up There, I’m F*cked: Tales of Stand-Up, Saturday Night Live, and Other Mind-Altering Mayhem by Darrell Hammond, This Is a Book by Demetri Martin, Balthazar: An Evernight Novel by Claudia Gray, Spandau The Secret Diaries by Albert Speer, Superman for All Seasons by Jeph Loeb and Tim Sale, Batman: Cacophony by Kevin Smith and Walter Flanagan, Batman: Knightfall, Part One: Broken Bat by Doug Moench, Chuck Dixon. Here are some books that I’ve recently re-read Mother Night by Kurt Vonnegut, Cat’s Cradle by Kurt Vonnegut, Good Omens: The Nice and Accurate Prophecies of Agnes Nutter, Witch by Neil Gaiman and Terry Pratchett, American Psycho by Bret Easton Ellis, Survivor by Chuck Palahniuk , and half of The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy by Douglas Adams.
I only listed books I completed reading. I often start books and don’t finish them if I’m not enjoying them. So if I listed those books, I think they’re good, and you might think so too. Maybe not.
There’s not a lot of YA on the list, and that’s not because I don’t like it. I go through phases where I read a ton of a certain kind of book. Right now, it’s not a lot of YA. Later on, it probably will be.
I do think part of it is because I’m writing YA, too. I want to kind of separate myself from it as I’m working. I spend a lot of time in a dramatic fantasy world with teenagers, and I love it. But I don’t want to spend 24 hours a day in the same type of world. So I think I go for kind of the exact opposite, almost as a pallet cleanser.
So those are some things about books that aren’t mine.
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Catch-22 was an awesome (if slightly wacky) book! Also, for some reason I feel compelled to tell you that you should read The Moon Is A Harsh Mistress by Robert A. Heinlein…and also that Burberry handbags and Oakley sunglasses are super cheap if you buy knock-offs from spam links online! ;P
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Reading diversity is stimulation and lubrication for the mind. Can’t blame you for wanting to venture off to go to places you’re not already in.
An A to Z Co-Host
Tossing It Out
Calvin & Hobbes!!!
Ugh I’m so glad you wrote this! I’m brand new to the description-writing process and HATE it. The one for the book is relatively short (not three words though 😀 ) but just – ack I don’t like it, and so I wrote a novella-length description to make up for it, which of course is also all wrong. I still have not figured it all out, but it’s good to hear what someone else has to say about it.
I used to hate writing blurbs, but then I figured out the best way to do it: write the blurb before you write the book. It ends up as a better blurb, because the idea is still at the premise stage in your head, and it helps you while you write by forcing you to clarify your plot in advance. Then, when your book is done, the blurb may require one or two words adjusted, but that should be about it.
People read blurbs before they read the book. It only makes sense you write them before you being the book as well.
Every since I bought this book, I can’t seem to put it down. I finished reading it in 1 day & can’t wait to start my sent book. Thank you for taking me on a good adventure.
I enjoyed this! I guess I need to stop going by the blurb on the back of a book because so many of them sound just like all other plots or they just sound boring and stupid, so I don’t buy the book. I HATE having to write a synopsis or blurb. It’s impossible to truly describe the depth of a story that way, and people are all so different in what they are looking for that they might read that blurb and think that book is not for them, even when it might be just what they are looking for. And yes, I try to stay away from reading books that are similar to what I write, at least while I am working on something, because I want everything in my book to be my own original voice/idea. Rosanne Bittner http://www.rosannebittner.com
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