Category Archives: Writing

Jacket Copy Sells Books

I’ve been musing, intermittently, on this blog and in polls, on the value of a good book cover. What is a good book cover and does it sell book? Who is influenced by a book cover? Many authors, when asked, will tell you they hate the book covers of their novels, most of the time because they’re not representative of their story/content. Same thing for the title. How compelling does it have to be? Does the title influence book buying?

It turns out that both do, but only in conjunction with how compelling the jacket copy (or back copy) –the blurb that tells you what the book’s about– is even more important. In a commissioned study of over 3600 readers, Publishing Trends noted that “The job of writing jacket copy shouldn’t be foisted off on editorial assistants—it is the second most important book purchase factor (after favorite author).”

It seems that most reader want real information about the book and a prosaic representation of the message the book cover and title send. Interestingly enough, reviewers such as The New York Times have less than a 13% influence on book buying. In addition,

The importance of various elements of jacket copy also varies by age. Younger book shoppers are more interested in character detail and brief promotional statements or quotes—31% of readers under 18, for instance, said they’d be most influenced by a statement like “Sometimes what happens in Vegas follows you home.” And even though they might have little else in common, the under-18 crowd shares the preference for a snappy promotional statement with readers over 65, 25% of whom are most influenced by these statements. Younger and older shoppers don’t want to work hard to figure out what a book is about, so flap copy aimed at them should cut to the chase.

This means that, for an author and publisher, knowing your audience is crucial in how you write jacket copy. Still, the article concludes that there is no magic bullet. As we say, to each his own, even when it comes to blurbs.

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Fiction Friday >> Las Vegas

[Fiction] Friday Challenge for April 24, 2009:
During her first trip to Las Vegas, a woman experiences the luckiest night of her life. (It’s not from gambling).

“Shhhh.” Sandra rocked the baby as she looked around her, at all the blinking lights, the people frantically putting coins into the slot machines, chewing gum or drinking. The noise was deafening, but it would provide cover for the baby’s cries.
She’d seen her and knew it was hers. She’d been waiting for a moment like this, to find her baby, the one, the only. She was dressed in a pink pinafore with pink booties, just the way she would have dressed her if… Well. She looked down at the girl as she rushed out of the casino.
“We’ll just have to pretend you’re a boy for a while, sweetie, but don’t worry. Once we’re far from here, I’ll buy you all the pink dresses you want.”
She hadn’t wanted to come to Las Vegas, but her sister had insisted she needed a change of pace after she’d lost Frannie. But she’d found her again, with these other people. They might miss her for a while, but they’d get over it. The baby was hers.
Coming to Vegas had been a good thing. This was the luckiest night of her life. She rushed away from the casino as she heard a woman screaming for her child.

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The difficulty of English language

I’ve said before that I learned to speak English when I was twenty-one. Learning the language is not only about grammar, vocabulary, or spelling, but also about pronunciation. Dessert and desert: why are they pronounced the same, yet spelled differently? Walk and salmon. Both have a useless “l” in the middle and you’d think that they’d be pronounced in the same way. Noooo. Dough and cough have only one letter difference. Excuse me?

I found this poem, The Chaos, by Gerard Nolst Trenité that exemplifies exactly what I mean. Continue reading

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Fiction Friday >> Write Anything

[Fiction] Friday Challenge for April 3, 2009:
A married couple sets out on a six-month adventure, living on their boat while sailing from port city to port city. By the fifth city, they are thoroughly sick of each other and their relationship takes a serious turn for the worse.

“You left your goddamn pan in the sink again,” Lisa said. “Why do I always have to stow your things before we leave? It’s not like you don’t know everything flies around when we’re at sea.”
“The sink’s deep enough.”
“No it’s not.”
“Pull the lines, will you?”
“You also left your clothes all over the place.”
“I checked the forecast. No squalls ahead.”
“This boat is the size of Rubik’s Cube. You’re a slob.”
“You want the night watch?”
“Are you listening to me?”
“You’re the one who wanted the grand adventure. Now you have it.”
“Yeah. Dirty pans and litter.”
“Bitching and bad seamanship.”
“I can tie a knot as well as you can. Better, even.”
“The way you fold the sails is a disgrace.”
“If you helped me instead of giving orders, it’d be easier.”
“I need a drink.”
“It’s eight o’clock in the morning.”

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Writing for a living: a joy or a chore?

Every so often, I get into a rut and wonder if it’s all worth it. Like today, where editing is almost as painful as going to the dentist. So I went back to an article I’d found in the Guardian at the beginning of March and reread what Al Kennedy said about the joy of writing:

The joy of writing for a living is that you get to do it all the time. The misery is that you have to, whether you’re in the mood or not. I wouldn’t be the first writer to point out that doing something so deeply personal does become less jolly when you have to keep on at it, day after cash-generating day. To use a not ridiculous analogy: Sex = nice thing. Sex For Cash = probably less fun, perhaps morally uncomfy and psychologically unwise. Sitting alone in a room for hours while essentially talking in your head about people you made up earlier and then writing it down for no one you know does have many aspects which are not inherently fulfilling. Then again, making something out of nothing, overturning the laws of time and space, building something for strangers just because you think they might like it and hours of absence from self – that’s fantastic. And then it’s over, which is even better. I’m with RLStevenson – having written – that’s the good bit.

It’s the “making something out of nothing, overturning the laws of time and space, building something for strangers just because you think they might like it” that make it worthwhile for me. It’s good to remember that once in a while.

To read more opinions about writing, here’s the Guardian article:Writing for a living: a joy or a chore?: nine authors give their views

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