Blurbs are wonderful things for a writer. If you can get a blurb from a known and respected author or a well-know review site it is even more wonderful. Blurbs and cover art are usually two of the many things outside an author’s control.
Sometimes the person writing the blurb or designing the cover is like the person standing behind you in a line for movie tickets who has already seen the film. This person loudly tells a friend standing in line the plot, important scenes and, of course the ending. As an author, I want you to read my book so the surprises, humor, key events and ending that I have worked so hard to create spring out at you just where and when I placed them. A blurb can undo my hard work.
I am just beginning Code Name Verity by Elizabeth Wein, which has a New York Times quote at the top of the front cover, “A fiendishly plotted mind game of a novel.” That’s a blurb to write home about, but the structure of the first few chapter suggests to me that the author wanted to sneak up on her readers so they only gradually discover there are layers within layers of plot. So congratulations Elizabeth for such an outstanding review and I’m sorry about the review too. A friend advised me not to read the end pages until after I finished the book because the end papers of one edition give away too much information.
For another example, a well-crafted thriller I read had a blurb on the front cover emphasizing that the heroine could not trust anyone. Inside the book the author had created many shady characters out to get the heroine and one shining example of an honest friend. Who do you think the villain was? The so-called honest friend of course. As soon as that character appeared, I knew the character was the mastermind hiding behind evil henchmen. The blurb gave it away.
A friend of mine wrote a book carefully obscuring the identity of one of the characters. The front cover art showed that character in a way that emphasized his real identity. The cover gave it away.
Margaret Atwood has written about the “innocent anticipation” of a reader starting a new book. Why should the cover, the blurbs or the end papers diminish the pleasure of reading?
In the interest of full disclosure I have to admit that a reviewer of my Murder Manhattan Style sympathized with me about the cover art since authors rarely have control of the cover. However, that book was one of those rare instances where the author (namely me) had a great deal of influence over the cover art. I still think it’s great.
When I write reviews I am always leery of giving away plot elements and character identities that detract from the reader’s pleasure and undermine the writer’s skills.
I appreciate reviews that have “Spoiler Alert” in the heading so the reader knows what risk reading the review involves.
What are your experiences with blurbs and cover art?