Claire King

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Claire King b&w - Jonathan Ring 800px

Posts Tagged ‘Novel blurbs’

A Heartbreaking Work of Staggering Genius

Posted on: May 28th, 2015 by Claire - 14 Comments

You have 250 words (the length of this blog post) to describe your novel in the way that describes it accurately, and in the most appealing way. Go.

No, not the dreaded synopsis, but the short description that readers will see alongside Everything Love Is on Bloomsbury’s website, on Amazon and copy-pasted into the beginning of many reviews after publication next year. It sets the readers expectations and hopefully whets their appetite.

My editor has just given me her first draft to review. As the one other person who has read this book several times and put a huge amount of effort into making it as good as it can be, she is brilliantly placed to do this and you can see that in the way she managed to encapsulate the novel in so few words. As with The Night Rainbow, Everything Love Is is not a book that is easy to describe. It’s not “The next” anything. As I joked on twitter – No Girls, No Trains and Nothing Tiny: You Will NOT Believe What Happens Next.

As I ponder how to get this description just right there’s a lot to consider. There’s a temptation to use superlatives (flipped into an actual book title by Dave Eggers – as pinched for the title of this post), or to second-guess what readers might feel as they read it. An option to hint at twists. A need to avoid clichés. What makes a description both believable and enticing? What do you think?

child's drawing

*I wasn’t sure what image to use for this blog post, so this is my 7yo’s drawing of me singing in the shower.

 

Blurby be Kind (2)

Posted on: January 30th, 2015 by Claire - 15 Comments

In the Before Time, when my editor at Bloomsbury was sending The Night Rainbow proofs out to authors with little enthusiastic and hopeful notes, suggesting if they liked it they might consider saying something nice for the jacket, I wrote this post: Blurby be Kind (do have a read and then come back!)

The post talked about how I was feeling, which was anxious, mostly, and how I *would* behave in the future, should I be faced with the same request myself.

Three years on, and I am indeed getting quite a few requests to read novels, usually debuts, with a view to providing quotes for the book jacket or for PR releases.

proof

And when I say quite a few, well, I have read more of these proofs in the last six months than I have read books from my (very tall) to-read pile, because they often come with deadlines whereas my own reading does not. Some have come direct from authors I know personally or on social media. Some have come from my editor and the remainder arrive from other publishers.

In some ways I’m absolutely delighted about this. It’s an opportunity to pay forward some of the kindness I received myself. (An actual author giving up their time to read my book – amazing). But in other ways it is a tricky thing to handle because however much you want to love a book, sometimes you just don’t. And that’s sad, especially when you know the effort and the hope that are bound up in that little proof.

I’ve been thinking about this a lot lately, and have come to this conclusion: I’ve been reading for pleasure for decades now, and I tend to know what I like. When I browse books I flick through the first pages and when I find a voice that is going to grab me and delight me I just know it straight away. When I listen to others making personal recommendations, in reviews, on blogs or on twitter, I tend to get a good sense of if a book is for me. That’s how I choose what to read. So I enjoy the books I’ve chosen for myself more often than not.

But with the hopeful books lining up for a bit of cheerleading, there’s none of that. My personal taste in books is not usually a factor, and so many of the books I am sent, just as with many of the books in a bookshop, are simply not my cup of tea, no matter how well written they are or how successful they will go on to be.

Still, when I read one of those books that nevertheless found its way into my hands I get such a sinking feeling. Because I want to be that cheerleader, I do. I carry on with those books long past the point I would normally – either as a reader or as an editor – because I want the magic to happen. But to be honest I already know it won’t. It’s like a blind date with a lovely person that you just don’t fancy. So if you know your book has been sent to me hoping for some blurb-love, please know that I have given it my best attentions, whatever the outcome. And if I don’t fall in love with it, well,  it’s not you, it’s me.

And by the way, isn’t PROOF a weird looking word?

proof

 

 

Blurby be Kind

Posted on: April 25th, 2012 by Claire - 15 Comments

One of the most re-tweeted comments I ever made on Twitter, a couple of years ago, was this:

“When I’m a successful author, remind me to be kind to those still struggling to make it.”

It encouraged me, then, that Twitter cheered, ‘hear-hear’ed for kindness.

I was reminded of this recently when contemplating the fact that in a few months The Night Rainbow will be heading off to unsuspecting authors whom I admire, with a request to have a look, and  – please, Missus, if you had the time, if you could read it and then, if you like it that is, maybe you could say something positive that we could put on the cover, so that people in bookshops will see that I’m a good bet, what with me being new at this and not known and all…

*author blushes and backs out of room curtseying*

Can you tell I feel a bit bashful about this?

Bashful because I understand that asking (even indirectly via my publisher) for a blurb is asking people to work for free. And since I don’t have many actual real-world friends who are published authors, well then it’s asking someone I don’t know to work for free.

Of course I hope that they will not find it like work, and will really enjoy the read, but that’s not the point.

I also understand that not everyone has the time or inclination to to read a book to provide a blurb. Also that the more successful and respected you become, the more requests you get for blurbs and of course the more people you have to turn down. This brings me back to my question of kindness. Compare these two approaches:

This kind and eloquent approach from Margaret Atwood who explains why she no longer does blurbs. She has already blurbed with the best of them and now her doormat is exhausted. Contrast it with this  New Yorker article, which made me cringe.

So I just want to say this:

Anyone who writes a blurb for my novel will be doing me an enormous favour and I will be thoroughly, genuinely grateful.

What’s more, I promise, here and now, that I will pay it forward with good grace when the time comes. And you can hold me to that.

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