Blurbs are hard and I’ve been tweaking mine (ooh, Matron!)…
Hello folks, Mark Stay here. I’m sure you’ll be delighted to learn, I’ve been tweaking my blurb. Ooh, Matron. What does that mean? Well, the blurb is the book description. It’s that three paragraphs that you see on the back of the paperback or on the online retailers’ book description. And it’s one of the most powerful selling tools you have, because it’s usually the first thing that people see, and it helps them make up their mind if they actually want to read on and buy the book, and what have you. So, I got some feedback from Simon and Schuster’s sales department. They felt the blurb was reading a little bit too young… skewing a little bit too young. Let me just read it out to you to give you an idea. So here’s the blurb as was, and then I’ll talk about how I’ve tweaked it and how it’s changed.
So here’s the original blurb: As Spitfires roar overhead, and a dark figure stalks the village of Woodville, a young woman will discover her destiny. Faye bright always felt a little bit different. And today she’s found out why. She’s just stumbled across her late mother’s diary, which includes not only a spiffing recipe for jam roly poly, but spells incantations, runes and recitations… a witch’s notebook and Faye has inherited her mother’s abilities. Just in time too… the Crow Folk are coming. Led by the charismatic Pumpkinhead, their strange magic threatens Faye and the villagers. Armed with little more than her mum’s words, her trusty bicycle, the grudging help of two bickering, old ladies and some aggressive church bell ringing, Faye will find herself on the front lines of a war nobody expected. Now, the things that jump out there are references to jam roly, poly, which is in the book, and the word spiffing.
I felt they may be felt a little bit too Famous Five. This all sort of begs the question: who is this book for? You know: do you want it read by a YA market or middle grade market? And let’s define what they are: middle grade is kind of up to about… Sort of from about eight to about 12 years old. YA is anywhere from mid teens, right up to mid thirties. Actually that older, mid thirties market I think would really, really enjoy this, but you don’t want to put off a whole corner of the market that might read that and think, Oh, that’s a bit young for me. It’s a bit childish, perhaps. I mean, this book doesn’t have any swearing, because of the period really, uh, there’s, there’s no violence. Certainly not as violent as my previous books.
There’s no sex. So it could genuinely be read by anyone from the age of 10 upwards. But, it does deal with the second world war. There are demonic forces at work here. So, you know, you don’t want to put people off, but you want to sort of capture the tone of the book. So I went back and forth with my publisher on this. We removed those words like spiffing, words, like jam roly poly, and tried to make it just a little bit darker. We went a bit too far with some of our efforts, but then we dialed it back a bit. So, here’s what we got. So, uh, this is the new blurb: War rages in Europe, but in a quiet village in rural Kent, there is another battle to be won. Faye Bright has always known she was different, but when she discovers her late mother’s diary, she realizes why. It’s full of spells incantation, runes, and recitations.
It is a witch’s notebook and Faye has inherited her mother’s abilities. Just in time too. The Crow folk are coming. And they want that book. Led by the charismatic pumpkinhead, their strange magic threatens Faye and the villagers. Armed with little more than her mum’s words, the grudging help of two bickering witches, and some aggressive church bellringing, Faye will find herself on the front lines of a war with demonic forces. So you see, there are slight differences. You know, we got rid of jam roly poly, spiffing. We’ve got demonic forces in there, so it’s darker, but not too dark. And hopefully this will have that kind of crossover appeal. What’s really helped in the last week or so is I’ve started getting quotes from other authors, which is just amazing. So we’ve got a quote from Rowan Coleman. Thank you, Rowan.
This is amazing. She says it’s full of magic and delight, and we’ve put that on the front cover. And Julie Wassmer, has said it’s warm, witty, witchy, wartime fun, which again adds the fun element to it. So we don’t have to put that in the blurb. So you’ve got those two things working together. You’ve got the kind of the darkness of the blurb, but reassuring voices, other authors saying: you know what, it’s fun as well. So, yeah, we’ve also put a little shout line on the cover as well, which is: June, 1940 rationing blackouts, witchcraft. Which again, you know, combines all the, all those elements of the story. Blurbs are hard. They’re really, really hard. I mean, we’ve, uh, we’ve gone back and forth on this for months and they’re never kind of set in stone either. They’re things that evolve over time. Certainly my robot overlords blurb, has been updated recently with references to quarantine… Rather than being stuck inside. You know, you are in quarantine, lockdown, they’re using words that are very topical. That just happened. I didn’t have anything to do with that, but I think it’s very smart on the part of Gollancz to do that. So yes, blurbs: ever-evolving, ever-changing. I hope you’ve enjoyed this, hope you find it useful and, uh, speak to you again soon. Bye.