I don’t like blurbs

  
A blurb can make any book, nomatter how idiosyncratic, sound very run-of-the-mill. I suppose that’s its job, up to a point: if you’re going to challenge a reader with something outside the mainstream, you need to secure that reader to begin with, and the best way to do that is to entice them with a blurb that says, “This book is interesting and exciting, but not totally alien.”

When I wrote the blurb for my new book, Mono, it was with that consideration in mind. The blurb doesn’t appear on the back cover (I prefer a plain back cover, decorated with nothing more than a barcode), but will appear as the product description when the book is available from Lulu, Amazon, Barnes & Noble, et al. Here it is:

Set in a surreal totalitarian state populated by spies, vampires, robots and chimpanzees, Mono offers the reader a kaleidoscope of mutating story-lines. Eve is abducted and imprisoned in a subterranean compound. The sinister Mirrors inject readymade dreams into the minds of citizens. Dr Mort brings extinct animals back to life. Serge plots the assassination of a dictator… Binding all the strands together is the portrait of a writer who is desperate to expose the truth about the bleak world in which he lives, but who cannot distinguish between memories, fantasies and dreams. 

Accompanied by sixty monochrome illustrations and written in Knight’s characteristically terse, darkly humorous style, Mono is perhaps best described as an entertaining nightmare.  

I found the blurb much more difficult to write than the book itself and I don’t like the end result, but I do think it’s OK, from a marketing point-of-view. Of course, in adopting a recognisable blurb style, I have provided a misleading impression of the book. The blurb implies that Mono is a novel. It is not: it doesn’t tell a story. Instead, it suggests or sketches out multiple, mutually contradictory stories that are never realised. And the “writer who is desperate to expose the truth about the bleak world in which he lives” is nothing of the sort, really; in writing about him in the blurb style, I’ve mistranslated him into something altogether more coherent and sensible than he is in the book.

Another way in which the blurb is misleading, is in its cursory reference to the illustrations, which are not illustrations at all, in that they do not illustrate or clarify anything in the text. They are not secondary to the text. In fact, the pictures are just as important as the words. The book is divided into 60 unnumbered parts, each occupying a double page spread, with a monochrome picture on the left page and writing on the right. In each case, the writing was inspired by the picture, which provided a platform for free association. Once I’d completed the first five or so parts, the ideas cropping up in the writing started coming not just from the pictures but also from what I’d written before. And so Mono developed its own illogical coherence, its own structures. I merely recorded them. 

All being well, the book will be available on Sunday, with a Kindle ebook version appearing some time next month. 

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2 thoughts on “I don’t like blurbs

  1. I have difficulty writing reviews of books of poetry because it always comes out sounding either over-reaching or not enough. I haven’t have to write my own blurb yet. When I get there, I might have to have someone else write it so that I don’t have a breakdown trying to get it right.

    I think what you came up with is great đŸ™‚ makes me want to read it, made me smile. Good stuff.

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