Better Blurbs Through Collaboration

Just yesterday I was pondering a strange blurb on the back cover of The Book of Dreams. Today I saw a blog post by Mark_W about Jack Vance’s novel Trullion, which brought into question the utility of describing hussade as being played on “water-chessboard gaming fields”.

I try to be forgiving of book publishers with respect to the blurbs that they put on book covers because of the difficulty I have in creating good blurbs for covers. It can be challenging to capture the interest of a potential reader with only a few words about a single aspect of a novel. There are a few scenes in Trullion where some of the characters show a tendency to analyze hussade games in the same way that you might analyze a chess match.

The blurb that I was disturbed by is this: “Jack Vance penned the book of Revelations for that pseudo-bible and thereby brought the most suspenseful galactic manhunt series ever written to a smashing conclusion.” For those who never read the Jack Vance novel The Book of Dreams, within Vance’s story The Book of Dreams is a kind of child’s diary written by the young Howard Hardoah. At a young age Howard begins to commit horrible crimes and he grows up to be a master criminal. One of the blurbs on the back cover of my copy of this novel calls Howard’s The Book of Dreams a “holy book”.

Holy Book? Well, maybe. Vance depicts Howard Hardoah as believing that he is possessed and that he shares his consciousness with the personalities of a group of adventuresome Paladins. In his diary, Howard described these Paladins as the colors of his soul. Writing in his diary, Howard commits himself to a program of “self-improvement” by which he will find ways to express the colors of his soul and live up to the great potential that exists within the Seven Paladins.

Howard’s diary is lost and its contents live on in his memory. His fond memories of the diary might mean that it constitutes a “holy book” for Howard, or that might be just a bit of hyperbole designed to market the novel. If we accept that Howard’s diary is his “holy book” then it might make sense to call it a “pseudo-bible”. So is Vance’s novel a “book of Revelations for that pseudo-bible”? Is placing such a blurb on a book cover really an effective way to sell books?

Another question that interests me is: what did Jack Vance think about his novel being described as a “book of Revelations”?

I suppose good marketing is usually a bit over the top. The goal of a cover blurb is to attract a reader’s attention. Does it matter if after the story is read that readers feel the “blurb” was not a fair indication of the story’s actual content?

For the back cover of The Start of Eternity I’ve struggled to find a concise way to describe the nature of a rather complex struggle between the alien Huaoshy and a group of positronic robots from Earth. At the heart of that conflict stands the issue of time travel as depicted in Isaac Asimov’s novel, The End of Eternity and the positronic robots are inspired (in a fan fiction way) by Asimov’s robots.

The Start of Eternity is collaboratively written and can be edited by anyone. When written in an open, collaborative way, readers of a novel can click the edit button and make adjustments. The reader need no suffer with the eternal existence of cover blurbs provided by a publisher.

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