A blurb is not a précis • 2 April 2012 • The SnowBlog
A blurb is not a précis
As you may know, I don't read a lot of fiction these days because of my very sensitive prose allergies, but I'm reading one now. It's a thriller and I'm about a third of the way in. The plucky heroine knows the bad guys are after her but can't work out why. But I know why. The back-cover blurb explained it to me. I know who they are and what their plan involves. You can imagine how that undercuts the drama as the main protagonist searches for answers. And she's still so far off working it out that I'm wondering what percentage of the story the blurb has spoiled. We're already at 35%, but I wouldn't be surprised if I have to get to the 60% mark before I've caught up with what the back cover already told me. If I were the author I'd be furious. And this is a very well-researched book, carefully structured, so for some editorial assistant to breeze in after it's written and drain the tension out of the first 150 pages with a few badly chosen words must be immensely frustrating for the writer - I know it is for me. And this is Macmillan, who presumably know better.
So, just for the record, blurbs are about whetting the appetite not sating it. You don't summarise the plot; you hint at it. A blurb is not a précis.
Update: My guess was pretty good: at page 175 of 301, the story has finally caught up with the blurb. That's 56% of the way through the book.