Saturday, May 28, 2011

Day 70 - Rate This Short Book "Blurb"

Black Hole
So my manuscript is finally cleaned up and in the hands of the graphic artist who can convert it to the file format I need to upload to Createspace. Going through that sucker was hard core, as you may have gathered from my post last week. But, I set a schedule and stuck to it, and got it done, so now it’s ready. Which means, while he is working on that, I need to get the last pieces together. Leading me to my book description, or blurb.

Jenna Jameson
So every book needs a short “blurb” on the back cover or jacket sleeve. This blurb has a very specific job it has to do, and a critical one. First and foremost among them is that it has to catch a prospective reader’s attention and make them want to BUY. They have to read it and think, “Hey, that sounds cool. I want to see how that plays out,” then they need to whip out their wallet and buy that sucka! To do that, it has a base set of functions that have to take place.
  1. It has to give a sense of what the book is about. 
  2. It cannot give away what happens in the book.
  3. It has to confirm genre/book type immediately.
  4. It has to be compelling.
  5. It has to be short.

The bottom line is that the blurb is a sales pitch except that it can’t look like one. In a way, it’s the true manifestation of what we call “selling the dream” in the sales and marketing world.

So, here’s what I need from anyone willing to take the time: your opinion. I’m going to post the blurb I have made and I’d like you to read it and tell me if it meets the 5 criteria above.

Now, I realize that many of you are not science fiction and/or fantasy fans, so I ask those of you who are not to do two things for me. The first is, tell me what your reaction is when you read that blurb anyway. If you, the non-science fiction fan, were sitting on an airplane and noticed my book in the seat pocket in front of you and pulled it out, read the back… would you open the book and read it even though it isn’t your type of thing? Second, after you do that, try to put yourself in the mindset of a science fiction and fantasy fan and evaluate it for me as fairly as you can.

Alright, so there you go, that’s my request. Please be honest, as being kind does not help me at all. I have had so much of my work critiqued and work-shopped and graded and discussed, I really, really can take it. Just say it plain. Thanks. Here goes:

They told him space travel was impossible. They told him the five greatest wizards who ever tried it died. He’s going to do it anyway.

The Galactic Mage is the story of Altin Meade, planet Prosperion's most promising young sorcerer--and also its most reckless. Altin is on a quest to bring space travel to the people of Prosperion, but he's about to learn that ignorance can be more dangerous than orcs and dragons combined.

If Altin’s obsession is getting into space, his perfect opposite is Ensign Orli Pewter far across the galaxy. Bright, strong and beautiful, she is an officer aboard the spaceship Aspect, part of the fleet from Earth. There is nothing Orli hates more than the cold emptiness of space. Brought aboard as a child, her entire life has been spent amongst the stars, a life she never asked for, a prisoner of fate. As the lumbering sub-light-speed fleet hunts a dangerous race of genocidal aliens in the enormity of the galaxy, years are ticking off Orli's life. She’s got to get off the ship. She’s got to get out of space. But there is nowhere for her to go.

Or is there?


  1. Hey John, I am into science fiction/fantasy type things like this and yes, if I was aboard a plane and read the back of the book, I would be interested in reading a little bit, to see how the story begins. If it interested me enough to continue reading, then I would most likely do it.

    Nice Blurb! :P :) Sounded Excellent! Good Job!

  2. The third paragraph begins with "If Altin's obsession is getting into space," which for me broke the rhythm of the more direct sentences in the rest of the blurb. It felt kind of like at that point the blurb was 'backing up' or backing into the character of Ensign Orli Pewter instead of head on putting her out there. If it was me, I'd tighten up that last paragraph to make it flow a bit faster.

    Also, I was a little confused about why space travel is dangerous for a sorcerer. I get that you are trying to devise a 'hook' here so probably it's just my own stupid don't-read-enough self at fault for stumbling, but I did stumble over that a bit.

    Otherwise it's an awesome blurb and I'd definitely pick it up and read it. :)

    Best of luck on this Shades.

  3. I agree with Pamela Grundy. I'd change that last paragraph. The rest sounds intriguing.

  4. I wouldn't change it - that blurb would do it for me. I'd be reading away to find out more.

  5. Not a Sci-Fi fan as you know, goes:

    You've got 1, 2, & 3 wrapped up well.
    4 - I want to know WHY Alton wants to go to space.
    That's the one thing that would make me pick up the book as a non Sci-Fi fan. Otherwise, why would a sorcerer want to go to space? I mean, he's a sorcerer and can do magic, and, that being the case, why can't he just magically transport himself to space, you know?
    5, Well done.

    So I think everything is great. If I was going to be "compelled" though, to read the book, I would have to have a "WHY" for Alton right off the bat.

  6. Interesting. I deliberately did NOT read anything anyone else had to say before I responded, and I find out that I agree with Pamela.

  7. Thanks, everyone. This is exactly what I was hoping for.

  8. Hey John,

    I agree that the first para needs to say WHY he must go strongly, and then reiterate it in the next, where his quest is to bring space travel to Prosperian.

    Also think the last paragraph can be cleaned up and fortified a bit, made stronger, emotionally. The first sentence should read something like: "If Altin’s obsession is getting into space, Ensign Orli Pewter's is getting out of it."
    Instead of :"If Altin’s obsession is getting into space, his perfect opposite is Ensign Orli Pewter far across the galaxy," which I think is a little muddled.

    Otherwise, outstanding and I would definitely read it, and I'm not a big fan of Sci Fi, though I've read it on occasion.


  9. My first knee jerk reaction was, "He called the planet Prosperion?"
    I don't like the name.
    I did wonder if the earthship is heading toward Prosperion.
    The Orcs and Dragons put the genre into the fantasy field. So is it more Fantasy or more Science Fiction?
    Lela (Austinstar)

  10. 1, 3, 4 (compelling with a couple of hiccups noted below) - done. I've read some sci fi & fantasy, but not for a while. This may be short enough, but I plead ignorance.

    Other thoughts:

    I'm worried that five greatest wizards might be a lot to keep track of. How about three or four? Of course, this gets into guessing about the role of their stories in the novel.

    I also had a slightly negative and confused reaction to the name Prosperian, I think that's because it's coined from an English word with a Latin root, but then in the next paragraph we find out that Orli is the Earth being, not Altin.

    For parallelism and snappiness, I would change this sentence:
    "If Altin’s obsession is getting into space, his perfect opposite is Ensign Orli Pewter far across the galaxy." to this:
    "If Altin's obsession is getting into space, Orli Pewter's is the opposite" or "Orli Pewter's is getting out." (I like "getting out" better.) And then, "Bright, strong and beautiful, Orli is . . ."

    Does the next part ("Brought aboard as a child, her entire life has been spent amongst the stars, . . . ") give away some of the plot?

    In a short blurb, I'd suggest not repeating a word. You use "dangerous" twice. How about "genocidal aliens threatening...(something)" or something like that instead?

    The whole thing is intriguing, but Orli's predicament is the most compelling thing for me. As a woman, I find it fascinating. I'm impressed with all your work and your diligence in keeping your publishing project on track!

  11. 1) I think the character of Orli would be what makes me pick up this book based on the back cover. I really don't feel invested in Altin's fate based upon this blub- it's just a little too impersonal for me.

    2) I know it's fantasy and sci fi, but being a newbie to that genre- I would give more information about the dragons, orcs, and sorcery. Even saying "...more dangerous than the orcs and dragons that are everyday dangers on Prosperion..."

    3) I think the transition from Altin to Orli is really choppy, as though you weren't sure how to do it. I don't have a better option to suggest, but I like the road Candace Khanna went down in her comment...

    4) For the "Altin" section, everything is really choppy and brief. Orli's is really personal. It kind of goes back to my first point. The choppiness makes me think of books I read as a child, and would worry me that the writing quality wasn't up to the subject material. In Orli's section, I found the tone to be completely different, and deep.
    Maybe it was intentional, to differentiate the characters, but for me, it really threw me off.

    I would start reading though, all because of Orli!

  12. SF fan from way back - first time commentator on a real writer though! First 2 paragraphs were good- but the first sentence of the third doesn't sound right to me. In fact the 2nd paragraph would be a good final paragraph I think. You say the book is about Altin - but there is more about Orlin in the blurb than he

  13. I wish I could read a little bit more to have my say. And if I were on a flight,I will definitely read it :))

    Ginjill Ashberry