I’ve been MIA over the holiday, I know. But happily, I can report that I’ve been writing! Well, today anyway. I plowed through 5 books last week over the holiday and it seems to have gotten my writing wheel unstuck. Yay for that.
The holiday was good, despite not getting much besides the reading done. While family was in town, some of us went to go see Australia, which was not at all what I was expecting. The preview led me to believe that it would be sort of an Australian western. And the first forty-five minutes were exactly that. That transitioned to something akin to Out of Africa, then into a wholly unexpected World War II movie. It was one of those movies where you kept thinking “This is the end.” Except that it wasn’t. It kept going on and on and people kept dying and…well despite having much love for all the visuals of Hugh Jackman riding hell for leather on horseback and that one scene where he’s shirtless and dumping a bucket of water over his head (OMG, drool), it wasn’t enough to make up for the fact that the movie did not meet up with my expectations.
It’s not the first movie to do that. Another one that didn’t at all match it’s preview was Hancock. All the previews for that one made it out to be a comedy. And yeah, there were a lot of comedic elements in the story, but then the second half of the movie turned to this whole drama sort of thing, which wasn’t badly done, but as we’d gone expecting and wanting a comedy, it left a bad taste in our mouths.
This trend has me thinking about how books often do the same thing. The synopsis on the back is supposed to give us an in a nutshell glance at what the story is about, enough to draw us in without answering all our questions. I’ve read a lot of those where the synopsis almost seemed to be about a different book entirely. Somehow that’s almost worse to me than when they do such things with movies and previews. If you go to or rent a movie and it isn’t what it was advertised to be, that’s only a couple of hours of your life. But books take longer. And for some reason I feel even more cheated when a book doesn’t match or live up to the summary on the back. It’s hard enough to sell a book these days. Why would you want to go and shoot yourself in the foot by putting a summary out there that doesn’t do your book justice? If you piss off your readers, they’re not likely to come back and pick up the next book you put out, and that’s hardly productive.
Of course, it’s entirely possible that authors in traditional publishing may not have a lot of say over their back blurbs. I don’t know. I’m also not sure where in the process those come in–so maybe they get written before the final draft is in, and the final draft changed? Who knows. I just know that, as a reader (and movie-goer), I would appreciate some truth in advertising.
Some small publishers allow their authors to write their own back cover copy. But most of the large publishers have copywriters who write it. The thinking is that it requires a different skill set to write back cover copy.
But I believe that most traditionally pubilshed authors HAVE in fact acquired that skill during the time when they had to write a query and cover letter with a “hook” and sometimes a proposal or synopsis. They KNOW how to write that kind of copy. Because they’ve already done it to get their book through the gatekeeping system.
Plus THEIR back cover copy is going to sound more like the book because it’s going to be in their style. I know there are good back cover copywriters out there, but I don’t really think they are the best people to do that job anymore.
These days, if a writer is savvy enough to get an agent and get a major NY pub, then I’m sure that same writer can write back cover copy that does the book justice. You know, having written it and all.