Never judge a book by its cover, right?
Book covers can definitely be misleading. The artwork is almost always done by someone who has had no hand at all in the content between the covers, and certainly not in the writing of the novel. I once bought a boxed set of the Chronicles of Narnia, stories with words and illustrations I have loved all my life. The covers were new and modern and drawn by someone I’d never heard of, but they didn’t change the bits of the books I really enjoy.
Another feature of book covers are those little quotes from reviewers or famous authors. I know I’m not the only person who finds these comments highly suspicious – did Neil Gaiman really read this, or did his publisher just tell him to say something nice? And even if he did read it, could he have said he didn’t like it? Quotes and reviews are also a bit like Literary Prizes. Some incredible novels have won prizes and critical acclaim, but so have some … let’s say difficult reads. None of this is any guarantee that you as a reader are going to enjoy the book.
The best clue is perhaps the blurb: the tantalising synopsis on the back of the book that introduces one or two characters, plot lines and cliffhangers. But even then, it’s not always written by the author, it doesn’t tell you whether the ending will be satisfying or whether the topic will be dealt with well. Its very job is to peak your interest, but sometimes I feel blurbs venture into spoiler territory, giving away more than I wanted to know about the storyline or the twist.
But if you can’t judge a book by its cover, what else can you do? You can open it and read the first few pages, or the last few (I know at least one person who does that!), rely on recommendations from friends through word of mouth or things like Goodreads or just stick with favourite authors – although they’d have to be fairly prolific to keep up with most readers!
What do you do? How do you choose your next read and how do you feel about the things you find on book covers?
Filed under Awards, Writing
Today my 25 word pitch for “Who is Eric?” appears on Madison Woods’ blog in her weekly event – Would you buy it? – to allow writers to test their pitches on readers and other writers. I’d be super grateful if you could nip over to her blog (http://madisonwoods.wordpress.com/2012/03/29/vote-for-it-would-you-buy-it-5/) and leave your votes and comments on her page, so that I can get the best possible picture of how I’m doing. It’s TOTALLY fine to say you don’t like the pitch, especially if you can give me any ideas on what would make it work better for you.
In the meantime, I thought I’d have a parallel post here about pitches in general. The pitch is used to sell a book to agents, publishers, retailers and even potentially readers. It is linked to, although not necessarily the same as, the blurb on the back of a paperback, which hooks the reader in and gives them both enough information and enough intrigue that they want to read the book.
The 25 word pitch is often called the Elevator Pitch, and that’s a term used in other businesses too. It’s a simple idea – you find yourself in the elevator with the perfect investor / publisher / agent / business contact and you have just one or two floors worth of time to sell your idea. Of course, you hope that having heard your elevator pitch, the guy is going to invite you into his office for a longer conversation, so you can save the details – the finances and all your complicated marketing strategies – for then. The elevator pitch is about getting his attention, and getting yourself that chance to pitch more fully.
It’s not easy. 25 words is not many, an elevator moves up a floor or two in a matter of seconds, but if you think about some of the greatest innovations of all time, it’s possible to see how it might work. With stories, it’s maybe harder. I have grappled with a few of my favourite novels and I don’t know how I would sum them up persuasively and uniquely in so few words.
One of the suggested ways is to start big, then gradually cut out more and more of the words until you find the 25 or so that really convey the essence of the story. On Monday, I’m going to post the longer versions of my pitch to show the process by which I achieved the 25 words Madison is offering, but for now I don’t want to sway you with more detail. Be sure to stop by next week and check out that post though. And in the meantime, please do pop over and see my pitch on Madison’s site.