I recently bought Shari Lapena’s The Couple Next Door, in part because of its Gone Girl-esque cover but mostly because it had some of the most impressive testimonials I’ve ever seen: NPR (“Exquisitely torturous tension”), Booklist (“hard to put down”), Sue Grafton (“Beautifully rendered and unrelenting”), and more. The one that sealed the deal for me was this from Good Housekeeping: “The last line is absolutely killer.”
I liked the book all right–it was certainly twisty, although some of the twists were resolved a little too abruptly and a little too early for me. I’m not a big fan of present tense fiction, and I’d have preferred it if Lapena wasn’t so explicit about the characters’ thoughts and motivations (there’s a lot of “(s)he thought” and “(s)he did X because Y”). If I had been reading on an ereader, I would have searched for the number of times a character couldn’t help feeling sorry for someone. But I was really looking forward to that last line.
And when I got there, it was … all right. A perfectly acceptable last line, but not “absolutely killer.” I was disappointed because my expectations for that particular aspect of the novel had been set too high by the Good Housekeeping blurb.
If you are a traditionally published author, you may not have much say in which blurbs your publisher chooses for your book, but if you are an indy author, you get to make the selection, and I would caution against choosing quite such a specific, and expectation-setting, blurb.
Of course, there are many expectations that a blurb can set, and fabulousness of a book’s closing line is just one. Also consider what expectation the blurb will set for a potential reader regarding content as well. I have an author friend to whom I am eternally grateful for having provided me with a number of wonderful blurbs, and I had an opportunity to return the favor. My dilemma was that his books are much more violent than mine, and so I needed to express that the book was wonderful for readers of mayhem-packed action / adventure while also conveying that it might not be right for people who love my Ann Kinnear suspense novels.
Another caution for blurb selection: no spoilers! I’ve never received a blurb from another author that didn’t include the note that I was welcome to request changes. If a blurb contains a spoiler, ask that that contributor provide you with a version that excludes it.
Unsure if a blurb is going to attract and satisfy the right reader? Consider looping back to your beta readers–who, one assumes, are among your pool of “right readers”–to get their take on potential blurbs.
Make sure that the blurbs you select set the right expectation for the potential reader (and that the book lives up to those expectations) and that they don’t detract from the experience of reading the book.
What are other considerations when selecting your blurbs? Note your thoughts in the Comments!