The secret of the blurb | The Daily Star
12:00 AM, December 04, 2010 / LAST MODIFIED: 12:00 AM, December 04, 2010

The secret of the blurb


GOT an Email ad urging me to buy tickets for a theatre show called "Insane in the Brain." The blurb said, "Violent and sad!" Isn't it strange what people choose to boast about?
I'll never forget the television producer who launched a TV network in southern China with the slogan, "No sex, no violence, no news!" It wasn't a success. No viewers.
On the other hand, negative blurbs are at least believable. The Malaysian pirated DVD of "SuperBabies 2" has a blurb in huge letters at the top of the back cover, "SuperBabies has no redeeming qualities!"
The pirates' DVD box designer, who clearly didn't understand English, Googled the critics and randomly chose a line that was (unfortunately for him) bang on target.
I often get asked to write blurbs for bad books. You have to write something that sounds like the right sort of thing but isn't actually a lie, "Every now and then, a book comes along. This is such a book." Even some publishers can't write blurbs!
The back cover of "The Other Hand," a 2009 novel, says, "We don't want to tell you too much about this book. It is a truly special story and we don't want to spoil it."
I'm not joking. A 2007 book has this on the back, "The Boy in the Striped Pyjamas' is very difficult to describe. Usually we give some clues about the book on the cover, but in this case we think that would spoil the reading of the book."
Total cop out! One can't help but suspect this really means, "This book is so boring even our company's blurb writer wouldn't read it."
Scott Adams, the guy who writes the Dilbert cartoons, asked members of the public to write his blurb instead of his publisher.
Here are my five favorites from the entries he received:
1) "As a smoking hot woman, I found this book hilariously funny and I'd seriously consider making out with any guy I saw reading it." (Diana Wales);
2) "I HAVE to buy this book! My kidnappers had a copy but my Dad foolishly paid the ransom an hour too soon."(Richard Factor);
3) "I used to be a nobody, and now I have a comment on the back of a book!" (Chitrak Bandyopadhyay);
4) "I've imagined a book like this for years! To avoid disappointment I won't be reading it, but you definitely should!" (Anonymous);
5) "Before I found this, I was a pathetic, depressed, underappreciated, overworked, sexually impotent, joyless shell of a man. Now, I'm all those things with a funny book." (Kevin).
Adams is smart! He didn't send them the book, so they couldn't say anything bad about it.
A thought strikes me. Why is it that only books, films and plays have blurbs? Why don't people have blurbs?
If this ever became the fashion, I have a good one up my sleeve for my former boss. "Violent and sad!"
You might think this wouldn't work. But the people in the marketing department of "Insane in the Brain" would at least work for him.
For more, visit our columnist at: www.vittachi.com

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