I usually choose books to read because I’ve already read or heard about them – on blogs, in reviews, in articles, on podcasts. It’s rare for me to pick up a random book, read the blurb on the back and buy it. Even at the library, whether or not a book takes my fancy seems to very much depend on my mood at exactly that point in time.
But that said, when I pick up that book I’ve seen reviewed, or heard about on a podcast, or saw mentioned in an interview with an author – I still read the blurb. And only then do I either buy or borrow the book, or put it back on the shelf. I can’t imagine choosing a newly released book that didn’t have a blurb (although I reckon a classic might get away with it).
Do you read the blurb on the back? How seriously does it influence your reading choices?
Because here I am, agonizing over the blurb for my own book.
Below is the text I’ve agreed with my editor. She wrote it, and I tweaked it a little. I’d love your feedback although I’m not sure to what extent anything could be changed at this stage.
In 1788 a young gentlewoman raised in the vicarage of an English village married a handsome, haughty and penniless army officer. In any Austen novel that would be the end of the story, but for the real-life woman who became an Australian farming entrepreneur, it was just the beginning. John Macarthur took credit for establishing the Australian wool industry and would feature on the two-dollar note, but it was practical Elizabeth who managed their holdings while dealing with the results of John’s manias: duels, quarrels, court cases, a military coup, long absences overseas, grandiose construction projects and, finally, his descent into certified insanity. Michelle Scott Tucker shines a light on an oft-overlooked aspect of Australia’s history in this fascinating story of a remarkable woman.
Even as I typed it here, I kept finding fault with it. I had to remind myself that a blurb reader will likely have looked at the cover first, and be aware that they are holding a biography about someone called Elizabeth Macarthur. John is a crucial driver of Elizabeth’s story, as much as I wish the blurb were all (and only) about her. My husband dislikes the phrase oft-overlooked (it was the editor’s, not mine). Feel free to tell me all the things you dislike about it too!
Oh, and the title? We’ve discussed it here before, in a post called Catchy Titles are Crucial. It will be Elizabeth Macarthur: A life at the edge of the world. Unless you can think of anything better, of course…