Firstly, I want to thank everyone for pitching in on the book blurb. 70 of you voted, 48 said you preferred the second one, 18 the first, and 4 miserable sods said both were shite, which perhaps they are. Thank you for voting, and especially for all those who wrote a comment, especially Bloke in Germany who – if readers’ reactions to his re-write are anything to go by – will be demanding royalties if this thing ends up on Oprah.
This was a fascinating exercise because it turned up results that were wholly unexpected and I need to explain why. I will start by saying this book defies categorisation, and a book agent has confirmed that. It is not really a romance, and it is most definitely not a typical, formulaic romance. It’s not even a romance with a twist, it is barely a romance at all. It is far more of a character study of two people, both of whom are flawed, struggling in a relationship with one another. It is also social commentary, and as readers of my blog should know, when it comes to that I generally don’t water things down. There are some pretty robust opinions in there, and much of what I say will generate plenty of controversy. This is why I made the decision not to engage a female editor, because I think the type of woman who goes into editing will have serious problems with a lot of the commentary taking place. A lot of people will not like this book, and quite a few might even hate it. On the plus side, this is what sells: my ultimate aim is to see a hundred thousand deranged feminists wearing pussyhats taking part in a mass burning of my book in the middle of Brooklyn.
The reason I chose this story was because it presented itself and I reckoned it would be easy to tell, but also because I thought I would be saying things that haven’t been said before in a way which is new, and I still believe that’s the case. Now it may be it’s a bag of shite and nobody is interested, but the important thing is I tell *this* story in *my* way and see if it sells. If it doesn’t, then meh. What I didn’t want to do is try to write a story which has been told before in a way which is “proven”, hoping I can do a better job than a million other writers. Perhaps I can attempt that on my third or fourth book, but not the first. Like I try to do with this blog, I reckon I have a better chance of capturing a small but dedicated niche audience rather than gaining mass appeal by saying what everyone else is and copying their style. In many ways the book is an extension of the blog, and my regular readers will recognise the narrator’s voice in places.
So, back to the blurb. The first one was my overwhelming preference because it accurately reflects the book. The one other person in the world who has read it thought this was the case too, and chose the first. I wrote the second as a generic blurb for a romance in a few minutes, but it doesn’t really reflect the book. As Adam Thiele says in the comments, the second one sounds like Mills & Boon bullshit. BiG did a grand job of improving it, but alas it doesn’t reflect the story at all – it suggests a romance with a hint of mystery to entice people in which would be great if it was a classic romance novel – but it’s not.
I learned from flogging overpriced meals in a four-star hotel that customers don’t complain about rubbish per se, they complain that their expectations haven’t been met. I may be able to shift more copies initially with my second blurb (or BiG’s edit!) but the customer will feel disappointed and leave a bad review. If I go with the first, many people might not like it and hence not buy it, but at least those that do will get roughly what they are expecting, i.e. something different. Put another way, I’d rather reach a niche market of 10,000 customers likely to be satisfied than wade into a market of 100,000 most of whom will be disappointed.Therefore I need to be honest in the blurb and give a hint of the controversy inside, and not miss-sell it. Saying that, I am quite sure regardless of the blurb a lot of people who read this book will put it down and say “Well, that wasn’t what I expected!” Like I said, it’s hard to categorise.
What I found most interesting about the vote is this. I don’t know how my readers evaluated the two options, but did they:
1) Think I was writing a romance and judge the second blurb to be more typical and fitting with a romance novel, hence likely to generate more sales?
2) Know nothing about the book and on the basis of the blurb alone decide they’d rather read Book 2 than Book 1?
Because if it’s the second one, I have discovered that my readers – who appear to be mostly male, middle-aged, and centre-right – would rather read a soppy romance novel of a classic form than a story of a fellow battling angry feminists as he tries to handle a near-nutcase and navigate the Brooklyn arts scene. I’ve got to say, that surprised me a lot.
Once again, thanks very much for your input and all the support I’m getting. I have some thinking to do, but given the editing won’t be finished until January, I have time.