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As I mentioned in comments in another post, it's an interesting process, distilling a novel down to cover copy.  Alas, I tend to fight it every step of the way.  I've never figured out how to write a decent synopsis.  And query letters?  Let's just say I'm surprised I'm not bald, from all the hair-pulling I do in that process.

Today, I tried to think of the cover blurb in the context of cooking.  The novel is the recipe--specific ingredients and measurements, a required order of events, a designated set of techniques.  Change any of those pieces, and the result is a different meal.

But the cover blurb is the meal's scent.  Not even the taste--that requires too much detail--but what aromas the recipe creates.

Let's say the meal is a pie.  If I say "warm nutmeg," that not only tells the reader the scent, but gives the reader a chance to deduce and imagine other things about the meal.  And those deductions and imaginings will be distinctly different from "cool lime" or "rich gravy."

And the person looking for the right recipe isn't going to care, at that moment, what temperature the oven must be, whether wet and dry ingredients must be mixed separately, or how many servings are in the recipe.  That's to be discovered later.  The recipe has to make the reader say, "Wow, I bet that'll taste amazing!" and then deliver a meal that matches the description.

It's that old sales line: sell the sizzle, not the steak.

Not that I'm any good at it, mind.  But the notion mostly prevented me from falling into explaining too terribly much.

And a HUGE thank you to all who offered comments and reactions on the blurb! I think I'm close to finalizing a version that both incorporates the most common comments and makes me happy. :)


Blair MacGregor

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