Shaping A Writing Project As You Go Along / 2

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Writing “teasers” for a blurb

Having written these lists – compiled this wodge of data – we were able to write some paragraphs of the kind that might conceivably be used as blurb on the back of the paperback.

These teasing paragraphs described what the reader could look forward to: where we will go, who with, what we’ll see, what we’ll learn, what kind of old and new wisdom we’ll draw on, and the burning questions we will answer.

I recommend that authors think about the book cover early, as a target to aim at as you write – like a dart board to a dart player.

And not just the words: consider what kind of image, colour, and typography would work best. And if you could get anybody in the world to endorse your book, what specifically would you like that particular person to say about it?

“Nobody ever wrote so honestly about leading a nation: from waking up anxious in the small hours of the morning to falling asleep at important – but boring – international conferences.” – Barack Obama

“The first book to explain in lay terms how to mine bitcoin without access to vast computer power.” – Eddie George

“The funniest book I ever read.” – Woody Allen

Or whatever.

The nature of the quote, and the person saying it, varies from one book to the next. I wouldn’t be particularly inclined to buy a supposedly comic book if it had an endorsement from Eddie George, a former governor of the Bank of England – not unless it was a breakthrough, cross-genre title that aimed to make bitcoin funny.

(In that case, I’d also want a quote from a well-known comedian who had learned a lot from the book about finance.)

I confess that one of my early books has an entirely made-up quote on the cover, by a person I invented too. (Don’t tell anybody! I don’t want the cops coming after me.)


I’ve gone into some detail about writing teasers. Too much? Maybe, but the value of all those lists is that they create clarity for an author. The more clarity you have, the more easily you can describe what you’re writing – and then write it.

So: before you move on, please take a moment to write down some thoughts about this.




(I’m still here. Take your time.)


You might like to look around for books that are even remotely similar to what you have in mind. Think about what elements of those books you might like to borrow, and what you would leave behind. Think about the overall colours, the typeface, the choice of illustration (or photograph), the amount of text as well as (see above) what the text says.

I do this exercise a lot.

Before publishing a historical novel, for instance, I created about seven different covers as I went along, and sent the book off to be printed as a book, to see what each cover felt like. Here are some of them (The others are buried in a corner of my attic, sorry):

Guess what kind of people and time periods were on my lists.

For what it’s worth, here are a couple of real books by other people that inspired the design of the third of those:

Left: hints at historical. Right: hints at a family saga.

And here’s my version, front and back:

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