Hateful Editors And The Readers Who Hate Them

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Do you read the back cover of a book before you read it?

Of course! I have to know if I would like the thing...
37
64%
Yes, but just because plot development is too slow for me...
3
5%
Huh? Books have back covers?
3
5%
No, I hate having the plot given to me ahead of time.
0
No votes
Blasted back covers and their eliminating up to a quarter of a book! BLAST THEM!
7
12%
Otter/Duck
8
14%
 
Total votes: 58

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Hateful Editors And The Readers Who Hate Them

Postby wery67564 » Mon Apr 14, 2008 12:35 pm UTC

So I just started reading Philip Roth's The Human Stain and I went to turn it to the backcover, but then stopped as a thought occured to me. Does the author generally write out the back cover? No, its the editor who does such to hike up it's shelf appeal. Does the back cover ruin plots? Yes, a lot summarize half the book in a poorly written paragraph.

Now for the kicker.

Is reading the back cover throwing out the authors artistic vision of an environment of his/her making?

I say yes now that I actually thought about it.

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Re: Hateful Editors And The Readers Who Hate Them

Postby Belial » Mon Apr 14, 2008 2:12 pm UTC

It may be. That said, if I have absolutely no idea what a book is about, I'm much less likely to buy it....
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Re: Hateful Editors And The Readers Who Hate Them

Postby SecondTalon » Mon Apr 14, 2008 2:40 pm UTC

Back cover or inside jacket on hardbacks, but.. yeah.. I kinda like knowing a general idea of what's going on.

But it's like movie trailers.. there's a right way to do them, and a wrong way.

"Tom Smith was an ordinary bachelor with an ordinary life and a somewhat ordinary job as an entomologist until he found a fairy wing in his mailbox one day. His life soon spirals out of control as he finds the fabric of reality fraying around him, the thin veils that hold back what lies beyond tearing before his eyes. Why him, and why now?"

- Good

"Tom Smith was an ordinary bachelor with an ordinary life and a somewhat ordinary job as an entomologist until he found a fairy wing in his mailbox one day. His life spins out of control as he finds that his entire life is a lie and not only are fairy tales real, he is actually the Lord of the Fey Realms and his subjects want him back."

- Probably giving too much away...

""Tom Smith was an ordinary bachelor with an ordinary life and a somewhat ordinary job as an entomologist until he found a fairy wing in his mailbox one day. Life as he knows it is changed when he finds out he's the Lord of the Fey Realms and his Queen decided exile wasn't good enough - he must die. Part 1 of the Lord Smith of Fey Chronicles"

- ... no, bad Editor. Bad!
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Re: Hateful Editors And The Readers Who Hate Them

Postby theamberkey » Mon Apr 14, 2008 2:51 pm UTC

If there's any other way to know whether the book is good, I take that road. Recommendations, reading the first few pages, hell, even the cover and title alone. The killer was Faith of the Fallen (back when I was into Sword of Truth). The writing on the flap gave away things that happened halfway through the book, if not more. I decided to read the flap when I was something like three hundred pages into it... and it still ruined it for me.

Fuckers.

Of course, if I don't know ANYTHING, I'm not going to buy it, so I often will at least start to read the back. If the first few lines are promising I'll stop and make a decision from there.

I feel the same about most movie trailers--so much so that when I see a well-done one that doesn't give the whole movie away, I'm much more likely to see that movie. It sticks out in my mind.
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Re: Hateful Editors And The Readers Who Hate Them

Postby wery67564 » Mon Apr 14, 2008 4:02 pm UTC

Wow, I feel like such an impulsive book consumer. I usually go "Hey I like the color of that book, and its cheap to boot, i think I will buy it."

Strangely enough, My color coded decision making has more often than not led me down the right path.

Only with fantasy and sci-fi is this a bad idea...

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Re: Hateful Editors And The Readers Who Hate Them

Postby Balalaika Gap » Mon Apr 14, 2008 4:19 pm UTC

I like having a blurb on the back/inside cover of a book. I always read it. I definitely don't want it to give away the ending, but it should give me a basic idea of what I'm getting into and also hook me into the book. I will probably read the first few sentences of the book too, but that just tells me if I'm going to like the writing style, not much about the subject matter.

I don't know that all authors find it so horrible that their editors write these. If the blurb misrepresents the book, then sure, that's a problem. But if the editor can write a good nutshell & hook, then why not? I'm a writer (not published yet, but anticipating it pretty soon), and my agent writes excellent nutshells. If asked to nutshell my book, I am likely to go on for a few pages. She can do it in a paragraph or two. That's more desirable; my long nutshell probably has way more detail than anyone needs in order to decide if they want to read the book. She does it better than I do, so I'm happy to let her do it.

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Re: Hateful Editors And The Readers Who Hate Them

Postby random_gal » Mon Apr 14, 2008 6:01 pm UTC

I am mostly of the opinion that those blurbs are a necessary evil. Yes, necessary, but an evil nonetheless. I read them if I'm considering buying a book I know nothing of, just to get a feel of the book, and whether I would be interested in it. But, as theamberkey said, I'd rather take any other way to know that.

Ok, blurbs can be written in a manner that doesn't give too much away, but I think there are books it is hard to write any kind of nutshell of without taking something away from the reading experience.

Case in point, for me, The Handmaid's Tale. I guess in some parts of the world this book has somewhat the status of a classic (not so much where I'm at), which might mean that a lot of people know something about the subject matter before they read it. But for me, I read it as a teen, got it from the library because I had liked some other book by the same author, and in the book there was no blurb. What I remember most fondly of that first time I read the book was gradually realising what was going on, what the world the protagonist was living in was like and so on.

I later bought the book, and was seriously angry at what the blurb was like, because for me, knowing the things said in it would have very much reduced the reading experience of that first time. (even if it wasn't anything as evil as giving away the ending)

I'm now reading the book for the third time, which probably made me make this somewhat ranty post about it (and actually register so that I could post).

For anyone interested, a rough translation of the blurb (originally in Finnish), and something else that bugs me about it:
Spoiler:
"Margaret Atwood's prophecy tells the story of a future society, where old testament fundamentalists have taken over. Fertile women have been reduced to child bearing machines, that go from high-ranking family to another making babies. Their position is worse than that of slaves, because they don't even have their own name: they are called by their master, the owner of their bodies. But even the upper-class women are victims of misogyny: no woman is allowed to read, no woman is allowed to live alone. And little by little the seeds of rebellion start to grow in the women of every class, of every caste."

What also bothers me, is that there's an additional blurb taken from a newspaper review, where the writer calls the story "a bad utopia". And I'm like, there's an actual word for that, you know! Isn't "a bad utopia" something like a contradiction?

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Re: Hateful Editors And The Readers Who Hate Them

Postby Malice » Mon Apr 14, 2008 6:49 pm UTC

I generally do read blurbs, because I'm usually in a situation where there is a library wall full of books to pick from, and I need two or three I know will be good. So in that case I need to know what I'll be getting.

Frequently you can judge a book by its cover, too.

But the best measure is always going to be reading the beginning. Good books will draw you in immediately, like A Scanner Darkly. And if you can write a good hook, you can probably write a good story--the flip side of that being, if your story is interesting and energetic, a hook will often write itself. "Not only did I lose my driver's license, but the court sentenced me to thirty days of vampirism." That's a book I'm going to read, no matter what's written on the back.

Movie trailers I won't watch unless I have to (because I'm in a theater). They're a bit different from a blurb, because they don't just summarize the plot, they do it using actual bits of the finished product. It gives away the overall style and particular bits of content which you then sit in the theater waiting and expecting.
Plus it's rare to find an actually good trailer these days.

Not that a good book-blurb isn't rare. Harlan Ellison usually has the best. Like the one where Jesus Christ endorsed the book.
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Re: Hateful Editors And The Readers Who Hate Them

Postby Narsil » Mon Apr 14, 2008 10:48 pm UTC

Sometimes the covers enhance the overall experience.

In Chasm City, by Alastair Reynolds for instance, the back cover describes a very average sci-fi adventure. The book itself, though, goes far past that. This made me look at that book in a much more positive light.
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Re: Hateful Editors And The Readers Who Hate Them

Postby Various Varieties » Fri Apr 18, 2008 5:48 am UTC

A quote from Terry Pratchett, because you can always find one for any situation. :) It's from a webchat transcript, hence the odd formatting:

Terry: I do have one rule, though..

Terry: Write the cover copy by the time you've done 10,000 words

Terry: Because if you don't know what the book is about by then

Terry: ...you'lll never know.

Terry: So I write the blurb to tell myself what I'm writing.

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Re: Hateful Editors And The Readers Who Hate Them

Postby tiny » Fri Apr 18, 2008 7:17 am UTC

My view as a reader:
I always read the short summary on the back, the long summary on the inside and then some random pages. And I like it when those summaries give away a lot of the plot; in fact I will read a book with the greatest interest when someone already told me all the major stuff about it. But then, I hate surprises, and I don't read for the tension, I read to see how the author transports plot and characters from A to B.

My view as an author:
I hate writing summaries of my stories. I'm not objective and it's awful to have to cut the plot short.
I wish I had someone to write my summaries for me, so I'd merely have to edit them here and there; and I'd surely kill everyone who prints a disfiguring sum-up of one of my babies.
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Re: Hateful Editors And The Readers Who Hate Them

Postby cathrl » Fri Apr 25, 2008 4:02 pm UTC

Various Varieties wrote:A quote from Terry Pratchett, because you can always find one for any situation. :) It's from a webchat transcript, hence the odd formatting:

Terry: I do have one rule, though..

Terry: Write the cover copy by the time you've done 10,000 words

Terry: Because if you don't know what the book is about by then

Terry: ...you'lll never know.

Terry: So I write the blurb to tell myself what I'm writing.


But this would suggest that he's the one writing the blurb, and not the editor at all.

So is this unusual...or is this entire thread shooting the messenger, and it was the AUTHOR who decided to give us a plotdump on the back cover?

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Re: Hateful Editors And The Readers Who Hate Them

Postby TheAmazingRando » Fri Apr 25, 2008 5:53 pm UTC

I figure, if a book will be ruined by knowing some of what will happen, it isn't worth reading to begin with.

That being said, most blurbs don't give away much, and some can be incredibly misleading.

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Re: Hateful Editors And The Readers Who Hate Them

Postby Kendo_Bunny » Sun Apr 27, 2008 5:32 am UTC

It annoyed me that my copy of Gone With The Wind has the headline 'The Greatest Love Story Ever Told!' on the back cover. I'd say that that's definitely misleading. It's also a major problem if the author is writing basically 'Darth Vader tells Luke the shocking secret of his father- he IS Luke's father! Check page 275!'

There's a line between summarizing and spoiling.

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Re: Hateful Editors And The Readers Who Hate Them

Postby Nyarlathotep » Sun Apr 27, 2008 8:55 pm UTC

I hate it more when the back cover / inside flap doesn't have a blurb and instead has a bunch of meaningless quotes from reviews saying "This book was great!" "This book was fantastic!" "This book was better than Cats!" "Hell, it was better than Lolcats!"

All this tells me is that a bunch of people I don't know whose literary tastes I don't necessarily agree with read this book and liked it a lot. Whic is damn useless.
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Re: Hateful Editors And The Readers Who Hate Them

Postby Sir_Elderberry » Mon Apr 28, 2008 1:12 am UTC

Nyarlathotep wrote:I hate it more when the back cover / inside flap doesn't have a blurb and instead has a bunch of meaningless quotes from reviews saying "This book was great!" "This book was fantastic!" "This book was better than Cats!" "Hell, it was better than Lolcats!"

All this tells me is that a bunch of people I don't know whose literary tastes I don't necessarily agree with read this book and liked it a lot. Whic is damn useless.


Personally I've always wondered if quotes like "Fantastic!", "Amazing!" etc, are amazingly out of context. If a critic says "It's amazing how much time this movie wastes on stupid subplots," are they allowed to quote him as saying "Amazing"? I don't know. I'd assume there might be laws about this, but I don't know. As such, I don't really trust critic-quotes unless I"m reading the full critique.
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Re: Hateful Editors And The Readers Who Hate Them

Postby 4=5 » Mon Apr 28, 2008 6:12 am UTC

the funny thing is how much a cover tells about the book inside, I can just glance at a cover and often tell alot of the plot.

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Re: Hateful Editors And The Readers Who Hate Them

Postby theamberkey » Mon Apr 28, 2008 11:31 am UTC

Sir_Elderberry wrote:Personally I've always wondered if quotes like "Fantastic!", "Amazing!" etc, are amazingly out of context. If a critic says "It's amazing how much time this movie wastes on stupid subplots," are they allowed to quote him as saying "Amazing"? I don't know. I'd assume there might be laws about this, but I don't know. As such, I don't really trust critic-quotes unless I"m reading the full critique.

I think (and I could very well be wrong about this) that a publisher has to obtain the permission of the critic to use a quote from their critique. That being said, I doubt permission would be granted if the quote scrambled the message of the critique too much.
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Re: Hateful Editors And The Readers Who Hate Them

Postby jakkle » Mon Apr 28, 2008 5:00 pm UTC

i was once about 2/3 or 3/4 of the way through a book [kafka on the shore] when i happened to reread the blurb and it gave away a bloody plot point! FUCK. THAT. SHIT. i was really annoyed... but its an awesome book so i let it slide
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Re: Hateful Editors And The Readers Who Hate Them

Postby Various Varieties » Thu May 01, 2008 6:13 pm UTC

jakkle wrote:i was once about 2/3 or 3/4 of the way through a book [kafka on the shore] when i happened to reread the blurb and it gave away a bloody plot point! FUCK. THAT. SHIT. i was really annoyed... but its an awesome book so i let it slide

Yeah, sometimes the blurb on the back is vague enough that if you read it before the book you won't have anything spoiled, but if you re-read it when you're halfway through the story, it'll be enough to hint at what happens next.

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Re: Hateful Editors And The Readers Who Hate Them

Postby Rodan » Fri May 09, 2008 1:30 am UTC

I usually read the thing on the back cover, and then not read the book until much later, at which point I will forget the summary.
It works nicely.

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Re: Hateful Editors And The Readers Who Hate Them

Postby Mavketl » Fri May 09, 2008 10:56 am UTC

jakkle wrote:i was once about 2/3 or 3/4 of the way through a book [kafka on the shore] when i happened to reread the blurb and it gave away a bloody plot point! FUCK. THAT. SHIT. i was really annoyed... but its an awesome book so i let it slide


I have that lying right next to me, I started reading it yesterday. It is now very hard to not look at the backside of the book anymore.

Generally, when I buy a book or pick it up from the library, I do read the blurb. It doesn't happen often that it gives away too much, I do get annoyed occasionally when it is just plain wrong.
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Re: Hateful Editors And The Readers Who Hate Them

Postby Tautology » Fri May 09, 2008 12:29 pm UTC

If I know nothing about a book and I'm trying to decide what to buy, I'll read the blurb on the back, because otherwise I could be buying utter rubbish. However, it can be irritating sometimes when you've read a summary of the plot and the story starts off slowly. I can be frustrated waiting for what I know is going to happen to happen. That means I'm kind of reading the first few chapters impatiently, and it spoils the experience.

If a book is recommended to me by someone whose literary tastes I'd agree with, I'd be very happy to ignore the blurb and just start straight into the book.


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