The dilemma of my back cover blurb

You’re browsing in a bookshop and drawn to a book because of its cover or title. You pick it up and turn it over to read the back cover blurb. Does the blurb make you want to riffle through the pages and read an extract or two? Even better, is the blurb so compelling that it makes you buy the book straight away?

At its most basic, the back cover blurb is a pitch to you - the reader. Its role is to entice you to buy my book. In some ways its purpose is no different to the synopsis I wrote when submitting my manuscript to potential publishers. It too was a pitch but this time the aim was to hook a publisher in reading my manuscript instead of consigning it to the recycling bin.

When I compare my synopsis with my back cover blurb there are strong similarities between the two. This is hardly surprising. After all, we’re talking about a memoir and my story remains the same, whether it’s for a blurb or synopsis. It’s the story of how a good Greek girl rebelled against her traditional upbringing, exploding cultural conventions and later in life experiencing a crippling episode of depression so severe that it meant a month in a psych hospital.

If the story is the same, then why am I so uncomfortable about the copy my publisher has written for my book’s back cover?

It comes down to the audience and the difference between a one to one relationship with the publisher who read my synopsis and the one to many relationship with those who will read the back cover blurb while browsing in a book shop. For the first time, I’m also confronting the reality of what is a very personal and vulnerable story being made public. At an intellectual level, I knew this is what I signed up for when I committed to a principle of emotional truth and authenticity in writing my memoir.

But as I’ve discovered, intellectualising the vulnerability and experiencing it are entirely different. A writing instructor once said in a workshop: ‘Writing a memoir is like taking your clothes off in public.’ It’s not taking off my clothes that’s bothering me - it’s standing in public naked. If that’s the case, maybe it’s time to hit the writer’s equivalent of the gym so I’m more comfortable exposing myself in all my naked glory.

For me, I think that’s relying on the words of another writing instructor: ‘Trust your readers, they will follow you to difficult places if you are courageous enough to go there’. This means reaching an uneasy co-existence with my back cover blurb and reconciling my present dilemma. It also means trusting you - dear reader - whether you read my book in its entirety or just the back cover blurb.