More on Marketing and Descriptive Copy

I totally agree with Scott Esposito’s take on my take on publishers paying more attention to marketing, especially when it comes to writing good jacket copy.

Basically, if you can convince in 50 words of less that a book is really “Borgesian,” this will do far more than any amount of trying to convince me how hip and exciting the plot is.

Exactly. This isn’t all that easy to do though . . .

In my opinion, a plot-recap makes for really crappy jacket copy, especially since I don’t really read the book for the plot. (This probably works better for thrillers, but that’s not the type of book we’re talking about.)

Northwestern University Press goes in the opposite direction, describing their books in a generally dry manner that makes them sound like a lot of work.

From Konstantin Fedin’s Cities and Years:

The cities are Berlin and Moscow, the years those of the First World War and the Russian Revolution, and the theme enduring: what role should the intelligentsia play in the inevitable revolution looming over society? Konstantin Fedin’s intense exploration of war and its aftermath focuses on Andrei Startsov, an intellectual who must wrestle with his ambivalence toward the convulsions in his homeland and with his love for the rebellious and fiercely independent Marie.

Well now. What that doesn’t convey is that the novel is fun, the form fragmented, and the writing engaging. But if you’re interested in the role of the intelligentsia . .

But “those in glass houses,” etc. By no means am I a good writer of jacket copy, but my goal in doing this is always to try and appeal to readers similar to me. It’s hard though, since we all read for so many different reasons. Reading is a pleasurable activity, but pleasurable to different people for different reasons. (Some do like the plot!)

Anyway, for Open Letter books, I think we should stick with the “x is like y meets z and a” strategy, with Nabokov, Borges, Cortazar, Antunes, Beckett, and Joyce being the data set for y, z, and a.

(And on a sidenote, in addition to good copy, there are other channels through which a publisher must get the word out about its books. Browsing doesn’t take place in a void, and publishers—especially small and mid-sized ones—have to pay attention to all these other ways of getting info about their books to readers.)

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