Bookish Musings: Ten Things that Turn Me Off in Book Blurbs

 
 
We all talk about covers a lot because they're the first thing that get our attention and draw us in to take a closer look at a book. But the next step in the book decision process is reading the blurb to determine if it's a story you're actually interested in, right? As much as I say I sometimes read books solely for their covers, I actually don't. I don't grab books from random genres that I don't like just for their covers---I still check the blurb to see that it's at least remotely within the range of what I read.

In that way, blurbs are arguably the more important of the two, or at least equally as important. Yet we never talk about them! Though maybe we should because sometimes they suck. So that's what this post is about!

Now, in no particular order, here are ten things in blurbs that make me not want to read a book.
 

 

1. Confusion

If the blurb alone confuses me, I lose all hope for understanding the book.

2. Vagueness

I need something concrete to tell me what the story is about, not some vague paragraph about some mysterious, untold thing being discovered and how everyone might lose everything they love because time is running out. What I just made up describes 85% of all the books I read.

3. Too Much Info

Going too far in the other direction is just as bad though. I don’t want to know the ENTIRE story.

4. Spoilers

In a similar thread, it’s bad enough that I have to be careful with reviews, I shouldn’t have to worry about blurbs too! If a later book in a series spoils something about an earlier book, that’s acceptable and the reason I avoid reading blurbs for later books, but a blurb should never spoil its own book!

5. Starting with Random Awards and Reviews

I. Do. Not. Care. I don’t buy books based on these things. There is a limited amount of space to get me to click that “read more” button on Amazon and Goodreads. Or, if I’m seeing it in a book promotion email, to decide to click over to Amazon. If all I see all awards and reviews, I’m unlikely to bother and will scroll past unless it’s got a damn good cover and title that has already piqued my interest enough.

6. Typos

If the author can’t even properly proofread or punctuate a tiny blurb, I again lose all hope for the book.

7. Misleading

This isn’t something that can turn me off per se since I don’t know about it until after reading, but it might turn me off from future books. It does no good to mislead in order to make a blurb appeal to the masses. There WILL be people who want to read exactly the kind of book that’s been written, and THOSE are the people the author/publisher should be trying to attract because those are the ones who will love it.

8. Too Long

A blurb should be shorter than the book it’s describing.

9. Poor writing

If I struggle just to get through the blurb because of the writing, I’m sure as hell not going to torture myself with the entire book.

10. Telling Me What I’m Going to Think of the Book

“This book is about John. You’re going to love him because he’s funny and awkward. And the plot is action-packed and amazing. Join John on his incredible journey!” This tells me nothing. I want to know what the story is actually about. And am I really expected to trust the author’s assessment of how great their book is?

 
 

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    1. Kristen Burns

      Thanks! It seems like the misleading is usually done for marketing, to make a book appeal to a wider audience, but that makes no sense in the end because then the people reading it won’t be the people who actually like it!

  1. Lola

    I’ve had a notepad with this exact topic lying next to me on my desk for about a year now and I still haven’t written the post, lol. I can’t seem to get to the ten points yet. I think blurbs are so important, they can hook you or make you decide to skip the book. I often read the blurb of a book and in combination with the cover, author, genre and reviews often make me decide whether I want to read a book or not.

    I really like all the points you make and I think I agree with all of them. I also like blurbs that are made up of smaller parts instead of one big area of text. I don’t mind vagueness too much, as long as it’s combined with a few concrete parts as well. I guess I prefer vagueness over spoilers, as long as the vagueness gives me a bit of a feel for the story?

    And yes I’ve seen blurbs that basically gave a summary of the entire plot, why would you do that? You want to make readers curious not tell them everything that happens, as why would they read the book then? And indeed I don’t really care about awards and if I want to read reviews I scroll down to the review section. I know lots of authors put review quotes there, but I don’t think that’s the place to put them.

    I know some books contain spoilers for previous books, so i try and avoid reading the blurb for a book until I am up to date in a series, but I do agree that a blurb should never spoil it’s own book. I know that spoilers for previous books are sometimes unavoidable, but spoilers for the book itself shouldn’t be in the blurb in my opinion.

    On the topic of typo’s, I hardly ever notice those. I am horrible bad at spelling and grammar and will most likely read over any typo’s. And let’s not mention how up until last week I thought length was written with ht instead of th.

    I dislike it when blurbs are misleading, sure a blurb can never 100% give a feel of what the book is about, but it shouldn’t be misleading and have you expect one thing while that isn’t in the book. And telling me what i will like about the book is off putting too. Great post!

    Lola recently posted: Review: March by Audrey Carlan

    1. Kristen Burns

      Haha we must think alike. It took me a little while to figure out ten too, though not quite a year lol. It’s definitely a combination of things that helps me make a decision, but I could, for example, read a book even if I didn’t know the author, or even if the cover sucked or it didn’t have one. But I wouldn’t read a book without a blurb that actually interested me.

      I also agree that some vagueness is ok, but I don’t like those ones that are just ALL vagueness.

      Exactly, the blurb is not the place to reviews. There’s a whooooole dedicated section for reviews already lol. And never has an award actually added to my interest in a book.

      If it makes you feel any better, I actually never notice you misspelling things. But I did used to know this person who misspelled words as other words (e.g. “message” would become “massage”), and that’s the worst because it creates some really confusing sentences.

      You’re right that it can be hard to give a 100% accurate portrayal of the book, but some blurbs are just purposefully misleading, and that’s just disrespectful to readers. Thanks, glad you like the post!

      1. Lola

        I think awards are more for the author than for the readers in most cases. I sometimes read a book without reading the blurb if I already know the author or read the previous books in the series, but usually if the blurb doesn’t catch my attention I won’t read the book.

        I am glad to hear that you never noticed my misspellings. I recently finally installed an English dictionary on my browser and I am only now noticing how many mistakes I make and luckily can correct them now. Many are spelling mistakes like pressence instead or presence or succes instead of success or adress instead of address, they are difficult to spot if you don’t know the right spelling. And in some cases the Duth word is so similar and has a different spelling, the dutch word is actually succes with only one s.
        And yes some misspellings change the whole meaning of the sentence and can lead to confusion, hence why it’s important to spot them and change them if possible.

        1. Kristen Burns

          Ok, I guess the only time I might not read a blurb is if it’s in a series I’m reading. In those cases, when I already know I’m going to read the book, I sometimes like to go in blind and be more surprised by the book.

          That’s definitely got to be confusing when words are spelled so similarly in the two languages! But at least if you miss a letter or add one, people still know what word you meant. And I don’t worry so much about typos on blogs. It’s just books that I expect to be proofread and free of typos since the typos take me out of the story.

    1. Kristen Burns

      I think that’s why I’ve apparently stopped reading blurbs, as I mentioned on your post lol. They’re just so long! And sometimes I lose focus really easily and give up.

  2. Greg

    So true. I ALWAYS read the blurb. Otherwise how do you know? What sucks is when a book has an awesome cover and the you read the blurb and you’re like “eh. whatever.” and back it goes. So disappointing!

    “sometimes they suck”. Yup- lol. Blurbs can be irritating as well as good- such a range. I always laugh when a blurb gives away like the whole point of the book- here I try to avoid spoilers in reviews and then realize well the blurb already spoiled it!

    Wanna know what else I hate (just thought of it)? When you see review blurbs for book one on ALL the books. So I’m on book five and I open it… and there’s a blurb talking about how good book one was. Just like on the previous four books. :) OK that might just be a me thing, but it bugs me. :P

    Greg recently posted: The 100 3x07

    1. Kristen Burns

      Exactly! I don’t understand how other people go into books blind without reading blurbs. But it is disappointing when the cover is gorgeous but the blurb just doesn’t interest you at all. (Because hey, if it at least moderately interests you, it’s worth it for the cover lol.)

      I don’t know if I’ve seen the review thing you’re talking about, but I see why that’d be annoying. It’s bad enough having reviews in the blurb in the first place, you especially don’t want to see the same reviews each time, all for a book you’ve already read!

  3. Shannon @ It Starts At Midnight

    YESSS to these! I kind of hate blurbs, because let’s be honest, they usually end up breaking one of these should-be-commandments :D

    I have stopped reading them because of #3 and 4. I cannot tell you how many times I read a blurb, only to realize that it spoiled something that happens 70% into the story! NOPE. And #5 is not as harmful, but definitely annoying- no one can possibly care, right? Especially when I see some REALLY bad books with “awards”. Nope.

    I also hate “Hunger Games meets My Little Pony in an epic clash between District 12 and some horses that could end up as dinner”. NOOOO. No book should claim to be “X plus Y”. I already read those books, I want a NEW ONE.

    I LOVE this post. I hope someone is reading this who can put a stop to the bad blurb!

    Shannon @ It Starts At Midnight recently posted: Double the Flails: The Steep & Thorny Way and The Serpent King

    1. Kristen Burns

      Gah! How can you know what to read if you don’t read blurbs?! Lol.

      You’re right, I don’t like those X meet Y things either. I didn’t even think to include that, but usually they’re completely inaccurate, and rarely, if ever, have they actually made me interested in a book. I just saw one the other day for one of my favorite series, an X meets Y comparison that previously was not there, and I probably wouldn’t have even read the series in the first place if it had been! It was a completely inaccurate comparison.

      But yes, maybe some authors or blurb writers will see this and take note lol.

  4. Bookworm Brandee

    This is a great list, Kristen! I think my biggest pet peeve is a blurb that’s too long…you’re right, you don’t need to tell us the whole story. If you do, why do I need to read it? Same goes for sharing a spoiler. Hello?? I’ve only read one book where the blurb had nothing to do with what was inside…it was a book I got for review and I was really interested in it. I don’t remember how far I got into it but I was majorly ticked…the book turned out to be a not-so subtle political rant. Ugh! I think that was my first review DNF. But I digress… I also don’t like to be told why I’m going to like a book. In the same vein, I don’t like the comparisons publishers seem to be fond of these days…”The next Gone Girl”…”for fans of The Hunger Games”… etc. Ugh!

    1. Kristen Burns

      Lol seriously though, are blurbs getting longer? I feel like lately I don’t have the attention span to read blurbs, so I try to skim them, but that just makes me more confused, so then I give up and move on. I don’t know, but that’s one of the reason I make my own blurbs in my book review posts. Blurbs need to skip the fluff and get to the point.

      Ugh, that does sound like a miserable book, the political one. And yes, someone else mentioned X meet Y type things too. I didn’t think to include that, but I also don’t like those. They’re never accurate, and they rarely if ever make me more interested. In fact, sometimes they just turn me off if they’re listing two books I’m not interested in.

  5. Geraldine @ Corralling Books

    Ah I totally agree with all of these! Especially the ones that reveal tooo much – I don’t want to read it then bc I feel like I know exactly how the story is going to go!
    Same with the awards ugh – when they have it at the back of the book, and the synopsis is in some vague place… that annoys me so much! I don’t place much stock in awards – but the synopsis is incredibly important to me!
    Thanks for stopping by at Corralling Books!

    Geraldine @ Corralling Books recently posted: Why I rarely participate in Top Ten Tuesdays

  6. Nicola

    Yessssss. These pretty much all apply to me!

    Misleading blurbs are probably the worst. I avoided Maggie Stiefvater’s THE RAVEN BOYS for ages because the blurb made it seem like a paranormal romance (not her fault; she’s actually written a blog post about how her books are pigeonholed as such), which isn’t really my thing. When I learned it was an urban fantasy with a touch of romance, though? Sign. Me. Up.

    Similar to books that give away the plot, when a book refers to events that only occur in the second half of the book I find it hard to get into the book because I feel like I’m waiting for the book to really start. Especially if that event is set up as a big reveal and the blurb gives it away.

    I also hate spoilers for previous books in a series. I get that they’re important when you’ve read those books and often there’s no way to blurb a book without spoiling the previous book, but I often reserve a book at the library when I’m halfway through reading the previous book, and the way my library website’s structured you have to scroll past the blurb to reserve the book. This problem would actually be solved by structuring the website like my hometown library’s, where the blurb comes below reservation/availability information, and then I’d be okay with blurbs spoiling prior books :)

    Nicola recently posted: Equality in Worldbuilding

    1. Kristen Burns

      Yeah, it’s unfortunate when these are out of the author’s control, yet they’re the ones who suffer for it.

      That’s a great point! I do find myself waiting for the stuff in the blurb to happen, and I also get impatient and tired of waiting when it takes too long. And it’s the worst when it turns out that it was supposed to be a big reveal.

      Whenever I have to look at a later book in a series, I just scroll post it as fast as possible and look at another part of the screen/blue my eyes lol.

  7. Nicole @ Feed Your Fiction Addiction

    So much YES!! Okay, I’m one of the few people who doesn’t mind the award or comparison thing, but every other one of these really bugs me!! I am especially irked by numbers 3, 4, 6 and 9. I always laugh when I go to write a review and think I need to avoid some big spoiler and then realize it’s IN THE BLURB. Really? (I do read blurbs when I first pick the books out, but I rarely reread them right before reading, so I usually forget what was in it.) Sometimes the blurb describes things that happen three-quarters of the way through the book. Not only is that spoilery, but it sets an expectation and you spend the whole first three-quarters WAITING for this thing to happen and wondering if you misunderstood. Very frustrating!

    And poor writing or grammar/punctuation in a blurb is just an automatic no for me. Just. No.

    Nicole @ Feed Your Fiction Addiction recently posted: How Much Do You Read? Let’s Discuss!

    1. Kristen Burns

      Yay, glad you agree :-) I’ve done that too when writing reviews. I also include my own mini blurb, so I like to make sure I’m not including anything the author might consider a spoiler, and then I see they included things I definitely thought were spoilers lol.

      And yes! I also spend the book waiting for the stuff mentioned in the blurb, and I get impatient and frustrated when it takes too long. But I can imagine that you especially would be annoyed by the typos!

    1. Kristen Burns

      Thanks :-) And yes! I don’t like it when any author does that, no-name or famous. One of my FAVORITE series did that in an ad after I had already started reading, and I didn’t even understand why because it wouldn’t have made me want to read it. Just market your book as it’s own book and as what it is!

  8. Jade @ Bedtime Bookworm

    I agree with all of these! I especially don’t like long blurbs and ones that give too much info or spoilers. I honestly avoid blurbs right before I pick up a book especially for this reason! I usually will have read the blurb before adding something to my TBR in the first place, but after that I try not to see it again because I want to forget what the book is about haha. I like going into a book not knowing too much, just a vague understanding of what it’s about.

    Jade @ Bedtime Bookworm recently posted: #SlayThatSeries Readathon Progress

    1. Kristen Burns

      I lose focus when blurbs are too long, and then I just give up and move on to another book lol. But spoilers are terrible. Your method sounds good, but I’m too much of a mood reader to do that. I have to read the blurbs again to know if it’s the right one for my mood!

  9. Molly @ Molly's Book Nook

    Love this topic! I think the first thing for me is if it is too long. The only time I’ll read that is if I am SUPER interested in what that book is about (based on hype, or whatever). Otherwise, I look at it and think AINT NOBODY GOT TIME FOR THAT. Also, the longer it is, the more risk of spoilers. I want the blurb to give me a good idea of what the story is about WITHOUT spoiling major plot points.

    Molly @ Molly's Book Nook recently posted: Unpopular Opinions Book Tag

  10. Charlie @ Girl of 1000 Wonders

    I wrote a similar post last year, titled “What is that JUNK in Your Synopsis?”

    https://girlof1000wonders.wordpress.com/2015/05/21/thoughts-on-thursday-what-is-that-junk-in-your-synopsis/

    5 really annoys me, as does a bunch of comments from readers or other literary sources. I call it filler junk. I will not read a book if the synopsis is full of filler junk.

    Charlie @ Girl of 1000 Wonders recently posted: Review: Zach Delacruz ~ Me and My Big Mouth

    1. Kristen Burns

      Your post does make some of the same points! I really do hate the promotional stuff in blurbs. If I want to read reviews, I’ll scroll down to the reviews. If I want to see what other books the author has, I’ll go to their page. And quite frankly I just never care what awards they’ve won, especially since I’ve seen so many “award-winning” books, and the fact that some of them won awards didn’t make them any less terrible!

  11. Lexxie @ (un)Conventional Bookviews

    I agree with all of these, Kirsten, but most of all, the spoiler thing, plus the spelling and punctuation! Who would want to spoil their own book with the blurb? I stay away from spoilers like the pest, and I get SO disappointed if I’m spoiled before I read a book – it might even make me not read it at all. Like ever.
    And please, don’t tell me why I’ll love John! You don’t know me, so maybe I’ll hate him and his quirkyness :D
    Thanks for sharing your ‘don’t do this’ for blurbs.

    Lexxie @ (un)Conventional Bookviews recently posted: Review: Acting Brave – Helena Newbury

    1. Kristen Burns

      Yeah, the spoiler one is probably the worst since that’s the only one that completely ruins a book. I agree, if a book gets spoiled for me, I probably just won’t read it unless I have a good reason to, like it’s part of a series I like.

      And lol, exactly! Not I only do I not trust the author’s word, they don’t know me! So they don’t know what I will or won’t feel!

  12. Melanie Simmons @mlsimmons

    Blurbs are very important. I’ve read many that fall into the categories you mention above. I will say that once I’m in a series, I rarely read blurbs because of spoilers. I know I’m going to read the book, so I don’t read the blurb to avoid any spoiler.

    If there is a typo in the blurb, I assume that there will be a ton in the book and will not even attempt to read it.

    I know that I’ve read books where I felt that the blurb wasn’t written well and didn’t support the book. I’m curious how many books I haven’t read because of bad blurbs, but would’ve been great books. Great topic.

    Melanie Simmons @mlsimmons recently posted: Endless Knight Audiobook by Kresley Cole (REVIEWED by Melanie)

    1. Kristen Burns

      Oh yeah, once I’m in a series, I don’t always bother to read blurbs because why risk spoiling something when I already know what the series in general is about and already know that I’m going to read it?

      And you make a good point about all the books we pass up that might’ve actually been really great. I mean, I know there are some books I definitely wouldn’t have paid for based on the blurb, but since I got for free I read it and ended up loving it. But that’s why blurbs are so important!

      Thanks for joining in the discussion :-)

  13. Xyra

    I love this list! Quite accurate. My book choosing routine includes: cover grabs my attention, title attracts me, blurb peaks my interest, and a random page read can break or seal the deal.

    Blurbs with spoilers are very irritating. I have put down quite a few books for doing that.

    Many times if I am immersed in a series I no longer read the blurbs for the new books. A couple of times after reading the book I have checked out the blurb and it is absolutely nothing like what I just read. Yikes! I can’t imagine reading along thinking, “Wait. This isn’t what the blurb said would happen.”

    I am so with you with regards to the awards and reviews. I really don’t care if So and So from the Such and Such Times enjoyed the book or thought it was the novel of the century. I want to know what the story is about.

    My own reviews tend to be rather vague so that I don’t spoil the story for others. I focus more on explaining why I liked reading it. Which probably infuriates some other reviewers, but I also don’t like it when a reviewer tells me every detail about the book – I want to explore the details myself.

    Again, great post!

    Xyra recently posted: Book Review: Mystery Cat

    1. Kristen Burns

      My book choosing routine is just like yours, minus the random page read. Though I do occasionally read the first few pages to get a feel for the book if I’m undecided still.

      Your reviews sound like exactly the kind I like to read! And that’s how I write mine too. So I don’t think it’s irritating. The blurb is for telling readers what the book is about.

      I also tend to stop reading blurbs once I’m in a series, so I agree with you there too. Thanks, I’m glad you like my list!

  14. Geraldine @ Corralling Books

    Yes to all of this, Kristen! For me, I especially hate vague books – I don’t even give them any of my time anymore. The point of blurbs is to let me know what kind of book I’ll be picking up – if the blurb can’t even do that…I’m not sure if the book will be that good anyways! :/

    Geraldine @ Corralling Books recently posted: The Get To Know Me Tag

    1. Kristen Burns

      Exactly, we have limited time! So why should we spend that time on books if we have no clue what they’re actually about and whether they’ll be our kind of book or not?!

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  16. Melissa

    1. Exaggerating the scope or scale of the plot consequences. If a blurb basically infers ‘John and Judy hike across the country and their struggles along the way just may cause the end of the universe’ when in reality there is nothing in the book remotely close to causing the end of the universe….I will never read one of your books again.

    2. Trying too hard. I wish I had an actual example but it’s when the blurb writer tries too hard to get you to insta-love the plot/book/author. Word and mood choice is important and I find that 25% of debut authors get blurbs that try to sell to you like they’re your best friend; they’re certain that THIS BOOK WILL CHANGE YOUR LIFE, giiiiirl. Nope.

    And totally concur on the vagueness. I always assume either the blurb writer didn’t read the book and is just basing the blurb off of previous feedback/reviews, or they actually don’t like and can’t help hedging away from the book entirely. And I typically end up ignoring the book, which is a shame.

    We should post this somewhere on GR for marketers and self publishers to read. Make a sticky post or something. It could totally change their sales!

    Great topic!!

    1. Kristen Burns

      Ah, yes, exaggerating the scope only leads to disappointment! And it makes the book sound like every other book out there. Anyway, I actually prefer books with smaller scopes, so exaggerating it would only make me not want to read it. That’s why blurbs should stay honest—there will always be readers out there who want exactly what that book has!

      I think I get what you’re saying. Trying too hard never comes off well in any aspect of life lol, including book blurbs.

      I never even thought about the possibility of the blurb writer not having read the book. But yeah, I usually end up avoiding those books too.

      Haha, thanks! I’m glad you like my post so much!