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  • CRASH! How I Lost a Hundred Billion and Found True Love (Kindle Single)
    CRASH! How I Lost a Hundred Billion and Found True Love (Kindle Single)
    by Julian Gough

    The UK Kindle Single #1 hit.

    Jude lives in a henhouse with no roof, that he bought for ten million euro, at the height of the Irish property bubble. One day, his mortgage is rated the debt in Europe most likely to default... The political and financial elite of Europe arrive, with a plan: help Jude put a roof on his henhouse, stabilize his debt, and reassure the markets. It all goes horribly wrong.

    "This novella is very funny – laugh-out-loud at times…Gough is one of our most talented satirists" — The Irish Independent

  • Jude in London
    Jude in London
    by Julian Gough

    Shortlisted for both the Guardian's Not The Booker Prize, and the Bollinger Everyman Wodehouse Prize, Jude in London is an epic, comic exploration of the bizarre love triangle between language, consciousness, and reality. Which is all very well, if you're into that sort of thing.

  • Jude: Level 1
    Jude: Level 1
    by Julian Gough

    Shortlisted for the 2008 Wodehouse Prize for comic fiction.

    The novel's prologue won the biggest prize in the world for a single short story - the BBC National Short Story Prize.

    "Sheer comic brilliance" - The Times

    "The best comic novel I've ever read" - Tommy Tiernan

    "Could be the finest comic novel since Flann O'Brien's The Third Policeman" - The Sunday Tribune

  • Juno and Juliet
    Juno and Juliet
    by Julian Gough

    My first novel, of which I am very fond. The adventures of teenage twin sisters Juno & Juliet, in their first year away from home. Life, love and literature, in Galway and Tipperary.

     

    "Like Roddy Doyle in an extremely good mood" - The Washington Post

    "A modern, at times brilliantly ironic reworking of the classical fairytale, with nods to Shakespeare, Austen and Beckett." - Literary Review

    "Hugely entertaining" - Vogue

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« Jude in Tate Modern... A girl! A gun! The Turner Prize! | Main | World Women in Literature Day »
Friday
Apr292011

A Guide To Blurbs: What They Are, Why They Sometimes Suck, And How You Can Help Me Write A Better One.

OK, I did an experiment on Twitter last week: I asked for feedback on the shoutline for my next novel. (The shoutline is the sentence on the front of a book that - ideally – is so intriguing, and so right, that the book’s Ideal Readers pick it up.)

 

The result was so interesting, and useful, that I've decided to throw open the mysterious and arcane process of writing the blurb of the book. The blurb is all the stuff on the back cover. It's usually written by the editor, the author, or both. (Though some publishers, like Penguin, employ professional copywriters.)

 

Trouble is, the editor’s an editor, not an author. And the author… well, authors cannot describe their 100,000 word books in 100 words. It’s a natural law. Asking a novelist - who’s just delivered a book - to write their own blurb is like asking a marathon runner, as they stagger over the finish line, to run a 100m sprint.

 

And professional copywriters… they get it done, but where is the love? Yes, some copywriters are superb. But others often don’t even read the book.

 

Which is why blurbs - even on great books - often suck.

 

So let’s see if we can craft an unsucky blurb.

 

I'll put the rough draft of the blurb here (actually, my eighth draft – you really don’t want to see the first). You can comment right below it, or tell me what you think on Twitter (I'm @juliangough), or email me directly at my secret email address ( juliangoughssecretemailaddress@gmail.com ).

 

I'd love to hear what you like, but also what you don't like, and why. "I hate it" and “I love it” are both useful, but not as useful as "I hate the way you give away the ending" / "I love any book containing monkeys" / "When it mentioned he had two penises, I got interested."

 

If you’re feeling tremendously motivated (or the day stretches before you, bleak, endless, like a glimpse into the abyss), you can read a short story adapted from the novel here, to get a feel for the tone I want. Remember, the blurb should accurately reflect the book… we’re not trying to lie to people here, or seduce absolutely every customer in the shop. We just want to draw the attention of the Ideal Readers for this particular, slightly unusual, book.

 

OK, here we go... I would really appreciate it if you would tweet about this, or link to it, because the more people who comment (ESPECIALLY people who don't know my work already), the more helpful and useful this will be to me. Thanks!

 

 

((The shoutline & blurb work with the cover image, which also gives you important information. So… ))

 

The front cover:

 

((It’s a photograph. Deep snow.  In the distance, under a pale blue sky, the tops of famous London buildings stick up out of the snow. In the foreground, big, we see the back of someone’s legs, standing in the snow. Possibly wearing home-made rabbitskin trousers. The footprints show he is walking towards London. Lying in the snow at his feet, a red lipstick.))

 

AUTHOR: Julian Gough

 

TITLE: Jude in London

 

SHOUTLINE: Here at last. Only the billionaires, the monkeys, and The Thing left to beat.

 

Back cover:

 

BLURB:

 

A novel which does for the sleepy English town of London what The Simpsons did for Springfield.

 

“The Death of the Author is on your conscience!”

It was. “Sorry,” I said.


It’s Jude’s first day in London. The young orphan dines on roadkill, wrestles a monkey, makes a porn film, wins the Turner Prize, battles The Thing, visits brothels, and kills the Poet Laureate. He is shot at, kidnapped, thrown overboard from a tycoon’s yacht, and forced to discuss literature in a pub of excessive Irishness. But can Jude find his True Love, in the labyrinth of the city, with its countless temptations?

 

“The biro fell from my hand.

I felt even more light-headed than usual. I looked down.

Alice removed her jane smiley from my philip k dick. She had given me an updike with the durability and tensile strength of mahogany.”

 

Yes, love's a puzzler…

 

Jude in London is a comic epic for anyone who loves Roddy Doyle, PG Wodehouse, Samuel Beckett and Kafka, but wishes their books had more explosions.

 

What a day! And I had never got my cup of tea.

 

((This next bit should be beside the barcode, like a May Contain Gluten warning. The word WARNING should be readable, and perhaps in red, but the rest should be so incredibly small they’re hard to read.))

WARNING: This novel was produced in a writing environment that also processes pop songs, computer games, and comics. May contain traces of the 21st century.

 

Inside front cover:

 

"Julian Gough is not a novelist" - the New York Times.

 

"Julian Gough is a wonderful writer" - Sebastian Barry

 

"Julian Gough’s notion that shouting the word 'feck' and being grossly scatological will make him seem echt Irish only harms his argument." - John Banville

 

"The ultimate Irish joke. Sheer comic brilliance." - The Times.

 

Jude in London is the second volume in the Jude trilogy. (Though it works brilliantly on its own.) The cult radio play, The Great Hargeisa Goat Bubble, is adapted from it.

The prologue to the trilogy (“The Orphan and the Mob”) won the biggest prize in the world for a single short story - the BBC National Short Story Award – and represented Ireland in the Dalkey Archive anthology Best European Fiction 2010.

Volume one of the trilogy (Jude in Ireland) was shortlisted for the PG Wodehouse Prize for comic fiction. In 2010, it was named by the Sunday Tribune as Irish Novel of the Decade.

 

Inside back cover:

 

A PHOTO OF MY HEAD. Not this one.

This is what an author looks like immediately after delivering a novel. Does he look in any fit state to write a blurb? Clearly, this man needs help.

 

A BIO:

 

Julian Gough was born in London, grew up in Ireland, and now lives in Berlin. In his youth, he sang with underground literary pop band Toasted Heretic. They released four albums, and had a top ten hit with the single "Galway and Los Angeles", a song about not kissing Sinead O'Connor.

He is the author of the novels Juno & Juliet, Jude in Ireland, and Jude in London. His collected poems and lyrics, Free Sex Chocolate, were published by Salmon in 2010. 

He is probably best known for stealing Will Self’s pig.

 

 

More quotes saying how great I am / how I’m a threat to Western civilization.

 

OK, and finally (but quite importantly); we came up with two different versions of the shoutline on Twitter. I’d love if you’d vote for your favourite. Just say either 1 or 2, anywhere in your comment/tweet/email, I’ll know what you mean…

 

1  Here at last. Now only the billionaires, the monkeys, and The Thing left to beat.

 

 

2  Getting here nearly killed him. Now he must fight gravity, billionaires, monkeys, and The Thing, to win his True Love.

 

 

And that’s it! Tell me what you think, below, or on Twitter, or by email.

 

Oh, and when this is all over, I’ll send a signed, finished copy of Jude in London to the person who made my favourite suggestion.

 

(SMALL PRINT: Judging will be cruel, arbitrary, unfair, and I’ll probably give it to someone who makes me laugh and doesn’t even make a sensible suggestion. No need to worry about your address now, I’ll ask you for it when you win.)

 

Thanks again in advance…





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    A Guide To Blurbs: What They Are, Why They Sometimes Suck, And How You Can Help Me Write A Better One. - Blog - Julian Gough's website

Reader Comments (27)

How crucial is the True Love angle? Has he come to London with this sole purpose in mind, or is it something that just happens along the way? Having not read the first book, I don't know if that's a reason some will be reading book two, if that's a cliffhanger or not.

I like # 1. Concise is best, and what's there is enticing enough to pull in most readers. Leave out a few things as a surprise, for new readers.

RE: the Simpsons reference, I'm with those who feel it's a little vague. But you're obviously writing for a pretty think-y crowd, likely well familiar with the Simpsons. It just gives me that nagging question, "What exactly does he mean?"

The rest is just brilliant. I thought marketing depts. wrote all this on the covers, and not the author him or herself. It's also surprising when you see how much actually can fit on a cover and end flaps, etc. Just not something you think about if you don't personally do that.

Hope I've been of some help. I feel a little at a loss without knowing your work.
April 29, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterBluestalking
Suzy, Mary, Rick, Autumn, apologies for not answering sooner. I slapped this post online at the very end of a long writing week, and didn't expect such large, and immediate, response.

(Kerry and Bluestocking, I will respond to your excellent suggestions in a minute, but I've really left these guys waiting...)

Mary, delighted you like "Jude in London is a comic epic for anyone who loves Roddy Doyle, PG Wodehouse, Samuel Beckett and Kafka, but wishes their books had more explosions." Very helpful to know what works. I think we'll keep that line, might make it more prominent. Yes, might have to make it clearer who Jude is. Although, if the mystery tempts people to start reading the book, it could be OK as is. Glad it works for you overall.

Suzy! At last! Gut reactions from total strangers to my work, well, that's what we crave. Very happy you like the "...cup of tea," line, that seems to be working for a lot of people. Interesting that you prefer shoutline 2 (a minority preference). Why that one? Or, why not the other? ...I think I'll have to write a composite shoutline, because I like elements of both, and so, it seems, do you guys.


Autumn, hi. Yes, "Finally" might work... I really need to tweak that shoutline. Still, that's what we're here for. And thanks for pointing out the eurocentricity of the word "biro". Might swap it with "pen", if we use that line on a US cover. I do explain biro inside the book itself, you'll be pleased to hear... Best of luck with your book, by the way, what is it called?

Rick, hi. Shoutline 2, hey? OK. If you've time to comment again...why that, and not the other? By the way, your total rewrite of the blurb was a delight, but might be a little too energetically and enthusiastically American for the book, which has quite an odd, Irish/London flavour. But I greatly appreciate the thought that went into it...
April 29, 2011 | Registered CommenterJulian Gough
Jude is an innocent in a city of experiences. By the end of the day he will have wrestled a monkey, been kidnapped and killed the Poet Laureate. He’ll win the Turner Prize, be thrown into Thames and be forced to discuss art in a pub of excessive Irishness.

His True Love is somewhere in London’s labyrinth. But Jude was born lost.
April 29, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterSimon McGarr
I feel like any way to include a "True Love" is always a bonus. Pure and simple. I also liked the inclusion of all the different nouns in the blurb that I don't understand. Poet Laureate, The Thing (assuming its not the thing from Fantastic Four) and the other, being unfarmiliar with your work, I am intrigued by new carachters with cool double capital names. Btw, not trying to steal your thunder, I thought you were looking for submissions to put on the cover, and being a crass, uncultured american myself could not resist the temptaion to waste a few minutes writing something snarky to give it a try. I only found you because @nielhimself tweeted a link. On my way to the e-bookstore now to buy at least one of your books, provided its available in epub. Thanks, and glad I could help you out.
April 29, 2011 | Unregistered Commenterrick davenport
Simon! How lovely to see you here. (Note to others: we've been discussing blurb and shoutline on Twitter. Simon and @john_self created shoutline 1, which improves, I think, on my original. Which is why their version now appears above in the draft blurb, while I've demoted my original to shoutline 2.) That future-leaning version of the blurb is rather nice, let me think about it. I am almost paralysed with exhaustion, and can't think at all at present. You do have a bleak vision of the book, though. "But Jude was born lost..." Still, I take your point that the blurb tends towards a wackiness that may misrepresent the book. (Simon made that point on Twitter - don't worry, I'm not a mindreader, or over-analyzing his comment.) Did you read the first Jude book? It's a really hard tone to get across in a blurb. Slapstick surface, melancholy depths.

Bluestocking, a delight that you have returned. "True Love" is both crucial, and also a bit of a McGuffin. He is in pursuit of Angela for much the same reason as Candide is in pursuit of (sheesh, I just went to go check the spelling of Cunégonde, and got lost in the labyrinth of the internet for an hour. I'm too tired to do this, must sleep. Will finish tomorrow...)
April 30, 2011 | Registered CommenterJulian Gough
I'm liking most of this. (And I generally hate blurbs and the entire blurb system, for the record.)

If we're just talking about 1 vs 2, I'd say 1. It conveys the idea (and the strangeness) without getting overly complicated or verbose. Goes well with the described cover image, as well. 2 just doesn't have the same zing to me.

Also, having read all this (and the short story), I'm going to go look for one of your books to buy.

Paul/@hataroni/whatever
April 30, 2011 | Unregistered Commenterpgw
Paul, you are very kind. Kerry, yes, I do see the virtues of both 1 and 2. May not be able to pack everything into the one shoutline, but I'll experiment and see if a perfect form emerges. Rick, I, too, am a sucker for True Love. A blurb without True Love... well, it's unthinkable.

I'll be having another go at the blurb in the light of all your comments, here and on Twitter. Might post the revised version here, in the comments. Thanks again, everyone. It's been very interesting, and useful...
May 5, 2011 | Registered CommenterJulian Gough

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