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No spoilers!

book cover with back copy Xd out

Don’t spoil it for me!

I hate spoilers. I know people who read the last page or last chapter of a book first, just so they can be sure they’ll be happy with the ending. No way, uh uh. I don’t even read the back cover copy (aka BCC)/description most of the time.

Say what?

I know, I know. If a book cover catches your eye, what’s the next thing you do? If you’re like most people, you turn it over to read the back (or the description at your online retailer of choice). And that’s what you’re supposed to do. Authors and marketing departments spend a lot of time carefully crafting those words to suck you in entice you to buy the book. We want you to decide you can’t possibly walk away without it. You have to know what happens, how they survive, how they triumph.

But here’s the problem for me. The BCC often gives away the early major plot points or twists, thus, in my opinion, eliminating that element of surprise for a good chunk of the story. I am not okay with that. I like to be delighted by the unexpected novelty of each twist and turn, not flipping the pages—possibly skimming—just to get to the part where I don’t know what comes next.

I’m sure it’s a personal flaw.

I’m reading a book right now, and I finally decided to check out the BCC now that I’m at the two-thirds mark. I’m so glad I waited. Whoever wrote the description took us more than halfway through the book!

My rule of thumb is not to reveal beyond the first major turning point, the one that launches the main character on his or her true journey. Just enough to show what the characters want, maybe a little about why, and what’s standing in their way (yes, GMC). Beyond that I’m trying to convey the genre, the level of heat, and the type of romantic suspense I write (military-themed, as opposed to FBI or serial killers or PIs).

So how do I choose books if I won’t read the description? Well, if it’s an author I don’t know and I don’t have a recommendation from a friend, I start with the cover like everyone else. Most of them are geared to tell you exactly what to expect from the book. Half-naked guy with a gun (guilty), expect romantic suspense with some open-door sexy times. The guy is wearing camo pants? Military themed. He’s wearing a holster? Law enforcement. He’s wearing a SWAT vest? Um, obvious, I hope.

Okay, once I know it’s the right genre—assuming the cover fits—I might hastily skim the BCC looking for keywords while trying to avoid specifics. Like humming so you can’t make out the important parts while someone talks about the latest episode of your favorite show that’s still sitting unwatched on your DVR .

If I knew I could trust copy writers not to give it all away, I’d probably read their work more. But I’ve been burned too many times. I’ve learned my lesson.

Of course, I hope you’ll read my BCC. I worked hard on it, and I hope it works on you. 😉

Are you a last-chapter reader, a hope-for-the-best reader, or somewhere in between?

16 Comments

  1. Reply

    I agree Gwen there’s nothing worse than trying to get involved in either a book or a T.V. show when you already have a good idea of the plotline. I never wait to see what’s happening next week on my fav show ‘Blacklist’ or read the back covers on books. What I will do, and love that Amazon allows this, is open the first few pages and see if I like the authors writing style.

    • Reply

      Reading the first few pages is a great idea, Jacqui. And I LOVE Blacklist. I’m the same way with TV shows too. My husband laughs at me because I get mad if I accidentally catch the episode synopsis before we hit Play on Netflix. 😉

  2. Reply

    As an author of the new publishing age (groan) I have to write my own copy! I totally keep this in mind — don’t want to give away to much, but need to give away *just* enough. And, I agree, the cover will make me read the BCC. For me, though, it’s half-undone historical clothing on the dude, and an awesome dress on the heroine.

    • Reply

      Regina: While I lament having to write my own BCC, I also rejoice in the full control of my product. That’s ultimately why I chose to self-publish. Glad to hear our ideas of how much to reveal are similar. And, hey, I love the half-undone historical clothing just as much as camo pants. 😉

  3. Reply

    I agree. I don’t read the description and I definitely don’t read blogs that give ‘first chapters’ of a book, unless I am ready to start another book. I want to be surprised, and most books and TV shows are boringly predictable.

    As an author, I have an odd quirk. Before I read a popular book, I like reading the one star reviews of the book on Amazon. It is strangely motivating because I see that most people that review the book badly don’t even describe the book accurately. It has taught me to shrug aside questionable advice and critiques of my own work.

    Great post. I probably gave away to much with my last blurb. If I could rewrite it now, I would. 🙂

    • Reply

      ch15sty365: I’m finding so many kindred spirits. 😉 I’m the same with first pages/chapters. Once I open a book, if it’s any good, I’m doomed. I won’t look unless I have reading time.

      You have a really healthy take on one-star reviews. I definitely helped my perspective to see that some of my favorite authors get them too. I’ll read theirs, but I no longer read my own. It messes with my head and I need to stay focused on writing.

      Thanks for chiming in!

  4. Reply

    I always enjoy commenting when I’m an outlier! I’m one of those people who *sometimes* skims the back pages to see what to expect. Sure, I love plot, and I love to be surprised, but I don’t work too hard to avoid knowing what’s coming; for me, it doesn’t “spoil” much at all. When I read mysteries, I usually couldn’t care less who dunnit. I read for character first. Who ever could summarize the plot of The Big Sleep? But Raymond Chandler is irresistible because of Philip Marlowe, a man who walks down mean streets but “is not himself mean, who is neither tarnished nor afraid.” Reading Chandler is sharing Marlowe’s world, and learning what that might be like. I also read for the pleasure of the prose. David Foster Wallace is famous for writing what every reader feels he would have said himself, if only he were articulate enough. I want to feel that pleasure of recognition and identification, and I want to try to learn how to do that.

    • Reply

      John: Thanks for representing the other side! I’d say you and David Foster Wallace have something in common in your ability to articulate. 😉

      I actually agree that character and the story world are the most important parts–and I do enjoy sometimes re-reading a book I really loved–but I still hate plot spoilers because I don’t like to anticipate the characters’ actions or the situations they’ll face. I want to just read and let the story unfold new.

      Good luck with your writing!

  5. Reply

    I, like you, don’t often read the BCC. Cover, sure, but always the first few pages, then maybe page 10-12. If I like the writing but am unsure whether to read the book, then I sometimes read the blurb.

    • Reply

      John: I’m actually surprised how many people are like me. There must be plenty of people who read the BCC, or why do we bother writing them? 😉

  6. Reply

    I’m with you, Gwen. I hate blurbs that give away too much — and most do. I had a major “discussion” with my publisher about the BCC because it gave too much away. I feel the same way about reviews. The best are those that provide insight into the writing and the types of readers who will (or will not) tend to like that kind of book. ~ Jim

  7. David Sosna

    Reply

    BCC is one form of giving away too much. Another, perhaps less important for novel writing students, is tv/movie reviews. Frequently, they replace plot summary with legitimate criticism. For books, movies, TV, I just want to know if it’s good or ‘Sharknado 17’. When I read, I look for authors I know or are well regarded, topics I care about. Last thing I want to read are spoilers on the back cover copy considered a form of inducement to read, but are only spoilers to discourage reading.

    • Reply

      Good point, David. Even for books, there’s nothing worse than a review that gives away all the important parts. Actually, what’s worse is when they get it wrong!

      I was telling another commenter that I won’t even read episode summaries for my favorite TV shows. I’d rather hit Play and realize I’d already watched that one than learn something about a new episode. 😉 Thanks for chiming in.

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