Sunday, 27 March 2011


With attention starting to shift away from the hardback of ‘The Demi-Monde: Winter’ and towards the paperback (due out in September 2011), Jo asked me to give my suggestions regarding how we could re-work the blurb that goes on the back cover.

One sage on the net calls the blurb ‘eye-candy for readers’ which isn’t a bad description, while another called it the second most important factor in securing the purchase of a book (after the cover design). I’m not so sure about this (surely the author’s name/reputation is the most important thing in the buy/no buy stakes) but it’s certainly up there. So it’s IMPORTANT and has to be taken seriously.

The experience I’ve gained from writing promo-copy for pharmaceutical products and telecom services tells me that a blurb must do three things. It must STOP the potential customer, it must INTRIGUE them and it must CLOSE them (i.e. persuade them to buy). Closing is of course the difficult one and always brings to mind Alex Baldwin in ‘Glengarry Glen Ross’ (brilliant movie!) and his ‘ABC’: Always Be Closing.

It was these three imperatives – STOP, INTRIGUE, CLOSE – I had at the back of my mind when I tried re-writing the Demi-Monde’s blurb. On this basis I suppose you could call blurbs SIC-Notes!

The original blurb Quercus used on the hardback read:


The Demi-Monde is the most advanced computer simulation ever devised. Created to prepare soldiers for the nightmarish reality of urban warfare, it is a virtual world locked in eternal civil war. Its thirty million digital inhabitants are ruled by duplicates of some of history’s cruellest tyrants: Reinhard Heydrich, the architect of the Holocaust; Beria, Stalin’s arch executioner; Torquemada, the pitiless Inquisitor General; Robespierre, the face of the Reign of Terror.

But something has gone badly wrong inside the Demi-Monde and the US President’s daughter has become trapped in this terrible world. It falls to eighteen-year-old Ella Thomas to rescue her, yet once Ella has entered the Demi-Monde she finds that everything is not as it seems, that its cyber-walls are struggling to contain the evil within and that the Real World is in more danger than it realises.”

All-in-all it ain’t too bad especially as none of the potential readers would have known me from a hole in the ground. But now I suppose it’s too long to STOP, too convoluted to INTRIGUE and there’s no CLOSE. Worse, I think including the names of some of the historical characters I use in the novel is a bit of a turn-off: a couple of reviewers have mentioned being nervous of the historical baggage the book comes with, so, in retrospect, emphasising it wasn’t such a terrific idea.

The blurb we’re currently working on for the paperback reads:

“We want you to go to Hell, Miss Thomas.’ And for five million bucks Ella was prepared to give even Hell – the Demi-Monde – a shot. And all she had to do to earn it was find the President’s daughter and lead her to safety.

But getting into the Demi-Monde was the easy part, surviving to collect her money was quite another. There were thirty million digital-Duplicates at war in the nightmare that was the US Military’s virtual-training ground, thirty million Dupes living and dying in the Victorian cyber-slums of this make-believe world, Dupes programmed with a craving for blood and led by some of history’s most vicious tyrants.

And as Ella was to discover, for every bizarre conceit in the Demi-Monde there was a sinister reason behind it. In the Demi-Monde she could trust nothing and nobody . . . not even herself.”

It’s obviously shorter and snappier – which I like – and I like having an ellipse near the end; ellipses denoting something unsaid. I wanted to bring out the blood aspect too, just to intrigue those with a penchant for vampires. The opening is good too, quite arresting. Yeah, I like it.

As for the Closing aspect, unlike the hardback, we’ll now have a few quotes to play with and these, from what I can see on other books are what turn a potential buyer into a real one. The quotes that are challenging for inclusion are:

‘Part Matrix, part Escape from New York, with a dash of Film Noir and a whole host of imagination. Beautifully written . . . ’ Falcata Times

‘…the world…is a psychopathic nightmare, while Ella, by contrast, is a touchingly vulnerable heroine whose quest is fraught with both physical and psychological dangers’ Eric Brown, The Guardian

‘A proverbial page-turner . . . Demi-Monde: Winter is a magnificent debut novel . . . that fires the imagination in the way that only truly good SF can’ Concatenation

‘Discworld's savage noir cousin. Welcome to holo-hell' Stephen Baxter

‘Wow! It's highly ingenious and very well written, not only gripping to read but beautifully executed’ Ian Watson

‘Incredibly entertaining’ The Times

‘A f****** brilliant book’ Burlesque Bandstand

The BIG problem I face with book blurbs is that there seems to be an inherent conservatism within the book wholesaler/retailer community. So some of the ideas I have for Spring and Summer will probably turn out to be no-nos. Shame, I thought they were real Stoppers.

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