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The Big Secret

"At just 12 years old, Nora is sent to Kent to escape the London bombings of World War II. Adopted by the Rivers family, Nora befriends their daughter Grace, and the two girls are soon inseparable. But the Rivers family and the small village have their secrets, and so does Nora. Will a jealous crime and years of secrecy be their undoing?"

"On the glamorous Middle Eastern social circuit, Saba rubs shoulders with double agents and diplomats, movie stars and smugglers. Some want her voice, some her friendship, and some the secrets she is perfectly placed to discover..."

"Henry and Nicola are burdened with a terrible secret, while cheerful nurse Winnie finds herself on the holiday from hell. John has arrived on an impulse after he missed a flight at Shannon; eccentric Freda claims to be a psychic - and a part-time hairdresser. Then there's Nora, a silent watchful older woman who seems ready to disapprove at any moment..."

***

Notice anything familiar? Any recurring themes?!

I think it is safe to say that "secrets", and their use in book blurbs especially, has far exceeded a normal, healthy amount.

Secrets are noted as a selling point in so many blurbs these days (and I have to say mostly "book club" books) that they have come to mean nothing. Telling me the pages, characters or settings of the story have secrets no longer tells me anything about the books I'm looking at. If I see "as secrets are revealed, will [character name]'s world fall apart DOT DOT DOT" (or similar), I instantly think "Oh, here we go again... generic 'Book'."

And that's it. I automatically class Generic Book as a secondary priority to the other demands and uses of my time, because they (the author, the publishers, whoever) couldn't be bothered to provide me with anything more tempting than over-used "secrets". Here's an idea - why not tempt me with the secret itself?! Why not lure me with themes? With a paraphrased cliffhanger? Anything but a vapid allusion to a "secret"!!

I've taken quite an opposition to it, as you can tell, and I think there is an explaination:

I have been let down too many times by the promise of earth-shattering "secrets". Usually, they just aren't that big a deal.

So let's stop promising what wont be delivered. Generating mystery is a marketing tactic that is proven to be successful, but can we please get a bit smarter with it? Publishers can write tweets in 140 characters that entice me enough to click their bit.ly's - SO WHY CANT THEY BE THAT CLEVER ON ACTUAL BOOKS?!

Right. I'm getting a bit too capital-y now, so I'll leave it there ;) But surely I'm not alone? Are there any blurb conventions that turn you right off of books? Leave comments below!

2 comments

  1. Yah... I get you. The whole '... a secret that will destroy the very fabric of their...[INSERT WORD] (family, relationship, government, universe, faith, quilt cover) so overdone. I also hate the typical YA '.. a tall dark stranger has recently started in her class and she is becoming powerless to resist him etc etc BUT their relationship could destroy the very fabric of their ... [INSERT WORD] (Family, relationship, government, universe, faith, quilt cover). Or how about '[INSERT GIRL'S NAME HERE] never really felt that she fit in. It is 300 years in the future and she is about to discover that she is the key to ... etc etc'. Bah. Hate it all.

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  2. Oh and one more!

    '[INSERT GIRL'S NAME HERE] always felt a little different... but she is about to find out that she's actually half [INSERT MYTHICAL CREATURE HERE] demon, vampire, werewolf, faerie, zombie, Loch Ness Monster'

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